As we transition from Paul’s letters to the Corinthians to his letters to the Galatians we might hope for a more peaceful episode. The Corinthian church, along with Paul directly, was attacked by false teachers. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were tough to read, in the sense that it is uncomfortable to read about the church under attack. Though we might long to turn the page and find a pleasant account of everything going right easily, that is not what we get. The church is again under siege by false teachers. This time in Galatia.
Free from man-pleasing
Paul opens this letter and gets right to the point. In first-century letters, the first thing the writer did was identify himself. Whereas now, we identify the writer at the end of the letter. Paul fits in the point of his letter directly in the first order of business. This tells us how aggressively he pursued to cleanse the church in Galatia of man-pleasing.
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) – Galatians 1:1
Paul is an apostle and he was made one by Christ, who God raised from the dead, not by anything of men nor by men. This opening chapter and this letter go on to lay out the doctrine first revealed in John 8:32:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:32
Jesus is the truth. The false teachers were holding on to a false position in legalism that placed them above others, claiming God through the law. Jesus sets his followers free from the law’s eternal wages. (Galatians 2:16)
Two types of man-pleasing
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:6-19
There is so much here to discuss but I want to focus in on verse ten. The strait statement that if Paul should seek to please men, he would not be a servant of Christ. A simple if, then, statement of truth. If we seek to please men, then we are not serving Christ. Are we seeking pleasing men?
The first type of man-pleasing that comes to mind is the exhausting burden of trying to please people. The other day my business partner and I were at lunch discussing a seemingly difficult situation. After too much talk, he said, “What if we just focused on God’s glory and didn’t worry about anything else?” Amen! Amen! The weight was lifted and our trust in the LORD ushered in the peace that transcends all understanding. He is Good! He is worthy of our trust! He is trustworthy! Praise God for freedom in the truth!
The second type of man-pleasing is found in the introspection that there is another man who desires to be pleased. Self. It is not enough to let go of aiming to please others, we must also die to ourselves to be truly free. Here is another question that brings freedom, this time from self.
“What if we set aside all our goals, everything we desire, weather seemingly good or not, and focused on God’s glory, trusting Him with everything we desire?” Do we trust in God’s promises enough to commit all our goals to him and pursue His Glory alone? (Matthew 6:32-34, Proverbs 16:3, Mark 10:29-31, Luke 6:38 (what if we gave our desires to the LORD?), Matthew 6:10, Matthew 6:19-24, Luke 12:29-31, Colossians 3:1-4, Romans 8:5)
The last questions were in a different business conversation this past week as a friend and I wrestled with the “balance” of letting go and pushing/working hard. I have come to believe that there is no balance required when trusting in God. I am suspicious that any advice that points to balance as what is needed when considering priorities is faulty. God wants to be number one on a list of one. He wants us all in. (Luke 9:62, Luke 9:23-24)
God, may we have single eyes for You. May Your kingdom come reign in our hearts. May Your will replace our will. May our hearts and eyes be for You and on You always. May our desires be committed to You in thanksgiving and contentment. May we release them to Your care and loving kindness. May You be gentle with us God. We are sinners in the world. May we never be of the world. Amen.