Preaching to Please God or Man?

Not all preaching pleases God.  Some preachers will incur God’s end-time wrath because of what they preach (Galatians 1:8-9), for God is dishonored when the gospel is distorted.

When Paul wrote Galatians, he found himself falsely accused of preaching a watered down gospel when he actually upheld the true gospel revealed to him by Jesus Christ.  His opponents in Galatia didn’t like his grace-centered message.  Imagine being labeled a man-pleaser because you herald the riches of radical grace in Christ!

Paul is probably countering an accusation against him when he asks, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?” (Gal 1:10a-b).  Apparently some intruders in the Galatian churches were spreading a rumor that Paul was a man-pleaser.  While the reason for the accusation is not described in the letter, possibly it pertained to the content of Paul’s preaching.  He proclaimed that God saved by grace alone, excluding human works as playing any role in justification.

On the other hand, the intruders promoted works of the Mosaic Law as integral to a sinner’s status before God (see Gal 2:4-5, 16, 21).  Therefore, according to the intruders, Paul omitted the works of the Law of Moses in his preaching because he wanted to sway his Gentile listeners with what sounded too good to be true (that grace, apart from works of the law, saves sinners).  The intruders insisted that his omission was rooted in his desire to please his audience with what they wanted to hear.

But Paul is no man-pleaser.  As proof, the opening “For” of Galatians 1:10 points back to the curse-language of 1:9: “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.”

That doesn’t sound like something a man-pleaser would say.  Calling down a curse on false teachers is the polar opposite of telling people what they want to hear.  But Paul tells the truth, fearing God more than man.  He boldly declares the judgment of God upon anyone who preaches a different gospel than his.

Our aim must be to please God by preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ.  As demonstrated by the rumor in Galatia about Paul, preaching the gospel of God’s grace in Christ doesn’t always please men.  In fact, the true gospel may anger and offend men (see 1 Corinthians 1:18)!  Not all listeners will be pleased when preachers exalt the law-free gospel of God’s grace, but God will certainly be displeased when a false gospel is proclaimed.

We mustn’t be ear-ticklers, no matter how great the temptation.  But neither should we shrink from heralding the incredible message of God’s radical grace offered to us in Christ, grace that cleanses us from sin and reconciles us to a holy God.

To some, this gospel sounds too good to be true.  Don’t we have to do something to warrant this grace, to merit this mercy?  Our sinful flesh may want to assert its efforts and point to its achievements, but no one’s obedience accomplishes redemption except that of Jesus Christ on the cross.

We must preach to please God, not man, because tickling people’s ears doesn’t help their souls.  We are most helpful when we are most truthful.  And here’s the truth about the gospel: Christ, who had no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If that sounds too good to be true, then obviously the gospel is even more glorious and amazing than you imagined it to be.

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