|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
1:10-14 In preaching the gospel, the apostle sought to bring persons to the obedience, not of men, but of God. But Paul would not attempt to alter the doctrine of Christ, either to gain their favour, or to avoid their fury. In so important a matter we must not fear the frowns of men, nor seek their favour, by using words of men's wisdom. Concerning the manner wherein he received the gospel, he had it by revelation from Heaven. He was not led to Christianity, as many are, merely by education.
Verse 10. - For do I now (ἄρτι γάρ); for at this hour. This "for" points back either to the fact of the apostle's having now so solemnly pronounced afresh the awful anathema which at some former time he had uttered; or which, in effect, is nearly the same thing, to the tone of feeling which he in so doing evinced, and to his method of apostolic action which he therein exemplified. The adverb ἄρτι, as used in the New Testament, is distinguished from the more common "now" (νῦν), as denoting that space of time which is most closely present. This shade of meaning is conspicuous, e.g. in the "Suffer it to be so just now" of Matthew 3:15, that is, during that brief, quickly vanishing moment in which the Messiah was by Divine appointment to appear subordinate in position to his forerunner. So Matthew 26:53, "Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father, and he shall (ἄρτι) at this very moment send me more than twelve legions of angels?" John 16:12, "Ye cannot bear them (ἄρτι) just now;" in a very short while they would be enabled to bear them. 1 Corinthians 13:12, "Just now (ἄρτι) we see in a mirror, darkly;" words written under a vivid sense of how brief the interval is which separates the present state of things from that of the life to come. 1 Peter 1:8, "On whom, though just now (ἄρτι) ye see him not " - another outcome of the same feeling. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 8:7, ἔως ἄρτι means "until this very hour;" and, on the other side of the point of time indicated ἀπ ἄρτι is "from this very hour" in Matthew 26:64; John 4:42. Many have supposed that the apostle is speaking of certain characteristics of his present course of behaviour as a believer and a servant of Christ, viewed in contrast with the life which he had once lived when an ardent disciple of Judaism. But the narrowly restrictive form of the adverb resists this interpretation, he could hardly with this reference in view have used the phrase "just now," or "at this very hour," of a tenor of life which he had been pursuing for now more than twenty years. Some eminent critics (Alford, Ellicott, Lightfoot, Sanday) take this ἄρτι as pointing to the style of language which the apostle is "just now" adopting: "Now, when I use such uncompromising language;" or, "There! is that the language of a man-pleaser? Now do I," etc. It is an objection to this view that it gives the adverb a somewhat diverse sense to that which it bears in ver. 9; for whereas in ver. 9 ἄρτι, points to the circumstances of the present hour as prompting the apostle to the utterance of his anathema, according to the view referred to it here points to the present hour as exhibiting the apostle himself in a certain aspect. It is more obvious, and indeed gives the present use of the adverb more force, to take it in both verses with the like reference. In both the apostle refers to the present hour as a juncture in which he felt that it had become necessary to depart from his customary manner of using a winning style of address. At other times he will persuade and please; just now he cannot. Persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? (ἀνθρώπους πείθω η} τὸν Θεόν η} ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν); do I persuade men or God? or do I seek to please men? Expositors have endeavoured to establish, as one sense of the Greek verb rendered "persuade," that of "making So-and-so one's friend." No doubt it often means to prevail, or endeavour to prevail, upon others, by coaxing, persuasion, bribery, or anyhow, to go along with you in some particular course of thinking or acting indicated by the context; but it can nowhere. be shown to mean, when standing alone, "to win So-and-so's friendship." In Acts 12:20, "Having persuaded Blastus" means "Having got Blastus to concur with them." Similarly, Matthew 28:14, "We will persuade him," and 2 Macc. 4:45, "With a view to persuade the king." The verb is used here, in 2 Corinthians 5:11, "Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men." In that passage the apostle states it to be his practice to make use of all means of persuasion in order to induce men to accept the gospel message (comp. 2 Corinthians 6:1, "Working together with him, we intreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain"). He was not content with merely, as an ambassador, delivering the message and there leaving the matter; but made it his anxious concern to gain for the message acceptance, by the use of arguments addressed to the reason, and appeals addressed to the feelings, by putting himself, as it were, by the side of those he was addressing as one who sympathized to a large extent with their ways of thought, for the purpose of conducting them onward to concurrence with more perfect views. Among many examples which might be cited, illustrating his skill in persuasion, it will suffice to refer to the manner in which he dealt with the Athenians, with the Jews when speaking to them from the stairs, with King Agrippa (Acts 17:22-31; Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:2, 3, 26, 27), and to his Epistle to Philemon. Another feature, closely connected with the one now mentioned, and here likewise referred to, is the care which the apostle took to "please men;" such a care as produced a manner towards his fellow-men far exceeding the courtesy and shows of respectful consideration which the law of charity ordinarily prescribes. For example, instead of thrusting forward into notice, as the spirit of unsympathetic pride naturally prompts us to do, the points on which he differed from others, and in reference to which he knew himself to he standing on higher ground than they, he chose rather to make prominent any points of agreement which he could find already subsisting, conciliating their candid interest by thus fraternally putting himself on a level with them. If this did not suffice for the purpose of enlisting their sympathies on behalf of himself and his views, he did not hesitate, in matters morally indifferent, to mortify and snub his own tastes, and forego the dissenting judgments of his. own superior enlightenment, "to buffet his body, as he expresses himself in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "and bring it into bondage," by following, how ever distasteful to himself, such practices as should get those whose spiritual improvement he was seeking, to feel, so to speak, comfortably at home with himself. In writing to the Corinthians the apostle in one passage (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) dwells at stone length upon this feature of his ministerial conduct, not ashamed of it, but manifestly glorying in it as a triumph of Christ's grace in his soul. Presently after, at the close of the following chapter, he distinctly propounds himself, as in this respect a Christ-like pattern, for their imitation, "Even [he writes] as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved: be ye imitators of me, even as! also am of Christ." Both of these strongly marked features of his ministerial character were liable to he misunderstood, and by his detractors could be easily misconstrued as grave faults, he was, in fact, accused of speciousness and insincerity, of double faced dealings, of simulation and dissimulation. We can easily understand how readily such accusations would be set on foot, and holy colourable they could be made to appear. That they painfully affected the apostle's mind is evidenced by the frequency of the references he makes to them, and by the earnestness and deep pathos of feeling which not seldom mark those references. It is to such sinister criticism that he alludes, when in 2 Corinthians 5:11, cited above, after saying, "we persuade men," he adds, "but we are become manifest unto God," meaning that, though he did make a habit of laying himself out to persuade, yet the entire sincerity of his action, however misconstrued by men, was patent to the Divine eye (comp. 2 Corinthians 1:12). Now, we have reason to believe that the apostle had been apprised, or at least that he suspected, that in Galatia also such misrepresentation of these characteristics of his ministry was rife. The Epistle supplies at least one token of such having probably been the case, We gather from Galatians 5:11 that he had been said to be still "preaching circumcision." They who said this did so apparently in the sense that his having hitherto kept back this point of his doctrine in preaching to them was only an artifice of "persuasion;" that, in order to prevail upon them to accept the Christian faith, he had thought it expedient not at first to press upon them the observances of Judaism, while nevertheless he knew them to be necessary and was prepared by-and-by to insist upon their being attended to. St. Paul is conscious, therefore, of the existence on the part of some of the Galatian Churchmen of unfriendly suspicions with regard to his straightforwardness and uprightness. It is this stinging consciousness that occasions both the substance and the sharp abrupt tone of what he here says. The substance of the verse may be paraphrased thus: "I have written decisively and sternly; for at such a critical juncture as the present is it men that I can make it my business to 'persuade,' as they sneeringly but not un-truly say I love to do? or is it God that I care, so to speak, to persuade, to wit of my fidelity to the gospel which he has committed to my trust? They scoffingly say I love to 'please men;' and I thank God I have been wont to 'please men' to the very utmost of my power for their good; but is it my work just now to be pleasing men by ways of sweet tenderness and forbearance? If at this time I were still laying myself out to 'please men,' these men, to wit, who are making havoc of the gospel message, and you who are ignorantly listening to them, - then were I no true servant of Christ." The interrogative form into which the apostle's language suddenly breaks is apparently, here also as in 2 Corinthians 3:1, due to his that moment bethinking himself of those malicious censurers of him. We have here an example of the form of sentence which the grammarians call zeugma; that is to say, "God" is named in conjunction with "men," as an object to the action of the verb "persuade," whereas this verb, suitable enough with relation to men, can only by a strain upon its proper sense be employed with relation to God. The sentence would possibly have expressed what appears to have been the apostle's real meaning with less ruggedness, but certainly with less intensity, if its second clause had been (perhaps), "or commend myself to God's approval? (η} συνιστάνω ἐμαυτὸν τῷ Θεῷ;)." (For other instances of zeugma, see Luke 1:64; 1 Corinthians 3:2.) The addition of the article before Θεόν, while it is wanting before ἀνθρώπους, gives the noun a more grandiose tone, as if it were, "Do I persuade men or GOD?" For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον Ξριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἄν ἤμην); if I still were pleasing men, I were no servant (Greek, bondserrant) of Christ's. The received text of the Greek has "For if I still (εἰ γὰρ ἔτι);" but the "for" is omitted by recent editors. It makes no difference in the sense whether we retain it or not, for, retaining the "for," we should have to understand before it, "I trow not," or the like. The word "bondservant" here expresses the official relation of a Christian minister, one especially at his Divine Owner's beck and call. So Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; 2 Timothy 2:24; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1. The apostle means, "I were no servant of Christ in spirit and reality, whatever I might call myself." A good many expositors suppose the "still" to be said with reference to the time before the apostle's conversion: "I were no apostle or Christian at all." But
(1) there is no indication either in this passage or anywhere that the apostle regarded his life before his conversion as characterized by the desire to please men;
(2) with the sense thus given to it, the thought, as Meyer observes, seems excessively tame;
(3) as thus explained, it would not harmonize with the apostle's explicit and repeated declaration that, in the discharge of his high office, he did make a point of pleasing men.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For do I now persuade men, or God?.... To "persuade", is to teach; see Acts 18:4 the sense of which, with respect to men, is easy, but, with regard to God, difficult; and indeed cannot be applied to him, consistent with his divine perfections; and therefore something must be understood, and which may be supplied either thus, "do I now persuade", you or others, that "men or God" are to be hearkened to? not men, but God; the apostle did not teach them to hearken either to himself, or any of the other apostles, Peter, James, and John, any further than as he and they preached the pure Gospel of Christ; but should they do otherwise, they were not to be attended to, but God, who spake by his Son; or Christ, who is God as well as man; who is the great prophet in the church, a son in his own house, whose voice is to be hearkened to in all matters of doctrine, worship, and duty: or thus, "do I now persuade" you, to obey "men or God"; not men, but God; he did not teach them to regard the traditions of the elders, or to obey the commandments of men, but, on the contrary, the ordinances of Christ, who is the one Lord, and only master, whose orders are to be observed: or thus, "do I now persuade", to trust in "men or God?" to believe in the one or the other; not in men, in the wisdom, strength, riches, and righteousness of men, but in the living God; in the grace of God, and in the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ: or thus, "do I persuade" for the sake of "men, or God?" not for the sake of gaining honour, glory, and applause from men, as the Pharisees and false apostles did, but for the glory of God, the hour of Christ, and the good of immortal souls: or else not persons, but things are meant, by men and God: and the sense is, that the apostle taught and persuaded men to believe, not things human, but divine; he did not preach himself, or seek to set up his own power and authority over men; or set forth his eloquence, learning, parts, and abilities; or to gain either applause or riches to himself; he did not teach human wisdom, the vain philosophy of the Gentiles, and opposition of science, falsely so called; nor the traditions of the elders, nor the commandments of men; nor the power and purity human nature, or the righteousness of man: but delivered things divine; he persuaded to things concerning God, and the kingdom of God; see Acts 19:8 he taught, that without the regenerating grace of the Spirit of God, no man should see, and without the justifying righteousness of Christ, no man should enter into the kingdom of heaven, as his Lord had done before him; he preached the things concerning the grace and love of God, the person and offices of Christ, and the Spirit's work of regeneration and sanctification: the word "now", refers to all the time since his conversion, to the present: before his call by grace, he persuaded persons to hearken to men, to obey the traditions of the elders, to trust in their own righteousness for justification before God; but now he saw otherwise, and taught them to lay aside everything that was human, and to believe in God, trust in and depend on his justifying righteousness; and this he did, without any regard to the favour and affection of men, as appears from what follows:
or do I seek to please men? no, he neither pleased, nor sought to please them; neither in the matter of his ministry, which was the grace of God, salvation by a crucified Christ, and the things of the Spirit of God; for these were very distasteful to, and accounted foolishness by the men of the world; nor in the manner of it, which was not with excellency of speech, or the enticing words of man's wisdom, with the flowers of rhetoric, but in a plain and simple style. There is indeed a pleasing of men, which is right, and which the apostle elsewhere recommends, and was in the practice of himself; see Romans 15:2. This proceeds from right principles, by proper ways and means, and to right ends, the glory of God, the good, profit, edification, and salvation of men; and there is a pleasing of men that is wrong, which is done by dropping, concealing, or corrupting the doctrines of the Gospel, to gain the affection and applause of men, and amass wealth to themselves, as the false apostles did, and who are here tacitly struck at; a practice the apostle could by no means come into, and assigns this reason for it:
for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ: formerly he had studied to please men, when he held the clothes of those that stoned Stephen, made havoc of the church, hating men and women to prison; and went to the high priest, and asked letters of him to go to Damascus, and persecute the followers of Christ, thereby currying favour with him; but now it was otherwise, and he suggests, that was this his present temper and conduct he should have continued a Pharisee still, and have never entered into the service of Christ; for to please men, and be a servant of Christ, are things inconsistent, incompatible, and impracticable; no man pleaser can be a true faithful servant of Christ, or deserve the name of one: the apostle here refers to his office as an apostle of Christ, and minister of the Gospel, and not to his character as a private believer, in which sense every Christian is a servant of Christ; though to men is even contrary to this; for no man can serve two masters, God and the world, Christ and men. The Septuagint version of Psalm 53:5 is, "for God hath scattered the bones", "of men pleasers", to which agree the Syriac and Arabic versions.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
10. For—accounting for the strong language he has just used.
do I now—resuming the "now" of Ga 1:9. "Am I now persuading men?" [Alford], that is, conciliating. Is what I have just now said a sample of men-pleasing, of which I am accused? His adversaries accused him of being an interested flatterer of men, "becoming all things to all men," to make a party for himself, and so observing the law among the Jews (for instance, circumcising Timothy), yet persuading the Gentiles to renounce it (Ga 5:11) (in order to flatter those, really keeping them in a subordinate state, not admitted to the full privileges which the circumcised alone enjoyed). Neander explains the "now" thus: Once, when a Pharisee, I was actuated only by a regard to human authority and to please men (Lu 16:15; Joh 5:44), but NOW I teach as responsible to God alone (1Co 4:3).
or God?—Regard is to be had to God alone.
for if I yet pleased men—The oldest manuscripts omit "for." "If I were still pleasing men," &c. (Lu 6:26; Joh 15:19; 1Th 2:4; Jas 4:4; 1Jo 4:5). On "yet," compare Ga 5:11.
servant of Christ—and so pleasing Him in all things (Tit 2:9; Col 3:22).
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