ALL FOR NOTHING?
Lord, I am zealous for the things of God. Help me to serve You.
Read GALATIANS 4:8–20
Paul’s Concern for the Galatians
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 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[a]? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.
12 I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. 13 As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15 Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
a Galatians 4:9 Or principles
New International Version (NIV)
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“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11). Lord, I want to be passionate about You more than anything else.
In this emotional passage, Paul asks the Galatians whether he has labored in vain and wasted his efforts on them. In verses 8–11, he warns them against returning to their earlier enslaved situation, a reverse conversion as it were. While it is unclear whether their observance in verse 10 refers to the Jewish calendar or a pagan one, the point is that this practice is antithetical to their new life in Christ. Even today, the temptation exists to customize the Christian faith by adding rules or reverting to old habits.
Verse 12 is puzzling, but the idea may be that Paul was like the Galatians in that they all had a shared past in slavery—Paul to the Law and the Galatians to the “basic principles of the world” (3, footnote)—and that the Galatians should now be like Paul by embracing a shared life in Christ (Susan Eastman, Recovering Paul’s Mother Tongue, 39–40). Paul reminds the Galatians of their warm welcome of him, despite his apparently embarrassing illness (perhaps a chronic eye condition), to reiterate that he is on their side (13–16).
In verses 17 and 18, Paul does not warn against being zealous but against the wrong kind of zeal. Paul has not forgotten his old life as a “zealous” Pharisee (Gal. 1:13,14). This notion of zeal goes back to the action of Mattathias in 167 B.C. leading to the Maccabean revolt (1 Macc. 2:23–26), which in turn is rooted in the zealous action of Phinehas (Num. 25:6–13). In his zeal, Paul the Pharisee sought to destroy the church, but God showed him that his zeal was misdirected, rooted in a distorted understanding of Christ. After his conversion, Paul is no less zealous for God but now his energy is productive, proclaiming Christ to the Gentiles.
Are you enthusiastic and passionate about God? And for the right reasons? In what kind of activities is your zeal manifest?
Lord, keep us from reverting back to our old ways when we served this world and not the living God.