Galatians 1:10 Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul asks a rhetorical question – is he trying to please men or God? He answers by saying that if he was still trying to please men, he would not be a servant of Christ. This contrast fits the present controversy. The whole concept of a works-based theology, while it appears to be an attempt to please God by “doing what’s right,” is actually related to being afraid of men. Why? The truth is, God cares nothing for what we do, at least as far as salvation is concerned. The only ones concerned about the observance of the “outer law” (circumcision, dietary rules, calendar) as it relates to our salvation or position in God’s kingdom – are people. It also relates to this underlying cultural theme. A demand for cultural conformity so as to be acceptable to God, or to be acceptable “to the group” or even an individual (like a leader) certainly contradicts the Gospel message that anyone can come into God’s kingdom if he’ll just accept Jesus. The Judiazers are insisting there is more – you must become circumcised, in essence, you must become an ethnic Jew, to be saved. These men were outsiders – wolves trying to pillage the flock. Paul is framing his rhetorical question as making the “men” he is trying to please in v. 10 the Judiazers – versus God, as opposed to people generally against God.
This is also a very personal concept to Paul. In verse 13 he begins to elaborate. He was once a crusader for the piety of Judaism, much like the Judiazers. He believed and lived in and for the concept that every detail of the law must be kept and followed in order to pleasing to God. Yet, in his efforts to jealously defend the law, in his efforts to “please God,” though he was really pleasing men, he broke the law. His life changing encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus showed him that the concept of slavery to the law does not bring us any closer to God – only in the whole dependence upon what Christ has done for us. Paul has already had first hand knowledge of the experience of living for and being devoted to the lie these outsiders are trying to introduce to the Galatians. Later, in Chapter 5, he will admonish them – don’t take up the yoke of bondage again – you can’t go back to where you were.