Denunciation Part 6 of 6 (Series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
The word "now" is used here, evidently, to express a contrast between his present and his former purpose of life. Before his conversion to Christianity, he admits, that his aim was to curry the favor of men; that he derived his authority from them “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1, 2; KJV). Of this way means the way of Christ, a phrase often applied in the New Testament to Christianity. Paul's commission, while given in the name of the high priest, was from the Sanhedrim (Acts 26:10 )., that he acted in a way that would please them and gain their friendship, if possible. But now he says he has changed, and this was not his objective. Now he has a higher aim. It was to please God, and to obtain his favor. While the apostle was a persecutor of the Christians, he was the servant of men, and pleased men. When he embraced the Christian doctrine, he became the servant of GOD, and pleased HIM. He therefore hints that he was a far different person now from what he had been while a Jew. The object of this verse may be to show that he had not now received his commission from men, but had received it from God. Perhaps one of those false teachers had made an allegation in regard to him. It may have been alleged that he had changed his mind, and he was now an observer of the laws of Moses. To this, perhaps, he replies, in this verse, that such conduct would not have been inconsistent, in his opinion, when it was his main purpose to please men, and when he derived his commission from them; but that now he had a higher aim. His purpose was to please God; and he was not aiming in any way to gratify men.
or do I seek to please men?
This means to win over, to appease, and to cause to be friendly to one’s self. These rhetorical questions indicate that an attack has been made on Paul for the purpose of discrediting both him and his ministry. He denies the charges. Paul was not attempting to win them over to his way of thinking by avoiding or toning down his teaching of those unpopular truths, so that he might by some means win some of them for Christ. And neither was he trying to persuade God to tone down His message. Paul’s loyalty to Christ and his sufferings for Christ were evidences that he was not seeking man’s approval, but his Lord’s “well done.” He has no desire to please anyone but Christ, whose he is and whom he serves “For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve” (Acts 27:23; KJV). This is an expression of Paul‘s complete devotedness to Christ.; this was the great goal he was pursuing; so much so that he did not “seek to please men.” He did not embrace a doctrine aimed at accommodating himself to the self-indulgences of men, either to gain their respect or to avoid their resentment; but his great concern was for him to be approved of by God “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess 2.4; KJV). God had given them the gospel as a trust. They were "stewards of the mysteries of God." They spoke like men entrusted with a heavenly commission, which they were, seeking to please God instead of men. The Judaizing teachers, by whom these churches were corrupted, had discovered a very different spirit; they mixed works with faith, and the law with the gospel, in order to please the Jews, whom they were willing to court and be associated with, so that they might escape persecution. But Paul was a man of another spirit; he was not so anxious to please them, nor to alleviate their rage against him, that he would even consider altering the doctrine of Christ either to gain their favor or to avoid their anger.
for if I yet pleased men,
Man’s conscience approves of the law, and his legalistic convictions will lead him to do works. Man tries to compensate for the fact that he is not doing enough. He tries to balance his good works against his sins and have enough on the plus side to be saved. The apostle Paul, you recall, tried to do this. And he had a whole lot on the plus side. But one day he came to Christ. Then he said, “What was gain for me became loss, and what was loss became gain” “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:7, 8; KJV) He used to regard these outward privileges, individually, as so many items of gain; now he has learned to regard them, in the aggregate, as so much loss because of Christ. They were loss because confidence in outward things tends to keep the soul from Christ.