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 Online Lesson – With Discussion Questions

Outline

I. Paul’s prior relationship to the Galatians (12-14)
II. Am I now your enemy? (15-20)

I. Paul’s prior relationship to the Galatians (12-14)

Discussion Questions

  • 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?

Cross-References

Philippians 3:7-9 – But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Acts 13:42-50 – The Galatians warmly welcome Paul.

Teachings Points

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 lost state of the people around us should drive us to prayer. Their fate apart from Christ 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 –

A. Become as I am – I believe it means to give up relying on works and self-righteousness like Paul had already done (Philippians 3:4-10). They needed to realize what Paul already realized, that works could not save them.

B. For I have become as you are –

1 Corinthians 9:22 Bible Verse

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 logic 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 to because we aren’t any different than they are.

Christ is a rock of offense. The gospel offends people. But our behavior and attitude should not.

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.)

Are you facing a trial? How can you apply what you have learned in this passage in the trial that you are facing?

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.

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 unlovely. Would they now change their minds due to false teachers and treat Paul like an enemy?

Application: 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.

Is there someone you know who has fallen away from God? How can you renew your love and hope for them?

II. Am I now your enemy? (15-20)

Discussion Questions

  • 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?
  • 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?

Cross-References

Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Matthew 23:37 – Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

1 John 2:1, 18, 28; 3:7, 18 – John also often uses the term “children” or “little children.”

Teaching Points

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?

Ephesians 4:3 Bible Verse

Unity is something that is easy to slip away from us. We have to diligently work at it to keep unity. This is true in marriage, in the church, and in all relationships. The key to unity is when each party is actively following Christ. The Galatians were falling away from Christ and therefore their relationship with Paul also suffered. So to maintain unity with other believers, we must remain in Christ. The closer you are to Christ, the closer you will be to each other.

2. I have become your enemy? – 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 responsibilities 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 –

Galatians 4:18 – It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.

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 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. No one will every be won to Christ through trickery.

4. 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 disciple maker 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.

5. I am again in labor – Discipling others is hard work. If you know this ahead of time, you can prepare mentally for it and not give up easily when you discover that it is in fact hard work.

Application: How can your work at the task of making disciples this week? How does God want you to renew your labors for His kingdom? Write down one way you need to work for God’s kingdom this week.

Galatians E-Book – If this lesson is helpful for you, you can download our entire Galatians Bible study guide in one convenient E-book.

Study Galatians 4:21-31

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