Advancing The Gospel Through Personal Weakness: Galatians 4:11-16
“11) I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain. 12) I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13) but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14) and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15) Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16) So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians‬ ‭4:11-16‬ ‭
These verses are a bit difficult to follow. It appears that Paul was looking back at his first preaching of the gospel among them. It sounds like he was suffering from some form of bodily ailment. He mentions that his bodily condition was unsightly to behold, yet according to verse 14 they received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself. The early affection and bond between them was very strong.
Many believe his ailment related to a condition with his eyes. Note the reference in verse 15. They had so much love and compassion for him, that “if possible they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to me.” I believe this reference was more than an expression of speech. Paul was indicating that he had problems with his eyes.
This may have been his thorn in the flesh referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. He entreated the Lord three times to remove it, but He responded; “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
We now have one of the great ironies of the early church. The one who healed many could not be healed himself. The stated reason was to keep him humble and prevent him from exalting himself. (2 Corinthians 12:7)
Though he could not see well in the physical realm, he had extraordinary vision in the spiritual realm. The above chapter in 2 Corinthians began with the story of being caught up into Paradise and hearing inexpressible words. Much had been revealed to him, yet he was limited by a physical handicap.
I have learned that God often gives extra grace in our area of weakness. In so doing, He gets the glory for what He accomplishes through us. The gospel was spreading through Paul because the Holy Spirit was working. It could not be measured or explained by his own talents, abilities or good looks. To be clear, the Holy Spirit was working in spite of Paul’s weaknesses.
Stop making excuses. God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Whatever your weaknesses, God wants to magnify Himself through you. He works in ways we do not understand.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global