I Have Become Your Enemy
Acts 4:13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? (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 mixture of grace and works.
In this passage, Paul continues with his questioning of the new believers in the Galatian churches. He reminds him that he “preached” the gospel to them even though he was fighting “physical infirmity” when he “first” visited them on his first missionary journey (v. 13).
It is very possible that Paul’s physical infirmity had to do with his eyesight (v. 15). Some believe that this was his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) that plagued him for the rest of his life.
If so, it is possible that this eye injury occurred when he was stoned to the point of death in Lystra while preaching to the Galatians (Acts 14:19). If, indeed, this is the case Paul would be even more justified in the frustration he is voicing in this passage.
Even though Paul had a “physical infirmity” when preaching to the Galatians, this did not deter them from accepting his message (v. 14a). Even through his rough appearance, with cuts, bruises, and a possible eye injury from the stoning, they still accepted him. In fact, they more than accepted him, they received him “as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (v. 14b).
The Galatians received him in such a way because of the influence of the Holy Spirit and the great “blessing” they received from his preaching (v. 15a). They knew he was a representative of God because of the transformation of their lives when they became Christians and because of the blessing of assured salvation that they received. In fact, they were so thankful for the blessing received from Paul’s preaching that they would have given him their “own eyes” had they been able to do so (v. 15b).
However, now the new believers in Galatia consider Paul to be their “enemy” (v. 16a). This is because they have believed the false teaching of the Judaizers who have turned them against Paul.
Paul was teaching them the true Gospel of salvation by grace through faith, “the truth” (v. 16b). But the new believers have exchanged the truth for a lie and have believed the false gospel of the Judaizers that salvation comes from a mixture of grace and works.
Unfortunately, Paul is not alone in being considered an enemy by those whom he preached the truth. It is still happening in our churches today. Pastors and other ministers are considered to be enemies of those, inside and outside the church, who have exchanged the truth for a lie.
As Christians, we must always receive our pastors and ministers as representatives of Christ. They have been ordained by God to bring His message to others. They should be given the honor and courtesy befitting of such high privilege.
Online Bible Commentary