Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, [J.P. Migne, Editor]. Patrologiae Tomus XXVI. Paris: D’Ambroise, Pres La Barriere D’Enfer, ou Petit-Montrouge, 1845. pp. 307-438.
Galatians 4:13 begs the Galatians to remember that Paul’s work to bring the Gospel to them was done at a cost to him (Jerome, Galatians, 379-380). Following Christ always has a price, as Jerome notes, but it is a worthy price. The message of the Gospel is true, no matter what temptations to ignore it might arise (v. 14). Jerome expands on the idea of resisting temptations, suggesting several particular ways people might suggest the Galatians should depart from the faith. None of the temptations should be heeded (Jerome, Galatians, 380). Not even the illness or death of an apostle should persuade the Galatians that the Gospel is false (Jerome, Galatians, 381).
Paul goes on in verses 15-16 to remind the Galatians of the dedication they had shown to him, then to ask them if he has suddenly become their enemy. Jerome compares the work of Paul and the Galatians’ attitude toward him as ideally that of the vinedresser and the vines or the shepherd and the sheep (Jerome, Galatians, 381). The Galatians should be able to tell Paul is on their side, but they do not seem to know that. Jerome observes that this was not an unheard of idea among the Roman poets and philosophers (Jerome, Galatians, 382).
As a corrective to the Galatians’ failures, Paul says they are not engaged in the kind of imitation which is good (vv. 17-18). Jerome suggests several ideas that they should, in fact, imitate, drawing from Scripture. Though he uses some of the ideas of the Moseaic Law, he is clear that it is not a matter of being bound to the law, but of imitating what is good (Jerome, Galatians, 383). It is important to realize the many good examples we have, particularly of faith, throughout the Scripture. Jerome reminds us of many. The goal, however, is always as in verse 19, that Christ should be formed in the one who imitates good. Jerome recognizes that all this life is a trial, but that the work of forming Christ in others is part of the painful process of giving birth and raising children, whether earthly or spiritual (Jerome, Galatians, 385).
In verse 20, Paul says he would like to be with the Galatians and change his voice, i.e., to speak more gently. Jerome notes that the work of instruction is frequently forceful (Jerome, Galatians, 386). The Galatians may perceive Paul as overly harsh, but it is necessary for him to speak directly to the danger, just as a doctor would apply a cure (Jerome, Galatians, 387). In person, Paul could be more sensitive and discerning. However, absent, he must speak firmly.