How to Make an Appeal to Those Moving Away From Truth, Part II (Galatians 4:12-20)

The Passionate Plea of a Perplexed Preacher, Galatians 4:12-20

How to make an appeal to those moving away from truth–part 2

One of the main duties of a parent is the same priority of a pastor/elder–to keep you on target, to keep our church honoring, following and obeying the Scripture. Since it is the Scripture which is the will of God for our church and home–and it is the Bible which lets you know what the head of the church wants for His body. Plus the goal of our instruction is love–so if we are teaching the Bible correctly, then the end result will be people who genuinely serve and sacrifice for each other and want the home and the church to be following the Word of God in all things.

Churches where the Bible is the authority are churches where people use their spiritual gifts, care for each other with the one anothers and pursue intentional relationships for the purpose of the Gospel and growth in discipleship of each other. But keeping a church train and home train on its biblical rails is not as easy as it seems. In the training center we adopt a coaching mode, so we can correct others using technical terms like, “You’re goofy, or that’s a wacky answer, or FRUIT LOOPS, or where’d you get that idea?” We men work at being sensitive to each other. But to the rest of us in the church there is a lot of discipleship, much shepherding, and gracious discussions which occur to assist each other to stay on target.

But even in healthy churches, men and women can take detours–and some can begin to oppose the Word of God and seek to undermine the will of God. That is part of the reason for the church discipline process that is found all throughout the New Testament. We are to love each other so much we might lovingly confront each other, in order to see repentance and seek restoration of a wayward believer.

But there are also times when those wayward church attenders declare they are now a homosexual or a lesbian, or you don’t have to attend church to be a Christian. Or people have hurt me and it’s their fault–it’s always someone else, and they’re the consummate victim. Or I live for Christ my own way and I don’t believe the Scripture is the authority of my life. What do you do when a believer has already gone off the rails of biblical Christianity? How do you talk to them? Well, Paul has been doing just that in Galatians.

Read with me Galatians 4:12 to 20, “I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— 20but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.”

In verses 8 to 20, Paul expresses his stunned confusion over how the Galatian churches want to go back under the Law, follow error and live in heresy. Moved by the Holy Spirit, teaching the Galatians, Paul is also teaching you how to talk to those who used to seem sound, but now are following error. There are eleven points in verses 8 to 20 that spring from the text itself. We studied four of them last week in verses 8 to 11 with Paul’s rebuke. Now today, there remain seven key actions in verses 12 to 20–Paul’s rebuilding. This is how you talk to those who you love, but it is those who have abandoned the simple straight forward teaching of the Scripture.

What did Paul teach last week in verses 8 to 11? “However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” Paul was . . .

#1  Reminding them they were LOST without Christ in verse 8

#2  Pointing them to the RELATIONSHIP they have with God through Christ in verse 9a

#3  Warning them of TURNING BACK to their enslaved lost days in verses 9b-10

#4  Sharing with them his FEAR over them and his LOVE for them in verse 11

Now having sternly rebuked the Galatians in verses 8 to 11, Paul changes his approach and makes an appeal based on his strong affection for them in verses 12 to 20. What can you do for those moving away from sound doctrine? Try . . .

#5  Appealing to them to be TRANSFORMED internally and externally like Paul  Verse 12a

I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.” Paul had been a proud, Pharisee, trusting in his own righteousness to save him. But when he came to Christ, he abandoned all efforts to save himself, trusting wholly in God’s grace. What does Paul confess in Philippians 3?

Philippians 3:4 to 9, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. 7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”

So in verse 12, Paul urges the Galatians to follow his example and avoid the legalism of the Judaizers. Paul had been the best kind of Jew, a conservative in the Jewish faith, a rule-keeper. Paul continued to live morally according to the New Testament (new covenant) commands–but Paul had abandoned mandatory attendance to the festivals, the dietary restrictions, and all extra-biblical Jewish traditions as a lifestyle, and he called the Galatians to do the same. Paul had lived his religion in his own strength, obeying the rules as best he could–but now Paul functioned by the power of the Spirit as a vessel, allowing the spirit of God to work through himself in order to live for Christ.

Verse 12a, “I beg of you, brethren, become as I am.” Paul is appealing to the Galatians to be transformed–not merely in behavior, but in their hearts, to live as true born again saints who are sinners. Paul is not being told to speak to them. “I beg you” in Greek is Paul acting upon himself to plead with them. The Greek “beg” is to beg for something that is “indispensable–it’s necessary. The only command in this entire section this week and last week is to “become like I am.”

Be one who is trusting in God’s grace–not trying to work your way to Heaven, but relying completely on Christ’s righteousness and not your own, becoming a Jew who doesn’t live for Judaism but lives for Jesus and acts like it. Paul says in verse 12, I’m not perfect but follow the example you have in me now, not before—verse 12, “for I also have become as you are.” I used to be the worst legalist–I was the example of what it meant to try to be saved by the Law, and I was horribly enslaved. Don’t do what I used to do, be transformed by Christ. As he challenges the Galatians to follow his example, to depend upon Christ, He also is . . .

#6  Refusing to make YOURSELF the issue  Verse 12b

You have done me no wrong.” Some translations say, “You have not injured me.” Though the hyper-zealous Jews promoting Judaism had persecuted Paul when he first came to Galatia, the Galatian believers themselves had not harmed Paul, but in fact had enthusiastically received him when he preached the Gospel to them. Do you recall Acts 13 and 14?

Verse 43, “Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God. . . 45But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. . . 14:19But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.”

Paul says, “Hey Galatians, you were super receptive when I was with you (the difficulty I faced when I was with you is from the same type of men who are messing with you now). But you were wonderfully responsive to the truth of God’s grace when I was with you. Acts 13:43, so how can you reject the Gospel and me now?” Paul is not offended by what they have done in forsaking the true Gospel of grace–in other words, Paul is not insulted. But Paul is shocked. When talking to your friend or family member who has moved away from truth, remind them of the times when they were seemingly responsive to the Word of God and the Work of the Holy Spirit. And do not make yourself the issue, but the Spirit and His Word. Take it a step further by . . .

#7  Recalling your spiritual JOURNEY together  Verses 13 to 15

Let me read verses 13 to 15 with some of their full meaning from the original text. “But you know (for a fact) that it was because of a bodily illness that I (myself) preached the gospel to you the first time; 14and that which was a trial (a pressure) to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but (strongly) you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.”

Simply stated, Paul was sick (verse 13) when he was with the Galatians–his sickness was (verse 14) gross, but they didn’t care. They didn’t literally spit on him, but welcomed him like he was an angel. But now verse 15, Paul asks, why are you rejecting me and the true gospel message now? Back when I was with you it felt like you would have done anything to support me.

What was the illness? Some say malaria, which is a weird disease. Once you get it, it’s like a time bomb–you never know when you are going to come down with the symptoms, which will require bed rest from convulsions, shaking and sweats, but only occasionally. I believe Paul had some sort of eye infection which grossed out his eyes, making it difficult to see, and was disgusting to look at–which is why Paul says in verse 15, “You would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.”

Whatever the illness was, it was verse 14, a trial to the Galatians–because looking at Paul caused a sense of distaste. But the believers there did not despise or loathe Paul or his good news, even though the preacher was repulsive looking. Verse 14, the Greek “despise” means to count as nothing or worthless–and the Greek term behind “loathe” means to spit, which was often done as an act of contempt. Paul was treated neither as worthless nor with contempt when he was with them.

But now, after Paul has returned home–now after the false Law teachers have undermined the Gospel and attacked Paul, the Galatians are treating Paul badly. This really is a shock–most people back then (and some today) see an illness, especially one that makes you look gross, as a judgment from God. But Paul’s affliction was not a barrier to his credibility or to his message to either the Galatian Jews or Gentiles. That was totally unexpected.

The apostle was amazed, verse 14, they received him like an angel of God–even like the Lord Jesus Himself. Paul’s reception, verse14, contained no barrier to his credibility, but complete acceptance. The Galatians did not question the way Paul looked or what Paul said. They had no doubt Paul was a messenger from God and an apostolic representative of the Lord. The Galatians, verse 15, were grateful beyond measure for the blessing of true salvation and a real spiritual life they received because of Paul’s ministry.

So Christian, do what Paul did with those moving away from truth. Paul refreshed their memories. They once loved Paul so much, verse 15, they “would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me.” That phrase probably has to do with the nature of his gross eye infection–but even if not, it’s a figure of speech claiming they would’ve given up their very eyesight, that most irreplaceable of the physical senses, if doing that would help Paul. Gospel joy overruled gross eye problems.

Like soldiers who fought together are bound for life. Like players on a championship team are bound for life. Those who travel overseas for lengthy ministry are connected for life. So all those who share, proclaim, present the Gospel to the lost are bound for life. Paul reminds them they were verse 15, “blessed by my presence”–meaning happy and satisfied. When I was with you from the start, you were happy with me and you were satisfied with the message of grace I preached. So why have you now turned against me and against the only way to be truly rescued, genuinely saved, made righteous, and go to Heaven? You loved me back then and you loved the message from God I taught you. So Paul challenges them next by . . .

#8 Reminding them of your commitment to stand upon the TRUTH  Verse 16

So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? To be a great parent, a great discipler and a great teacher, you first, currently, moment-by-moment, must make certain your own heart for Christ is fresh and your priority is living filled with the Spirit. And secondly, always and only, speak and teach the Word of God–making certain the Word is what you stand upon and what you live by. The Galatians knew Paul told them the truth and would only speak the truth to them. The Word of God, which is the Truth, is what the Spirit uses to save you and sanctify you.

Like Paul in verse 16, just tell others the truth of God’s Word, of God’s Gospel. But now as the Judaizers subtly undermine Paul’s apostolic authority with comments like, he is not one of the twelve-he is not official. Paul is a lesser apostle. Along with the subtle undermining of Paul’s Gospel message, like Paul is just trying to be popular by making the Gospel message free without works. Or stating things like Paul is not fully devoted, not as committed, or not as spiritual as we Judaizers are since we keep the Law, attend the festivals, are circumcised and follow the traditions. The man the Galatians loved for bringing them salvation truth, has now become their enemy.

By carefully phrased critical, negative, and caustic comments, the false teachers had succeeded in turning their best friend Paul, into their greatest enemy Paul. Friends, in the Christian world, with tweets, podcasts, Facebook and Instagram, there is great danger in listening to what people say about others. And there is great sin taking place in the name of Christ by some who are posting. There is no place in Christianity for a doctrinal version of TMZ. I’m begging you to completely stop listening to the Rush Limbaughs and Ben Shapiros of the Christian world–who treat those they disagree with like they’re democrats. Some have entire websites dedicated to destroying the teaching and credibility of Christians.

Next, I am begging you to take the long view, knowing that those comments (you shouldn’t be listening to in the first place) will be proven true or false over time. Never forget the principle of truth in time–something that is true about someone will be proven out over time. What do I do about what I have heard? Stop listening and stop reading.

The Galatians had become so confused by listening to false teachers, in spite of their previous affection for Paul, in spite of Paul being a chosen apostle of Jesus Christ, in spite of his incredible sacrifice to proclaim the Gospel and teach God’s Word to them. Even while he was sick, some in Galatia had come to view Paul as their enemy. They were literally hostile toward Paul now. So Paul reminds them he had not harmed them, but merely told them the truth–a truth that had once brought them great joy. A truth which is truly good news. How did the false teachers undermine Paul and move away from truth?

#9  Warning them of False Teacher MANIPULATIONS  Verses 17 to 18

First, verse 17, “They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but (strongly) they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them.” Look at how Paul warns the Galatians in verse 17–the Judaizers were eager, literally zealous and enthusiastic, to seek out the Galatians, to come alongside them, to disciple them, to teach them. But what they wanted was to corrupt them with error. So Paul adds in verse 17, this was not commendable, meaning appropriate. Eagerly seek is also translated jealous–the false teachers are jealous for their attention.

Now are you thinking? Did you catch the subtle manipulation here? The false teachers had a serious concern–they expressed a warm and inviting interest. They appeared to be genuine. They felt real. They seemed honest, loving and attentive. But their true motive was to exclude the Galatians from God’s gracious salvation and win recognition for themselves–prove they’re the best, they’re right, and Paul is wrong.

The Judaizers had no interest in the Galatian believers beyond entrapping them in legalism like a Pharisee. Their true wish, their main objective was simply (verse 17) to shut out the Galatians from God’s grace and gain acceptance for themselves and their views. The false teachers were jealous–they wanted the Galatians to embrace them–why? Verse 6:12–their true motivation was “to make a good showing in the flesh”—to look good. So verse 18, “But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you.”

Paul goes on to explain that he himself had eagerly sought the Galatians when he first preached the Gospel in that region. But unlike the false teachers, Paul came to them in a truly commendable manner–how is that? Paul came, Paul discipled, and Paul taught from a motive of love for Christ and a deep desire for their salvation and sanctification. And such enthusiastic concern was appropriate, not only when Paul was present with them, but also now that he is separated from them.

Paul was not jealous of the Judaizers. He did not oppose them in order to preserve his own popularity or his leadership, but to protect the spiritual health of the Galatians. So in verse 18, Paul encouraged the Galatians to have the same zeal for the true Gospel of grace that they had when he was present with them. Talk to your friends about the motives, intentions and unhealthiness of false teachers. And don’t misunderstand who you might be exposing–not just pastors, or Sunday school teachers–but college professors are false teachers, the media is a false teacher. And blogs, posts, and tweets can be false teachers—as well as the beliefs of our society and government can be false teachers. Show your friends how they’re being manipulated, lied to and coerced. And be . . .

#10  Sharing your singular drive and PASSION for them  Verse 19

Verse 19 is one of my life verses–this is what I am living for. This is why I go back to my desk week after week for 20 hours and prepare for Sunday morning. “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you,” Paul says. I am willing to have ongoing birth pains until Christ is seen through you, my kids. And all the mothers in the room said? No, not amen, all the mothers said, “Ouch!”

Now this seems very abnormal and unnatural? That is because it is. Paul is telling the Galatians they have already experienced the new birth, but now they are acting as if they need to be spiritually born all over again. Paul is saying, “You Galatians make me feel like a mother who has to deliver the same baby twice.” Paul felt as if he went through labor pains to bring the Galatians to Christ. Yet now, because they were seduced by false teachers, Paul has to go through labor pains a second time to bring them back to Christ. But regardless of their tragic spiritual condition, Paul will not forsake them until Christ was formed in them.

Paul even calls the Galatians, “My children”–proving Paul is speaking to the Galatians not like a lawyer to a jury, or a politician to lawmakers. But Paul is speaking to them like a mother speaking to her children–maybe more like a parent to his wayward child. The Judaizers want the Galatians to be loyal to the Law and Jewish rules. Paul wants the Galatians to be loyal to the Lord and a relationship with Him. The Judaizers want the Galatians to be committed to the institution of circumcision, but Paul wants the Galatians to be committed to intimacy with Christ.

My brothers and sisters, there is just one goal over every other goal that the indwelling Holy Spirit of God has for you. There is one thing the Spirit is trying to accomplish in you and through you. There is one truth which is the Spirit’s desire above every other desire, and it is found in Romans 8:29. Speaking of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God says, “He …. predestined (you) to become conformed to the image of His Son.” The Holy Spirit wants you to become like Christ. Paul is laboring until Christ is formed in you. For Christ to be your first love–to have your lifestyle be, “to live is Christ.” And what God wants this morning is for you to come to Christ or become like Christ.

The verb formed (“until Christ is formed in you”) in verse 19 contains the idea of essential form rather than outward shape. Telling us the Spirit wants to build internal Christlike character in you. Christlikeness is the goal of the believer’s life. Like Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.”

When you are dealing with anyone drifting from sound doctrine, remember–sound doctrine is that which will cause you to live like Christ, and unsound doctrine is that which will cause you to live not like Christ. Paul was willing to experience the second or third most painful thing in the world—childbirth, in order to have the Galatians become like Christ.

When you talk to your family or friends, tell them what you want more than anything in the world, is what God the Holy Spirit wants–and that is that they would become like Christ. You want KISS–K.I.S.S. Know Christ, Imitate Christ, Share Christ, Show Christ. And lastly, be honest, be genuine, be sincere, and be transparent by . . .

#11  Sharing your Heart ACHE and LONGING over their current direction  Verse 20

But I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” God understands you parents and friends who are reaching out to those drifting into or embracing serious error. God tells you through Paul–he is perplexed, meaning Paul is literally at his wits end. You are just like Paul–when someone you love goes off the rails biblically, you want to deal with the issues personally, face to face, person to person—wow! I am certain you see Paul’s heart here in verse 20.

Paul wants to be present with the Galatians in person. And Paul wants to change his tone with them. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to change my tone. Tone is the Greek word that points to the noise made by the variance of the vocal cords–are you soft or hard, are you intense or relaxed, are you fact-oriented or relational? Tone is the intensity of my discussion with someone who is in error to God’s Word. Like you and me, Paul hardly knew what more to say or how to say it, because he was so perplexed about them.

Perplexed” means to be filled with confusion resulting from a failure to understand. With some people–it just boggles the mind. Paul could not understand how they could have been taught the Gospel so well, believed it so genuinely, then appeared to have forsaken it so quickly (1:6). Every Christian worker experiences times when he or she comes to an impasse and finds his own resources are completely exhausted. After saying and doing everything they know to say and do, those they are trying to help–sometimes unbelievers, sometimes believers–remain completely out of reach and may even turn against you. But according to the Holy Spirit and God’s never wrong Word, this is how Paul talked to those who were drifting–eleven keys. I believe this is a God approved, God empowering, God pleasing way for you to talk to those who are drifting from sound doctrine too.


A  Who needs to EXAMINE their own heart concerning sound doctrine?

Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ alone as a free gift from God. But genuine salvation produces life change–a new direction in life, and a heart that wants to obey God’s Word. We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone. When salvation is genuine, faith produces works and a heart of love, which means a joyful life of ongoing service, sacrificial giving, faithful ministry, growing in community and discipling others.

Listen friends, if you are saved, the Holy Spirit is going to make you like Jesus Christ. And when you are like Christ in character, you will do what Christ did in practice, which is serve, give and disciple–there is no way around it. So examine yourself–are you seeing more of what Christ does through you? Are you cooperating with, submitting to, following after what the Spirit wants to do in your life–make you like Christ? If not, cry out to Christ for genuine salvation.

B  Who needs you to APPEAL so they’ll turn back to truth and Christ?

Pray, then use this passage to guide you in what you might say or write. Hear the Word of God from Jude, friends. Jude 22 and 23, “Have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” And Proverbs 27:6a, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Reach out to them, remembering those who deny the Gospel of grace are bound for eternal punishment in Hell forever.

C  Where are you on the TRUTH and GRACE scale?

The closest apostle to Jesus said this of our Lord in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” If I am going to be like Christ, if I am to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in becoming like Christ, then I too must be full of grace and truth. John continues to show Christ full of grace by turning water into wine. Then later, full of truth by cleaning out the Temple.

One of my life goals is to never ever compromise truth, but to do so in the most gracious way. Now raise your hands, and be honest–on the truth/grace scale, how many of you fall hard on the truth side? How many on the grace side? We have some work to do, people. Speak the truth, teach the truth, never compromise the truth–but do so in the most gracious, caring, loving, godly way. The harder the truth, the more gracious you should be. Never soften the truth, but learn how to be gracious. Are you up for the challenge? Me too. Let’s pray.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.

1 Comment

  1. June Albienda on March 6, 2023 at 7:54 am

    Good day sir,

    I just want to say thank you for your generosity by sharing your preaching script in this website.

    Its really helps me understand the bible through continuous reading and study. In fact i used your preaching script in my several bible study here in my community using Filipino language.

    Once again, Thank you and may God bless you always.

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