“They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.”
Paul now challenges the Galatians to change their attitude toward him (Galatians 17-20). He warns them of being manipulated by the wrong motives of the legalists.
They zealously court you, but for no good;
The legalists were zealous. Zeal in itself is not good, but enthusiasm for the truth is good. Their courting of the Galatians was unadulterated manipulation. They did not seek the good of the Galatians but for their personal gain.
yes, they want to exclude you,
The word “exclude” means to shut out. The legalists wanted to shut the Galatians out of grace. They tried to introduce merit into salvation and sanctification. To do this, they had to remove the apostle Paul from having any influence on the Galatians. Their ultimate aim was to persuade the Galatians to follow them.
that you may be zealous for them
The double use of “zealous” in this verse shows the motivation behind the legalizing Judaizers. These people zealously courted the Galatians to persuade them to join their camp. They were not interested in the truth; they aimed to obtain a following. The end justified the means, so their group became an end in itself. They did not truly love the Galatians but only used them. Legalists preyed on the Galatians so that they would unite behind these distorters of truth.
Flattery always blinds us to the truth.
Many naive Christians use zeal as their sole criterion for determining whether something is true. They figure that it must be real if a person shows passion for something. This may be true sometimes, but there is more than just one reason why people show passion for something. To hold to this single criterion for determining truth is to put oneself in great danger of being swayed by something other than unadulterated truth.
The usual method whereby false teachers mislead their followers is to demonstrate great zeal for their subject. Most cults display great concern for prospective followers. Their true interest is power lust. They use religious means to satisfy their hunger for power. False teachers will fawn all over people to get their attention.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light [not darkness]. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).