In Galatians 4:16, Paul says,

16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? KJV, ©1769

IϚʹ ὥστε ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα ἀληθεύων ὑμῖν TR, 1550

My question is: what exactly did Paul mean when he said that? How would Paul (potentially) become their enemy?

  • Can you explain a little more what exactly you don't understand about this verse?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 12:02

3 Answers 3


If you read this verse in context, it’s clear that Paul is in some sort of dispute with the Galatians. Though the story is a little out of order (this isn’t a narrative text, it’s a letter), what seems to have happened is this:

  1. Paul arrived in town because of an illness, was taken care of and shown great hospitality, and used this as an opportunity to preach to them. Many converted and followed his preaching. (Galatians 4:13)
  2. Sometime after Paul’s departure, many of those who he had converted began reverting to their pre-conversion ways. We gather this from the questions Paul asks in verse 9 and the rebukes he offers in 10-11:

Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? You are observing special days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid that my work for you may have been wasted. (NRSV translation)

  1. In verse 15, Paul first suggests that there may be trouble in paradise between him and the Galatians:

What has become of the goodwill you felt? (NRSV)

This statement seems to imply that this is not the first interaction between Paul and the Galatians since he left town and they changed course. In other words, Paul has spoken to them about this already, probably lodging some of the same rebukes he’s giving here, and they haven’t taken it well.

Which gets us to verse 16:

Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? (NRSV)

So when Paul says he’s become their enemy, it’s clear he’s referring to the current animosity between him and the Galatians. I read “by telling you the truth” to be a reference to whatever prior interactions he has had with them in which he has given the same rebukes he’s giving here (rebukes which presumably they have responded to with hostility). In a way, this is just a reflection of human nature: nobody really likes being criticized. Paul is defending the criticism he’s given by making an impassioned argument all throughout this letter for the gospel of “freedom” from the bondage of sin that he preached to them. But it’s also not that surprising that when he tells people they are behaving like slaves (in a culture in which slavery was very much a live practice and slaves were the lowest rung of the totem pole, often prisoners from defeated “barbarian” tribes) that they aren’t taking it all that well.


"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"

He is saying am I your enemy now just because I have spoken the truth. He spoke the truth and in those times preaching about Christianity was permitted and whoever did was punished. So when he preaches and points out the mistakes the people in power are doing, he is asking am I your enemy now for speaking what is the truth anyways.


In Galatians 4:16, what did Paul mean by saying,

“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”KJV, ©1769

Corrective counsel required.

In context of the chapter four, we discern Paul's brotherly concerned with the Galatians, the Galatians needed corrective counselling, because after coming to know God and to be known by God they returned to the weak and elementary things of the world .(Compare Colossians 2:20-22) And so Paul wrote.

Galatians 4:8-9 NASB ." However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless [h]elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?

And possibly to forestall any resentment, he asked : "So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? " (Galatians 4:16 NASB) True friends protect one another and will think enough of you to point out a serious fault and offer positive advice in a loving way. "He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor Than he who flatters with the tongue." Proverbs 28:23 NASB

He knew that the pride of erring ones could be injured . Yet, he was aware that to stand between a sinner and the discipline he needs could have the effect of denying that one an expression of God’s love. Therefore, as a faithful friend with the long-term interests of the congregation at heart, Paul did not shrink back from offering corrective counsel.

Hebrews 12:5-11 (NASB)

5 "And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.”7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

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