These small group studies of Galatians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Galatians 4:12-20 Inductive Bible Study
- Paul’s prior relationship to the Galatians (12-14)
- Am I now your enemy? (15-20)
I. Paul’s prior relationship to the Galatians (12-14)
- What kind of attitude does Paul adopt toward the Galatians?
- Why does he use such strong words like “beg?”
- What can we learn from Paul’s attitude?
- What does he mean, “Become as I am, for I also have become as you are?”
- What was Paul struggling with when he preached the gospel to the Galatians originally?
- Why is this important?
- How did the Galatians treat him originally? Why does Paul remind them of this?
- What can we learn from Paul’s relationship with the Galatians?
- How can we try to form the same type of relationship with those whom we share with?
1. I beg of you – Hear we see again the depth of Paul’s care for the Galatians. He is not adopting a “Take it or leave it” attitude. He doesn’t preach the gospel only out of a sense of duty while not caring about whether or not people listen to it. He cares deeply for them and that is shown through the depth of his pleading with them. He desperately wants them to turn back to God. We should be careful not to have an apathetic attitude toward those we share with. The lostness of the people around us should drive us to prayer. Their lostness should disturb us. It should be often on our minds. We shouldn’t just share the gospel and then not care about their response thinking our duty is done. Yes, we can’t always convince them, but neither should we give up on them.
2. Become as I am for I have become as you are –
Become as I am – I believe it means to give up relying on works and self-righteousness like Paul had already done. See Philippians 3:4-10. They needed to realize what Paul already realized, that works could not save them.
For I have become as you are – See 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul ministered among them. He adopted their customs, ate their food, stayed in their homes. He became like one of them to win them for Christ. He became like them (outwardly) so that they could become like him (inwardly). In the past passages Paul used many logics and arguments to convince them that they could only be justified by faith and not by works. Here he uses his personal relationship for them. It is like saying “Think of our past. Think of all the time I spent among you. Think of all the things I have done for you. I am your friend. Not your enemy. I want what is best for you. If you are not persuaded by arguments, then be persuaded by the love and care I showed you and the relationship we had with each other.”
Application: Firstly, we should follow Paul’s ministry example. We should not be separate from those we minister to. We should make sure that our habits, language, and dress do not offend them. Secondly, we should remember the goal. Our goal is not just to fit in. We try to become like those we minister to (outwardly) as a mean to an end. The end goal is their salvation. We want them to become like us. We must therefore be careful that we only become like them outwardly and not inwardly. Some churches have attempted to become like the world to win the world. But if you become like the world then there is nothing left to win the world too because we aren’t any different than they are.
3. Because of bodily illness I preached the gospel to you the first time – God uses all things to work together for good. Even suffering, illness, disasters, and disease are used by God to accomplish His purposes. At the time, Paul’s illness certainly wouldn’t have seemed like a good thing. It was obviously painful and inconvenient, painful enough to change his ministry plans. What good could come out of such agony? The answer is: a lot! The church at Galatians was evidently established because Paul went there to recover from his illness. Commentators mention that Paul may have become ill due to the wet climate when he was ministering in some coastal lowlands. Galatia is a much higher altitude and presumably the cooler and drier weather was beneficial for his health.
Application: Can any of you give examples where something that you thought was bad news (or painful) turned out to be good for you? Sometimes we will be able to look back and notice the clear hand of God in those difficult circumstances in our life. But not always. Sometimes you will not see clearly what purpose God intended those sufferings for in your life. But we can remember that God always has a reason. God uses these things in our lives for our good. Do you believe that? It is easy for us to say we believe it when everything is going smoothly. When things are difficult, that is when it requires real faith to believe it. That is when we need to turn to God and say, “God I don’t understand why you are allowing this. I am hurting. But I choose to believe you. I know you have a good reason for allowing this to happen. So I will not complain. Instead I will rejoice and put my trust in you.” See Psalms 118:8, Isaiah 12:2, and Romans 15:13.
4. That which was a trial to you – Paul’s bodily condition was somehow a trial for the Galatians. Perhaps he needed a lot of care from them while he was sick. Perhaps too his sickness brought him low. We know that many times when we are sick we do not appear our best. Our bodies are not fully under our control, but instead are being controlled by a virus. If you have been in the same house as a very sick person, you know what I mean. It may not be pleasant to be around that person. Give personal example. But the Galatians were not repulsed by Paul or his sickness. Instead they treated him kindly, as if he were an angel or even Christ Himself. Paul here appeals to this compassion and love they had already demonstrated to him. Before they loved and cared for him even when he was unlovly. Would they now change their minds due to false teachers and treat Paul like an enemy?
What can you learn from this? We can learn from the Galatians kind behavior toward Paul. At the same time we can learn to: use every possible way to plead with people to turn back to the Lord. In this book, Paul uses almost every conceivable argument to convince the Galatians to place their faith completely in Christ and not in their own works. In 1 Peter 3:15, we learn that we should be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in you. In this book, we learn we should be prepared to give at least ten defenses for the hope that is in us! When you first don’t succeed, try and try again. This means you should never give up on people. If a brother or sister is in, do not stop trying to turn them back, both through prayer and pleading. If your child has turned away from God, never give up on them. If you love someone you will keep believing all things. You will believe that they can by God’s grace eventually turn to God. In the book of Hosea, we see that he does not give up on his wife. We should have that same persistent attitude that Hosea and Paul have.
- Philipppians 3:4-10 – Become as I am. This passage shows us what Paul had become and what he had been.
- 1 Corinthians 9:22 – I have become all things to all people.
- Acts 13:42-50 – The Galatians warmly welcome Paul.
II. Am I now your enemy? (15-20)
- What had changed from Paul’s first contact with them?
- What does verse 15 tell us about the depth of their love for Paul?
- How or why do you think the Galatians’ attitude toward Paul had changed?
- How did Paul feel when he was writing to them now?
- Who does the “they” and “them” in verse 17 refer to?
- What were their motivations? What kind of methods did they use? (Flattery, threats, manipulation)
- What kind of methods should we use in sharing the gospel?
- What does verse 18 mean?
- Was Paul simply jealous of people going to share with the Galatians when he was not there?
- Why might Paul use the term “in labor” in reference to his relationship with the Galatians?
- What does this teach us about the hard work it is to disciple others?
1. You would have plucked out your eyes for me – What changed? Sometimes our relationships gradually fall apart like the relationship between Paul and the Galatians. This is not something that happens overnight. Instead it happens little by little. Why? How can we prevent this slippery slope into disunity? (See Ephesians 4:3)
2. I have become your enemy? – See above. While we should never strive to be an enemy to others, sometimes people will consider us as an enemy if we tell them the truth. In those cases, we must fulfill our responsiblities faithfully. We answer to God for our actions. Hopefully we will keep a clear conscience that we are blameless if those relationships fail. In like manner, the other side also answers to God for their actions. We are responsible for what we do, not for what others do.
3. Be honest and sincere in proclaiming the gospel – See verse 18. Paul sought them out in a commendable manner. His motivations were sincere and genuine. Unfortunately the false teachers did not match his sincerity. Instead they took advantage of his absence to approach them deviously. Don’t use manipulation or trickery. Don’t be like AMWAY. Don’t invite people to a fun party and then surprise them with a 3 hour Bible lecture. If you are going to share the gospel with them, let them know first.
My children – Paul considered himself as a father to the Galatians. They were not just strangers or even friends. He viewed them as his children. He loved them dearly. He felt responsible for them. He couldn’t bear to see them going down the wrong path. If you follow Paul’s footsteps as a discipler you will have the same experience. You too will have many spiritual children whom you feed, care for, teach, and shepherd. When they do well, you will rejoice. But when they stumble, your heart will be wrenched. Your close relationship with them will push you to pray for them and plead with them to stay on the right path.
I am again in labor – Discuss the hard work and difficulty of discipling others. If you expect it is hard work you can prepare mentally for it and not give up easily when you discover that it is in fact hard work.
1 John 2:1, 18, 28; 3:7, 18 – John also often uses the term “children” or “little children.”
Matthew 23:37 – Jesus wanted to gather the residents of Jerusalem under His wings, demonstrating His compassion for them.
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