Galatians 


Study 27: Gal. 4:8-20

From Spirit to Flesh




Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.  Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?  They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.  But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.  My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,  I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

Gal. 4:12-20

We now  move to another of those personal accounts of Paul. Here he compares and contrasts his approach of  his work amongst them, and that of the Judaisers  to the Galatians. Once more we see the difference between the walking in the Spirit and the flesh; we see that the Galatians' response to Paul was in the Spirit, and to the  Judaisers' was in the flesh. They seemed to responded to people the way they came to them. If the visitors  were in the  Spirit they too would react in the Spirit; if in the flesh likewise they responded. In other words these Galatians seemed to shift their position depending on the 'flavour of the month'. No backbone; they were being childish and  tossed about, as we see in Ephesians, again highlighting their desire to go back to the childlike state.


That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

Eph. 4:14

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 1. Paul's visit

Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.  Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
Gal.4:12-15

We know that Paul's physical presence was weak. This is  testified elsewhere in scripture. 

For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.

II Cor. 10:10

What drew the Galatians to Paul then was not the fleshly show of  man's ability, but the Spirit of Christ. We read earlier that they had begun in the Spirit, Gal. 3:2-3. And Paul here reveals their response to him as  a person. There was nothing that in the natural would draw men to him. But in the Spirit it was different, for the treasure of the gospel, and indeed Christ Himself was manifested  through this chosen apostle. They received him as an angel (messenger) of Christ, upon new birth their spirits witnessed this was  the case. They didn't despise or reject him because of his infirmities at all. How wonderful it is when we look not as men  looks but as God looks.

When a man preaches the word of God do we look at the outward appearance such as:  he is a good communicator, has charisma, is well presented, is he a fully gifted person; the presentation, is it slick, does it tickle the ears, does it agree with us because it makes us comfortable? Or do we listen for the Spirit speaking? These things will show as  whether we are in the  Spirit or flesh.

The Galatians would have done anything for Paul,  even to the  point of plucking out their own eyes to give to him. Such love displayed shows how much  in the Spirit they were when they begun. Yet now Paul has  to sternly rebuke them for following these Judaisers and going back into the flesh.

2. The Judaisers' visit

They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, ( ^from us - Newberry) that ye might affect them.

Gal.4:17

The Judasiers, on the contrary,  were moving in the flesh, and  the Galatians latched onto  them. What do we see here from Paul's analysis? Firstly, these false brethren zealously affected  them, but not well; that is they 'bewitched' them, Ch.3:1, they fascinated them , drawing them to their message so that the Galatians would follow them! They wanted the Galatians for themselves, they wanted them to be disciples of their way and  their cause.  They wanted to have a show openly of how zealous they followed their particular cause.

Secondly, we see the results:
they would exclude you, [from us], in other words the legalists tended to isolate the believers from fellowship with  Paul and the truth of the Gospel. So what happens is that these believers would only ever hear the legalists and sink further into the flesh and become follows of these legalists to the exclusion of all others.

And this is true of all legalisms. Take, as an  example, some group or other who insist on destroying everything in their homes they deem 'unspiritual'; they  make this a rule to live by, and begin to subtly impose it on others. Those who don't join in they regard as unspiritual or unholy or backsliding or whatever, and begin to persuade them of their cause by sophistries, and by show of the 'flesh'. They try to isolate believers from genuine  fellowship, by criticism of others, and saying that they will not join in with fellowship with the such because of some, usually, minor difference, which they make a major issue; this, in turn,  brings  pressure on the believers by suggesting they will loose out if they do go. If this is  allowed to take hold and grow   many will be taken away and we will see the development of a cult.

This is so subtle that it is such an easy trap to fall into. What is emphasised is the outward show of destroying  outward objects as signs of spirituality, and slowly, usually by strength of character (i.e. bullying) begin to gather a crowd to follow them and their cause. People who give in to this have moved from the Spirit, into the flesh, being affected by the fleshy show of these legalists.

3. Conclusion


But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.  My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,  I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt [=perplexed] of you.

Gal. 4:18-19

Paul stands in doubt of them, the word means to be perplexed; that is he is in at a loss as to what to do about them (eg. Acts 25:20). He wants to come to them  changing  his approach because that means they would have  had returned  to the truth, but the facts mean he could not  do that at present;  what does he do? What Paul was wanting  was for them to be zealous for the truth when even he wasn't there. In other words Paul wanted them to be walking in the Spirit all the time, whether he  was present or not.

And it is this that hits the nail on the  head: that is to live and walk a life pleasing to God irrespective of who is present, or whatever  the circumstance is. It is  Christ  in you! Jesus Himself was Spirit led, He Himself had the Holy Spirit descend on Him at His water baptism, and from thence was led of the Spirit, Mtt. 3:16-4:1.  A person, who is born again, has the Holy Spirit  planted in  him and  then he  can live and walk in the Spirit following how He leads, irrespective of the outward circumstance. So that whenever anyone turns up with a false gospel the witness of the Spirit will testify to such.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
Col.1:27

But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.  And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

Rom.8:9-15

But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

I Jn.2:27
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

I Jn.4:6


Legalists live by external codes and rules, and centre on a cause; they want a following after their way and would tend to isolate believers from the truth. By listening to them and not the witness of the Spirit, believers will fall for their deception; their hearts and minds will be taken off Christ, and they will  end up  walking in the flesh, becoming disciples, not of Christ, but these false teachers. The only answer is to walk in the Spirit and obey the witness of the Spirit within.


It would be good to conclude by quoting Oswald Chambers when he said that we are called to follow  Christ and  not a cause.