“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Galatians 4:16-17).
Many of us are probably familiar with the old adage that says, “the truth hurts.” This expression carries far more meaning than it may seem, for it serves to remind us of an uncomfortable reality. You see, a person who speaks the truth concerning a given situation may be viewed as someone who inflicts pain no matter how gentle, loving, or humble he or she may be.
For instance, it is often painful to learn from others that we have been mistaken in some way. It may be difficult to find that our efforts have been misguided or that something we’ve worked to achieve will not turn out the way we hoped. It can be hurtful to discover that others view us differently than we view ourselves, especially if their assessment reveals that we haven’t been honest with ourselves.
In such instances, its easy to become defensive and respond by attacking the messenger instead of taking time to prayerfully examine the message that he or she brings. It seems that Paul the Apostle anticipated that kind of response from the Galatians and proactively addressed it in the passage quoted above: “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16 NLT).
One commentator summarizes this thought by observing, “In context, the thought is, ‘Surely one whom you have loved so much cannot become your enemy merely by telling you the truth about people who are now trying to exploit you.” (1) You see, the false teachers of Galatia were attempting to exploit the members of these churches by taking the following steps…
- They sought to diminish the Galatians’ dependence upon Christ for salvation and replace it with adherence to the Old Testament Law.
- That would enable these false teachers to assume positions of authority over the Galatians in judging how well they kept the Law.
Of course, that is one of the issues with a works-based approach to salvation; no matter how much you do, there’s always someone who can identify something you haven’t done (or haven’t done well enough).
Paul elaborated on this danger when he said, “by separating you from me, they want to win you over to themselves” (NJB). By alienating the Galatians from their relationship with Paul, these false teachers opened an opportunity to establish a greater following. So while Paul was interested in the Galatians’ spiritual welfare, these false teachers were apparently more interested in building a church that followed their leadership.
(1) Coffman, James Burton. “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:21”. “Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament“. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/galatians-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.