v15 – Previously the Galatians felt so blessed that they would’ve been willing to suffer for Paul, but since they’ve started listening to the teaching of the Judaisers they don’t feel so blessed anymore, and I think v17 explains why.
v17 – The Judaisers are friendly towards the Galatians because they want to attract them, but they also want to make them feel like they’re missing out. The Judaisers have formed this exclusive club of “proper” Christians who’ve been circumcised and who observe all the days and months and seasons and years of the Jewish ceremonial law. And the Galatians have fallen for this. They want to join this club of elite Christians, and their efforts to bring themselves up to standard to get into this club “make much of” the existing members of the club. As the Galatians try to become like the Judaisers, it makes the Judaisers feel good about themselves for already having attained that level of spirituality.
What’s happened to the blessing the Galatians felt when Paul was with them is that these new teachers have come along telling them there’s more to Christianity than the straightforward gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. And I do think we need to be wary of this ourselves. Not that circumcision or observation of days and months and seasons are much of an issue for us, but I think we need to be careful of seeing different levels of Christians who spend x amount of time reading their Bible and praying each day, and share the gospel with so many people each week, and go on mission trips, and also churches who sing the right songs and have lots of outreach programmes. Of course all of those are good things, but it’s not healthy if our motive for doing them is to try to keep up with other Christians or other churches.
v18-19 – By contrast, Paul makes much of the Galatians for a good purpose, even while he’s away from them, namely, that he wants Christ to be formed in them. I think that’s what we want in a pastor; not someone who will challenge us to live up to a set of external behaviours, but someone who wants to see Christ formed in us.
v20 – He’s been writing in quite an aggressive tone in this letter, saying “let (those false teachers) be accursed”, and calling the Galatians themselves foolish, but he’s writing in this way because he loves them. This whole thing is not just about setting them straight on an academic theological point; he has a pastor’s heart for these people. He wishes he could be present with them and change his tone, but he’s perplexed because they seem to be turning away from the promise of a joyful eternity with Christ to put themselves under the law.