GLIMPSES OF PAUL
“I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you and, even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, as if I were Jesus Christ Himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:12-16.
A tiny glimpse behind the scenes! Paul does not tell us much about himself in his letters. However, it is in times like these, when he is contending for the very souls of his converts, that we catch glimpses of the heart of this man.
It seems that he visited the area in Asia Minor called Galatia during a bout of sickness. In those days there was no such thing as a diagnosis. Conditions were lumped together according to their symptoms. His illness may have affected his eyes, hence his reference to the compassion of these Galatian people who would have given him their eyes if they could.
But Paul did not allow illness to rob him of the opportunity to preach Jesus to a new group of people. He did not shut himself away and feel sorry for himself. He used every opportunity to give away the message of Jesus even if it was through painful and infected eyes. Perhaps his very vulnerability made the gospel even more appealing.
Here was a man who could have been at home, taking care the needs of his family instead of facing the rigors and dangers on the road and at sea, traversing the Empire to tell people about Jesus. They listened and responded to Paul’s message, grateful for a man who was willing to risk his life for people like them. They tenderly cared for him and nursed him back to health and rewarded his suffering by joining the empire-wide community of faith.
But now? What had happened to them that they were so easily swayed by a bunch of false teachers? Had Paul not grounded them in the truths of the gospel? Were they not securely enough anchored in their faith in Jesus? It must have been extremely difficult for these new converts to stand firm against the onslaught of wickedness and religious bigotry that would have surrounded them in their society.
They had no resources to feed on as we have today; no Bible on their bedside table or bookshelf; no theologically well-educated pastor to turn to; no Google search engine to find answers at the click of a mouse. It would have been easy for them to succumb to the persuasive arguments of these false teachers.
It was up to Paul, with his clear understanding of the gospel and his ability to explain it to his readers, to draw them back to the truth in the face of the barrage of lies they were subjected to from every quarter. Paul was wise. He set out, not only to explain the Scriptures to them but also to appeal to their experience to convince them that their faith in Jesus was not a fantasy. When he preached the gospel to them, what happened? They believed the message. And then what happened? They began to change from the inside.
The Holy Spirit in them brought joy and peace to their souls; He formed the love-bond of unity and fellowship they experienced; He did miracles through them and among them; the presence of Jesus was real among them. All their old beliefs and practices began to fall away as they embraced this new life in Jesus.
But now? Somehow their attitude to Paul had changed. Paul felt it and he grieved. What had been a beautiful relationship had turned sour. They were no longer warm and friendly towards him. The atmosphere had turned hostile. It was as though they had become his enemies. Is this what the truth does when people embrace lies – turns them against Jesus and His church?
How often it happens that a spiritual leader begins to move away from the truth of the Word and entices people to follow him instead of joining them to Jesus. They insist that they are the only ones who know the truth. They twist the message of Jesus and inject just enough lies to lure people away from grace. Families and friends are divided; there is suspicion and hostility where there was once unity because the Holy Spirit is no longer active to bear witness to Jesus.
Believers beware! Never trust a spiritual leader who entices people to follow him, and who insists that he is the only one who is right. Dangerous!
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.