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Galatians 4 - IVP New Testament Commentaries


In Paul's day, letters that were written to rebuke someone for misbehavior often ended with a request for a renewal of friendship and a change of behavior. For example, one short papyrus letter from Paul's time reads: "I am surprised that you did not see your way to let me have what I asked you to send by Corbolon, especially when I wanted it for a festival. I beg you to buy me a silver seal and send it to me with all speed." Here we see the same form as Paul's letter to the Galatians. First there is an expression of rebuke ("I am surprised . . ."--see Gal 1:6) and a statement of the cause of rebuke ("that you did not see your way to let me have . . ."). Second there is an expression of request ("I beg you . . ."--see Gal 4:12) followed by imperatives ("buy . . . send").

At 4:12 Paul turns from rebuke to request: I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. Become like me is the first imperative in Galatians. It sets the focus for the rest of the request section of the letter. This personal appeal (4:12-20) is followed by a scriptural appeal (4:21-31). Then Paul sets forth his authoritative appeal (5:1-12) followed by his ethical appeal (5:13--6:10).

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