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An Exploration of Galatians - The Gospel is not According to Man
Galatians 1:10-12, Luke 10:38-42 - Who you serve becomes your master
“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 1:10-12 NASB1995
Paul asks the questions in verse 10 if he is seeking the favor of men, or of God, or is he striving to please men. He answers the rhetorical question that if he were still trying to please men, he would not be a bond-servant of Christ. Let’s think about this for Paul’s circumstances: He was highly placed in the Jewish leadership and sought favor with other Pharisees by relentlessly hunting down the new Christians. He is, of course, introduced to us in Acts 7 (as Saul) guarding the robes of other Pharisees as they stoned Stephen to death. Would a man in this position drop everything and follow Christ after his encounter on the road to Damascus if he sought the approval of the men that he engaged with? Of course not!
By the way (and this is a little bunny trail), Saul’s name was not changed to Paul - he actually had two names, according to Gotquestions.org:
The answer is that Saul’s name was also Paul. The custom of dual names was common in those days. Acts 13:9 describes the apostle as “Saul, who was also called Paul.” From that verse on, Saul is always referred to in Scripture as “Paul.”
Paul was a Jew, born in the Roman city of Tarsus. He was proud of his Jewish heritage, as he describes in Philippians 3:5: “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee.” So zealous and devout was he that persecuting Christians was the natural way for him to show his devotion. He chose to use his Hebrew name, Saul, until sometime after he began to believe in and preach Christ. After that time, as “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), he used his Roman name, Paul. It would make sense for Paul to use his Roman name as he traveled farther and farther into the Gentile world.
It is interesting that Paul began using his Roman name on Cyprus when the Roman proconsul on that island was converted (Acts 13:12). This was during Paul’s first missionary journey and involved a high-ranking, idolatrous Gentile coming to faith in Christ. The fact that the proconsul’s name was Sergius Paulus has led some to think that Saul took the name Paulus/Paul as a reminder of this event, but the apostle’s name being the same as the proconsul’s is most likely a coincidence.
So, the big question everyone needs to evaluate in their lives is who are you trying to please? I like how the new Gospel Coalition commentary for this passage in Galatians states it:
The temptation to be a people-pleaser is something most believers must actively fight. Being a servant of Christ does not allow for rudeness or mistreating others, but it does require a willingness to disappoint others if that is what is necessary to obey Christ. Every human being is a servant of someone or something. Whomever or whatever we seek to please at any cost reveals our true master. Thus, the issue is not whether we will be a servant, but whom or what we will serve.
In my working days, the daily goal was to make the boss happy, by not arguing with him/her, by being willing to do the tasks required for a project, and also trying to go beyond the minimum effort. I sometimes failed in my proper response to various supervisors (by pushing back at doing a very difficult and time-consuming task), but usually found a way to get it done. That’s different in my mind than seeking to please someone or something at any cost. Some people will try and keep the peace in a family situation by never “rocking the boat”, so bad behaviors by others are reinforced by the silence. I confess that I am often focused on earthly distractions (like upcoming “big trips) rather than putting all of my focus on Him. Others are so focused on “serving”, in their churches or with a charity, that the service activity itself becomes the master of their lives, just like in the story of Mary and Martha:
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.””
Luke 10:38-42 NASB1995
Paul goes on on this passage to say that the Gospel that was preached by him was not according to men but came to him directly through a revelation from Jesus. Whether there was a huge “download” of information all at once to him on that road to Damascus or the full story was revealed over the course of days after Paul saw the light (so to speak), he is asserting the authenticity of the Gospel and will go into his experiences at length in the follow-on verses for Galatians 1. I liked this explanation from Philip Ryken, the current president of Wheaton College (and quoted in Precept Austin) of how Christianity is unique among world religions, because the story we follow and believe comes from God:
Not surprisingly, the religions that human beings invent always end up glorifying human beings. There is some law to keep, some teaching to follow, some ritual to perform, some penance to endure, or some state of consciousness to achieve that will bring salvation. One way or another, we can climb up to heaven and reach God. Christianity is different. What distinguishes it from other world religions is that it actually comes from God. The one true gospel is not man-made, which is why it gives all the glory to God. The good news of the cross and the empty tomb could come only from God because it is about what God has done to save us through Jesus Christ. It does not teach that we can reach up to heaven; it teaches that God has come down to earth. In Christ, God has entered human history and the human heart.
As noted in my introduction photo, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and those words came from Him. He, the Son of God, came down to Earth and all we need to do is repent and believe!
An aside: I have a reader who takes great exception to many of the things I write (and I know she will not like the commentary I used from Philip Ryken) , but she absolutely refuses to comment on the Substack post but instead sends us long emails with her criticisms. I will no longer respond to those emails and fervently ask that this person please comment publicly on Substack so that others can join in the conversation and perhaps we can all learn something. I am the first person to note that I am a rank amateur when it comes to this stuff, but I am also a believer who is interested in building a firm foundation in my faith (which is Protestant-based) by researching in detail parts of the Bible. So if someone wants to start a conversation or has a critique, please use the comments in Substack for that purpose. Thank you!
My next devotional examines Paul’s conversion from his perspective, found in Galatians 1:13-17.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank you for coming to earth and entering human history and our hearts. Please help me to be a bond-servant of our Lord Jesus and to not try to please people or things that are temporal. The Gospel is divine and should be what we serve in this life and the next. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Gotquestions.org was accessed on 11/3/2023 to answer the question about Paul’s name.
The text of Galatians, excluding all Bible quotations, is © 2023 by The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition (TGC) gives permission to reproduce this work in its entirety, without any changes, in English for noncommercial distribution throughout the world. Crossway, the holder of the copyright to the ESV Bible text, grants permission to include the ESV quotations within this work, in English.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, developer of Precept Austin, is found Here