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Galatians 4:11

ESV I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.
NIV I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
NASB I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.
CSB I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted.
NLT I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing.
KJV I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

What does Galatians 4:11 mean?

Paul had successfully evangelized people in Galatia by preaching a gospel of faith (Galatians 1:6). To his dismay, he learned that those same Galatians were being deceived by false teachers who claimed that salvation also required adherence to the rituals and rules of the law (Galatians 2:4). Prior verses included his explanation of why this was such an absurd and unnecessary development.

Paul, sounding exasperated with his Galatian readers, suddenly makes his plea to them very personal. He is afraid that the time and energy he has poured into helping them to understand the good news about Jesus Christ was wasted. It may have all been "in vain." His frustration is understandable. After all, Paul had been commissioned by Christ Himself to take the good news of salvation by faith in Christ—and not by works—to the non-Jewish world. It would have been one thing to try to explain to a Jewish person, who had legalistically followed the law their entire life, the idea that those rituals could not save them. For a Jew, letting go of the idea that law-following was needed to be right before God would have been difficult.

In this situation, however, people who had never followed the law of Moses in their lives were beginning to think they needed to be circumcised and observe special days in order for God to accept them! The group of false teachers known as the Judaizers were so committed to the law that they could not abide allowing non-Jewish Christians to believe they could be saved without it.

Paul's fear of having wasted his time with the Galatians will spur him to write in the following verses an impassioned plea for them to trust solely in the grace of God.
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