In Galatians 4:12 and following Paul concludes his fifth argument for justification before God coming through faith in Christ and not through keeping the law. He does this by again pointing to Abraham. Anyone who shares the faith of Abraham is already his son and heir and doesn’t need to keep the law to make it so, whatever false teachers may say. The Law was given as a temporary custodian to prepare the Jews for the coming of Christ, but it was through Christ that both Jew and gentile would receive the blessings God promised to Abraham. The Law was to bring men to Christ by showing them that not only couldn’t they keep its demands, but its very nature tempted them to do those very things it told them not to do.
In Galatians 4:12 Paul begins to plead with the Galatians on the basis of their relationship with him. With “be as I am, because I am as you are” Paul is probably reminding the Galatians that he came to them as one of them, not as a Jew. In other words Paul came to them as a gentile, and the Galatians should be just as he is—as gentiles not living under the Law.
Paul probably preached to the Galatians while he was still recovering from being stoned at Lystra (cf. Galatians 4:13). Some have argued that Paul was sick, while others have argued that Paul was referring to his thorn in the flesh (2Corinthians 9:7-10). It is quite possible that it had to do with Paul’s eyesight (cf. Galatians 4:14; 6:11, 17; Acts 14:19). Yet, no matter what physical state Paul was in, while he preached the Gospel to the Galatians, they received him as an angel of God – Christ (Galatians 4:14). Why? What attracted them to Paul, when he was obviously repulsive in appearance?
Paul suggests that the Galatians received him in order to receive the blessing that they saw in Paul’s Gospel (Galatians 4:15). Nevertheless, where is that blessing they treasured so much in what they now believed, for their standing at the time of Paul’s writing was as if he had never preached to them? Moreover, Paul’s “you have not injured me at all” (Galatians 4:12) is meant to point out that it was not they (the Galatian believers) who had injured Paul during Paul’s first visit with them (Acts 14:9). Rather, it was the Jews (the keepers of the Law). So, now that they, i.e. the Galatian believers, are keepers of the Law, should he (Paul) now count himself their enemy, too (Galatians 4:15-16)?
Probably the Galatian believers didn’t realize it, but their relationship with Paul had suddenly changed. We see it ourselves, if and when we suddenly change our own way of worshiping God. When I was a Roman Catholic and a Biblical illiterate, I had my Christian faith overcome by a man who knew how to use the Bible as a weapon to capture the ignorant and helpless. I found myself on the outside of relationships with my Catholic friends and relatives—mostly my doing. Some of my brothers and sisters and my mother left the faith with me to this new place of worship. After some time, I began to understand that my newfound faith was really a cult.
I left it, but my mother and brothers and sisters stayed. I found myself on the outside once more. No longer was religious discussion welcome when I was with them. In fact my mother told me we had nothing in common, and I shouldn’t bring up religious discussion of any kind when visiting her or my brothers and sisters. On the other hand, my Catholic friends and family welcomed me, only Holy Communion was forbidden, according to Catholic doctrine, until full reconciliation was attained (that is until I embraced everything I once declared wrong).
When folks, who are otherwise friendly toward you, want you to change something about your lifestyle or beliefs, they embrace you only to a point. They exclude you from something that is very important to them (Galatians 4:16-17). This is done in order to compel you to become more like them. This is how the Judaizers caused the Galatians to change from embracing the Gospel to embracing Judaism, and Paul asked, if now that the Galatian believers had embraced Judaism, would they now exclude him?
Paul became as a gentile for the sake of the Gospel. He accepted the Galatians as they were. On the same token they accepted him, although his appearance was undoubtedly less than inviting, due to his being stoned. Both Paul and the Galatians accepted one another, because they valued the Gospel—from Paul’s perspective to share it freely, but from the Galatians perspective it was to receive it freely. When this is not done, something is wrong; something other than the Gospel is being put before the Gospel.