Gal 4:17-20 “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.”
One of the best ways to get people involved in a movement or issue is to get them “fired up.” That is what Paul is describing here concerning the effect the Jews which came down from Jerusalem had on the churches of Galatia. According to Strong’s, the Greek word translated as “affected” means “to have warmth of feeling for or against: – affect, covet (earnestly), (have) desire, (move with) envy, be jealous over, (be) zealous (-ly affect).” Paul admitted that the brethren had been “warmly” affected, but that did not equate with that being a good thing.
There are men and women today who live lavish lives off the backs of God’s people. They promise them wonderful miracles of peace, healing, and prosperity. All they have to do is follow the rules they have set forth. Ultimately, those rules only benefit the people asking you to follow the rules. It makes them look powerful and important. Their egos are fed so they can feel good about themselves. When you follow their rules and don’t receive the promised benefits, they assure you it is due to your lack of faith. They shut you out from any concern on their part.
Paul is warning the Galatian brethren that they are being used in a similar fashion. The Jews that were encouraging them to follow their legal worship system were not doing so for the benefit of the Galatian churches. Instead, they were threatening the Galatian brethren with being shut out (excluded) if they did not go along with their demands. These were people who for generations were not able to be involved in the covenant of God. It was of the greatest distress to them to think they might find themselves once again shut out after tasting the grace of God.
Being zealously affected is not a bad thing. When the issue is right and good, it is a wonderful thing to be zealously affected. Most of us would like to see our churches zealously affected in the truth of Jesus Christ today. Paul would have been delighted to see these brethren zealously affected in the gospel he had first preached to them. He was deeply grieved, however, at hearing that they were so readily moved into the bondage of the law.
It was Paul’s desire to see them fired up about the truth of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to be zealously affected by that whether he was present with them or not. Paul understood that it was not about him, and he expected the brethren to understand the same. This was so important to Paul that he compared it to being in labor. The situation was such that Paul felt as though he were laboring to give birth to them again. He desired for the peace of Christ to be displayed in their lives rather than the bondage of the law.
His love for them and for Christ was such that he had apparently already labored diligently with them, and thought them to be grounded in the precious truth of salvation by grace. Now he finds them ready to give that up to appease some of the Jews by adopting a legal worship, which is only going to bring these he views as his children into bondage. No parent who truly loves their children wants to see them enslaved to anything that is not good. Paul finds himself once again seeking to affirm and establish with them that their hope and confidence is in Christ alone. He does not want to abandon them to their bondage, but instead confesses to them that he longs to be with them. Finally, he tells them “I don’t like using this tone with you (change my voice), but I am at a loss (stand in doubt).”
We should find ourselves as deeply concerned about the church as Paul was. Paul demonstrated in his exhortation that he, too, was zealously affected. Paul was zealously affected in a good thing: his was fired up to see these brethren renounce this bondage that was being foisted upon them. His love was such that he was not about to just stand by and sadly watch them be led away.
May we be zealously affected today to withstand the bondage of men and exalt the truth of Jesus Christ without fail for the good of those we love!