True Zeal — Galatians 4:12-20


True Zeal

In Paul’s epistles, he usually follows a doctrinal/practical pattern. He will give theology and then application. In this passage, and previous four verses, he gives neither. Rather, this is personal. There is a wide range of emotion and we can see the personal nature of the words, but his manner goes beyond being personal.

Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.  Galatians 4:12-20

I am reminded while reading the passage of the story in 2 Kings 10:16, where we see Jehu and he says, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.”  I don’t want to analyze that story, but I will recognize that what he said he had is what we must also have. Zeal for the Lord!

Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

Paul says to the Galatians, “Be like me. I have ‘accommodated’ you. “Accommodate” me, and move beyond personalities. He tells them that his attitude is not based on personal injury, you see, this issue is bigger than personalities.

Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.

He reminds them of when he first preached the gospel to them. They did not despise or reject him because of a physical limitation. They received him as if he were Christ Himself.

Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

He then asks them what happened to their happiness? They would have given anything for him, even their eyes. He reminds them of the love they had toward him. It was a fervent (zealous) love. But now that these enemies of the gospel had come along and proposed that Paul had not given them the “whole” gospel, they consider him to be an enemy. Paul! is now their enemy, because he told them the truth. He says it this way to remind them — he’s not their enemy.

They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

The phrases in these verses are important to understand. (1) Zealously affect you. They show great zeal toward you; they want you as their converts; they point to their zeal as evidence of the truth of their position; and they give you lots of attention. (2) But not well. Their zeal is not for your good; they want converts (followers); they don’t really care about you; they’re purposes are wrong; they think that the more followers they can get, the more vindication they’ll have for their position. (3) They would exclude you. They are trying to separate you from your attachment to me; they know that you respect me, so they think once they can discredit me, they’ll have you to themselves. (4) That ye might affect them. They want you to follow them wholeheartedly; they want your love (zeal) to be toward them. (5) Good to be zealously affected. Zeal is good — In good things. (6) And not only when I am present — Don’t be tossed by personalities; don’t follow the most ardent pursuer; have zeal — for the Lord.

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

Paul loves them passionately with a father’s love and with the love of a mother. He desires to be there because he has better thoughts of them. He doesn’t believe that they really believe what he has heard of them. But he stands in doubt of them. He’s perplexed and he knows that if they don’t change, they’re headed for big trouble. He thought better of them, but now they’re following personalities.

 

We must remember that zeal is not everything. Zeal for the Lord is what is important. Do not follow personalities in your life. Be especially wary of dynamic personalities. Dynamic personalities are not right or wrong because of their personality, but if they point to their zeal as evidence that they are right this should raise a red flag. We need to grow a spiritual character that continues after the “personality” is gone. You may get a lot of help from your youth pastor, but God moves him on to another church. What will you do now? What about the time that will come for you to move out of your Christian home? Or what will happen when you move on from Bible college to ministry on your own. True zeal doesn’t rest on the zeal of other “personalities.”

 

Is your spiritual zeal based upon something other than love for Christ? Are your standards your spirituality  Is your service your spirituality? Is your church (location) your spirituality? Are your parents your spirituality? These are all areas of zeal — not bad in themselves, but insufficient of themselves. Let us have true zeal — Zeal for the Lord!

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3 Comments

  1. Pastor Voegtlin may I ask is this a sermon?

    This is an excellant post and a great reminder on where our zeal should be placed. I also appreciate the warning of dynamic personalities. This is a prudent area that all Christians need to be aware of. It is interesting subject, if you ever notice it is often the fast talking, loud pastor’s with a well rehearsed act that gets the most Amens. That is a sad phenomenom that is going on in our churches.

  2. Yes, this is a sermon I preached in chapel on October 2, 2006.

    An “act” is not bad because it is well-rehearsed, but everything must be judged by Scripture. It is also not right just because it is “smooth.”

  3. I agree with you, however let me explain to clarify any confusion. I am speaking of well rehearsed acts like smashing a TV on stage. Acts such of this takes away the light from the Scripture and places it on the deliverer

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