“Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all” (Galatians 4:12).
Acts chapter ten relates the experience of the Apostle Peter as he shared the gospel with a Roman centurion. During that conversation, Peter remarked, “…’You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner. But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean'” (Acts 10:28 HCSB).
Much like the Apostle Peter, Paul the Apostle left the restrictions of the Old Testament Law in order to freely interact with the Gentile populations of Galatia. In this sense, Paul became like the Galatians to preach the gospel to them. Therefore, it is highly ironic that Paul now had to encourage the Galatians to become like him just as he became like them.
Although Paul once trusted in his own efforts to find acceptance with God, he abandoned those external observances to obtain salvation by grace through faith. Yet it was those same external observances that the Galatians now sought to pursue. So much like two people traveling in opposite directions. the Galatians were returning to the same dead-end destination Paul had left behind.
That was a mistake that Paul knew from experience…
“…If any of you think you can trust in external ceremonies, I have even more reason to feel that way. I was circumcised when I was a week old. I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew. As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault” (Philippians 3:4-6 GNT).
Despite these things, he went on to say, “But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone” Philippians 3:7 TLB). As one commentator observes…
“Paul exhorts the Galatians to free themselves from bondage to law as he had done. He appeals to them to do this because he who had possessed the advantages of the law, had foregone these advantages and had placed himself on the same level in relation to the law as Gentiles. He tells them that he gave up all those time-honored Jewish customs and those dear associations of race to become like them. He has lived like a Gentile so that he might preach to Gentiles. He pleads with them not to abandon him when he has abandoned all for them.” (1)
(1) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Galatians 4:12) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.