Galatians 4:18
But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.—A disinterested zeal between teachers and taught is indeed good in itself. The Apostle does not wish to dissuade the Galatians from that. He would be only too glad to see such a mutual interchange himself—in his absence as well as in his presence. It seems a mistake to refer this either to the Galatians alone or to St. Paul alone. The proposition is stated in a general form, so as to cover both. It is right to be zealously affected always. Their eager zeal should not have its ebbs and flows, but should subsist constantly, whether those between whom it is felt are present together or not.

In a good thing.—This expression corresponds to “but not well” in the last verse, and means honestly, disinterestedly, with a view to the spread of the gospel, and not to personal ascendancy.

4:12-18 The apostle desires that they would be of one mind with him respecting the law of Moses, as well as united with him in love. In reproving others, we should take care to convince them that our reproofs are from sincere regard to the honour of God and religion and their welfare. The apostle reminds the Galatians of the difficulty under which he laboured when he first came among them. But he notices, that he was a welcome messenger to them. Yet how very uncertain are the favour and respect of men! Let us labour to be accepted of God. You once thought yourselves happy in receiving the gospel; have you now reason to think otherwise? Christians must not forbear speaking the truth, for fear of offending others. The false teachers who drew the Galatians from the truth of the gospel were designing men. They pretended affection, but they were not sincere and upright. An excellent rule is given. It is good to be zealous always in a good thing; not for a time only, or now and then, but always. Happy would it be for the church of Christ, if this zeal was better maintained.But it is good to be, zealously affected - The meaning of this is, "Understand me: I do not speak against zeal. I have not a word to say in its disparagement. In itself, it is good; and their zeal would be good if it were in a good cause." Probably, they relied much on their zeal; perhaps they maintained, as errorists and deceivers are very apt to do, that zeal was sufficient evidence of the goodness of their cause, and that persons who are so very zealous could not possibly be bad men. How often is this plea set up by the friends of errorists and deceivers!

And not only when I am present with you - It seems to me that there is great adroitness and great delicacy of irony in this remark; and that the apostle intends to remind them as gently as possible, that it would have been as well for them to have shown their zeal in a good cause when he was absent, as well as when he was with them. The sense may be, "You were exceedingly zealous in a good cause when I was with you. You loved the truth; you loved me. Since I left you, and as soon almost as I was out of your sight, your zeal died away, and your ardent love for me was transferred to others. Allow me to remind you, that it would be well to be zealous of good when I am away, as well as when I am with you. There is not much true affection in that which dies away as soon as a man's back is turned." The doctrine is, that true zeal or love will live alike when the object is near and when it is removed; when our friends are present with us, and when they leave us; when their eye is upon us, and when it is turned away.

18. good to be zealously affected—rather, to correspond to "zealously court" in Ga 4:18, "to be zealously courted." I do not find fault with them for zealously courting you, nor with you for being zealously courted: provided it be "in a good cause" (translate so), "it is a good thing" (1Co 9:20-23). My reason for saying the "not well" (Ga 4:17; the Greek is the same as that for "good," and "in a good cause," in Ga 4:28), is that their zealous courting of you is not in a good cause. The older interpreters, however, support English Version (compare Ga 1:14).

always—Translate and arrange the words thus, "At all times, and not only when I am present with you." I do not desire that I exclusively should have the privilege of zealously courting you. Others may do so in my absence with my full approval, if only it be in a good cause, and if Christ be faithfully preached (Php 1:15-18).

It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing: the apostle, in the former verses, had been speaking of a great zeal, or warmth of affection, (for that zeal signifieth), which these Galatians had for and declared towards him, when he first preached the gospel amongst them; and also of a great warmth and degree of affection which these false tcachers had pretended to this church. These words are so delivered that they are applicable to either of these; but the latter words seem to make them most properly applicable to the former; so the term

always is emphatical: There was a time, when you were very warm in your love to me; the cause being good, your warmth of affection ought not to have abated, but continued always,

and not only while you saw me, and I was

present with you. But it is good to be zealously affected,.... A zealous affection when right is very commendable, as the instances of Phinehas, Elijah, John the Baptist, and our Lord Jesus Christ show, and a contrary spirit is very disagreeable. But then it must be expressed

in a good thing; in a good cause, for God, and the things of Christ; for the Gospel, and the ordinances of it, and for the discipline of God's house, and against immorality and profaneness, errors and heresies: and it should be "always"; not at certain times, and upon some particular accounts, but it should be constant, and always continue; it should be ever the same towards God, Christ, and his ministers:

and not only when I am present with you; by which the apostle suggests, that while he was with them they were zealously attached to him and truth; but no sooner was he gone from them, but their zealous affection abated, and was fixed on others, which discovered their weakness, fickleness, and inconstancy; whereas he was always the same to them, and bore the same love to them, as the following words show.

But it is good to be {s} zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

(s) He sets his own true and good love, which he earnestly held for them, against the wicked vicious love of the false apostles.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Galatians 4:18. Paul knew that the state of things mentioned in Galatians 4:17 was but too assuredly based upon reality. So long as he had been with them (on the first occasion, and still even during his short second visit), the Galatians had shown zeal in that which was good, viz. in the actual case: zeal for their apostle and his true gospel, as was their duty (consequently what was morally right and good). But after his departure this zeal veered round in favour of the Judaizing teachers and their doctrine. Hence the apostle continues, giving a gentle reproof, and for that reason expressing the first half of the sentence merely in a general form: “Good, however, is the becoming zealous in a good thing always, and not merely during my presence with you;” that is, “It is good when zealous endeavours are continuously applied in a good cause, and not merely,” etc. The chief emphasis rests on this πάντοτε with its antithesis. The special form, in which Paul has clothed his thought, arises from his inclination for deliberately using the same word in a modified shade of meaning (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 3:17, et al.; comp. Wilke, Rhetor, p. 343 f.). But the very point of this mode of expression requires that ζηλοῦσθαι should not be taken in a sense essentially different from the correct view of it in Galatians 4:17; consequently neither as invidiose tractari (Koppe), nor as to endure envy (Rückert), which, besides, cannot be conveyed by the simple passive. In Usteri’s view, Paul intends to say, “How much was I not the object of your ζῆλος (zeal and interest), when I was with you! But if it should cease again so soon after my departure from you, it must have lost much of its value.” But the very καὶ μὴ μόνον ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς plainly shows that Paul did not conceive himself as the object of the ζηλοῦσθαι; in order to be understood, he must have added this με to ζηλοῦσθαι, since there was no previous mention of himself as the object of the ζῆλος. This objection also applies to the view of Reiche, although the latter takes it more distinctly and sharply: “Bonum, honestum et salutare (Galatians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21), vero est, expeti aliorum studio et amore, modo et consilio honesto, ἐν καλῷ (conf. 2 Corinthians 11:2; Θωοῦ ζήλῳ), idque continuo ac semper πάντοτε, nec tantum praesente me inter vos.” But ἐν καλῷ[203] cannot mean “modo et consilio honesto” (this is expressed by καλῶς in Galatians 4:17); it denotes the object of the ζηλοῦσθαι, and that conceived of as the sphere in which the ζηλοῦσθαι takes place. Schott interprets, unsuitably to the καὶ μὴ μόνον κ.τ.λ. which follows: “Laudabile est, quovis tempore appeti vel trahi ad partes alicujus, si agitur de bono et honesto colendo.” So also, in substance, de Wette, with relation to the passive demeanour of the Galatians, and with an extension of the idea of the verb: “It is, however, beautiful to be the object of zealous attention in what is good,” by which are indicated the qualities and advantages on account of which people are admired, loved, and courted.[204] Similarly Ewald: “It is beautiful to be the object of zealous love in what is beautiful,” ζηλοῦσιν and ΖΗΛΟῦΤΕ in Galatians 4:17 being understood in a corresponding sense. But this interpretation also does not harmonize with the ΚΑῚ ΜῊ ΜΌΝΟΝ Κ.Τ.Λ. which follows; and hence Ewald changes the idea of ΖΗΛΟῦΣΘΑΙ into that of being worthy of love, and consequently into the sense of ζηλωτὸν εἶναι. Hofmann over-refines and obscures the correct apprehension of the passage, by bringing Galatians 4:18, in consequence of his erroneous reference of ὭΣΤΕ ἘΧΘΡῸς Κ.Τ.Λ. (see on Galatians 4:16), into connection with this sentence, considering the idea to be: “Just as his person had formerly been the object of their affection, it ought to have remained so, instead of his now being their enemy in consequence of the self-seeking solicitude with which his opponents take pains about them if he speaks to them the truth. For in his case the morally good had been the ground, on account of which he had been the object of their loving exertion,” etc. The earlier expositors,[205] as also Olshausen and Matthias (the latter in keeping with his factitive interpretation of the active), mostly take ζηλοῦσθαι as middle, in sense equivalent to ζηλοῦν, with very different definitions of the meaning,[206] but inconsistently with the usus loquendi.

[203] Ἐν καλῷ, used adverbially, means either at the fit time (Plat. Pol. ix. p. 571 B; Xen. Hell. iv. 3. 5) or at the suitable place (Xen. Hell. ii. 1. 25), and in general, fitly (see Sturz, Lex. Xen. II. p. 643), but does not occur in the N.T.

[204] Theophylact (comp. also Chrysostom and Theodoret) has evidently understood the passage substantively, just as de Wette: τοῦτο αἰνίττεται, ὡς ἄρα ζηλωτοὶ ἦσαν πᾶσιν ἐπὶ τῇ τελειότητι. Linguistically unobjectionable. Comp. Xen. Mem. ii. 1. 19: ἐπαινομένους κ. ζηλουμένους ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων. Sympos. 4. 45; Hiero, 1. 9; Eur. Alc. 903; Soph. El. 1016; Aesch. Pers. 698; Plat. Gorg. p. 473 C, ζηλωτὸς ὢν καὶ εὐδαιμονιζόμενος. See generally, Blomf. Gloss. Aesch. Prom. 338; Pierson, ad Moer. p. 169.

[205] Not all. The learned Grotius has evidently understood it passively: “Rectum erat, ut semper operam daretis, ut ego a vobis amari expeterem; est enim hoc amari honestum.” Also Michaelis (comp. Er. Schmidt): “It is good when others court our favour.” Both interpretations come very near to that of Usteri.

[206] Erasmus, Paraphr.: “Vidistis me legis ceremonias negligere, nihil praedicare praeter Christum, aemulabamini praesentem. Si id rectum erat, cur nunc absente me vultis alios aemulare in iis, quae recta non sunt?” Luther, 1524: “Bonum quidem est aemulari et imitari alios, sed hoc praestate in re bona semper, nunquam in mala, non tantum me praesente, sed etiam absente.” Comp. Calvin: “Imitari vel eniti ad alterius virtutem.” Beza: “At noster amor longe est alius; vos enim bonam ob causam non ad tempus, sed semper, non solum praesens, sed etiam absens absentes vehementissime complector.” Locke (ἐν καλῷ masculine): “Vos amabatis me praesentem tanquam bonum, fas itaque est idem facere in absentem.” Bengel: “Zelo zelum accendere, zelare inter se.” Morus: “Laudabile autem est, sectari praeceptorem in re bona semper, neque solum,” etc.; substantially, therefore, as Erasmus. Others interpret in various ways. Olshausen: “Paul desires to make known that he finds the zeal of the Galatians in itself very praiseworthy, and certainly would not damp it; and he therefore says, that the being zealous is good if it takes place on account of a good cause, and is maintained not merely in his presence, but also in his absence.” So already Calovius and others.Galatians 4:18. Καλὸν δὲ, but it is good) He advises them not to allow themselves to be excluded.—τὸ ζηλοῦσθαι) After the active he uses the middle. It is the duty of Paul in the name of Christ ζηλοῦν, 2 Corinthians 11:2 : it is the part of the Church, as the bride, ζηλοῦσθαι, to respond to the ardent love [of the Bridegroom and of His minister], to kindle zeal by zeal (see Chrys.), to be zealous for one another [zelare inter se, to love zealously among themselves]; τὸ makes an emphatic addition [Epitasis. See Append.]—ἐν καλῷ, in a good thing) when the matter in hand is good. ἐν τῷ παρεῖναι, when I am present, answers to this; and so also πάντοτε, always, corresponds to it. The latter is the time in general, while the expression, when I am present, is the time in particular, and that too modified so as at the same time to comprehend the ground of that zeal on their part, viz. that they had been able to exult, as they had done, at the presence of Paul: the ἐν καλῷ is in consonance with ἐν τῷ παρεῖναι, and may be taken with always for one idea, Whensoever any good thing is presented in your way, and not merely when I am present.—ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με, when I am present) They had formerly shown towards Paul, when present, great earnestness [zeal] of love, and had in turn sharpened the zeal of Paul, Galatians 4:15.Verse 18. - But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you (καλὸν δὲ ζηλοῦσθαι, [Receptus, τὸ ζηλοῦσθαι] ἐν καλῷ παντότε καὶ μὴ μόνον ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς); but good it is to be admired, in what is good, at all times and not only when I am present with you. That is, but as to being admired and felicitated, the good kind of admiring felicitation is that which, being tendered on a good account, is enjoyed at all times, and not only, my little children, when 1 am with you, as on that first occasion when you were so full of mutual felicitation and joy in the newly found sense of God's adoption and love in Christ Jesus. In signification, this ζηλοῦσθαι, to be admired, is equivalent to μακαρίζεσθαι, to be congratulated, and was illustrated in the first note on ver. 17, especially by the reference to Aristophanes, 'Nubes,' 1188. Ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν τῷ παρεῖναι με πρὸς ὑμας, "to be objects of admiration when I am present with you," is manifestly a recital of the μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν, "the gratulation of yourselves," of ver. 15. The vivid remembrance of the simple-hearted joy and frank sympathy with each other's happiness of those days comes back to the apostle's mind with fresh force, after his brief mention and rebuke of the false-hearted gratulations and compliments by which they were now in danger of being ensnared. With a gentle reprehension of their levity, in that they were now bartering that former well-founded happiness for this later poor gratification of being recipients of mere false flattery, he yearns to bring them back to what they were so senselessly casting away, and that they should hold it fast, a stable joy, whether he was with them or not. This would be the case if "Christ were truly formed in them." The phrase, ἐν καλῷ, "in what is good," is similar to ἐν κρυπτῷ (John 7:4); ὁ ἐν τῷ φανερῷ ἐν τῷ κρυπτῷ Ἰουδαῖος (Romans 2:28, 29). The sphere in which this admiring felicitation acts must be "what is good;" here that highest good which these Galatians were in danger of losing, if, indeed, they possessed it - being, and knowing themselves to be, sons of God. It is a doubtful point whether ver. 19 should be conjoined with this present verse, with a colon between vers. 19 and 20, and a comma only at the end of ver. 18; or whether the sentences should be separated as they appear in our Authorized Version. But at all events, the earnest, anxious, tender affectionateness which, as it were, wrings the apostle's heart in writing ver. 19, is to be felt already working in his soul in the writing of this eighteenth verse. The sense above given to the verb ζηλοῦν, though disallowed by Alford and Bishops Ellicott and Lightfoot, appears to be that recognized by the Greek commentators Chrysostom and Theophylact. It is good - in a good thing

Ζηλοῦσθαι to be zealously sought, in the same sense as before. It is passive. It is good for you Galatians to be zealously sought. In a good thing (ἐν καλῷ) answers to οὐ καλῶς not honorably, Galatians 4:17. In a good matter - the interest of the gospel. Thus Paul would say: "These Judaisers zealously strive to win you over to their views; but they do not do this in an honorable way. There is no harm in seeking to interest and enlist you, provided it is in a good cause."

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