After explaining that the Galatians’ return to spiritual bondage was only going to leave them unsatisfied, Paul further explained that he was concerned about their uncharacteristic departure from the close bond of friendship and relationship that they had with him. Paul explains this concern by reminding them of the original interaction that he had with them on his first trip through the region. Here in Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, we find that when Paul came to the churches in that region in Acts 13-14, there was some sort of physical malady that he was suffering from.
Paul was thrilled to see the love of the young converts. He had preached the gospel even in his weakened state, and having been converted, they received Paul with love in spite of his ailment. Paul had then stayed with them to teach them what a life transformed by the gospel looks like. During that time, the relationship between Paul and the Galatians grew to a very personal level, and they selflessly showered Paul with the love and care of true believers.
However, when the Judaizers came in and taught a different gospel message, one of the first things to go was their love for Paul. Instead of continuing to love and care for Paul from a distance, the Galatians followed after the isolationist Judaizers and scorned Paul, eventually questioning the purity of his motives and the purity of his message. In the bonds of legalism, one of the first things to be done away with was love for other believers.
Paul didn’t exclusively desire the Galatians love for himself, rather, he wanted them to love him and receive the true gospel of Christ, so that God would be glorified in them. Paul’s zeal for their relationship to be right was for gospel purposes. If the Galatians had shown love to Paul but still disbelieved the gospel, that would not have been acceptable. He sought reconciliation with them, that ultimately they might be reconciled to God. He fought for a restored relationship with them, so that he could bring them back to the joyful place of a restored relationship with God and the truth of the gospel.
At times, we, like the Galatians, can drift away from the truths of the gospel. In those moments as we turn to self-righteousness or legalism, one of the first indicators that we might be able to see is our fading and degrading love and relationship with other believers. It was Jesus who told His disciples in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love, one to another.” When our relationship with Christ begins to slide, our love for other believers also begins to wane.
Perhaps, today, you inspect yourself and see how you are doing in loving the other believers around you. Loving the other followers of Christ will indicate the working of the gospel in your life. How are you doing? Are there some who have physical or personality maladies that seem to be off-putting and disgusting to you? Perhaps, you need to look past your self-righteousness and see that in the eyes of God, you too were unlovable, yet in His grace, He loved you. Instead of becoming an isolationist Christian, maybe you could push out beyond yourself and extend love to those around you.
Food For Thought: What was the end goal of Paul’s desire that the Galatians would show love to him again?