What does Galatians 4:13 mean?
ESV: You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first,
NIV: As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you,
NASB: but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time;
CSB: you know that previously I preached the gospel to you because of a weakness of the flesh.
NLT: Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News.
KJV: Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
NKJV: You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.
Verse Commentary:
Paul has been making a series of appeals to the Galatians. These are his reasons why they should abandon any hope of becoming justified before God by following the Jewish law. Instead, they should accept the truth that they are already fully justified because of their faith in Christ. The two ideas are simply incompatible.

Paul began a new thought in the previous verse when he said that, during his time with them, they did nothing wrong to him. Now he will develop that idea, reminding them of their profound kindness to him and how deeply they believed what he taught about Jesus. He will ask pointedly: "What has changed?"

He begins with the strange-sounding statement that he first preached to them about faith in Christ because of an illness or "bodily ailment." We do not know from this passage or other books of the Bible what this illness was. We also don't know how an illness could have caused Paul to preach to this specific group of people. Bible scholars speculate that perhaps Paul came to their region to recover from an illness, such as malaria. Or perhaps Paul intended to pass right through their region but could not proceed because he got sick.

In any case, Paul's readers would have known exactly what he meant. They, along with him, understood Paul's illness to have been a God-engineered occurrence that provided the opportunity for him to preach to them about Jesus. As the following verses reveal, their response to Paul's illness was kindness and not rejection.
Verse Context:
Galatians 4:8–20 reveals that the Galatian Christians have already begun legalistically following the law of Moses, by observing special days. Why would they want to go back to slavery by following the law to be justified by God, Paul asks? Why have they gone from blessing him and trusting in Christ to rejecting him for telling the truth? The false teachers are only using them to bring glory to themselves, Paul insists. Paul is in anguish for them as a mother in childbirth. He longs to see Christ formed in them.
Chapter Summary:
In this chapter, Paul uses three new methods to teach his Galatian readers an important lesson. It is futile to follow the law of Moses in order to be made right before God, since justification comes only by faith in Christ. First, Paul shows that the arrival of Christ made it possible for all people to become God's children through faith in Him. Next, Paul makes a more personal appeal, asking what has changed to cause the Galatians to turn on Paul's teaching of the gospel. Finally, Paul builds an allegory from Scripture, illustrating the difference between being born into slavery and being born into the promise by faith in Christ.
Chapter Context:
Galatians 3 ends with Paul stating, once more, that those who are in Christ are Abraham's offspring, just as He is, making us heirs along with Him. Galatians 4 continues that idea, showing how Christ's arrival signaled the moment all people could receive the inheritance with Him and be adopted as God's children. Paul makes his appeal personal, asking why the Galatians moved from blessing him to rejecting the message of Christ. The chapter ends with Paul's allegory about the difference between being born into slavery under the law and being born into freedom by the power of the Spirit through faith in Christ. Chapter 5 will continue by expanding on the freedom we have in Christ.
Book Summary:
Galatians is sometimes called “a short Romans” for its similar themes of justification and sanctification through faith. A group of Christians known as “Judaizers” were preaching a gospel of legalism, rather than grace. Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter to the Galatians was to reiterate the true nature of the gospel: we are justified (made righteous) and sanctified (made more Christlike) through our faith in Jesus Christ alone. This letter was probably written shortly before the church elders in Jerusalem issued their official refutation of the Judaizers, commonly called the Jerusalem Council.
Accessed 5/26/2024 5:43:16 PM
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