COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 6
Gal 1:10 “ For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Galatians 1:10
TWO QUESTIONS AND A CONCLUSION
The motives of those who preach and teach are a critical matter. WHAT a person delivers to the people is serious, to be sure. However, WHY he did it is also duly noted in heaven. Paul once spoke of those who preached Christ “of envy and strife” (Phil 1:15). Other versions read “envy and rivalry.” NIV He went on to say of those individuals, they “do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ” NLT (Phil 1:17). He did not draw back from assigning ignoble motives to some. As in his words to the Galatians, he was evaluating the fruit that was produced by such preaching. Even though it may have sounded right, and even appeared to be in harmony with apostolic doctrine, the results it yielded were not those of the “truth of the Gospel” (Gal 2:5,14; Col 1:5). The real Gospel never produces results that are out of harmony with God’s revealed objective. That objective includes conforming men to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), growing up into Christ in all things (Eph 4:15), delivering us from this present evil world (Gal 1:4), and preparing us to be presented to the Lord “without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Eph 5:27). The Gospel, and the power that is resident in it, effectively works to this end. It cannot be used to promote sectarianism, or at-homeness in this world. Such objectives are accomplished only though “another gospel.” As soon, therefore, as professed Christian people begin to consistently come short of these revealed objectives, it is owing to the embrace of a fraudulent message. Knowing the truth results in that truth making men free – free from the world, free from the dominion of sin, and free from the seductive power of the wicked one. Paul will now state his own motivation which, by contrast, exposes the character of the proponents of the Gospel that had turned the heads of the Galatians. His mind-set is not a private one, but is rather the result of Paul believing the Gospel that he preached. He had embraced the “truth of the Gospel,” and that had shaped his motives. He had, in fact, “tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet 2:3), and it had shaped the total manner in which he thought and reasoned. His frame of mind is put into words in one of his letters to the Corinthians: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor 5:14). “All” are dead in the sense of no longer living for themselves (2 Cor 5:15). Now Paul will develop this point.
DO I PERSUADE MEN OR GOD?
Gal 1:10a “ For do I now persuade men, or God? . . .” Other versions read, “seeking the favor of,” NASB”trying to win the approval of,” NIV “seeking human approval,” NRSV “using arguments to men,” BBE “seek to satisfy,” DARBY “preach I man’s doctrine, or God’s.” GENEVA “currying favor,” NAB “trying to convince,” NJB “trying to win man over,” IE and “trying to conciliate.” MONTGOMERY
NOW. Paul does not refer to his past, but to what he is doing “now.” That is, he is referring to “now” that he is an apostle “by Jesus Christ, and God the Father.” Previously, he made clear that he was NOT an apostle “of men, neither by men” (1:1). That is, he was not sent out through any body of men, or by any specific man. AMPLIFIED Men were not the reason for his ministry, Jesus Christ and God the Father were. If it were not for the will of the Lord, he would neither be an apostle, nor be engaged in the work of preaching and teaching. They were the whole reason for what he was doing. To put it another way, he was approaching life with what he was in Christ being dominant in his mind. He was not approaching life with a worldly career mind-set. That is the way Paul started his ministry, and that is the way he continued it.
DO I NOW PERSUADE MEN? The word “persuade” has the following etymological meaning: “to make friends of, win one's favor, gain one's good-will” THAYER Here, Paul is not speaking of the substance of preaching, but of the reason for it. WHY does he preach? Is God the prominent motivation, or men? Is he trying to build an institution, start a church, impact the community, or be popular? Is he promoting an organization, or trying to get more people into it.
Paul is not courting the favor of men – trying to get them on his side, so to speak. He is not like those false prophets of whom he warned the Ephesian elders. They make a hearty effort to “draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Gamaliel spoke of a Jew, Theudas by name, who boasted himself to be somebody, and gathered men around him and his cause (Acts 20:30). He added that Theudas was “slain,” which abruptly ended his crusade, and scattered those who had gathered to him. Once Paul spoke with a Roman captain who asked him if he was “that Egyptian, which before these days made an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers” (Acts 21:39). Jesus charged the scribes and pharisees with compassing land and sea to make one proselyte, then making him “twofold more a child of hell” than themselves (Matt 23:15).
Those who seek to persuade men, or make it their aim to garner men for their personal cause, are without number during these days. These are men who call their lands, and ministries, after their own names. The psalmist wrote of them, “Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names” (Psa 49:11). In this very town there are a significant number of ministries that are making strong efforts to get people to support their work. They present their cause, plead for the support of the people, and engage in all manner of fund-raising for their projects. They are seeking to “persuade men,” Whatever you may think of their work, and the nobility of their cause, Paul asks this penetrating question – is that what he was doing? Was he courting the favor of the people for a private agenda, or for some work that he was managing?
OR DO I NOW PERSUADE GOD? Or, was Paul seeking the favor of God Almighty? Was that the underlying reason for what he was doing? Indeed, it was! He had forsaken personal ambitions in order to know Christ and be found in Him with the righteousness that comes by faith (Phil 3:7-13). That was the reason for the totality of his ministry. Every other legitimate reason came under that canopy. He knew very well that “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Cor 4:2).
Paul’s life did not center in Himself. In this respect, he reflected the Divine nature. When Jesus was arrested in the garden, the powers of darkness had been loosed against him. Not knowing the details of that occasion, Peter drew his sword and attacked the foe, cutting off the ear of Malchus. Jesus replied, “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Matt 26:52-54). At that most critical hour, Jesus was not seeking to gather men to His cause. He had already prayed that the Father’s will would be done (v 42). It is God’s favor that he was seeking, not that of men – not even His own.
That is truly the proper frame of mind for every servant of God. However, in our time, this is an exceedingly difficult mind-set to maintain. It will set your peers against you, who are eager to promote their own cause. Notwithstanding the difficulty this creates, the preeminent concern for ever servant of Christ is to realize the favor and blessing of the Lord. This will not come because they have done a good job or organizing, promoting, and garnering disciples for themselves or some cause created by men. Rather, being found favorable in God’s sight will be the point.
DO I SEEK TO PLEASE MEN?
1:10b “ . . . or do I seek to please men?. . .” Other versions read, “striving to please men,” NASB “give men pleasure,” BBE “trying to cater to people,” CJB and “please you by sweet talk and flattery.” LIVING
NOT A REDUNDANT WORD. This expression may appear to be a redundancy, but it is not. The first part of the verse (persuade men), speaks of an effort to bring men to his own cause and way of thinking. The second part speaks of trying to adapt to what the people want or prefer. In the first, the will of preacher is the point. In the second, it is the will of the people that shapes the message and labors of the speaker.
PREACHING WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT TO HEAR. Today there is an endless parade of men who preach what the people want to hear. Some of them even ask the people what they want to hear, doing so because there is no message burning in their hearts. Some of the largest congregations in our country were initiated and shaped by surveys that captured the religious desires and preferences of the people.
In speaking of a coming apostasy, Paul said this kind of thinking would direct what was preached and taught among professed Christians. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim 4:3-4). The first part of our verse describes preachers and teachers heaping disciples unto themselves. The second part addresses the matter of the people heaping teachers to themselves, who will satisfy their carnal quests, making them feel comfortable and fulfilled within the framework of religion. The desires of such people have been cultured by turning their ears away from the truth in the preference for other things. They “will not put up with sound doctrine,” NIV settling only for spiritual froth, fables, and things that tickle itching ears. Those who speak the truth actually become enemies of such people. As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal 4:16).
Isaiah encountered people who had no appetite for the Lord. His language concerning them is most precise. “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us” (Isa 30:10-11). The latter verse reads this way in the NIV: “Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!" Isaiah refused to yield to the people. Like Paul he did not tailor his message for souls that had no fundamental interest in the Living God.
FLATTERING WORDS. Jude spoke of those who catered to the whims of the people as those who “speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage” (Jude 1:16). Flattering speech is seeking to please men – shaping the message so that carnal people will be content. Paul told the Thessalonians he never preached in such a manner. “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness” (1 Thess 2:5). Paul also said to the Corinthians, “And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom” (1 Cor 2:4). He did not seek to please men! Rather, he spoke “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.” He did this for a holy reason: “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5).
YIELDING TO FADS. Faddish and in-vogue preaching is an effort to please men. It is wrong to preach or teach in such a manner. Paul said it this way: “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess 2:4). The thing that makes pleasing men wrong is that the message to be declared has been given by God. It is not a message that requires periodic updating. Nor, indeed, is it a message that eventually becomes obsolete. The Lord has made absolutely no provision for replacing the message that He has given. It is a message that pleases Him, for it focuses on His Beloved Son, and announces an atoning sacrifice that “satisfied” Him (Isa 53:11). It is a message that “is the power of God unto salvation,” and is accompanied by “the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” NKJV (1 Pet 1:12). How could God possibly be pleased with any other message being preached – whatever men may think of such a message.
THE GALATIAN DILEMMA. The Galatians had been bewitched into accepting a fraudulent message. It had so impacted them, that they had lost their respect for Paul and what he taught. That is what a false message does. It not only diverts those who accept it to another emphasis, but also develops in them a disdain for the truth itself. For example, as soon as a person buys into a salvation that is by works, there is an accompanying disdain for the grace of God, the election of God, the intercession of Christ, the empowerment of the Spirit, and a host of other things. That is why whole bodies of people are not hearing these things preached. It is why a level of unprecedented ignorance concerning them exists in the professed church. The preachers and teachers of such congregations have been catering to the desires of men.
THERE IS AN APPROACH THAT SEVERS FROM CHRIST
1:10c . . . for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Other versions read, “would not be a bondservant,” NKJV “would not be a slave,” CSB and “not be Christ’s servant,” NLT
IF I YET. Other versions read, “if I still,” NKJV “still trying,” NASB and “if I were still doing that.” CSB In my understanding, this does not suggest that Paul ever sought to please men – even prior to being called to be an apostle. In truth he confessed before the Jews, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Prior to being in Christ, even when he persecuted the church, Paul was not trying to please men. He confessed before Agrippa, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9). He did not receive that impression from men, but from his conscience. We know this is the case because he himself actually initiated a persecution against the church, not at the behest of Jewish leaders (Acts 9:1-2).
What this means, therefore, is “if” he was considered to be a pleaser of men – a notion he zealously and consistently sought to dispel. Before a governor Paul witnessed, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). Note: not that he might please men, but that he might maintain a good conscience.
THE TEXT IS CLEAR. There is no ambiguity in the text. If Paul was, in fact, serving men, then he would have been terminated as a servant of Christ. He would not be employed by Jesus. Jesus would not work through Him in the fulfillment of His purpose. Jesus would not teach Him, direct him, or empower him. No results would be yielded through him that were in strict harmony with the eternal purpose of God. The same is true of anyone who makes it his aim to please men.
WHAT OF THOSE WHO ARE NOT SERVANTS OF CHRIST? What is involves in NOT being the servant of Christ? We are not left to conjecture on this. Such men are to be avoided, shunned, and refused entrance into the church. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:17-18). Elsewhere Paul also speaks of those who serve their own belly in this way: “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19). Jesus said it is not possible to serve two masters (Lk 16:13). A soon, therefore, as anyone begins to please men, or serve their interests, he is no longer in Christ’s employ.
PLEASING MEN VOIDS THE POWER OF GOD. God will not underwrite a message that is designed to please the people – particularly a people who have no appetite for Him. When a preacher or teacher degenerates into words and methodologies that are pleasing to, and accepted by carnal minds, they at once become powerless. The work and blessing of God cannot be facilitated by such means. God is not with such people.
This is the reason a “falling away” is characterized by powerless religion (2 Tim 3:5). It is because the appetites and preferences of men are driving the whole system. In the words of the sophist, “Helping people is what we are all about.” It all sounds nice – even thoughtful, to some degree. However, what does it really mean to “help people.” When Paul was called into Macedonia, he was given a vision of a man crying out, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). It is said of Apollos, he “helped them much which had believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). Paul said Priscilla and Aquila were his “helpers” (Rom 16:3), and Urbane as well (Rom 16:9). Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he and those with him were “helpers of” their “joy” (2 Cor 1:24). In Scripture, the word “help” is defined as an action that succors, aids, and assists. Related words are maintenance, nourishment, and support. In other words, genuine “help” aids people in their quest Godward, strengthening their faith, enhancing the joy, and stabilizing their hope. As strange as it may sound, mundane problem resolution is more related to the Old Covenant than the New. That is what their “judges” were for (Ex 21:6; 22:8; Deut 25:1) Precisely where is such a ministry said to be within the church, or body of Christ? Admittedly, showing mercy may be akin to it, but that has to do with the resolution of a situation, not counseling one through it.
PAUL MAKES IT CLEAR. Thus Paul makes it clear that he is not writing to pacify the people in Galatia. He is not targeting to make them feel good about themselves, or to sanction the teachers to whom they had given their ears. He was writing as a servant of Christ, not an expert in problem resolution or behavior adjustment. He was not attempting to garner them for his own, or add to the number of people that were “of Paul” (1 Cor 1:12). It was not that they had ceased to support him, and he was trying to solicit their renewed support. He was not writing them in order that they might have happy and successful lives. His letter had exclusively to do with their association with the Lord Jesus Christ, and their attainment of glory. Whether they liked to hear it or not, they were in a precarious position, and Paul himself was in danger of having wasted his time among them. Now, that is how a servant of Christ talks and writes.