Gal 4:13-16 “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 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. 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. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
Enough is said in Paul’s letters about infirmity to lead scholars to consider that he had some physical malady. This condition is only hinted at in the scripture, as it is here. When he first came to the churches at Galatia, he had some sort of disability going on. It is not unreasonable to suppose that it had something to do with his eyes considering the Galatians would have given him theirs if it had been possible to do so.
The truth is every one of us who preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior (whether by word and conduct, or by conduct alone) have infirmities of the flesh. The fact that we are flesh (human) is an infirmity when it comes to dealing with spiritual things. Our humanity often causes us to question God’s purpose or doubt God’s reasons. Anyone looking for a reason to doubt the gospel we preach can find it: all they have to do is be with us long enough to see our infirmity.
However, if the Spirit has moved them to hear the gospel, then they are often amazed and encouraged. They may look at us and think “If God can use him (or her) as an ambassador for Christ, then He can use me too.” Paul was declaring that infirmity of the flesh was not greater than the power of God. Our infirmity, whether physical or otherwise, will not keep us from declaring the gospel if God has called us to do so.
The power of God enables us to preach (and live) the gospel of Christ in spite of our infirmities. This same power moves others to pray for us as we do so. Our adversity (see Strong’s definition of “temptation” as used here) in the flesh does not cause us to be despised or rejected by our brothers and sisters. Instead, knowing that we have infirmity in the flesh, they cast a mantle of love over us.
Speaking from a personal standpoint, I know how weak and wretched my flesh can be. It never ceases to amaze me that God causes His children to receive me as His messenger and as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of just such a reception from the brothers and sisters when He first came to them in Galatia. They treated him with love and kindness. They would have relieved Paul of his infirmity and taken it upon them had it been possible to do so. However, something had changed since then.
Paul was not in favor with the folks that had come down to them from Jerusalem. These people (as we will see in later verses) had threatened the Galatians with being shut out. Paul was telling them these men did not have the authority to keep them from serving God. He was telling them that Christ was their sufficiency. He was concerned with how quickly they had been turned away from the gospel he had preached, and he called them in question on the matter.
Paul did all this, not because his pride was damaged, but because he loved these churches. He loved the cause of Jesus Christ, and the liberty in the Spirit that made the infirmity of the flesh bearable. He asked them to search themselves when he posed the question “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
May God cause us to always remember that it takes a lot more love to tell us the truth than it does to mislead us!