|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:19,20 The Galatians were ready to account the apostle their enemy, but he assures them he was their friend; he had the feelings of a parent toward them. He was in doubt as to their state, and was anxious to know the result of their present delusions. Nothing is so sure a proof that a sinner has passed into a state of justification, as Christ being formed in him by the renewal of the Holy Spirit; but this cannot be hoped for, while men depend on the law for acceptance with God.
Verse 20. - I desire to be present with you now (ἤθελον δὲ παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἄρτι); I could wish to be present with you this very hour. The δὲ marks here simply a transition to another thought, and, as is not unfrequently the case, and as our Authorized Version assumes, needs not to be represented in translation at all. Bishop Lightfoot writes, "But, speaking of my presence, I would I had been present," etc. But this explanation is not necessary. The imperfect verb ἤθελον, like the ἐβουλόμην of Acts 25:22 and the ηὐχόμην of Romans 9:3, denotes a movement as it were which had just been stirring in the mind, but which for good reasons is now withdrawn: "I could almost wish - but long distance and pressure of other duties make it impossible." Thus much in explanation of the withdrawal of the wish. The wish itself was occasioned by the feeling that the yearning desire of his soul might perhaps be more likely to be achieved if, by being on the spot, he were enabled to adapt his treatment to a more distinct consciousness of the circumstances than he can possibly now have. "To be present with you;" the very words are repeated from ver. 18. It was well both with you and with me when I was with you: would that I could be with van now I (On ἄρτι,," this very hour," see note on ch. 1:9.) And to change my voice (καὶ ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου). The tense of the infinitive ἀλλάξαι hardly allows us to take the word as meaning "from moment to moment according to the rapidly varying emergencies." This would have been expressed rather by ἀλλάσσειν. The question then arises - Change: from what to what? to which a great variety of answers have been proposed. The clue is probably supplied in the words, "be present with you this very hour." This ἄρτι, contrasting as it does the very present with the former occasions on which the apostle had been with them, suggests that he meant that the tone of his utterance would need to be different if amongst them just now from what it had then been. Then, it was the simple, un-anxious, joyous, exposition of the blessed gospel, untrammelled by fear of being misunderstood; such a way of speaking as one would be naturally drawn on to pursue who found himself addressing those whom he could confide in, and who were disposed frankly and lovingly, with an honest and good heart, to drink in from his lips the simple faith. Perhaps he might now find it necessary to replace that mode of utterance by guarded words, by stern reasoning, by the refuting of wilful misconceptions, by exposing and abashing cavil and objection. For I stand in doubt of you; or, I am perplexed for you (ἀποροῦμαι γὰρ ἐν ὑμῖν); I am perplexed about you. Compare Θαῥῤῶ ἐν ὑμῖν, "I am in good courage concerning you" (2 Corinthians 7:16). As "in" the Corinthians the apostle found ground for good courage, so "in" the Galatians he found ground for perplexity. This explains his wishing that he were with them. He would in that case be less unable to clearly understand their state of mind.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
I desire to be present with you now,.... His meaning is, either that be wished he was personally present among them; that he had but an opportunity of seeing them face to face, and telling them all his mind, and in such a manner as he could not in a single epistle; or that they would consider him, when they read this epistle, as if he was really among them; and as if they saw the concern of his mind, the agonies of his soul, the looks of his countenance, and heard the different tone of his voice:
and to change my voice; when present with them, either by a different way of preaching; that whereas before he preached the Gospel of the grace of God unto them, and his voice was charming to them like that of an angel, and even of Jesus Christ himself; but they having turned their backs upon it, and slighted it, he would now thunder out the law to them they seemed to be so fond of; even that voice of words, which when, the Israelites on Mount Sinai heard, entreated they might hear no more; as these Galatians also must when they heard the true voice of it, which is no other than a declaration of wrath, curse, and damnation; or by using a different way of speaking to them, as necessity might require, either softly or roughly, beseeching or chiding them, which might more move and affect them than an epistle could:
for I stand in doubt of you, The Vulgate Latin reads it, "I am confounded in you"; and the Syriac, "I am stupefied"; and to the same sense the Arabic. He was ashamed of them for their apostasy and degeneracy; he was amazed and astonished at their conduct; or, as the word may be rendered, be was "perplexed" on their account; he did not know what to think of them, and their state; sometimes he hoped well of them, at other times he was ready to despair; nor did he well know what course to take with them, whether to use them roughly or smoothly, and what arguments might be most proper and pertinent, in order to reclaim them.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20. Translate as Greek, "I could wish." If circumstances permitted (which they do not), I would gladly be with you [M. Stuart].
now—as I was twice already. Speaking face to face is so much more effective towards loving persuasion than writing (2Jo 12; 3Jo 13, 14).
change my voice—as a mother (Ga 4:19): adapting my tone of voice to what I saw in person your case might need. This is possible to one present, but not to one in writing [Grotius and Estius].
I stand in doubt of you—rather, "I am perplexed about you," namely, how to deal with you, what kind of words to use, gentle or severe, to bring you back to the right path.
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