The negative example of the rival teachers provides another reason for following Paul's example. They were exclusive and divisive in their relationships. They had launched an aggressive campaign to win the allegiance of the Galatian Christians—but, Paul declares, for no good. They were jealous leaders who envied the Galatian Christians' affectionate relationship with Paul. So they sought to alienate the Galatian believers from Paul. Literally, the verb alienate means "shut out" or "exclude." Although Paul does not actually say from whom this exclusion was desired, his focus here on his relationship with his readers indicates clearly that the rival teachers intended to alienate the Galatian Christians from Paul.
All too often leaders in the church seem to be more interested in the exclusive personal attachment of their followers to themselves than in the spiritual growth and unity of the entire body of Christ. Of course, as Paul admits in verse 18, it is not wrong to be zealous to win the affection of others, as long as it is for their welfare. But by the very way Paul states this general principle, he calls us to be careful lest we court the affections of others for our own selfish advantage or are courted in such a way ourselves.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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