“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 the tough words he used in verses eight and nine. By pronouncing a curse on those who do not remain true to the gospel of grace (vv. 8-9), he does not please people.
do I now persuade men, or God?
Paul now answers allegations that he trimmed his message to gain a following. The legalists were out to discredit the message behind his apostleship. If they could undermine his apostleship, they would undermine his message of grace. Paul defends 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 men’s approval or God’s approval? Paul is not a man of blind ambition. He would never emasculate the gospel to attract a following. He is not trying to win people to himself but to his message. Expediency is never proper when it comes to truth.
The word “now” indicates that there was 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.
The legalists implied that Paul toned down the legal requirements of the gospel to make the gospel more palatable to the Galatians. They implied that he altered the message in order to win them, “He is on a power trip and is in the business of kingdom building.” They attacked his person hoping to undermine his message. “He is just someone who compromises his message in order 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 men [although he did use expediency (1 Corinthians 9:22)]. He was in the business of gaining the approval of God by his message of grace. Clearly, he is out to gain God’s approval, not men’s approval. He does not use gimmicks in reaching people for Christ. He does not flatter them by making them feel they can contribute to their salvation or sanctification.
Or do I seek to please men?
Paul’s enemies accused him of using the corrupt method of adjusting his message to fit the circumstance. The legalists charged him with teaching grace in order to curry favor with the Galatians. Grace does not require working for one’s salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9).
We gain God’s approval when we are true to our message.
There is always a tension in evangelism between using methods of accommodation and compromising the message. It is one thing to adapt your method to reach those without Christ but it another thing to adapt 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 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 it is an accommodation to the culture of people in the 21st century. The methodology of the seeker service is not biblical if it modifies the message. If we adapt the message to reach people, then we are in the business of currying favor with men. There is no biblical justification for flattering men to gain a following.
If we trim the edges off the gospel, we become religious shadow boxers. We are not in the business of winning a popularity contest when it comes to 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. People want to hear that they can do something about their salvation.