|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:8-11 The happy change whereby the Galatians were turned from idols to the living God, and through Christ had received the adoption of sons, was the effect of his free and rich grace; they were laid under the greater obligation to keep to the liberty wherewith he had made them free. All our knowledge of God begins on his part; we know him because we are known of him. Though our religion forbids idolatry, yet many practise spiritual idolatry in their hearts. For what a man loves most, and cares most for, that is his god: some have their riches for their god, some their pleasures, and some their lusts. And many ignorantly worship a god of their own making; a god made all of mercy and no justice. For they persuade themselves that there is mercy for them with God, though they repent not, but go on in their sins. It is possible for those who have made great professions of religion, to be afterwards drawn aside from purity and simplicity. And the more mercy God has shown, in bringing any to know the gospel, and the liberties and privileges of it, the greater their sin and folly in suffering themselves to be deprived of them. Hence all who are members of the outward church should learn to fear and to suspect themselves. We must not be content because we have some good things in ourselves. Paul fears lest his labour is in vain, yet he still labours; and thus to do, whatever follows, is true wisdom and the fear of God. This every man must remember in his place and calling.
Verse 11. - I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain (φοβοῦμαι ὑμᾶς μήπῶς εἰκῆ κεποπίακα εἰς ὑμᾶς I am afraid of you, lest by any means 1 have bestowed labour upon you in vain. That is, this behaviour of yours makes me fear whether I may not have bestowed labour upon you fruitlessly. A similar construction of μή πως with an indicative occurs in 1 Thessalonians 3:5, Μή πως ἐπείρασεν ὑμᾶς ὁ πειράζων, "Fearing, whether the tempter may not have tempted you;" followed by the subjunctive, Καὶ εἰς κένον γένηται ὁ κόπος ἡμῶν, "And lest our labour should [in the as yet future result] prove to be for no good." This passage in the Thessalonians serves to illustrate the nature of the mischief, which, in the present case, the apostle feared might result. For one thing, there was the hurt, the perhaps fatal hurt, which the Galatian believers might themselves receive from that virtual renouncement of their spiritual inheritance which they now seemed to be foolishly making. But there was also the disappointment which would accrue to himself through the failure of his work among them: "For what," as he wrote to the Thessalonians, 1 Thessalonians 2:19, "is our hope, or crown of glorying? Are not even ye, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?" The same anticipated joy he speaks of in writing to the Philippians, as about to accrue to himself from the steadfastness of his converts: "That I may have whereof to glory in the day of Christ, that I did not run in vain, neither labour in vain." This anticipation was a joy which he would fain not have wrested from him.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I am afraid of you,.... Which shows the danger he apprehended they were in, by taking such large steps from Christianity to Judaism, and expresses the godly jealousy of the apostle over them; intimates he had some hope of them, and in the whole declares his great love and affection for them; for love is a thing full of care and fear:
lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain; in preaching the Gospel among them with so much diligence and constancy, though so many afflictions and pressures lay upon him. Faithful ministers of the word are laborious ones; and such an one was the apostle; and who indeed laboured more abundantly than the rest in all places wherever he came; and such will be concerned, as he was, lest their labours should be in vain, not to themselves, but to the souls of others, whose everlasting good and welfare they are seeking. But how is it that the apostle should fear that his labour in preaching the Gospel would be in vain, and become of no effect through their observance of days, months, times, and years? because that hereby the pure spiritual and evangelic worship of God was corrupted, they bringing into it that which God had removed, and so became guilty of will worship; their Christian liberty was infringed, and they brought into bondage, a deliverance from which the Gospel proclaims; the doctrine of free grace in pardon, justification, and salvation, was made void, they observing these things in order to procure them thereby; and it was virtually and tacitly saying, that Christ was not come in the flesh, which is the main article of the Gospel; for since these things had respect to him, and were to continue no longer than till his coming, to keep on the observation of them, was declaring that he was not come; which is in effect to set aside the whole Gospel, and the ministration of it; so that the apostle might justly fear, that by such a proceeding all his labour, and the pains he had took to preach the Gospel, and salvation by Christ unto them, would be in vain.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. lest—Greek, "lest haply." My fear is not for my own sake, but for yours.
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