Person walks alone through windy sand dunes. Power of Grace in Galatians

Galatians 4:12-20: Missional Living

All Christians are called to live a missional life so that others can experience personal, authentic relationships and come to Christ.

Galatians 4:12-20: Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (ESV)

Last week I recorded a podcast episode with a campus ministry missionary at a top university in the United States. One of her comments stuck with me, and I think it is relevant to today’s message about “Missional Living.”

She said that Gen Z isn’t into apologetics; they are looking for authenticity. She meant that they are not interested in hearing arguments and rational explanations about the truth and faith. They are looking for authenticity and relationships. They are drawn to personal experiences, she said.

We are all drawn to authenticity and personal relationships. Why? Because though intellectual arguments are necessary, they can only win one’s mind, not the heart. To win people over, you have to win their hearts.

When I told my wife many years ago that I love her, she did not say “I love you too” for a few days. I may have convinced her mind to go out with me, but her heart had to be won through a personal, authentic relationship. She had to see and experience that my love for her was genuine.

Similarly, people need to experience that our love for Jesus is genuine; therefore, our concern for them is genuine. Only by living a missional life through words and actions do we appeal to their minds and hearts to win them for Christ.

In this passage, Paul suddenly stopped his theological and doctrinal arguments for the same reason. Maybe he realized only a personal, authentic, and relational appeal could change and win their hearts once more. After all, it was Paul’s missional living by which they witnessed an authentic personal relationship in the first place.

All Christians are called to live a missional life so that others can experience personal, authentic relationships and come to Christ. Here we see three principles of missional living that Paul modeled for all believers everywhere for all times.

Speak in Humility

When you live a missional life, you speak in humility. Verses 12-15 says, “Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong.”

First, Paul calls the Galatians “brothers.” In Greek, it is ἀδελφός, adelphos. It is a Pauline term for the members of a Christian community. Paul does not consider the Galatians outside of the Christian community and therefore not fallen from grace. When we lack humility—in our religious, doctrinal, and theological pride—we are quick to condemn others, thus diminishing the chances of restoring them.

On a personal level, it must have taken Paul humility to call the Galatians brothers and sisters since they had deserted Paul and his teaching and moved into the enemy’s camp. That must have been a humiliating experience. Someone else may have lashed out, or even said something like, if you want to go to hell, go ahead, but not Paul. That is a missional living.

Next, he says, “I entreat you.” The Greek word there is δέομαι, deomai, which literally means beg. His actions show humility, and his language is also saturated with humility. Think for a moment: he is an apostle of Christ who introduced the Galatians to Christ through the gospel. Also, a person with the academic credentials he had, not only back then but also today, would not use terms like “beg.” It would be degrading. If this is not humility, then I don’t know what is.

Where would you learn such humility? Paul would say from Christ. Turn with me to Philippians 2:7-9: “though he [Christ] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Humility is the basic ingredient of a missional life so that others may experience authentic relationships. Christian humility is not weakness; rather, it is a strength of character. It is not a lack of self-esteem, but rather complete confidence in Christ. It is not insecurity, but complete security in Christ.

Christian humility is not weakness; rather, it is a strength of character. It is not a lack of self-esteem, but rather complete confidence in Christ. Click To Tweet

In this humility with complete confidence in Christ, next in verse 12, Paul says, “become as I am, for I also have become as you are.” Paul could say that because he had become like them, the Gentiles, outwardly to win them for Christ. Formerly, as a legalistic practicing Jew, in his racial pride, he would have called the Gentile Galatians, dogs, unclean, unworthy, and ungodly. But when God saved him, the Gospel changed him. His posture, thinking, behavior, and practices all changed, and he did the very thing that no Jew would dare to do.

He abandoned the law and lived like the Gentiles as far as his outward expression was concerned to win them to Christ. In this regard, Paul begged the Galatians to become like him and live in the freedom that Christ secured for him and them. In Christ, neither he nor they were bound to the law of Moses, any personal effort, or the religious rights and rituals to which the Galatians had succumbed.

This very freedom was the basis of their acceptance of the Gospel. In verses 13-15, Paul shows how the gospel of grace was at work in their life from day one. Paul says, “You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.”

He reminded them of his infirmity, which culturally could have been a big no to receiving him and his gospel. Any person with an illness was seen as stricken by God, a familiar concept in Judaism and among the Gentiles. Paul says they loved him with all his flaws because of the gospel of grace and were so excited to receive him that they could have done anything for him.

What is the takeaway here? First, how we handle our communication matters more than the content we present. Second, sometimes we may win an argument but lose a soul.

Paul was not interested in winning arguments, he wanted to win them over again, and he would not let his knowledge and personal hurt get in the way.

How often do we shut people up before we have the opportunity to share the gospel, because of our verbal and non-verbal pride in knowledge and sense of religiosity?

Speak in Truth

When you live a missional life, you speak in truth. Verses 16-17 say, “ Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.”

What changed the Galatians’ attitude toward Paul and his teaching and turned him from a revered person to an enemy? Paul says it was his truthfulness. He contrasts his truth of freedom and grace with the Judaizers’ dishonesty about legalism and work-based salvation.

Paul is telling them their affection is for no good purpose. The literal translation of v.17 would say, “They [the Judaizers] zealously seek your favor, but for no good purpose. Rather, they want to separate you from us so that you will seek them.”

Paul exposes the envious motive behind the dishonest Judaizers’ newfound interests in the Galatians; that they were envious of the Galatians’ freedom in Christ. This is evident in their aggressive, legalistic approach to isolating them from Paul’s influence and his gospel. For this truth, Paul is viewed as an enemy.

This is not a new pattern. Often people do not want to hear the truth, and those who want to hear it cannot handle it and turn against you. How many relationships are lost to truth, and how many truths are sacrificed to keep relationships because people cannot handle the truth?

How many relationships are lost to truth, and how many truths are sacrificed to keep relationships because people cannot handle the truth? Click To Tweet

What is the application here? Humility does not mean we should not speak up; rather, humility inspires courage to speak up for the truth, especially in a context when telling the truth is the most unpopular thing and can make you an enemy.

The truth was that without Christ, the Galatians were destined to hell. The truth is that without Christ, we all are destined to hell. It is better to tell the truth about hell now and offend someone, rather than let the person end up in hell to see for him or herself. This is humility: rather than thinking of ourselves, we think of others and say the truth in love.

Speak in Love

When you live a missional life, you speak in love. Verses 18-20 say, “It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.” Notice how love is oozing out of Paul’s statement in verse 19. He addresses them as “my little children” and says he is in “the anguish of childbirth.”

I was not in childbirth for the birth of our children, but I remember the pain my wife had to endure—especially the birth of our second son, Asher. At one point, out of exhaustion, she told the doctor that she could not do it. But I also remember when Asher entered this world and how her face lit up. All the pain was worth it, but now he is four and drives her crazy.

Paul reminds the Galatians of the pain and labor he endured, how it was worth it, but now he is going through the same pain again. Speaking of childbirth and missional living and speaking the truth in love: This month is designated as the Sanctity of Human Life month.

If there is any topic more unpopular than talking about hell, it is abortion. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone has a voice. The only person who does not have a voice is the unborn baby, and yes, that is a person from the moment of conception. Yes, when willfully killed because the baby could be an inconvenience, it is a crime against life itself and pains God because God is the source of that life. Do you know that over 63 million abortions have occurred in the United States ever since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973?

What is our responsibility as a church? We must not be quick to shun and shut up a person who made a mistake, or else without communal support, they may seek out an abortion.

Paul would say do not shun them; else you will leave them out among the wolves to be torn into pieces. He would say, live a missional life and, in humility, speak the truth in love.  Let them experience personal, authentic relationships.

The Lifestyle of Missional Living

Missional living is a lifestyle in which a believer embraces the posture, thinking, behavior, and practices of a missionary to share the truth of the gospel that God sent His Son Jesus into this world to die for our sins to make us adopted children of God. The idea of God sending is the core of the doctrine of missio Dei, a Latin term that means the “mission of God,” or the “sending of God.”

By His very nature, God is a sending God. He sent His Son, and His Son sent us. In John 20:21, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and told them that as the Father has sent me, so I send you. In Matthew 28:19-20, we see how Jesus sent all Christians to be missional: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This means that every single soul that confesses Christ as their Lord is sent to make disciples, and all disciples are called to live a missional life, a lifestyle that embraces the posture, thinking, behavior, and practices of a missionary to share the truth of the gospel: that no sins are beyond God’s grace and no sinner is beyond forgiveness. This is exceptionally significant in drawing people to Christ and also bringing back those who stray from God.

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