Being Zealously Sought
Passages that deal with the problem of the Judaizing teachers of Bible times have a far greater significance for us today than we often realize. For this reason these passages should be carefully studied. The Judaizing teacher was a member of the church who disrupted the church and its work by binding upon brethren that which God had not bound. He insisted that brethren follow his opinions. But it happened that the practices advocated by these opinions were unauthorized and constituted adding to the word. We may find the Judaizing teacher today in the militant liberal who has a promotion to push, in the modernist who does not respect the silence of the scriptures, or in the factious crank who foists his interpretation of the passages on brethren or insists on specifics where God authorizes generally. He appears many places and in many different guises.
Note Galatians 4:17-18 from three translations:
Revised Standard Version: "They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. For a good purpose it is always good to be made much of, and not only when I am present with you."
American Standard Version: "They zealously seek you in no good way, nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them. But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you."
Lenski's translation: "They are zealously seeking you in a way not honorable but want _ lock you up in order that you may zealously seek them. Now it is honorable to be zealously sought in an honorable thing at all times and not only when I am present with you."
Here are Judaizing teachers who were troubling the Galatian brethren. See Gal. 1:7. They were trying to add the old law to the gospel, forcing the Galatians to observe their opinions about religious matters (circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, etc.). Their teaching was false; what they sought to bind on the brethren was unauthorized. The same thing goes on today. Practices change, but principles remain the same!
In order to win the Galatians to their opinion they were "zealously seeking" them. They were courting them, trying to gain their favor. But they were doing this "in no good way;" "for no good purpose;" "in a way not honorable." What was their purpose? They wanted to "shut them out" or "lock them up" (have them to themselves) so that the Galatians would seek only them. They were especially anxious that they didn't seek Paul.
Along comes the peddler of a false doctrine. He does everything under the sun to win brethren over to his way of thinking. All he wants is for them "to do it his way," follow him, go along with him. In order to do this, he has to get the brethren to denounce everybody who doesn't agree with him. He locks up the brethren to himself (and those who support him), and gets the brethren to seek him and have nothing to do with those who teach the truth.
But is it wrong to zealously seek folks? Of course not, If it is done honorably! The only honorable way is by preaching the truth, the word of God, as Paul did.
But notice verse 18. It is good to be zealously sought in the right way, that is, by the gospel. Therefore, it is not right to be zealously sought by error, as the Galatians were allowing. The blame is not entirely on the false teacher. Any Christian or any congregation which allows himself or itself to be sought dishonorably, wooed and courted by false teachers, is doing wrong. We ought to know better. It doesn't matter how nice the folks are who do the seeking, or how wonderful is the personality of the seeking preacher . . . a Christian must not allow himself to be enticed by error!
They seek us, yes. They want us in order to separate us from anyone and everyone who teaches the truth in disagreement with them. Read what Paul wishes for such false teachers in Gal. 5:12.
On the other hand, let us make sure that when we zealously seek folks we do so only with the truth, and for the express purpose of teaching them the truth! Let's do more honorable zealous seeking than the enemies of truth seek in a dishonorable way. To seek others with the truth, and to be sought ourselves with the truth, is right AT ALL TIMES!
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 12, pp. 7-8 September 1966