“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 bad motives.
They zealously court you, but for no good;
The legalists were zealous. Zeal in itself is not good, but zeal for truth is good. Their courting the Galatians was unadulterated manipulation. They did not seek the good of the Galatians, but their own 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 wanted to introduce merit into salvation and sanctification. In order to do this, they had to lock out Paul from having any influence on the Galatians. The ultimate aim is to get the Galatians to follow them.
that you may be zealous for them
The double use of “zealous” shows the motivation behind the legalizing Judaizers. The Judaizers zealously courted the Galatians to persuade them to join their camp. They were not interested in the truth; they were interested in a following. The end justifies 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 them.
Flattery always blinds us to truth.
Many naive Christians use zeal as their sole criterion for determining whether something is true. They figure if a person shows passion about something, then it must be real. This may be true sometimes, but there is more than just one reason why people show passion about something. To hold to this single criterion for determining truth is to put oneself at great danger of being swayed by something other than 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).