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Galatians #10 (Galatians 2:1-10): If You Won’t Believe Me, Believe James, Peter, and John
Galatians #9: Paul’s Journey From Law To Grace - Galatians 1:13-24
Galatians #8 Paul Pleased God With What He Preached - Galatians 1:10-12
Galatians #7: Paul's Personal Growth In Grace
Galatians #6: Let Them Be Cursed!

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Brad's Blog

Galatians 1:10 In Context: Who Am I Pleasing With What I Preach?

Galatians 1:10 is a verse that I see posted from time to time on Facebook. Yet, like most verses that are posted, the context of the verse was not mentioned. Taking verses out of context and memorizing verses without knowing the meaning keeps many people from discovering the transforming truths of the Bible.

Galatians 1:10 says:

Am I now seeking the approval 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 servant of Christ.

Most people, when reading this verse, assume its meaning to be the following: Don't be a people pleaser. If you are trying to make people happy by what you do or don't do, then you are not seeking to make Jesus happy, and therefore you are not his servant.

This assumed meaning of the verse totally misses its biblical meaning. And because it misses its biblical meaning, people miss out on its transforming truth. So rather than determining our own meaning of this verse, and totally missing out on its transforming truth, it is important to first understand the meaning of the verse within context that I mean eight things:

1. The letter the verse is in. 
2. The writer of the letter.
3. The reason the letter was written.
4. The chapter the verse is in and the chapters before and after the verse.
5. The verses before and after the verse.
6. The writer's meaning of the verse.
7. The meaning of the verse to the original audience.
8. The covenant it was written under...the old or new covenant (before or after the cross).

It is easy to post a verse. It is easy to memorize a verse. But it takes time and study to discover the meaning of a verse. This is what Paul meant when he told Timothy to study to show himself approved (2 Timothy 2:15).

To understand a verse, we must study it in humble dependence upon the Holy Spirit to give us revelation of its meaning. The Spirit will never give revelation of a verse apart from its biblical meaning. The Spirit will give us revelation as we study to show ourselves approved.

So, in total dependence upon the Spirit to give revelation of the meaning of this verse, let's follow Paul's instructions to Timothy and study the verse to show ourselves approved. I encourage you at this point in our study to familiarize yourself with Paul's letter to the Galatians by reading his letter several times, asking the Holy Spirit to give you understanding of Paul's letter to the Galatians.

The writer of the letter of Galatians was Paul. Paul had been given by the ascended Jesus the revelation of God's grace and the responsibility to teach and preach his grace in cities all over the world (Acts 20:23-24).

I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--
the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.

After sharing the good news of grace, Paul then would establish grace-based churches in these cities. This was the purpose of his missionary journeys. These churches would become the communication centers of the good news of God's grace all over the world.

The message of grace the ascended Jesus had given Paul is contained in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews, and in his other letters. We also see his message in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6:2 and Acts 13:16-41.

Romans 3:19-28 summarizes the message of grace the ascended Jesus revealed to Paul by direct revelation:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be justified in His sight by works of the Law. For the Law merely brings awareness of sin.  But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  God presented Him as an atoning sacrifice through faith in His blood, in order to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance He had passed over the sins committed beforehand.  He did this to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and to justify the one who has faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of works? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

This is the very message Paul shared in the cities of Galatia. After sharing this message of grace, grace-based churches formed in these cities consisting of those who responded to his message.

It is to these churches Paul wrote the letter of Galatians.

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead—and all the brothers with me. To the churches of Galatia
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Galatians 1:1-6

The people in the churches of Galatia, who had once joyfully welcomed Paul , as if he were Jesus himself, and his message of grace (Galatians 4:14-15), were now deserting him and the message. We discover this in Galatians 1:6-7 when Paul writes:

"I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is not even a gospel."

Paul is writing his letter because the Galatian people, who at one time joyfully welcomed him and the message of grace, had quickly deserted the message. Not only had they abandoned the message and messenger of grace, but they had now embraced an entirely different form of teaching and peaching which was called the gospel by those who communicated it. Paul was astonished by this. He could hardly believe it. As a result, he wrote this letter to the Galatian people to communicate to them that his message of grace was the gospel and that the message the others were preaching was a false gospel.

As we read through Paul's letter to the Galatians, we begin to see just what message these false preachers were teaching. They were teaching that faith in Jesus was not enough to be righteous before God, or accepted by God. They were teaching that for someone to be justified, or declared righteous by God, then that person must obey the Law.

This message was in total contrast to Paul's message. Paul's message, from the ascended Jesus, was that the Law educated people about sin, exposed the sin in their hearts, and then executed them for sin. And that it was only by grace through faith a person would be justified (Romans 3-8).

In Galatians, Paul teaches that obedience to the Law cannot make a person righteous before God. And to seek to be righteous before God through the Law is to set aside grade, fall from grace, cut off oneself from Jesus, and nullify the death of Jesus (Galatians 2:21; 5:4). As in Romans, he teaches it is only by grace through faith that a person becomes righteous before God.

Furthermore, Paul writes that anyone seeking to obey the Law is under the curse of the Law (Galatians 3). He says the Law cannot impart life. It only brings death. He writes the Law was in place only until faith came. He writes that Jesus came to redeem people from the curse of the Law.

In Galatian 4:4-8 he says, "But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,  to redeem those under the Law, that we might receive our adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God."

What Paul had taught the Galatian people was different than what the false preachers were teaching. The false preachers were teaching that justification, or being declared righteous by God, came through obedience to the Law of Moses. They were teaching that God's blessings came through obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul taught that righteousness and the blessings of God came by grace through faith. He taught people that Jesus became a curse for them through his death. He taught that God redeemed [set free] people from the Law so the Spirit of Jesus could live in people's hearts, enabling them to call God "Abba Father"...meaning my daddy who loves me! Paul taught that a person who had come to faith in Jesus was no longer a slave to the law, but a loved son or daughter of God.

According to Paul, who received his message directly from the ascended Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus in people would not lead them to obey the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:14), but to love people. And by loving people, they would fulfill the commandment to love one another (Galatians 5:18). The Spirit of Jesus in them would lead a person to experience "Abba Father's" love and then empower them to love others by producing "Abba Father's" love in their hearts...this is what we commonly refer to as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24).

Again, this is the exact opposite of the "gospel", which Paul said was really no gospel at all, that was being preached by these false preachers. Their "gospel" was that obedience to the Law of Moses was required by God if he was to accept and bless people. Paul's gospel, which was the real gospel, was that God accepted and blessed people by grace through faith, not through obedience to the Law.

Paul's message of grace was not a popular message in the religious community of his day (nor is it in our religious community today). Religious people, leaders, teachers, and preachers despised Paul and his message of grace. They sought to destroy Paul's reputation among the churches and the message of grace Jesus had given him to share (2 Timothy  3:10-11).

Because of the assault on Paul and his message of grace, he had a decision to make...change his message to please the religious people in his community, or continue to preach the message of God's grace as a servant of Jesus. This leads us back to the verse we are studying, Galatians 1:10.

For a refresher, Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now seeking the approval 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 servant of Christ."

Before we determine the exact meaning of this verse, let's read Galatians 1:6-9:

I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse!  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!

In these verses, we see how shocked Paul was that the very people who had received the message of grace by faith were now rejecting the very message by turning to a different gospel, which was no gospel at all. We see that some people, by distorting the message of grace, were troubling them, or causing them to be confused about how a person is justified by God. Is it by grace through faith as Paul taught? Is it obedience to the Law of Moses, as others were teaching? Or could it be a combination of faith and obedience that brought acceptance with God and his blessings?

About those preaching a gospel other than grace, Paul said some strong words. He said in Galatians 1:8-9,

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!
In these verses, Paul said that those who were truly under a curse from God were not those who disobeyed the Law, but those who tried to obey the Law and who taught others to obey the Law to be accepted and blessed by God. The false teachers said those who obeyed the Law were not under a curse from God, but were accepted and blessed by God. Paul's message and their message were different...much different...completely different.

Again, Paul's message was not a popular message. For 1500 years, people had been living under the Law of Moses. Based upon Deuteronomy 28 and 29, they understood the blessings of God came through obedience to the Law. But the problem was, as Paul communicated in his message of grace, was that no one could obey the Law and that the Law condemned all people to death because all had sinned (see Romans 5:12-21). As a result, God could never bless anyone or declare anyone righteous because of their obedience to the Law (see Romans 3:19-20). 

This was the entire purpose for the crucifixion of Jesus...his death...which the Galatian people had seen with their very eyes (Galatians 3). Through the death of Jesus, people would be redeemed from the Law and its curse. And now, false preachers were seeking to get people back under the very Law that Jesus had come to redeem them from.

Paul attempted to explain this message of grace to people. Yet the religious people, leaders, teachers, and preachers rejected his message. They were not pleased with Paul...they were not pleased with him at all. Consequently, Paul experienced tremendous verbal and physical abuse from these religious people.

Of course, he could have very easily avoided all of this abuse from these religious people by simply pleasing them with what he preached. He could had changed his message of grace back to one of Law and then everyone would have been very happy with Paul. He could have mingled law and grace together...surely that would please people on both sides. No more persecution. No more attacks. No more assaults. No more rejection. Life would had been much easier for Paul...much easier.

But Paul's goal in life was not to please the religious people, leaders, teachers, and preachers with what he taught. His goal was to please Jesus (Acts 20:24). His goal was to be a servant of Jesus by sharing the message of grace in cities all over the world and starting grace-based churches.

Hence...Galatians 1:10:

Am I now seeking the approval 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 servant of Christ.

So now we understand this verse in context. This verse is about Paul pleasing God with his preaching of grace, even if it did not please the religious community. It is about Paul fulfilling the responsibility given to him by the ascended Jesus which was to share God's grace with people in cities around the world and to start grace-based churches. 

Paul goes on to say in Galatians 1:11-12:

For I certify to you, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not devised by man.  I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather,
I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

Here Paul stresses that his message of grace was not created, given to him, or taught him by any person on earth. His message of grace was created, given to him, and taught him by the ascended Jesus Christ from heaven.

The reason Paul did not make it his aim to please the religious community with what he taught and was willing to be abused because of what he taught was because he did not receive his message from them. He received his message from Jesus. The message was grace. Therefore, his aim was to please Jesus by communicating grace.

Paul emphasizes this revelation of grace given to him in Ephesians 3:2-4:

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ...

In these verses, we see that by revelation Paul was given the administration, or the responsibility, of communicating to good news of God's grace. The reason Paul had the depth of insight he had into the marvelous truths of grace was because he had been instructed about them by the ascended Jesus himself. As a result, his aim was not to please the religious community with what he taught, but to please Jesus himself.

One person who did seek to please the religious community was Peter. Peter, over the course of time, had been given insight into the good news of grace. God had revealed to Peter that he was no longer under Law, but under grace (Acts 10). Peter however, desiring to please the religious community, deserted grace and returned to the Law. He even persuaded Barnabas and others to return to the Law.

Paul points this out in his letter to the Galatians in Chapter 2 verses 11-21. In these verses, we discover that Peter set aside the good news of God's grace as the means to become righteous before God. Peter, craving the acceptance of the religious community, yet fearing their rejection, replaced the good news of God's grace with the Law of Moses as the means to become righteous before God.

Paul, in front of all those Peter had led away from grace, and in front of all those in the religious community who Peter craved their acceptance, confronted Peter (Galatians 2:14-21).

Paul stated to Peter:

For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
Galatians 2:19-21

In these verses, Paul tells the Galatian people exactly what he told Peter when he abandoned grace for the Law. To summarize, he told Peter he (Paul) no longer lived according the Law of Moses. He died to the Law. He was crucified with Christ. When Jesus died, Paul died. When Jesus died, the Law died. Paul, too, died to the Law with Jesus. Christ now lives in Paul. The life Paul now lives is by faith in Jesus who loved him and gave his life for him. Paul no longer lives by following the Law of Moses to be righteous before God, but now lives by faith in Jesus. It is faith, Paul says, that makes a person righteous. Paul concludes by saying that if the Law could make a person righteous, then Christ's death was for nothing...a waste of time...a wasted life.

That is what Peter, the religious people, the religious leaders, the religious teachers, and the religious preachers were doing...deserting grace in favor of the Law. By deserting, or setting aside grace in favor of the Law, they were making the death of Jesus a waste of time. His appeal to Peter, and to all those who had deserted grace with him, and to the Galatian people who were now doing exactly what Peter and the rest had done in deserting grace so they would be accepted by those in their religious community, was this: If righteousness could be achieved by obedience to the Law, then why did Jesus die on the cross?

Great question!

If our conduct made us right with God, then we do not need the grace of God which he has freely and fully given to us in Jesus. If our behavior could make us right with God, then we do not need the blood of Jesus. But our conduct and behavior cannot achieve for us righteousness. Righteousness is a gift given to us by God and that is received by faith (Romans 3:21-25; 5:17).

The good news of God's grace should be the message every preacher communicates in every church around the world. The communication of grace by preachers in churches is the very purpose churches exist. 

Several years ago, I had a pastor approach me. He said the following: "Brad, I would love to teach what you teach and preach what you preach, but if I did, I would lose my church and job."

These are the words of a fellow pastor who told me what I was teaching and preaching was biblical, and that what he was teaching and preaching was unbiblical. Yet this pastor so craved the acceptance of the deacons in his church and the people of his church, while fearing their rejection and the loss of his job as their pastor, that he withheld the complete message of the good news of grace from them.

This pastor, who was one of the most well-known and respected pastors in his denomination and community, was very familiar with the message of grace that I preached at the church where I was the pastor. He knew about the ridicule I experienced from the other pastors in our community. He new about the verbal attacks I experienced. But he also knew I was correct in what I taught. Yet, because he did not want to experience the rejection I was experiencing, and because he did not want to lose his job, he refused to teach the fullness of God's grace.

The question for preachers is this: Whom am I pleasing with what I preach?

If a preacher is seeking the approval of people with what he preaches, he will be well-liked within his religious community. He will have job security. If he preaches the undiluted truth of grace, he will be widely rejected in his religious community, especially by the religious leaders. He might lose his job in the ministry.

When the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of my heart to see the riches of God's grace freely, fully, and forever given to us in Jesus, and when the Holy Spirit opened my mind to understand it, I had a decision to make. It was the same decision Paul and Peter had to make. Will I seek to please religious people with what I preach, especially the religious leaders and preachers in my community, or will I seek to please Jesus by teaching grace? Will I seek the approval of God by preaching grace, or the approval of religious people by withholding the fullness of the good news of grace?

The Holy Spirit gave me the strength to choose to please Jesus, to be approved by God by preaching the good news of grace.

Since the time I was empowered to make this decision, I have been released from two jobs in the ministry and asked to leave two other places where I volunteered to lead Bible studies because I taught through Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Hebrews, etc... I have been released or asked to leave because I taught the new covenant of grace (2 Corinthians 3:1-6:2).

Since this time, religious leaders, teachers, and preachers have accused me of giving others a license to sin and being light on sin. I have been told that what I taught would cause the ministry I was a part of to lose its financial support from churches and cause people to  no longer participate in that specific ministry. I was told that what I taught would cause people with addictions to go deeper into addictions. That is okay, because the same accusations were made about Jesus and Paul. And that is okay, because many, many lives have been changed by grace, and people have seen how great God is because of his grace (2 Corinthians 4:15).

To my fellow pastors, I encourage you to preach the fullness of God's grace without fear of the religious leaders, teachers, and preachers in your community. I encourage you to teach God's grace in its fullness, despite accusations made about you. I encourage you to preach the good news of grace without fearing you may lose your reputation or your job in the ministry. I encourage you to seek the approval of God by preaching grace. Make it your aim to please Jesus by preaching grace.

From experience, I can tell you it may not be easy. You may suffer loss. Your family may suffer. You may experience hardships. You will be criticized. You will be slandered. You will be accused of giving people a license to sin. You will be accused of being light on sin. But it will be worth it because God's grace will reach and change the lives of more and more people (2 Corinthians 4:1-18) because of your boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12).

What you preach will come down to how you answer the questions Paul posed in Galatians 1:10:

Am I now seeking the approval 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 servant of Christ.

NOTE: If you would like to read more on the message of God's grace, check out my entire website by clicking on the Home button below.


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