For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:4)
Paul knew Who his Master was. He opens his letter to the Galatians by saying he was sent out “through Jesus Christ and God the Father” (Gal. 1:1). Paul elsewhere labels his calling a “steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1), and “an ambassador for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). Here in Galatians the term is bond-servant, or better, a slave. This signifies how he belonged to Christ and was under the authority of Christ. Thus, when he preached, he was going to preach how and what his Master told him to preach.
God is the One Who sent him on the mission; therefore, God is the One Whom he shall obey. A “preacher” who does not fear God may think he can get away with deceit, yet God will detect his hypocrisy, love of wealth, and hidden agenda.Preaching to please God and preaching to please man are mutually exclusive (Gal 1:10). Click To Tweet
When a pastor gets up in the pulpit, or a street preacher stands before a crowd, or we sit down with a friend for coffee we have two options. Either we are going to arrange our message so as to please and find favor with men, or to please and find favor with God. These texts don’t give a middle option; it is one or the other. We see in these texts that they are mutually excusive in that pleasing men is not going to please Christ, and that pleasing Christ is not going to please men.
A preacher for men is going to “tickle their ears” by telling them whatever is “in accordance with their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3). A preacher for men is going to use “smooth and flattering speech” (Rom. 16:18), “persuasive words of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:4), or “philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). On the other hand, a preacher for God will speak “in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 2:17; 12:19) and will “understand the terror of the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:11).
Preachers are tempted to please men
For example, one time I was sharing the gospel with a group of homosexuals. One of them tore up the tract I had given him and said, “If this speaks against homosexuality then I want nothing to do with it.” In that situation, a “preacher” who is seeking to please men would say, “No no no! Paul was only talking about first-century practices of temple prostitution!” However, a man after God’s heart would not let the man continue in his rebellion against God, and would tell him to repent of that sin–as well as all the other sins.
Another example: When we are evangelizing and the person says they are Catholic, what do we say? If we desire to please men, we would say they are our brother or sister. We will let the world’s distaste for doctrine and division shadow the vast differences between the two religions. However, if we are to please God we must address the issues of the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement, sola fide, and many others. That is why when I’m witnessing and one says they go to any church or belongs to any denomination, I follow up with the question, “What does your church teach about Jesus Christ?” or “Explain how one can have eternal life,” or “On what grounds do you base your salvation?”
These probing questions are necessary because of the prominence of nominal Christianity in our country. We must dig deeper than one’s church attendance because church attendance is by no means grounds for acceptance with God. We must dig deeper than ‘Do you believe in Jesus?’ because Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many evangelicals living in sin “believe in Jesus” also.
Now there is a flip side to this: What happens when we don’t please men with our preaching? This is what happened to Paul with this group of Christians in Galatia. Paul asks them, “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16). He says that he has lost the sense of blessing he previously had with them (v. 15). To Paul, however, preserving friendships is not worth compromising on the truth.
Preaching to please God brings persecution
Another side effect of not pleasing men with our preaching is that persecution will come. In 5:11 Paul asks, “If I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?” This seems to make sense: when we don’t tell people what they want to hear, they get angry. We see this all throughout the apostles’ ministries. In response to the preaching of Peter and the apostles, the Council “was cut to the quick and intended to kill them” (Acts 5:33). In response to Stephen’s preaching, the people “were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54).
On the flip side, those who seek to please men are going to avoid persecution. The heretics who crept into the Galatian church tried to have them circumcised in order “that they will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Gal. 5:12). We must instead have an apostolic attitude in the face of persecution. Paul knew that in every city he would be persecuted (Acts 20:23), yet he counted his life as worthless if it meant fulfilling his mission (v. 24). Paul was ready to be “not only bound, but even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).
How is your preaching?
Let us now examine our own hearts. Do we think of God as our Master when we are sharing the gospel with the lost? Do we fear losing friendships? Do we fear telling somebody that their god is false? Do we fear persecution or gaining enemies?
By God’s grace we can instead have the same confidence as Paul when we preach the gospel, knowing that it is “the power of God unto salvation for all who believe,” (Rom. 1:16). Instead of relying on commercialism and growth techniques to bring people into our buildings, may we depend upon the Spirit to give us boldness to speak (Acts 4:31), and to convict our audience of their sins (John 16:8-9). Instead of boasting in the dead works of men or letting our hearers rest in their good deeds, may we “boast in nothing but the cross” (Gal. 6:14) as the only means of acceptance before God.