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1. Paul Called by God
1Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), 2and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father: 5to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; 7which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. 9As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema. 10For 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. 11For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. 12For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ. 13For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it: 14and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, 16to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus. 18Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. 19But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother. 20Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. 21Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: 23but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc; 24and they glorified God in me.
Having extolled so confidently his own preaching, he now shows that this was no idle or empty boast. He supports his assertion by two arguments. The first is, that he was not prompted by ambition, or flattery, or any similar passion, to accommodate himself to the views of men. The second and far stronger argument is, that he was not the author of the gospel, but delivered faithfully what he had received from God.
10. For do I now persuade according to men or according to God? The ambiguity of the Greek construction in this passage, has given rise to a variety of expositions. Some render it, Do I now persuade men or God? 2525 “Πείθω. This word, which we render persuade, frequently signifies ‘to obtain by treaty,’ or, ‘to endeavor the friendship and good will of any person.’ Thus in Matthew 28:14, the chief-priests tell the soldiers, whom they corrupted, to give a false report: ‘If this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you, that is, prevail with him to be favorable to you, and save you from punishment.’ Thus, Acts 12:20, πείσαντες Βλάστον, we render, ‘having made Blastus their friend.’ Vid. Pind. Ol. 3:28. And in the Apocryphal book of Maccabees, (2 Maccabees 4:45,) when Menelaus found himself convicted of his crimes, he promised Ptolemy a large sum of money, πεῖσαι τὸν βασιλέα, ‘to pacify the king,’ to prevent his displeasure, and secure his favor. And thus, in the place before us, ‘to persuade God,’ is to endeavor to secure his approbation; which, the Apostle assures the Galatians, was his great and only view, as well as his great support, under the censure and displeasure of men, for preaching the pure and uncorrupted doctrines of the gospel.” — Chandler. Others interpret the words “God” and “men,” as meaning divine and human concerns. This sense would agree very well with the context, if it were not too wide a departure from the words. The view which I have preferred is more natural; for nothing is more common with the Greeks than to leave the preposition κατὰ, according to, to be understood.
Paul is speaking, not about the subject of his preaching, but about the purpose of his own mind, which could not refer so properly to men as to God. The disposition of the speaker, it must be owned, may have some influence on his doctrine. As corruption of doctrine springs from ambition, avarice, or any other sinful passion, so the truth is maintained in its purity by an upright conscience. And so he contends that his doctrine is sound, because it is not modified so as to gratify men.
Or, do I seek to please men? This second clause differs not much, and yet it differs somewhat from the former; for the desire of obtaining favor is one motive for speaking “according to men.” When there reigns in our hearts such ambition, that we desire to regulate our discourse so as to obtain the favor of men, our instructions cannot be sincere. Paul therefore declares, that he is in no degree chargeable with this vice; and, the more boldly to repel the calumnious insinuation, he employs the interrogative form of speech; for interrogations carry the greater weight, when our opponents are allowed an opportunity of replying, if they have anything to say. This expresses the great boldness which Paul derived from the testimony of a good conscience; for he knew that he had discharged his duty in such a manner as not to be liable to any reproach of that kind. (Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12.)
If I yet pleased men This is a remarkable sentiment; that ambitious persons, that is, those who hunt after the applause of men, cannot serve Christ. He declares for himself, that he had freely renounced the estimation of men, in order to devote himself entirely to the service of Christ; and, in this respect, he contrasts his present position with that which he occupied at a former period of life. He had been regarded with the highest esteem, had received from every quarter loud applause; and, therefore, if he had chosen to please men, he would not have found it necessary to change his condition. But we may draw from it the general doctrine which I have stated, that those who resolve to serve Christ faithfully, must have boldness to despise the favor of men.
The word men is here employed in a limited sense; for the ministers of Christ ought not to labor for the express purpose of displeasing men. But there are various classes of men. Those to whom Christ “is precious,” (1 Peter 2:7,) are men whom we should endeavor to please in Christ; while they who choose that the true doctrine shall give place to their own passions, are men to whom we must give no countenance. And godly, upright pastors, will always find it necessary to contend with the offenses of those who choose that, on all points, their own wishes shall be gratified; for the Church will always contain hypocrites and wicked men, by whom their own lusts will be preferred to the word of God. And even good men, either through ignorance, or through weak prejudice, are sometimes tempted by the devil to be displeased with the faithful warnings of their pastor. Our duty, therefore, is not to take alarm at any kind of offenses, provided, at the same time, that we do not excite in weak minds a prejudice against Christ himself.
Many interpret this passage in a different manner, as implying an admission to the following effect: “If I pleased men, then I should not be the servant of Christ. I own it, but who shall bring such a charge against me? Who does not see that I do not court the favor of men?” But I prefer the former view, that Paul is relating how large an amount of the estimation of men he had relinquished, in order to devote himself to the service of Christ.