Sunday, September 03, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "I Plead With You"

“I Plead With You”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
September 3, 2017 :: Galatians 4:12-20

Our current sermon series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that’s exactly what was at stake.

The apostle Paul was writing these churches because they were in danger of losing the truth of the gospel.

Paul had been to Galatia and helped to establish these churches on the gospel of grace alone, the gospel of faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

But some false teachers had crept in and were turning the heads of the Galatians. These false teachers were convincing them of a false gospel.

They were telling the Galatians that faith alone in Christ alone was not enough.

You also needed the Law. You needed to keep the Law of Moses for your justification to stay justified. To be right with God you need Jesus and you need to obey the Law.

That’s a false gospel. That’s a bomb ready to go off and blow up these churches.

And so Paul writes his letter.

For the last 3 chapters, Paul has been dismantling that false gospel. Disarming that heretical explosive device so it doesn’t go off in their faces.

If...they will accept what he is saying in his letter.

Paul has pulled out some of the strongest words he’s ever used in his letters, and some of the strongest words are still to come in this one.

He’s reminded them about his personal testimony.

He’s reminded them about his personal authority, as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

He’s reminded them that his gospel came directly from the Lord Jesus Christ.

He’s shown them how foolish it is to think that you can start being justified by faith and then turn around and finish being justified by observing the law.

He’s shown them how the Law was never meant to be the means of our justification. It was temporary and was meant to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

And he’s reminded them that they are no longer slaves. They are sons of God, and heirs of God, and known by God and–not because they obeyed the Law! Not because they were circumcised or observed special days, months, seasons, and years!

But because they put their faith in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.

And now, Paul is going to ask something from them.

It’s funny. This here is actually the first call to action in this whole letter. Not until chapter 4!

It’s all been implicit until now, but now he makes it explicit.

He says, “I plead with you, brothers...”

That’s the title of today’s message, “I Plead With You.”

He’s been laying out his case, piece by piece by piece, and now he makes it personal and he asks them to take it all to heart and to change their minds.

Some people think of the apostle Paul as a cold fish.

He’s so incredibly smart, and he writes such complicated theology.

Paul knows his Old Testament backwards and forwards.

Paul writes these theological treatises like Ephesians an Romans.

So he’s really smart. But if you think of Paul as a cold, calculating, dispassionate theological machine, you’ve got him all wrong.

Paul is incredibly passionate! Paul cares deeply.

Paul is full of emotion. It’s emotion that comes from the truth of the gospel, from the depths of his theology, but he’s very emotional and very personal.

These are some of the most gut-wrenchingly personal words in the New Testament.

They reveal Paul’s heart.

It’s very much a pastor’s heart. It’s what a pastor’s heart should be like.

As I read it again and again this week, I was encouraged and convicted by what I could see of Paul’s pastoral heart for these people in spiritual danger.

And what he pleads for them.

Do you feel his anguish?

Do you see how emotional Paul can be?

“I am perplexed about you!”

That’s why he pleads with them.

He’s disturbed. He’s a loss. He almost doesn’t know what to do with these folks.

Verse 11 said that he was worried about them. He said, “I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.”

I know how he feels. As a pastor, I often don’t know what to do.

I know that because I’m up here preaching and I seem to have my thoughts together that I can give the impression that I have all of the answers.

But often, as pastor, I don’t know what to do.

I care deeply about my people, but I am often at a loss to know what to say or what to do to help people be the people that they are supposed to be in Christ.

So Paul does what he knows to do, and that’s plead with them. V.12

“I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you.”


Become like Paul.

Paul says, “I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you.”

What does he mean?

In what way does Paul want them desperately to become like him?

He wants them to be like him in trusting in Jesus Christ alone for their justification and not adding law-keeping to the gospel. Right?

That’s what he’s been driving at all along.

He wants them to be free of the Law.

He wants them to throw off the slavery that he was talking about in the previous section.

And to embrace their new identity as sons in the Son, as heirs of the promise, as known by God.

That’s how he is and that’s what he wants for them.

“I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you.”

Isn’t it interesting and ironic that a Jew like Paul would be trying so hard to convince these Gentiles that they didn’t need to observe the Law of Moses?

“I became like you.”

Which, by the way, is a very wise thing for a pastor to do. If he wants his flock to become like him spiritually, he needs to become like them in as many ways as he can.

Now, Paul is going to appeal to their prior relationship. He’s going to base his pleading on their shared history.

And he’s going to get very personal.

He starts by saying that things between them used to be very different than they are today. End of V.12 “You have done me no wrong [back then you were great]. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 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 of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”

Things used to be really different between this church and this apostle.

When he first came to them, he was a wreck.

Apparently, the reason he first met them was because of (literally) “a weakness of the flesh” which was probably a “bodily ailment” like an illness.

It’s possible that he came beaten and bloodied by the persecution that followed him everywhere he went.

But it’s more likely that he got something like malaria and was laid up and had to get nursed back to health among these Galatians.

We don’t know exactly because Luke doesn’t tell us this story in the book of Acts.

Whatever it was, maybe it was an eye-problem. Paul seems to have trouble with his eyes. And maybe it was the same problem as his “thorn in the flesh” from 2 Corinthians 12, we don’t know.

Whatever it was, he wasn’t a pretty sight.

His illness was (v.14) “a trial” to them.

But that didn’t stop them from loving him. V.14 “You did not treat me with contempt or scorn.”

They didn’t turn up their noses at him or spit on him as accursed by God.

“Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.”

That’s what we call the royal treatment.

They heard Paul’s gospel and they received Paul as the messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus said, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me” (Matthew 10:40).

But something has changed. Something has gone wrong. V.15

“What has happened to all your joy?”

Or what has happened to the satisfaction, to the “blessing you felt” in relationship to me?

“I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (v.15).

“Where did that go?

I didn’t change!

I feel the same way about you.

My gospel hasn’t changed.”

V.16 “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

“I was telling you the truth before. And you loved it.

And you loved me.

I’m still telling you the truth, but now you don’t seem to love me.

You must not love the truth.”

By the way, this is another thing that a faithful pastor will do. He will continue to give people the truth even when they don’t want to hear it.

It’s one of the parts of pastoring that I struggle with the most.

I like to be liked. And I don’t like to be disliked.

So I’m tempted to trim the truth to get the likes.

But I’m committed to giving people the truth even when they don’t want to hear it.

Because that’s true love!

And the same is true for a church with it’s pastor.

Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Tell me what I need to hear. In love.

“Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

I plead with you, “Become like me.”

Put your faith in Jesus Christ alone, not in anything else, including your own good works.

I plead with you.


Proverbs 27:6 says, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

Paul has been giving them trustworthy wounds, but these other people have been multiplying the kisses. V.17

“Those people [the false teachers] are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.”

These guys have been doing the full-on sales job with the Galatians.

You know what I mean? They have rolled out the red carpet. They have “fawned and fussed” over the Galatians (John Stott’s phrase).

They have played up to them and promised them the moon.

That’s what false teachers do. They make you feel good about yourself.

And they promise you all kinds of things that they don’t plan to deliver on.

That’s what the prosperity gospel does.

People who teach that God wants you healthy, wealthy, and prosperous in this life.

Just follow these steps!

Just send your check to this address.

They never say anything that you don’t want to hear.

They never say anything difficult or hard to accept.

And they make you feel good about yourself.

And what would feel better than to know that you have had a hand in your own justification because you have obediently kept the Law and secured all of its blessings?

And they play up to you like that to turn you away from the truth of the gospel.

And to turn you away from the true church.

And to turn you away even from the one who brought you the gospel in the first place.

And to turn you to themselves....

Paul says, “What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.”

Now, Paul wouldn’t care a bit if they had found other true teachers teaching them the true gospel. And maybe he faded away in their memories.

But these folks are trying to get a following for themselves.

Watch out for spiritual leaders like that. Beware of flatterers.

They want something. Often it’s your money.

But they also want control of your lives. They want to use you.

This is how cults get started and how they thrive.

Now, Paul says, it’s not bad to be zealous for somebody, but there is a right way and a wrong way to go about it. V.18

“It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good [provided that it’s about the truth of the gospel], and to be so [zealous] always and not just when I am with you.”

These false teachers were one way when they were with Galatians and another when they were not.

Paul felt and acted the same towards them whether he was there or he was far away.

That’s another mark of a good pastor, of a good Christian leader.

Do we care about our people in the same way when we are not with them as when we are?

Beware of flatterers.

Can you think of someone that has tried to win you over to them at the expense of what you know to be true?

Watch out for people like that.

And if I ever start acting like that, give me the boot.

Paul is hurting. Paul is in so much pain because of the spiritual danger looming over these Christians whom he loves so much.

Look how he pleads with them. V.19

“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

Those are shocking words.

Paul is a guy talking about being in labor.

He’s trying to figure out how he can describe how much anguish and agony he’s feeling for these Galatians.

And he’s seen a woman who is giving birth.

“That’s how I feel!”

But I feel like I’m having to do it all over again.

Ladies, can you imagine giving birth to the same child a second time?

“I thought we did this already!”

Brings new meaning to the phrase, “Labor Day.”


I thought I taught you the truth of the gospel the first time.

Well, I’ll just keep on going until I know you’ve got it.”

“Until Christ is formed in you.”


That’s what I’m suffering for.

I’m doing all of this to know that “Christ is formed in you.”

That you have trusted in Christ and are trusting in Christ so that Christ is transforming you into His own image.

I plead with you! Be full of Christ and Christ-likeness.

That’s the whole point.

By the way, that’s what should be the goal of every pastor and every Christian leader.

That should be the goal of all of our labors, all of our suffering and work.

Not that people should be formed in our image (though we want them to become as we are), but that Christ should be formed in them.

That Christ should be formed in you.

Paul wishes that he could stop the letter right there and look them in the eye and see if it’s made any difference.

He wishes that he didn’t have to keep on going with these strong words. He’s probably afraid that they will take it the wrong way. V.20

“ I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!”

“That’s why I am pleading with you.

Because I care!

I’m like your Mom. I gave you birth.

And I just want what’s best for you. And that’s Jesus!”

Worship at the Lord’s Table

That’s what this table is all about.

It’s all about Jesus.

And being full of Jesus and Jesus being formed in us.

It’s not a very flattering table.

Don’t come to this table to feel good about yourself.

This table says that you are a sinner.

That you have not kept God’s law. You have broken it.

And the punishment is death.

This table is not here to make you feel good about yourself.

But this table also says that Someone has come and taken your punishment for you.

His body was broken for you.
His blood was poured out for you.

And this table says that all you have to do is place your faith and trust in Him alone and you will be justified.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

If you do that, then you will become like Paul.

And you will in time be full of Christ. Christ will be formed in you.

That’s the gospel. And it never disappoints!

If you are trusting in Jesus Christ and Christ alone for your justification, you are invited to eat and drink this memorial meal with us.

If you are not trusting in Jesus Christ and Christ alone for your justification, then please don’t eat and drink with us.

I plead with you!

I plead with you to repent and place your faith in Jesus.

He is so wonderful. So sufficient. So glorious and merciful and sweet.

I’m zealous for everyone here to know and trust Him.

And for Him to be formed in each one of us.


Messages in this Series:

01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!
08. You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus
09. So You Are No Longer a Slave