December 31, 2021
Scripture: As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 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. Galatians 1:9-10 ESV
Observation: As typical of Paul’s epistles, he begins his letter to the Galatians with greetings of grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as well as a brief reminder of their means of salvation: the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son (verse 3-4). From this foundation, he quickly addresses his concern for this young church. Duped by those from the circumcision party who had distorted the Gospel of Christ with additional requirements to earn God’s favor, the Galatians had adopted a works-righteousness mentality. In chapter 2, Paul warns that such a perversion of the Gospel leads to hypocritical behavior, citing how the circumcision party infiltrated the church in Antioch and even led Peter and Barnabas astray (2:11-14). But zealous for the Gospel of his Lord and Savior, Paul boldly expresses his wish that anyone who preaches a false gospel would be cursed (verse 9 above). Aware of how this harsh warning would sound to his readers, Paul assures the Galatians that he is not seeking their’s or anyone else’s approval (like those of the circumcision party) and notes to do so would disqualify him as a servant of Christ (verse 10).
Takeaway: People-pleasing is highly destructive to all concerned. For if we seek the approval of others, we are at risk of watering down those aspects of our scandalous Gospel that might appear offensive to others and thereby compromise the integrity of our faith. To those who seek Christ, we distort the cost of taking up our cross to follow him—a necessary step toward enduring the hardship of our faith journey. Lastly, for the Father and Son, we diminish the glory of their extravagant grace and love for us as revealed in the Cross of Christ.
So how do we resist people-pleasing? For Paul, who sought to gain the approval of his Pharisee sect, the transformation began when Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. Having received the gift of the Gospel through Christ’s revelation (verse 12), with the help of the Holy Spirit, he nurtured his understanding of Scripture and how its prophecies pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. He eventually developed a community of like-minded believers (James, Peter, Barnabas, Titus, and more) who would mutually support, encourage, and hold each other accountable. Lastly, staying on course in his faith journey, Paul deepened his understanding of grace and the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice to disempower sin’s hold on him (1 Timothy 1:15).
It is no different for us today. Christ initiates the change through the transforming work of his Holy Spirit. The Spirit renews our minds in the Word so that we can know the Father’s perfect and pleasing will (Romans 12:2). And he surrounds us with fellow believers who will call us out and encourage us to press on when we take a step back. Lastly, he provokes our consciences as we carry on in this faith journey to deepen our understanding of the extent and magnitude of our sin and the glorious grace of Christ that has triumphed over sin’s hold on us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your glorious Gospel that reveals your extravagant love for us. Would you please deepen our understanding of your grace and love for us, that we might resist people-pleasing and passionately desire to please you above all others? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling