8 But at that time when you didn’t know God, you were slaves to those who by nature were not gods1. 9 But now, knowing God, but rather being known by God, how is it that you are still returning again to the weak and the poor elementary forces2 to which you wish to be a slave to once again? 10 You observe3 days, months, seasons4, and years5! 11 I am afraid for you that perhaps I have labored6 in vain for you.
12 I beg of you brothers, become as I am, because I am even as you are7. You have done nothing wrong to me. 13 Now you know that because of a sickness in my body8 , I preached to you the gospel the first time9, 14 even though it was a trial to you10 because of my flesh, you didn’t despise11 me nor reject me, but you received me as an angel12 of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore, where is your happiness?13 For I bear witness to you that if it was possible, you would have dug out14 your eyes and given them to me15. 16 Then have I become your enemy while speaking the truth16 to you?17 17 They18 are zealous19 for you, but it is not in a good way, but they are wanting to exclude you from the church, so that you may be zealous for them20 . 18 Now it is good to be zealous as long as it is in a good way. Always be zealous and not only in my presence with you.21 19 My children, whom I am again suffering labor pains until Christ may be formed in you22; 20 and I was wanting to be present with you now and to change the tone of my voice23, because I am at a loss24 about25 you.
Paul reminds the Galatians of how they were when he first came to them. They were very happy at that time, but they have lost their happiness.
1 This is referring to when the gentiles of the churches of Galatia worshipped Greek and Roman gods. Those gods were neither gods nor alive. Since the Galatians worshipped them, they were slaves to them. They were not to be slaves for “false-gods”, but slaves for Christ. In 1:10, Paul refers to himself as “a slave of Christ”.
2 ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα (the weak and the poor elementary forces)
Paul is again lining up practicing the Jewish law with practicing paganism. This is an astonishing thing for a former Pharisee to say! The act of paganism was to worship gods who were not gods at all. Since the false-gods were weak and poor, they were not strong enough to help people and were not able to offer people any thing. In Paul’s understanding, the same is true for the law. Although Jews were under the law’s guidance, the were still enslaved to performing the law much like the Greeks were enslaved by worshipping false gods.
3 παρατηρεῖσθε (observe)
4 καιροὺς (seasons)
or “appointed times”.
5 In other words, the Galatians were keeping the calendar of the Jewish holy days just as they had keep the calendar of the pagans. The Jewish calendar was established around events that had happened during the history of the Jewish people while the pagan calendar centered around the movement of the sun, moon, stars, and planets. According to Paul, the two were “under the same roof” so to speak.
6 κεκοπίακα (have labored)
or “have toiled”.
7 They are members of the faith in Christ Jesus. They are alike in this. Paul is changing his “tone” with the members of the churches that he established. One can feel the love in which Paul is writing to them. They are brothers in Christ.
8 δι ̓ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς (because of sickness in my body)
Greek: “because of a weakness of the flesh” We are not sure if this is the same “thorn in the flesh” of 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, but whatever it was, it was something that the Galatians understood and apparently could see in Paul.
9 τὸ πρότερον (the first time) or “the former time”. This is referring to Paul’s first visit to the people
10 καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν (even though it was a trail to you)
Greek: “even your trial”. Whatever Paul’s sickness was, it must have been repulsive to the people of Galatia.
11 ἐξουθενήσατε (despise)
or “despise something or someone because it or they held no value”.
12 ἄγγελον (angel)
13 According to the context of the preceding passage, the Galatians were very happy to receive a messenger of God to their land. They treated Paul with respect even though he had an illness. Since the false-brothers had come, they had lost their happiness. This phrase could be render something like: “what happened to the happiness you had at the time I was here before?”
14 ἐξορύξαντες (you would have dug out)
Greek: “after digging out”. The verb means “to break something loose by digging or opening”. The verb is used in Mark 2:4 when the four men dug out the roof and lowered the paralytic down to Jesus.
15 Some scholars believe that this reference may indicate that Paul’s illness was some type of an eye infection or eye disease that the people of Galatia were so sorrowful over that they wished they could help in some way. More than likely, this phrase refers to just how much those people thought of Paul when he was with him. His love and influence on the Galatians prompted them to love him in return. In other words, they would have done anything for Paul if they could.
16 The truth is what Paul is preaching, not what the false-brothers were teaching.
17 In other words, how can they now thing of Paul as an enemy when they loved him so much that they would have done anything for him if they could have?
18 The false-brothers who have come up from Jerusalem caused all of the problems.
19 ζηλοῦσιν (zealous)
To have a deep concern about.
20 The false-brothers were trying desperately to change the churches of Galatia so that the members would follow their way of thinking. By preaching to them a “transformed” gospel (1:7), they were alienating them from the “true” body of Christ much like the Jews did with the Gentiles. Following the Jewish law alienating the members of the churches of Galatia from the body of Christ.
21 This can apply today just as it applied to the Galatians then. It is good to be zealous over what you believe as long as what you believe is correct. If you are zealous over what you believe, then be zealous all the time and not just when you are in church or in the presence of others.
22 Paul is having to endure the process of converting his churches again to the body of Christ. He labored and toiled over them in vain the first time. Paul’s love for them is so great that he is willing to toil over them again. The vivid imagery of suffering labor pains shows just how much Paul is willing to endure to bring his members back to Christ. We can infer from the passage that since the Galatians are practicing the law, then they have lost Christ. Paul is willing to endure birth pains until they find him again (until Christ may be formed in you).
23 ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου (to change the tone of my voice)
Greek: “to change my voice”. Paul realizes that his letter has “tough words” for the Galatians. He is trying to convey that if he were with them, they would see the love that he has for them and the concern he has for them. The letter is harsh, but the love behind the letter is pure.
24 ἀποροῦμαι (I am at a loss)
“To be in perplexity, with the implication of serious anxiety” Not only is Paul perplexed, he is suffering anxiety over the situation. This is something that Paul wants to correct as soon as he can.
25 ἐν (about) Greek: “in”.
Γαλάτας 4·8 Ἀλλὰ τότε μὲν οὐκ εἰδότες θεὸν ἐδουλεύσατε τοῖς φύσει μὴ οὖσιν θεοῖς· 9 νῦν δὲ γνόντες θεόν, μᾶλλον δὲ γνωσθέντες ὑπὸ θεοῦ, πῶς ἐπιστρέφετε πάλιν ἐπὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ καὶ πτωχὰ στοιχεῖα οἷς πάλιν ἄνωθεν δουλεύειν θέλετε; 10 ἡμέρας παρατηρεῖσθε καὶ μῆνας καὶ καιροὺς καὶ ἐνιαυτούς, 11 φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μή πως εἰκῇ κεκοπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς.
Γαλάτας 4·12 Γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ, ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς, ἀδελφοί, δέομαι ὑμῶν. οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε· 13 οἴδατε δὲ ὅτι δι ̓ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον, 14 καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε, ἀλλὰ ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ ἐδέξασθέ με, ὡς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. 15 ποῦ οὖν ὁ μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν; μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν ἐξορύξαντες ἐδώκατέ μοι. 16 ὥστε ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα ἀληθεύων ὑμῖν; 17 ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς, ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν, ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε· 18 καλὸν δὲ ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν καλῷ πάντοτε καὶ μὴ μόνον ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 19 τέκνα μου, οὓς πάλιν ὠδίνω μέχρις οὗ μορφωθῇ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν· 20 ἤθελον δὲ παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἄρτι καὶ ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου, ὅτι ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν.