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. For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.
You’ve probably heard of Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you want to learn how to relate to others, it offers some useful advice. You can, however, use it to manipulate people.
This is what the false teachers did with the Galatians. These teachers were calling them to works-based salvation. The key problem was they were trusting in their own works instead of the work of Christ on their behalf to save them.
Any gospel other than the true gospel is false. Jesus did everything necessary to make our hearts right with God. We are called, as Paul says, to trust in Him, not ourselves.
Trying to please men can be hard. Men are emotional creatures. They may like one thing today, but tomorrow if a better, more exciting idea rolls along, they might grab onto it. That which thrilled them yesterday is like spoiled milk now, only good for the garbage bin (or for buttermilk, but not many people drink that).
So, it’s like chasing a kite on a windy day. In order to keep up with what men want, you have to keep moving, keep re-inventing yourself. You may run the risk of being disliked, but, hey, that’s part of the game. Celebrities know this. They can be popular one day and old hat the next.
Paul doesn’t play this game. Granted, telling the truth may get you in trouble. No one said life would be easy. Jesus told His disciples that they would be hated by the world.
Pleasing God is paramount for the Christian. While we would all like to be admired by others, we know that it just icing on the cake. Holding fast to the gospel of Christ provides a much more solid foundation than trying to keep the approval of man.
A big difference between God and man is that God is the same for all time. He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. You can trust what He says because underneath all the revelation of Scripture the same truth exists. We have a broken relationship with God, caused by sin. We need a Redeemer.
In the Old Testament, the bloody sacrifices and the countless deliverances point to God as the source of Israel’s salvation, both in this life and the life to come. God saves the whole man: body, soul, and mind. Our bodies will one day be glorified. Ours souls are united with Him. Our minds are set right by the Holy Spirit revealing the true God to us and teaching us to see who He really is.
Paul came to Christ from a position of diametric opposition. What a turnaround he experienced! If you hated someone, what would it take to make you love him or her?
Only God can make His enemies His friends. It takes a remolding of the heart. Before you loved God, you may not have felt you hated Him, perhaps you were just apathetic. Apathy isn’t love. Something would have to really stir your pot to change your mind if you didn’t care. If your enemy loved you that much, that he would do whatever it took to cause you to love him, even die for you, wouldn’t that move your heart?
For Paul to say that the gospel he preaches is rooted in God Himself means that it can be trusted. God isn’t whimsical. He is sure in His purpose. He won’t change the rules tomorrow while you’re asleep. He won’t come out next year and say, “You know, I’ve found that this way just doesn’t work anymore.” No, you can bet your life on God. Paul did.
So can you.