Godly zeal

It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.
Galatians 4:18 (NIV)

Read:  Galatians 4:8-20

Consider:  Galatia was a Roman province in central Asia Minor, to which Paul travelled on each of his three missionary journeys.  Paul’s letter to the Galatians seeks to reaffirm the truth of the gospel message that he shared with the Galatians and to affirm his status as a true apostle.  In Galatians 1:10 we read: I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached was not of human origin.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.  What better credentials could anyone have than this?  Evidently agitators had come to the churches in Galatia and were questioning the authenticity of the gospel Paul shared, as well as his claim to be an apostle.  This explains why Paul uses the language he does.  For example, in Galatians 3 we read: You foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified (3:1).  Also in Galatians 4:9 he says: But now that you know God – or rather are known by God – how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?  Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

Later in Galatians 4 Paul speaks of being zealous.  Initially he speaks of the agitators who are zealous to win over the Galatians to their way of thinking (4:17).  Paul tells the Galatians that: It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you (4:18).  You may never have thought of the word ‘zealous’.  Perhaps you remember that one of Jesus’ disciples was called ‘Simon the Zealot’ (Matthew 10:4).  The Zealots were a political group who were concerned about the political and religious life of the Jewish people.  This led to them having strong opinions on who was truly serving God and who was not.  In using this word ‘zealous’, Paul was  encouraging the believers to be zealous about the right thing; to be zealous for God.  He was not encouraging the believers to be like the Zealots in their thinking, but to be zealous for (earnestly desire)  the things of God.

Notice also that Paul tells the Galatians they must be consistently zealous when he says: ‘… be so always, not just when I am with you (4:18).  There was to be no hypocrisy in their zeal and it was not to become a demonstration of their zeal to impress him or anyone else.

Pray: Father, forgive us when we show enthusiasm or zeal just to impress others.  Give us a desire to please you only, in being zealous to share the good news of the gospel with others.  Amen

Every blessing