5. Exhortations, 4:8-6:10

i] Strengthen the bonds between us, 4:12-20


Paul has concluded his doctrinal argument and so he now sets about exhorting his readers. This, his first exhortation, serves as a personal appeal to the Galatians. Paul asks the Galatian believers to reestablish the personal respect and trust that once existed between them and their founding apostle.


i] Context: See 4:8-11.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: The first exhortation, strengthen the bonds between us, presents as follows:


"I beg you, become as I am", v12.


The strength of the relationship that Paul has had with the Galatians, v13-16;

The intentions of the judaizers to promote another gospel, v17-18;

Paul's tender desire that Christ again be the center of their Christian life, v19-20.


iv] Interpretation:

The first exhortation: In this passage we have the first of a series of exhortations that run through to 6:10 ("the request section of the letter", Dumbrell). This "personal appeal", Garlington, Dunn, ... seeks to reestablish the personal relationship that existed between Paul and the Galatians, cf. Bruce, Barnes..... Given the Galatians' defection, due to the influence of the members of the circumcision party, Paul pleads with his readers to establish again the strong personal trust and respect that once existed between them and their founding apostle. "Paul's concern for the truth of the gospel is bound up with his own apostolic vocation", George, and so it is essential that his relationship with the Galatian believers be restored.


v] Exposition: A simple verse-by-verse exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:12

Exhortation 1; "become as I am", v12-20: i] The central exhortation of this passage is contained in this verse and is usually understood as "they are to free themselves from any subjection to law", Dumbrell, v1. Although the issue of law-obedience is not far from Paul's mind, his appeal is in much more personal terms, a kind of "let us stand together / reaffirm / reestablish .... again, mutual trust and respect." What we have here is "an argument of the heart", Schlier; in simple terms "a personal appeal to friendship" and thus "loyalty", Betz, and this for the purpose of establishing again Paul's apostolic guardianship over the Galatian believers. "Make common cause with me, I beg you, as I have made common cause with you", Cassirer.

deomai pres. "I plead" - I beg, beseech. The word has an intensive sense, "strongly plead." This phrase is found at the end of the Gk. sentence serving to underline the exhortation.

uJmwn gen. pro. "with you" - of you. Genitive of direct object after the verb "to beg, plead."

ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "become" - be. The first use of an imperative in this letter. Possibly a call to imitate the life-pattern of their teacher, 1Thes.1:6, Phil.4:9, 1Cor.4:16-17 - "follow my example". Possibly encouraging the Galatians to adopt Paul's approach to the law, such that they remain (present tense, "be", rather than "become") free from the law as a mechanism for appropriating divine blessings. Yet, it seems better to treat Paul's words as a general encouragement toward mutual identification; "put yourself in my place as indeed I put myself in yours", Barclay ("too bland" says Dunn), but better, "make common cause with me, I beg you, as I have made common cause with you", Cassirer.

wJV "like" - as, like. Comparative; expressing reciprocity in friendship, so Betz.

oJti "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why Paul pleads with his readers, "because ....."

kagw wJV uJmeiV "I became like you" - I also like you. "I have become as you are", or "I am as you are", Betz. Usually "as you were when I first came, not seeking salvation through observance to the Law", Zerwick. Of course, Gentiles, as well as Jews, were right into religious observance and regulations for the appropriation of divine blessings, which of course is the very methodology that Paul rejects. So, Paul certainly didn't become like them in that sense. He is probably speaking in the general terms of human identification, of friendship and thus mutual trust. None-the-less, the majority of commentators argue that something less general is intended, namely, that Paul became like them in the sense of a "Gentile sinner" as far as the legalistic requirements of the Mosaic law are concerned, cf.. 1Cor.9:22. This approach may help make sense of the next clause, "you have done me no wrong" - Paul was not in any way offended, nor spiritually damaged, by fitting in with the Galatian Gentiles. "I do beg you to follow me here, my brothers. I am a man like yourselves", Phillips.

hdikhsate (adikew) aor. "you have done / you did [me no] wrong" - [nothing me] you injured, harmed. A rather difficult interjection that has prompted numerous interpretations. Probably again in a very general sense, "I have nothing against you personally", Phillips. So, Paul is telling his readers he is not speaking to them "out of a sense of personal resentment", Bruce; he is not taking their behavior as a personal affront. As above, Paul may be referring to his not having been wronged by the Galatians in the past when he became like them (aor. as a punctiliar past), in the sense of adjusting his "Jewishness" to fit in with them - became a "Gentile sinner". He may also be expressing the view that the Galatians had not wronged him in the past, but that they are certainly wronging him now, with the implied imperative, "don't change the relationship now by your acceptance of the Mosaic Law", Dumbrell. In this sense Paul compares the then and now, a time when there was a absence of animosity toward him, unlike the present when the Judaizers stir up troubles between him and the Galatians. "I hold no grudge against you, that would prevent me from accepting you again, as my brothers", Junkins.


ii] The strength of the relationship that Paul has had with the Galatians, v13-16. Paul's personal appeal continues in v13-14 by making "a great accommodation to the Galatians", Luther, reminding them of their warm acceptance of his ministry under difficult circumstances - a sign of the trust and acceptance that once existed between Paul and the Galatians.

de "-" - but. Possibly adversative, "you did me no wrong but rather, as you know .......", but it is more likely functioning as a transitional connective indicating a step in the argument.

oidate (oida) perf. "as you know" - [and] you have known. "Your remember", TEV, although in the sense of "you have known all along", TH.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they know; "you know that ...."

dia + acc. "[it was] because of" - because of, on account of. Causal. Paul is possibly reminding the Galatians of his handicap while he was preaching to them, so Phillips, but it is more likely that, due to his illness ("because of"), he was forced to come to Galatia and so used the visit to preach to them.

thV sarkoV (x koV) gen. "of an illness" - [weakness, sickness, disease, illness] of the flesh, body. The genitive is adjectival, attributed, "sick body", or possibly ablative, source / origin. Numerous illnesses have been proposed: opthalmia, cf. v15, 6:11; epilepsy; malaria. Is this Paul's "thorn in the flesh", cf. 2Cor12:7-9? "Some painful, repulsive and recurring illness is suggested", Allan.

to proteron "[that I] first [preached the gospel]" - [I preached] at first, the first time. The article to serves as a nominalizer turning the adverb proteron, "formerly", into an accusative noun, object of the verb "to preach"; "on that first occasion." Possibly identifying the first of two visits, "on the first of my two visits", NEB margin, but better "it was bodily illness, as you will remember, that originally led to my bringing you the gospel", REB. The verb euaggelizomai, "I proclaim", is most often used of communicating the gospel.

uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object.


Paul reminds the Galatians of the trust and respect that existed between them and their apostle when he first visited them due to an illness that he was suffering. He was obviously heading elsewhere (possibly Ephesus), but needed to take a break to recuperate. During this visit Paul preached the gospel to them. Even though his illness (unknown - possibly eye trouble, cf. v15) was a trial to them, they welcomed him. They welcomed Paul as if he were divine, ie. they highly esteemed him.

kai "and" - and. Coordinative; "and as for the state I found myself in", Cassirer.

en th/ sarki "even though [my] illness" - in the flesh [of me]. This prepositional phrase is often treated as adverbial: concessive, "and though my condition ...", ESV, as NIV; reference / respect, "you did not recoil from me with regard the state I was in; causal, because of my state of health", cf. Zerwick.

ton peirasmon (oV) "was a trial" - the temptation, test, trial. "Paul's bodily sickness was a trial to the Galatians", Bligh, and by "resisting the temptation to show scorn or revulsion at the state of his body", cf. Dunn, they demonstrated "true friendship", Betz. "You did not hold against me the physical and emotional trials that I was undergoing at the time", Junkins.

uJmwn gen. "to you" - of you. Variant "to me", lit. "my temptation", is unlikely. Paul's illness was their test, ie., the genitive is adjectival, possessive, lit. "your test, but possibly verbal, objective.

ouk .... oude "[you did] not ..... or ..." - neither .... nor. Comparative construction.

exouqenhsate (exouqenew) aor. "you did [not] treat [me] with contempt" - [of me] you did [not] despise, consider as nothing. The object is Paul himself, mou "me" being a genitive of direct object. "You didn't shrink from me", Phillips.

oude exeptusate (ekputuw) aor. "[or] scorn" - [nor] spat out = loathed, disdained. Possibly "spit out" in the sense of "reject an argument", so "reject the gospel". "When I fell ill you did not despise me or reject my gospel", Bligh.

alla "instead" - but. Adversative.

edexasqe (decomai) aor. "you welcomed [me]" - you received as a guest, welcomed [me]. "Welcomed", as NIV, etc.

wJV "as if I were ..... as if I were" - like, as. Comparative; "you chose to treat me as you would an angel of God - as well as you would have treated Jesus himself if he had visited you", Peterson.

qeou (oV) gen. "[an angel] of God" - [a messenger, angel] of God. The genitive is ablative, expressing source/origin; "from". Possibly the Galatians welcomed Paul "as a messenger from God", but better "as if he were (as they would welcome) an angel from heaven".


In v15-16 Paul asks what has happened to the trusting relationship that existed between the Galatians and their founding apostle. The Galatians' esteem for Paul knew no bounds. They rejoiced at his presence and would have done anything for him. Yet, what has happened to this esteem now?

oun "[what has happened to all] / [where], then [is]" - [where] therefore. Inferential; Paul is seeking to draw a logical conclusion from the Corinthians illogical behavior; "what then, has become of ....", Cassirer.

uJmwn gen. "your" - The genitive may be classified as adjectival, possessive, the favor / well-being and thus privilege that was theirs due to Paul's visit with them, although it is possible that the genitive is verbal, subjective, in the sense of "self-praise" which the Galatians had pronounced on themselves consequent to Paul's visit, so Betz, etc.

oJ makarismoV (oV) "joy / blessing of me now" - the blessedness, happiness. Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. This word expresses a state of well-being / favor ("satisfaction", RSV; "goodwill", NRSV; "enthusiasm", JB; "openhearted spirit", NAB) and so Paul probably has in mind the well-being that existed in the relationship between himself and the Galatians when he was with them "then", REB, or better "in having me with you (back then)", NEB. "What has happened to the satisfaction (in our trusting relationship) you felt at that time (when I was first with you)?", Peterson.

gar "-" - for. Introducing a causal clause explaining the reason for the question; "because I can testify to you that if it were possible you would have ...."

marturw (marturew) pres. "I can testify" - I bear witness, testify. "I guarantee", Phillips; "I can give you my solemn word", Cassirer.

uJmin dat. pro. "-" - to you. Dative of indirect object, "testify to you" / interest, advantage, "I can testify to your credit that if .....", cf Bligh.

oJti "that" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech expressing what Paul can testify.

ei "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 2nd. class, where the condition is contrary to fact, although an is missing in the apodosis, an omission associated with certain words, here dunaton, "possible / you could have done so", cf. BDF 360; "if, as is not the case, .... then ...."

dunaton adj. "you could have done so" - [you were] able. The verb is supplied with the adjective functioning as an adverb. "If you could have benefited me thereby you would have ....", Lightfoot.

exoruxanteV (exorussw) aor. part. "you would have torn out [your eyes]" - having torn out, dug out [the eyes of you]. Attendant circumstance participle identifying action accompanying the main verb "have given", "have dug out and given", but it can also be treated as adverbial, modal, expressing manner. "You would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me", Barclay.

moi dat. pro. "to me" - Dative of indirect object.


This difficult sentence is handled nicely by Bligh: "Have I sacrificed your affection by speaking the plain truth to you in this letter? I hope not!" Of course, the cause of the enmity may well be the initial teaching that Paul gave the Galatians, which now, due to the prodding of those "zealous to win you over", v17, has come between the apostle and his converts. This approach fits well with v17-18. Although nearly always translated as a rhetorical question it is more likely that this verse is a statement, following on from v15, "....... so that I have become your enemy by speaking the truth to you." "Since you, then, regarded me with such affection and now count me as your enemy, this can only have come about through my telling you the truth", Burton.

wJste "-" - so then, therefore. Usually serving to express result, sometimes purpose. Not used in the NT to introduce a question. Here introducing an "explanation", Ridderbos. That Paul is no longer trusted by the Galatians, when once they would have given their life for him, exposes his gospel ("truth") as the cause, a gospel now called into question by the judaizers. "So now .....", Zerwick.

gegona (ginomai) perf. "have I now become" - I have become. The perfect tense, referring to a past action with ongoing results, indicates that Paul does have in mind a past enmity, not one produced by this letter. "You regard me as", Barclay.

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, as NIV.

ecqroV (oV) "enemy" - Predicate nominative. Intended in an active sense, ie. Paul is viewed as someone with hostile intent.

alhqeuwn (alhqeuw) pres. part. "by telling [you] the truth" - speaking truth. The present tense is durative, expressing the ongoing action of telling the truth. The participle is adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, as NIV. Possibly "by being frank with you", but better "by preaching the truth of the gospel", Fung, Bruce.

uJmin dat. pro. "you [the truth]" - to you. Dative of indirect object.


iii] The intentions of the judaizers to promote another gospel, v17-18. In this verse Paul refers to the members of the circumcision party, the judaizers, and notes how they have come between him and the Galatian believers. It is usually argued that their actions derive from "an egotistic purpose, or for material gain", Betz. The implication of false motives on the part of Paul's opponents (a feigned friendship for the purpose of promoting their cause [friendship evangelism!!!]) is accepted by most commentators, although Paul may simply be addressing changed loyalties with its consequent undermining of the truth.

zhlousin (zhlow) pres. "those people are zealous to win [you] over" - they are zealous, take an interest in [you]. A cryptic reference to the judaizers, unstated except in the 3rd per. pl. of "they are zealous / they want ... / themselves". Paul's readers would know who he is referring to. "The people who have come into your churches with their false gospel", Martyn. The word is often used to express the language of love, so "to seek to win for oneself / love jealously", Bligh; "be enthusiastic about / cultivate a person / run after", Zerwick; "they are making a play for the confidence of the Galatians and for a favorite attitude", Ridderbos. "They are courting you", Bligh.

ou kalwV "but for no good" - not well, good. The adverb takes a moral sense here "commendably, in a manner free from objection", BAGD. Possibly again with the game of love in mind, but courting with "feigned affection", Martyn. "In no honourable way", Eadie; "dishonorably", Bligh, ie. their intentions are not honorable, "not based on good intentions", Ridderbos. They are "saying they are deeply concerned about you (when they are not)", Martyn. Of course, it may be the results that are "for no good".

alla "-" - but. Adversative; "on the contrary, what they are after is to exclude you", Cassirer.

qelousin (qelw) pres. "what they want is" - they desire, will, want.

ekkleisai (ellleiw) aor. inf. "to alienate [you (from us)]" - to exclude, shut out, shut away [you]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "they will/wish". Exclude from what? Exclude/shout out the affections of, possibly Paul, as NIV; "to alienate from the apostle and his associates", Fung, cf. Bruce, etc. Of course, "from us" is assumed by the NIV. A general sense of "cut them off from other influences", Ridderbos, seems best, although cut off from the wider church, or even from Christ, are all possible. "Perhaps the Teachers (judaizers) are portraying themselves as gatekeepers, intent on the altogether positive task of guiding the Galatians through the gate of Law observance into the blessing of Abraham", Martyn. Their argument being "if you do not accept circumcision as the first move in your observance of the Law, you will be excluded from the blessed people of God", Schlier. This technical understanding of "excluded" certainly fits the overall thrust of Galatians, but may be reading too much into one word.

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. Here introducing a purpose clause, "in order that", or result clause, "with the result that / so that".

zhloute (zhlow) pres. subj. "you may be zealous" - you may be zealous of. "The word is used not only for the quest for adherents, but also of the adherents' attachment to their leaders or teachers", Bruce. By excluding other influences, the Galatians will inevitably lean toward / seek / court ..... the judaizers; "that you will make them the object of your affections", Martyn.

autouV acc. pro. "for them" - them. Indirect reflective pronoun. "In order that you will court them (themselves)", Bligh.


Although textual variants and complex syntax clouds Paul's words, we do seem to have a qualification here. "It is a beautiful thing to be the object of such zeal. I once experienced that. But then it must be expressed in the right way, and must not cease when the person is no longer present", Ridderbos. Paul does not mind having his converts eagerly sought after by others as long as their intentions are sound, as were Paul's when he was with the Galatians.

kalon neut. adj. + inf. "it is fine [to be zealous]" - good. Predicate adjective. A not uncommon construction, "it is good to ......" "To be courted is a good thing".

zhlousqai (zhlow) pres. pas. inf. "[it is fine] to be zealous" - [good] to be courted. Passive "to be eagerly sought/courted" is better than the NIV middle. The infinitive is functioning as the subject of the assumed verbal phrase "is good", although an articular infinitive variant exists. "To be paid court to (courted) in a good cause is a good and acceptable thing at all times", Cassirer.

de "provided" - but, and. Transitional connective, next step in the argument, but also a touch adversative, qualifying the "to be made much of is always good", "but only when for a good purpose"; "yet good is to be courted in a good way", Betz.

en kalw/ "[provided] the purpose is good" - in good. The prepositional phrase is adverbial, modal, expressing manner, modifying the verbal aspect of the infinitive "to be zealous"; "It is an honour to be courted honourably", Bligh. Stylistic variant for the kalwV of v17", Bligh.

pantote adv. "and to be so always" - always, at all times.

mh monon "and not just" - not only. "Whether I am with you or not", Junkins.

en tw/ pereinai (pereimi) pres. inf. "when I am" - in the to be present [me]. The articular infinitive with the preposition en forming a temporal clause, contemporaneous time, "while / during".

proV + acc. "with [you]" - to [you]. Here expressing association / accompaniment,"with / in company with", although possibly with the idea of movement to/toward so "not only when I visit you", Bligh.


iv] Paul's tender desire that Christ again be the center of their Christian life (rather than the law), v19-20. "In verse 19 the tone changes again in the tender double images in this verse of Paul as in labour pains with them, and the Galatians as requiring an extended gestation period until Christ is fully formed in them", Dumbrell. The second image of gestation is unclear. Are the Galatians gestating in the womb, or are they the mother doing the gestating? Both, of course, illustrate Paul's desire that the Galatians be shaped into the image of Christ and both illustrate that "his laborious efforts to make them true to Christ has to begin all over again", Allan.

tekna mou "my dear children" - An affectionate address used to emphasize what follows.

ouJV masc. acc. "for whom [I am again]" - whom [again]. An accusative of direct object. The antecedent is obviously "children". Even though technically neuter, "children" is conceived as masculine.

palin "again" - "I am in travail with you over again."

wdinw "I am [again] in the pains of childbirth" - I suffer birth pains of child bearing. With the accusative of direct object, "I bring forth in pain", Bligh. "Just like a mother in childbirth", TEV.

macriV ou| + subj. "until" - Forming a temporal clause, although purpose is possible, BDF383/2. "Until such time as", Zerwick.

morfwqh/ (morfow) aor. pas. subj. "[Christ] is formed" - may be formed. The word is used to describe "the process whereby the fetus develops into an infant", Fung.

en + dat. "in [you]" - Local, expressing sphere - incorporative union.


At this point Paul expresses his frustration with having to rely on perplexing reports concerning the situation in Galatia and his having to respond by means of long-range correspondence which may not accurately address the situation. "Ah, if I could only talk to you face to face and adjust my tones to suit your situation", Hunter.

de "-" - but, and. Here copulative, ie., "having the force of concluding something", Betz.

hqelon (qelw) imperf. "how I wish" - I would wish, desire. The use of the imperfect has prompted some debate: possibly an epistolary imperfect, Moule; a conative imperfect expressing incomplete action, Turner; a suppressed conditional sentence, "[if it were God's will then] I am willing to be present now", so Bligh; imperfect de conatu "expressing the fact that the wish is not at present fulfillable", Betz, but probably just a voluntative imperfect, expressing a desire or wish, Schrenk.

pareinai (pareimi) pres. inf. "I could be" - to be present. Along with the infinitive "to change", this infinitive forms a dependent statement of perception /pondering, "I wish/will that I could be present .... and that I could change ...."

proV + acc. "with [you]" - to, toward. Here expressing association, "with". See v18, so possibly "visit with you."

allaxai (allassw) aor. inf. "[my] tone" - to change the tone [the voice of me]. Possibly "exchange my voice", Betz, ie. be with the Galatians in person to talk to them rather than have to address them in an impersonal letter. Possibly in the sense of "modify", NEB; "Paul does not quite understand how things stand in the Galatian churches, and is not sure whether his letter is entirely fitting" - "Adapt my tone", Bligh. Possibly Paul is excusing the terse nature of his letter; "I wish I did not need to talk to you like this", Barclay.

oJti "because" - Here expressing cause/reason.

aporoumai (aporew) pres. "I am perplexed" - I am at a loss, I am at my wits end. Possibly in a rhetorical sense of running out of arguments, so Betz, but better as an expression of concern; "I am puzzled, frightened, and deeply concerned about what is happening to you", Junkins.

en + dat. "about [you]" - in, on, with, to [you]. Here adverbial, expressing reference/respect; "in respect to you", Burton.


Galatians Introduction.



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