by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 6 October 7, 2012 Dayton, Texas
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:
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. The "Good" Pursuit.
A. Paul's aggressive assault upon the false teachers focused upon their motives.
B. This lays the framework for understanding 4:18 because he uses the adjective "good" twice; once with a nominal concept for it to modify and the second time without such a stated nominal concept.
1. That the second use is sans a stated nominal concept means that the reader must supply one.
2. The most likely thought in Paul's mind, because of the attack upon motivation, is that he meant: "To be eagerly pursued is good when that pursuit is produced by a good motive...".
3. Paul's point is that it is not "automatically" an evil thing to be at the center of another's "pursuits"; the evil is when being in that center, as one of the goals of the pursued, is attended by dishonest methods. It is one thing to be loved; it is altogether another thing to seek to be loved by someone who doesnotalreadydoso as a personal-gain issue. Love's most intensely critical essence is that it "does not seek its own". Personal gain is beyond the boundaries of any genuinely legitimate "love". Anyone who genuinely "loves" another seeks the actual benefit of the beloved without seeking/expecting personal benefit.
a. The greatest evil about "seeking to be loved", when it applies to God's love for men, is that it posits a most fundamental lie: God does not already love me, so I must do something to move Him to do so. This is a denial of the essential nature of God.
b. The next greatest evil in this setting is the derivative "theology" that says: I can, and must, do something to attract this Lover. This is the root foundation of "Law". The classic illustration of this is found in Genesis 29:34 where Leah names her third son "Levi" because he represents to her a way to get her husband to love her. It is no accident that the final outcome of the "Levitical" system, rooted in man's desire to "earn the Love of God", was an abject failure under that false motivation, just as Leah's hopes were dashed by the fact that Jacob still did not "love" her. This entire approach, rooted in the idea that a man can get God to "love" him by reason of his performance, is a denial of the essential nature of fallen man.
4. So, what is "good" about being pursued in a legitimate way?
a. It totallyrelieves the "beloved". Human beings, given the impact of Sin's presence in this world, have a significantly difficult time maintaining a legitimate faith in the commitments God has made. That struggle is made impossible by "Law" because any realist can see that "faith" in one's ability to keep the demands of "Law" is both ineffective and an illegitimate form of "faith". "Faith" is supposed to have God at the center of its focus. "Law" cannot help but push God out of focus. On the other hand, if "promise" is handled legitimately (He that makes a promise is the one required to keep it -- Romans 4:21), God retains the centrality of the "believer's" focus. And, being loved by the Promise Giver settles the issues altogether. Being loved is a total relief when the Lover is God and the relationship is rooted in Promise.
b. It frees the "beloved" from all self-interest. The more one believes in the promises of the God of Love, the less inclined the "believer" is to manipulate the system in order to get his/ her way.
c. It establishes the foundations of the Eternal Kingdom: everyone there knows that "loving" is what is crucial, not "being loved". And, since "being loved" is already a "given", it is a totally unnecessary issue. No one is the Kingdom finds any necessity to wish to "be loved" more than they already are.
II. The Qualifying Statement.
A. Paul said, "...and not only when I am present with you".
1. This means that Paul's love is not "just when I am present": he continues to love from a distance.
2. This also means that the "love" of those now present is a non-reality, though loudly professed.
B. The direct implication is that the "motive" was legitimate when he was with them, but it does not seem to be present now that he is absent. The point? Being loved legitimately is a rare reality in this world; thus, loving legitimately must also be rare.
1. The biblical record is consistent: no matter what God puts into play, no matter how God addresses men with their best interests at heart, men drag the process into the mud so that, over time, the process is completely mired to the point of ineffectiveness. Every "new beginning" has been frustrated over time (in Paul's "I do not frustrate the grace of God" sense: Galatians 2:21).
2. Even biblical prophecy declares that "in the last days men will depart from the truth" and that even with the presence of the glorified Son of God as King of kings upon the earth men will rebel to a degree that requires massive judgment and the elimination of men as the objects of the grace of God.
3. It should stand to reason, then, that the actual practice of "faith" in the "truth" will not be a widely found reality at any time and that it will become less and less a reality as time goes by.
a. This is a truth that all who love the truth need to keep in mind at all times. In Jesus' preparation of the Twelve for their being sent out to preach, He clearly declared through the parable of the soils that they could not expect a large, positive response: three of the four soil-types are seriously incapable of producing fruit.
b. The most destructive temptation for all proclaimers of the Truth is the temptation to adapt the message to its audience so that the audience will find it palliative. After 30 years of producing "seeker-sensitive" methods, the most well know purveyors of it acknowledged their error...never mind the enormous damage generated over that 30 year span of heretical methodology.
c. The problem is the same today as it was in the Galatians' day: men who wish to be seen as important and successful rather than faithful.