Read Galatians 4:12–20. What is the thrust of Paul’s message in these verses?
The initial indication of the concern that weighs heavily on Paul’s heart is his personal appeal in verse 12. The appeal follows immediately after Paul’s insistence that the Galatians “become as I am.” The significance of the word entreat or beseech is, unfortunately, not fully conveyed in some translations. The word in Greek is deomai. Although it can be translated “to urge” (NKJV) or “to entreat” (ESV), the Greek word has a stronger sense of desperation connected to it (see 2 Cor. 5:20, 8:4, 10:2). Paul is really saying, “I’m begging you!”1
Paul’s concern was not simply about theological ideas and doctrinal points of view. His heart was bound up with the lives of the people who were brought to Christ through his ministry. He considered himself more than just a friend; he was their spiritual father, and they were his children. But even more than that, Paul likens his concern for the Galatians to the worry and anguish that accompany a mother in childbirth (Gal. 4:19). Paul had thought that his previous “labor” had been sufficient for their “safe delivery” when he founded the church. But now that the Galatians had wandered from the truth, Paul was experiencing those labor pains all over again in order to secure their well-being.
What goal did Paul have in mind for the Galatians? What result did he want to see from all his “labor” in their behalf? Gal. 4:19.
Having first described the Galatians as being formed in the womb, Paul now speaks of the Galatians as if they were expectant mothers themselves. The word translated as “formed” was used medically to refer to the development of an embryo. Through this metaphor Paul describes what it means to be Christian, both individually and collectively as a church. To be a follower of Christ is more than just the profession of faith; it involves a radical transformation into the likeness of Christ. Paul was “not looking for a few minor alterations in the Galatians but for such a transformation that to see them would be to see Christ.”—Leon Morris, Galatians (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p. 142.
In what ways have you seen the character of Christ manifested in your life? In what areas do you still have a lot of growing to do?