You can really see how perplexed Paul is with the Galatians in this passage (actually going all the way to verse 20).
When he had first come to the Galatians, he had had some sort of physical problem, and yet, though it caused no small inconvenience to them, they still received him with great joy. Why? Because of the gospel that he had preached which set them free from sin and brought them new life. Having heard the message and received it, they were filled with God’s inexpressible joy and a deep sense of his blessing.
So filled with this joy were the Galatians that it overflowed in their love and concern for Paul such that they were willing to do anything for him. Paul said,
I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. (15)
But having been infected with the teaching of the Judaizers, everything had changed. All their joy was gone, and now they looked at Paul with suspicion. They wondered if he had really told them the truth of the gospel. They wondered if he had perhaps left something out that could actually keep them from salvation.
So Paul asks them,
What has happened to all your joy…Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? (15-16)
The word “joy” there is translated “blessedness” in the ESV and “blessing” in the NASB. But however you translate it, the Galatians had lost a precious gift God had imparted to them upon their believing in Christ. How?
By returning to religion. By making their salvation a matter of their own works and their own efforts, and causing the cross of Christ to lose its value to them. (2:21)
The same thing can happen to us. When we make our Christian lives all about “keeping the rules” of religion, we lose our joy and our blessing. Instead, we start straining to earn God’s favor. And in the process, one of two things inevitably happens. Either we become proud because we are “succeeding” in our efforts (as if someone could actually earn God’s favor by their works). Or we become utterly depressed and despairing because we realize it’s impossible to keep the rules perfectly.
Either way, we lose the blessing and joy of God in our lives.
But when we realize that our salvation is by grace alone, it does two things. It keeps us humble and it keeps us grateful.
We are humble because we realize that we did nothing to deserve God’s favor in our lives. We see that all we deserved was God’s condemnation but how he has showered us with his grace and mercy anyway.
More, we become filled with joy and gratitude at this grace and mercy we have received. As a result, the blessedness that comes from Christ flows not only in our lives but through our lives touching the people around us.
What kind of life are you living? One of pride? One of defeat and despair? Or one of blessing and joy?