“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”
Verse 10 transitions from the introduction into the body of the epistle.
With the word “for,” Paul justifies his harsh words in verses eight and nine. He does not please people by pronouncing a curse on those who do not remain faithful to the gospel of grace (Ga 1:8-9).
do I now persuade men, or God?
Paul now answers allegations that he trimmed his message of grace to gain a following. The legalists were out to discredit the message behind his apostleship. If they could undermine his apostleship, they would sabotage his message of grace. Paul will defend the legitimacy of his apostleship throughout the first two chapters.
The word “persuade” means to bring about a change of mind by the influence of reason. The idea here is to gain someone’s approval. Is Paul trying to win man’s approval or God’s approval? Paul was not a man of blind ambition. He would never emasculate the gospel to attract a following. He did not try to win people to himself but to his message. Expediency is never proper when it comes to truth.
“Now” indicates a time when Paul lived to please people. That was his primary motive when he was a Pharisee. Now that he is a Christian, he no longer pleases men by adapting his message to something other than God’s grace.
The legalists implied that Paul toned down the legal requirements of the gospel to make the gospel more palatable to the Galatians. They suggested that he altered the gospel of works to win them, “He is on a power trip and is in the business of personal kingdom building.” They attacked his person hoping to undermine his message. “He is just someone who compromises his message to gain a following.”
Accommodation sacrifices truth for the sake of conciliating people and winning their favor. Paul was not in the business of accommodating the prevailing views of culture or what men think. He did use methodological expediency in 1 Corinthians 9:22. He was in the business of gaining the approval of God by His message of grace. Clearly, he was out to earn God’s approval, not men’s acceptance. He did not use gimmicks in reaching people for Christ. He did not flatter them by making them feel they could contribute to their salvation or sanctification.
Or do I seek to please men?
Paul’s enemies accused him of using a corrupt method of adjusting his message to fit the circumstance. Legalists charged him with teaching grace to curry favor with the Galatians. Grace does not require working for one’s salvation but accepting it as a “gift” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
We gain God’s approval when we are true to the message of God’s grace.
There is always a tension in evangelism between using methods of accommodation and compromising the message. It is one thing to adapt your strategy to reach those without Christ, but it is another to adjust your message to win them.
Paul made cultural and stylistic changes in his methods for reaching people (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), for he did not want the culture to confuse the message. However, he never bent his message to fit the people he wanted to reach.
In the seeker service approach today, there is a danger in diluting the message so that the unchurched cannot decipher the true gospel. The seeker service methodology is biblical to the extent that it communicates the gospel so that people in the twenty-first century can understand it. The method of the seeker service is not biblical if it modifies the message in any way. If we adjust the gospel to gain a following, we are in the business of currying favor with men. There is no biblical justification for flattering men to gain a following.
We become religious shadow boxers if we trim the edges off the gospel. We are not in the business of winning a popularity contest when presenting the truth of the gospel. Truth is as rigid as the multiplication table and cannot be bent and adapted even to an unchurched culture.
When we perform a religious toe-dance with a gospel of latitude, we dance the gospel right out of God’s ballroom. The unadulterated gospel of grace is not popular, for it is not easy to tell people that they are lost and need a Savior and that the only way they can be saved is by a Savior. Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary to give them eternal life; He did all the suffering required for our sins. People want to hear that they can do something about their salvation.