You Have Not Injured Me at All
Galatians 4:8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. 12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia likely from his home city of Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D, prior to attending the Jerusalem Council meeting which occurred that same year. Paul has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The new believers in Galatia, influenced by Judaizers, have already turned from Paul’s Gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. Judaizers claimed that Christians must also follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision. So Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to direct them back to the true Gospel of salvation by grace and not a combination of grace and works.
In this passage, Paul begins by reminding the Galatian believers of their lives before they became Christians. They “did not know God” and “served those which by nature are not gods” (v. 8). Prior to being Christians the Jews served the Jewish law by attempting to obey the approximately six hundred commandments included in the first five books of the Old Testament. Meanwhile the Gentiles, prior to becoming Christians, were serving idols made of earthly materials such as wood and stone. Neither the law, nor the idols were the true God.
Now these Christians “know God” or, if they have not been diligent enough to know God, at least they “are known by God” through their salvation (v. 9a). Even so they have still turned back to serving the law and the idols that they served before becoming Christians (v. 9b). Paul refers to the law and the idols as “weak and beggarly elements” (v. 9c). So, even though they were freed from bondage to these observances by Christ they have willingly placed themselves back “in bondage” to these observances (v. 9d).
Some Jewish Galatian believers have continued to observe “days and months and seasons and years”, a reference to the Jewish Sabbaths, festivals, seasons (such as the season between Passover and Pentecost) and years, such as the Sabbatical year which occurs every seven years (v. 10). Paul then expresses his concern for these believers and that his ministry to them may have been “in vain” (v. 11). They have turned to a gospel of faith and works instead of the true Gospel taught them by Paul of salvation through faith only.
Paul calls for the Jews to “become like me”, a fellow Jew who has forsaken the law (v. 12a). And he calls for Gentiles to forsake their idols because he “became like you”, by not living under the law (v. 12B). Gentiles had never lived under the law.
Paul concludes this passage by stating “You have not injured me at all” (v. 12c). He is not concerned for himself but rather is concerned for them. The new Galatian believers have exchanged the truth for a lie.
So Paul is concerned for their salvation. He is concerned that they have returned to a false gospel of works; that they believe they have the power to save themselves.
As Christians we should be as concerned about the salvation of others as was Paul. We should not be concerned about injury to our psyche, our ego, or even our body. It is not about us; it is about those who do not know Christ. If they reject us and the Gospel they may be intending to injure us in some way. But they do not injure us at all. They only injure themselves.
Online Bible Commentary