Denunciation Part 7 of 7 (Series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
The apostle is saying, if I made it my aim to please men, it would be the chief principle regulating my conduct. The word "yet," as it is used here is referencing his former purpose. It implies that this had once been his aim. But he says, if he had pursued that purpose to please men, if this had continued to be the aim of his life, he would not be able to truthfully say he is a servant of Christ. He had been forced to abandon that purpose, in order that he might be a servant of Christ; and the gist of it is, that in order for a man may become a Christian, it is necessary for him to abandon the purpose of pleasing men as the rule of his life. It may be implied also, that if in fact a man makes it his aim to please men, or if this is the purpose for which he lives and acts, and if he shapes his conduct with reference to that, he cannot be a Christian or a servant of Christ. A Christian must be motivated by higher motives than those, and anyone whose primary goal in life is to gain the favor of his fellow-men is showing evidence that he may not be a Christian. A Christian must regulate his conduct by the will of God, whether men are pleased with it or not. And it may be added that the life and attitude of a sincere Christian will not please men. It is not the type of person they want to associate with. They do not like a person who lives a holy, humble, spiritual life. It is usually the case that their consciences tells them that such a life is right; that they are often forced to speak well of the life of Christians; it is true that they are forced to respect a man who is a sincere Christian, and that they often place confidence in such a man; and it is true also that they often speak with respect of them when they are dead; but if the truth be known, they do not want for themselves any part of the life of an humble, devoted, and passionate Christian. And do you know why? It is contrary to their views of life, to their pursuits of life, to their opinion of their selves, to their enjoyments of life; but more than anything else it reveals that they are lost sinners in need of a Savior—that is something they do not want to admit. It follows from this:
1. That a Christian is not to expect to please men. He must not be disappointed, therefore, if he does not. His Master did not please the world; and the disciple is not better than his Master.
2. A professing Christian, and especially a minister, should be alarmed when the world flatters and embraces him, because it may mean:
a. That he is not living as he ought to, and that sinners love him because he is so much like them, and he does not say anything that bothers their countenance.
b. That they mean to make him betray his religion and become conformed to their beliefs. It brings great pleasure to unbelievers, when they can, through flattery and camaraderie, get a Christian to forsake a prayer-meeting for a party, or surrender his deep spirituality in order to participate in some political project. The Redeemer said, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6.26; KJV).
3. One of the main differences between Christians and the world is, that others aim to please men; the Christian aims to please God. And this is a great difference.
4. It is an established fact that if men want to become Christians, they must stop trying to please men. They must be willing to experience contempt and a frown; they must be willing to be persecuted and despised; they must be willing to lay aside all hope of the praise and the flattery of men, and be content with an honest effort to please God.
5. True Christians must differ from the world. Their goals, feelings, and purposes must be unlike the world. They are to be a peculiar people; and they should be willing to be thought of as such. That does not mean, however, that a true Christian should not desire the good appreciation of the world, or that he should be unconcerned about having an good reputation “Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7; KJV). Lost men, though they dislike the principles and profession of godly men and women, and despise them personally, cannot help but speak well of their pleasant life and conversation. And this part of their character is necessary to befriend them, and in order to recommend Christ to them.. Nor does it follow that a consistent Christian will not often command the respect of the world. In times of trial, the world will place confidence in Christians; when any work of charity is to be done, the world will instinctively look to Christians; and even though sinners do not love religion, yet they will secretly feel assured that some of the brightest members of society are Christians, and that they have a claim to the confidence and esteem of their fellow-men.
I should not be the servant of Christ.
If he sought to please men, he would never have become the “servant of Christ.” By so doing he had angered his own nation and brought on himself the hatred of men; both Jews and Gentiles “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft” (2 Cor 11:23; KJV). Paul was certainly subjected to persecution due to his standing as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ..
The apostle knew that pleasing men and being a “servant of Christ” were utterly inconsistent, and that no man could serve two such masters; and therefore, though he would not unnecessarily displease anyone, yet he dared not allow himself to gratify men at the expense of his faithfulness to Christ. So, he proves, from the sincerity of his goals and intentions in the discharge of his apostolic office, that he was truly an apostle of Christ. And from his character and behavior we may note:
1. That the great objective which ministers of the gospel should have is to bring men to God.
2. That those who are faithful will not seek to please men, but to endeavor to please God “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4.4; KJV).
3. That they must not be concerned with pleasing men, if they want to be faithful servants to Christ.
But, just in case this argument should not be thought sufficient, he goes on in the next section to prove his apostleship by relating his experience in Arabia, his experience with the apostles in Jerusalem, and his experience in Antioch with Peter. This will take us through the first half of chapter 2.