People Pleasers – Galatians 1:10

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” –Galatians 1:10

It was freshman year, and I was sitting in history class. Like most classes in high school, we weren’t just focusing on history. Teachers always think they are witty that way. This class we were going to be having a debate: a good blend of social interaction, logic, and basic persuasion. What were we debating? Slavery.

When I was younger, I was a little weird (I know crazy, right?). This instance was no different. I would love to play “the devil’s advocate” in situations like this. I figured that being “for slavery” would be the harder argument to establish… but I was up for the challenge. By the end of the class, my side was victorious. Even though I was aware that what I was arguing was wrong, I knew how to spin it the right way. I knew how to warp the opposing side’s arguments. I knew how to play on people’s emotions.

Paul wants to make sure his audience knows he isn’t trying to use emotional measures to reach his goal. It’s like one of my professor’s used to say, “If you can persuade some one into believing something, then some one can persuade them out of it.” Paul might have been using polemic rhetoric when addressing the people, but at the heart of his argument was the truth – not mere emotions.

Paul could also be inferring that the false teachers who had come to Galatia were using the tactic of “people pleasing” to get their way. It shouldn’t come at any surprise. That is how a lot of people are led astray. These false teachers gave them something that they wanted to hear. They were arguing for something that was wrong, but they knew how to spin it the right way. They knew how to play on the Galatian’s emotions.

Sometimes we get so caught up on being “right,” or getting our way that we do whatever we need to do to fulfill our own selfish goals. Are we arguing for what is right, or are we just playing people?

Are we trying to please God or please man?

Advertisement

Excommunicated Emotions – Galatians 1:9

“If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” –Galatians 1:9

Do you have a friend or a family member who is one of those overly-friendly-never-angry-always-optimistic types? In every situation you have ever been in with them, their ever impressionable emotion has been the one and only constant. It is scary sometimes! Eventually you cynically start waiting for the time to come when some situation or circumstance finally breaks their now annoyingly gregarious outtake on life!..

Just me? Okay.

Imagine you did hit a circumstance like this where this person finally snaps! You would know that they were serious! You would know that if they who are always so calm and optimistic are upset and angry, that the situation they are angry about is truly justifiable!

The term “accursed” is a special word in that it has a vast array of definitions. Luckily for us, we can assume that Paul probably had the Hebrew equivalent in mind when using this Greek word – “anathema.” The Hebrew word, “harem,” means “something which God sets aside for destruction.” It also carries the connotation of something that is to be banned or expelled. Some have even translated this word as condemnation – “damned.”

If that doesn’t make you feel a little uneasy reading, consider that Paul uses this word twice in his introduction. It’s like he is saying, “Let me say this again, in case you missed it the first time.” Paul is using possible exaggeration to express the importance of this situation. Paul, who probably came to the Galatians with grace and love, is now saying that to preach or accept what the Galatians are hearing and accepting deserves condemnation. I’m sure hearing this phrase once was enough to startle the Galatians.

Note that Paul didn’t actually call curses from God on the men who were preaching this false gospel. He went around it with tact, saying that even an angel or he himself would deserve condemnation if they ever preached a gospel different than the true gospel of Christ.

He was willing to call judgment on himself:

That was how much the gospel meant to him.

That is how much Jesus’ redeeming work meant to him.

Does your heart ever break for those who are following a lie? How important is truth to you? How much does the gospel mean to you? Do you correct people who misrepresent God or Jesus or Christianity? What have you done in your own life to make sure you never stray away from the truth? You can read Paul’s urgency, his frustration, and his passion for God in every word he wrote in this letter. Grasping the truth of the gospel meant life and death to him.

How much do you care about the gospel?

The Bad Good News – Galatians 1:6

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” –Galatians 1:6

“I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” This was not what Tom wanted to hear. He was sick, and not just that kind of sick. He was sick of hearing the same bad news every time he went to the oncologist. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take it. The positive spin and the optimism of the doctors was encouraging the first couple of times, but now Tom was just ready to be better. What was the point of having any good news if it was drowned out by the bad? The doctor noticed Tom’s thoughts were drifting and quickly tried to continue the conversation.

“So do you want the good news first or the bad?”

Some have argued that the thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians is about his apostleship, which makes some sense as it is how he opens his letter. By looking at the whole letter, however, it becomes quickly evident that Paul’s focus seems to be more on “the gospel.” Paul argues; what the gospel is, who it pertains to, and what it means once one accepts the gospel. His whole reason for writing the Galatians is because there was a group sharing with them another “gospel,” one which Paul claims is no gospel at all.

The gospel means “good news.” Graeme Goldsworthy states that, “The gospel is the proclamation of what God has done in Christ… Obedience to the gospel is first and foremost faith.” To proclaim anything else wouldn’t be the gospel. To understand the thrust of Paul’s argument in Galatians, one must first understand what “the gospel” is. Once one knows the “good news,” the “bad good news” will be easy to spot.

C. H. Dodd points out a pattern which emerges when looking at the preaching of “the gospel” in the New Testament. There is proclamation of the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. There is a focus on the ministry Jesus did during his life leading to his death. His resurrection from the dead and his exaltation is at the apex of the gospel message. Then there is a shift to the gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost. The preaching of the gospel ends with a call for the audience to repent and accept Christ in faith.

There was a group telling the Galatians that they had to do more than just believe in Christ. They told them that it took more than this. “We have some good news and some bad news,” they said. They were telling the Gentiles that they had to become Jewish first to become Christians. They weren’t preaching a different God or a different Christ. They were speaking of a different means other than “faith” as a cost for membership in God’s family. Paul is writing the Galatians with urgency, because it would completely ruin the work of Christ for the church to accept a different message.

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” -2Timothy 4:2-5

The gospel is the proclamation of God’s coming kingdom. It is the message of the judgment of those who oppose His current and future reign. The gospel is the story of mankind denying God, and God sending his Son to pay the price for their wrongdoing. It isn’t about prosperity. It isn’t about Jesus as an archangel. It isn’t about circumcision.

The gospel needs to be praised, it needs to be protected, and it needs to be preached.

What are you doing to protect the gospel?