A personal appeal for the truth against the false teachers:
v. 12. Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are; ye have not injured me at all.
v. 13. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel unto you at the first.
v. 14. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected, but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
v. 15. Where is, then, the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me.
v. 16. Am I, therefore, become your enemy because I tell you the truth?
v. 17. They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you that ye might affect them.
v. 18. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
Having struck a personal note, the apostle here continues in the same strain, with all the eager kindness of his loving heart: Deal with me as I dealt with you, brethren, I beg of you. He holds up his conduct as an example to them, and refers to particular occasions when the relation between them was one of unstudied cordiality. They should put themselves in his place for a moment, and try to feel as he did when he became all things to all men in order to gain them for the Gospel. Incidentally he implies that they should try to understand his position as their teacher, knowing from past experience that his instruction had always been for their benefit. He wants them to do this without the least hesitation; for, as he assures them: In nothing have you injured me. They had, on the contrary, received the Gospel message with all eagerness. The situation had been so: You know that on account of infirmity of the flesh I preached the Gospel to you at first. It seems that some sort of illness or weakness prevented Paul from continuing his journey as he may have intended, when he came to the regions of Galatia; so he remained there for a time and was prevailed upon to perform the work of his ministerial calling in these cities.
At that time the attachment of the Galatians to the apostle had been intimate and sincere: And your test in my flesh you did not despise nor spurn, but as an angel of God you accepted me, as Christ Jesus. On account of Paul's bodily infirmity, on account of the fact that he was severely handicapped in his evangelical activity, the Galatians were put to the test as to whether they would think unfavorably of their teacher. But there had not been the slightest indication of rejecting him, of spurning his person and his message, there had been no show of contempt or disgust on account of his diseased state. Overlooking or tactfully ignoring his infirmity, they had rather accepted him with every mark of esteem, as an angel of God, as Christ Himself. Could it be possible that their behavior at that time had been a mere passing fancy? Paul asks: Where is the happiness which you exhibited at that time? What has become of that feeling now? For I bear witness concerning you that, if it had been possible, you would have torn out your very eyes and given them to me. So great had been their loving affection for their teacher that they would have been willing to sacrifice the most indispensable organs of their body, if by so doing they could have brought him relief. Note: This is a splendid example of the love which a Christian congregation should show towards its pastor in case he becomes afflicted with bodily infirmity or illness when engaged in serving them.
The apostle now brings out the contrast as indicated by their apparent estrangement: Pour enemy have I thus become by my telling you the truth? In some way and at some time, probably at his last visit or through reports which had reached him, Paul had found out about the estrangement, the coldness, which was gradually taking the place of their fervent affection towards him. Upon the occasion of his last visit and probably before, he had told them the truth with all frankness; he had rebuked their errors and shortcomings; he had warned them against Jewish leaven. And these warnings had now been so manipulated by the Judaizing teachers as to argue enmity on his part and to turn the Galatians from him. But Paul analyzes the situation frankly: They take an active interest in you in no honest way, but they desire to estrange you, that you should show affectionate zeal for them. The false teachers were affecting a loving interest in the Galatians with only one object in mind, to alienate their affections from Paul and his sound Gospel-teaching and to win them for their own side. Here all personal courting, all sycophancy between preachers and hearers is condemned, and rightly so, since the desire to serve the Lord with sound Gospel-preaching, on the one hand, and the simple acceptance of the truth, on the other, should characterize the relation between pastor and parishioner. In that sense Paul writes: It is a good thing that zeal be shown in a good thing at all times, and not only when I am present with you. To be filled with zeal and eagerness for the cause of Christ and the Gospel, for the growth of the kingdom of God, is a fine and laudable thing. Under such circumstances the zeal will not relax in the absence of any particular persons, no matter how important their contributions may have been in the first place. Paul does not want his person exalted, but desires only that the honor of Christ and of the Gospel be secure.