There will always be a pull on Christians to compromise the truth of the gospel for what may be more pleasing to me (or men), for what may seem to be “wise,” or for what may be easy. Paul said in Galatians 1:10, “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.” How important it is to hold onto the only gospel of Jesus! What principles does Paul show from this verse and context?
Being a servant of God means I seek to always please God. There was a time in Paul’s life, when he pleased the Jewish “higher-ups” by dragging Christians off to prison and breathing out threats and murders against them (Acts 7:58, 8:1-3; 9:1-2). Yet, after Paul’s meeting with the Lord, he always sought to please God. A change in allegiance from darkness to light means we cannot try to be a friend of the world and also a friend of God (cf. Jas. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:9-10).
Often, men will not be pleased when we choose to please God. The very hands that patted Paul on the back for his zealous persecution of the church now tried to seize him and put him to death (Acts 9:23-25; 24:5-9). As Christians make moral choices in the midst of an immoral world, Jesus told us to expect that they will hate us for it (John 15:18-19). Yet, we show our allegiance to God when the world looks and sees we are not of it (1 John 3:1).
I should never confuse agreeing with men with being agreeable to men. Paul, in his Christian life, tried to reach his fellow Jews (Rom. 10:1-2). He was reasonable (Acts 9:20-22), humble (1 Cor. 9:19), willing to change approaches (1 Cor. 9:20-22), and compassionate (Acts 16:27-31). There is a difference between “contending for the faith” and being “contentious for the faith.” With one arm we hold fast to the gospel of Christ, but with the other we stretch to try to reach men. We cannot and dare not confuse the two!
We are accountable to God for how we treat the gospel. In Galatians, Paul is ready to fiercely defend the gospel because of the false teachers who are assaulting it and the faith of those who believed in the gospel. He says “another gospel” is not the same as the “only gospel” and he invokes the strongest curse to anyone who would want to corrupt it (Gal. 1:6-10). If God’s word is sure, we had better be careful how we treat it, what it says, and how we apply it! If we fail to remember it is from the Creator and Judge of all, we might corrupt it to our own destruction! God help us to handle the Word of God carefully!
Graeber Road church of Christ