by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 September 23, 2012 Dayton, Texas
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
1901 ASV Translation:
17 They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them.
18 But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you
20 but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you.
I. At Issue: the "Teachers' " Objective.
A. Revealed by the term "zealously affect you".
1. The Authorized Version translators go with "moved with envy" in Acts 7:9 and 17:5, but choose "covet" and "desire" in other contexts.
2. When considered in general from all of the references (noun and verb), one gets the impression that "zeal" is the outworking of a highly critical "value" that has been advanced above many of its "fellows" such as when a person exalts doctrinalpurity over humanlife and puts those to death who violate that purity, or when a person exalts the possession of monetary wealth over ethical methods of pursuit so that he/she "steals" in order to obtain.
3. In this present text, the "zeal" is being exercised in the direction of Paul's former disciples. The goal is to "get them to relinquish their loyalty to the God of the Gospel of which Paul is the messenger".
a. This is not immediately clear as their objective since Paul is in their cross-hairs, but the indisputable fact is that one cannot "target" Paul without intentionally seeking to corrupt his message and that can only mean that the Author of that message is heavily involved as a "target".
b. Paul wasted no time with this as early as 1:6 where he skipped all of the preliminary levels and simply said that the Galatians were leaving "Him"; not "grace", not "Christ", not the "Gospel".
4. The outworking of such "zeal" has more than one direction. In one direction, the Galatians, as objects of the "zeal", get the feeling that someone wants them very badly. This is heady stuff because the potent desire to be valuable to someone is deeply rooted out of the Genesis 3 fiasco where Adam and Eve were seduced by Satan into thinking that God's value of them was secretively destructive. It is interesting to note that when Paul was with them, their willingness to give him their own eyes indicates that the Galatians had been turned, by the Gospel, from this sort of thing. Wanting to be "sought after" has a decidedly selfish character. The Gospel had blunted this natural selfishness for a time, but the temptation of "the Law" is to turn back to it. In another direction, there are those who are activated by the zeal. These are they who make the others feel that sense of high worth. They make all kinds of noises about how much they "love" the Galatians and wish to teach them the "real" truth as it is found in "the Law". The problem here is that part of this method is legitimate, as Paul acknowledges in the next verse of our text (It is good to be zealously sought after...). However, before that acknowledgement, he declares the underlying motive and exposes the "love" for what it is.
B. Revealed by Paul's declaration.
1. The "zealous pursuit" is a "not well" reality. Here he suggests that there are situations when being zealously pursued is, perhaps, a "well" reality; i. e. a good thing.
2. The "zealous pursuit" is an attempt to accomplish a hidden agenda, clouded by smoke and mirrors.
a. First, the "pursuit" is the kind of thing that seeks to put people "outside" of something.
1) The only other time in the New Testament that Paul's word here is used is Romans 3:27 where its meaning is beyond obvious: it means "to force something beyond the pale of usefulness so that no one can consider it a legitimate tool, or a legitimate objective".
2) In our current text, the "force" is aimed at the Galatians and the desire is to put them beyond something so that someone cannot consider them "useful" for some given task.
3) At issue are the matters involved in this force.
a) The false teachers are attempting to get the Galatians to see themselves as useless to God so that they will despair of being acceptable to Him in light of His Kingdom goal of getting everyone involved in an eternal Kingdom of Light and Love.
b) God can only be forced to consider someone as "useless to Him" if/when they can be persuaded to exalt selfishness over "Love". It is clear that the selfishness of wanting to be "zealously sought after" is key to the false teachers' agenda.
b. This attempt is rooted in the second issue of the "pursuit".
1) Paul says that the underlying layer of motivation is the false teachers' desire to be "zealously sought after". In other words, the false teachers are zealously seeking after others because they see those others as people they can get to satisfy their own lust to be eagerly sought after.
2) This is "the wisdom of the serpent": get others to see themselves as "excluded from God's Plan" so that those others will turn to the "dispensers of wisdom" for a way to get themselves "included in God's Plan".
II. The Larger Issue: the "Adversary's" Objective.
A. The temptation to be eagerly sought after is one of the three primal issues of temptation (Note 1 John 2:16 -- "the pride of life" is fundamentally the "pride" of being important to others because of one's superior qualities).
B. Satan's goal has always been to turn others from the worship of God to the worship of himself: Matthew 4:9.
1. This involves the desire to "frustrate God" by making it impossible for Him to exercise "love" toward someone by putting them under His own judgment.
2. This also involves the desire to obtain the loyalty of those he turns from God.