by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1 November 14, 2010 Dayton, Texas
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.
I. The Place of This Verse in Paul's Confrontation of the Galatians.
A. On the surface of it, the questions and declaration are a clarification of motives.
B. The clarification comes immediately upon the heels of a two-fold consignment of those who deny his Gospel to eternal condemnation.
C. The clarification comes immediately before his return to one of the major theses in his introductory comments: that one which denies a human origin to his Gospel.
D. In a very real sense, this verse is also a return to Paul's use of the name "Paul" in his introduction, as opposed to "Saul". At issue is whether Paul is attempting to obtain the approval of men or to get men to give their "approval" to God.
E. Therefore, I conclude that this verse is a restatement of what is really at stake in the letter: whether men actually receive approval from God through Jesus Christ because they recognize Paul's trustworthiness as an apostle and embrace his words as God's.
II. The Use of "Persuade" (AV) or "Seeking the Favor of" (ASV).
A. The term Paul selected is used two more times in Galatians and is a word that Paul typically used when he was thinking of "coming to faith" as the result of a process of "persuasion".
1. Paul consistently used the term of our text when he was looking at a three-fold process: laying down "reasons to believe"; being convinced by those reasons; and acting in accordance with the resultant conviction. The clear conclusion, derived from observing the uses of the word in its various biblical contexts, is that the word is used with a single objective in mind: to get the person on the receiving end of the process to "act" in a way desired by the one engaging the process.
2. The use here seems to be a bit awkward in the light of his typical usage (thus the ASV translators' choice of a different English word with which to render it).
a. The idea of attempting to persuade "men" is not difficult.
b. The problem is that he puts "men" and "God" in a juxtaposition so that he is either attempting to do something to men or God and attempting to "persuade" God does not make much sense in the context.
3. However, at issue is the driving motivation behind Paul's double declaration of condemnation.
a. There are two questions and we have to decide if they are "different" or if they are simply different ways to say the same thing.
1) Because Paul switches words in his second question and then expands the issues involved in "pleasing men", it seems that he may have thought that the Galatians would not easily "follow" his thought in the first question, so he rephrases. This would indicate that he was not addressing "different" issues so much as attempting to clarify one.
2) If, then, he is clarifying one overriding concern, we must understand how his words surface that concern.
a) At one level, the issue is how the double declaration of condemnation raises the thought Paul attempts to express in verse ten.
i. What is that thought? Apparently it is the thought that the Galatians, responding to a double declaration of condemnation, might question his motivation. A double declaration of condemnation is harsh by anyone's standards (not necessarily untrue or unloving, but harsh). Therefore, the question is whether Paul is simply striking out at people who are undercutting his influence with the Galatians. Do his words reflect an animosity that arises out of his own frustrations, or are they a reflection of the animosity of God toward the wicked?
ii. How do his words address that thought? On one hand, looking at the second question first, he clarifies his motivation by claiming to not be interested in "pleasing men" when it conflicts with his desire to "serve" Christ. And, on the other hand, looking at the first question, he clarifies his motivation by claiming that he is seeking to be sufficiently impressive to either men or God that the "impressed" will "act" in a certain way. The Gentiles may, or may not, have been aware of the fact that Jews often did seek to be impressive to God by taking "holy-harsh" positions (Matthew 23:4) and that may have led the Galatians to think that Paul was doing that. In fact, the very problem in Galatia is the Jews who are attempting to foist "holy-harshness" upon the Gentile believers. If this is the course of the thoughts of his readers, Paul, with his first question, is denying that he is seeking to be "impressive" toward God. This would mean that he was attempting, by his double statement of condemnation, to be "impressive" to men.
iii. The conclusion, then, seems to be thus: the double condemnation is an attempt to "impress" men, but it is not an attempt to "please" them. It is a declaration of "holy-harshness", but not an attempt to impress God, and it is, clearly, not "pleasing" to men -- but that is not his job.
B. In the larger context, the issue of Paul's motivation is the issue of the incompatibility of seeking to "please" men and seeking to "please" God (John 5:44) and its consequent impact upon the character of those involved in "seeking" (John 7:18).
1. At stake in the issue of "pleasing" men is the "glory" that they have to offer to those who "please" them and the consequent result that the "seeker" is untrustworthy because he will do unrighteousness if it will help him achieve the end for which he seeks.
2. At stake in the issue of "pleasing" God is the "glory" that He has to offer to those who "please" Him and the consequent result that the "seeker" is trustworthy (see both John 7:18 and 8:50) because he will only do righteousness in order to pursue his objective(s).