Sunday, 7 February 2016
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Paul begins this verse with the Greek arti gar – “For now.” The use of the adverb arti, rather than the more common word for now, nun, is used to indicate “here-and-now; exactly now, in the immediate present” (HELPS Word Studies). James Strong says that it indicates to “draw close together.” For this reason, these words of Paul are probably not speaking of his former life in Judaism which is just now being contrasted with his conduct in Christ. He has been converted for almost a quarter of a century at this point.
Rather, he is making an immediate connection with the words he just expressed –
“As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”
The “right now” attitude which he is expressing gives the thought of, “It is necessary to leave off with my usual way of greeting a church in my letter and to be stern and direct. If the matter weren’t so urgent, I would give a happy and friendly greeting. However, at this time, the matter is so urgent that it is just not possible.”
The urgency has prompted him to simply open the letter and move directly into a curse upon those would attempt to “persuade men.” The word “persuade” is not the intent here, though. It is better translated as “seek approval of.” Paul is concerned about the Galatians looking for the approval of the false apostles; something he was completely unwilling to do. In contrast, he would rather seek God’s approval than that of any man.
In addition to seeking approval, he next asks, “Or do I seek to please men?” The false apostles were doing just that. If they were seeking to please God, they would hold fast to the true gospel of Jesus Christ – salvation by grace through faith. Instead, they were seeking to please men through the observance of matters of the law; a law which was set aside by the work of Christ. This leads directly to his final proclamation of this verse –
“For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.”
Paul had come out of the Old Testament system; the Law of Moses. This was certainly displeasing to those who were still under it. But that law was fulfilled. It was annulled, it was set aside, and it was nailed to the cross. If he were a men-pleaser, he would still be pursuing works of the law, and he would still be teaching others to do those works – “Don’t eat!” “Don’t touch!” “Observe the Sabbath!” “Get circumcised!”
But because Christ had fulfilled those and established a New Covenant of grace, Paul determined that he would “be a bondservant of Christ” rather than under the bondage of the law. He had a new Master and his face was set on pleasing Him. There is only one choice that is set before man – either please men though some type of work and thus reject Christ, or follow Christ and willingly receive what He has done, putting aside the works of the flesh.
Life application: Galatians is given to show us the utter severity of not receiving and adhering to the finished work of Christ. It is only though a complete submission to Him that we can be saved. We must realize that there is NO WORK which we can do in order to please God except to receive the completed work of His Son. This is why Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:29
Heavenly Father, help us to get our thinking straight. If Jesus died in fulfillment of the law, then the law is fulfilled. If we return to deeds of the law in an attempt to be acceptable to You, then we have rejected what You have already done and have set out to seek our own righteousness. Was the cross that meaningless to us? No! Help us to understand that we stand justified by faith in Christ alone. I put my hope in His work alone! Amen.