Do the teachings of the Gospel oppose our worldviews? Does the Word of God make us feel uncomfortable? How do we deal with the conflicting views and discomfort? Do we turn to another Gospel to please ourselves and others or do we believe that the Word was God (Cf. John 1:1) and obey it wholeheartedly (Cf. Luke 11:28; John 13:17)?
St. Paul told the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Gal 1:6-10)
Those who would establish any other way to heaven than what the gospel of Christ reveals, will find themselves wretchedly mistaken. The apostle presses upon the Galatians a due sense of their guilt in forsaking the gospel way of justification; yet he reproves with tenderness, and represents them as drawn into it by the arts of some that troubled them. In reproving others, we should be faithful, and yet endeavour to restore them in the spirit of meekness.
Some would set up the works of the law in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and thus they corrupted Christianity. The apostle solemnly denounces, as accursed, every one who attempts to lay so false a foundation. All other gospels than that of the grace of Christ, whether more flattering to self-righteous pride, or more favourable to worldly lusts, are devices of Satan. And while we declare that to reject the moral law as a rule of life, tends to dishonour Christ, and destroy true religion, we must also declare, that all dependence for justification on good works, whether real or supposed, is as fatal to those who persist in it. While we are zealous for good works, let us be careful not to put them in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and not to advance any thing which may betray others into so dreadful a delusion.
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.
It may be implied from verse 10 that if a man makes it his aim to please people, 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 act from higher motives than those, and he who aims supremely at the favour of his fellowmen has full evidence that he is not a Christian. A friend of Christ must do his duty, and must regulate his conduct by the will of God, whether people are pleased with it or not.
And it may be further implied that the life and deportment of a sincere Christian will not please people. It is not what they love and consider normal. A holy, humble, spiritual life they do not love. It is true, indeed, that their consciences tell them that such a life is right; that they are often constrained to speak well of the life of Christians, and to commend it; it is true that they are constrained to respect a person who is a sincere Christian, and that they often put confidence in such a person; and it is true also that they often speak with respect of them when they are dead; but the life of an humble, devoted, and zealous Christian they do not love. It is contrary to their views of life. And especially if a Christian so lives and acts as to reprove them either by his words or by his life; or if a Christian makes his religion so prominent as to interfere with their pursuits or pleasures, they do not love it. It follows from this:
(1) That a Christian is not to expect to please people. He must not be disappointed, therefore, if he does not. His Master did not please the world, He was almost thrown off a cliff, was scourged and finally crucified; and it is enough for the disciple that he be as his Master.
(2) a professing Christian, and especially a minister, should be alarmed when the world flatters and caresses him. He should fear either:
(a) That he is not living as he ought to do, and that sinners love him because he is so much like them, and keeps them in countenance; or,
(b) That they mean to make him betray his religion and become conformed to them.
It is a great point gained for the frivolous world, when it can, by its caresses and attentions, get a Christian to forsake his religion to engage in worldly pleasures. “Woe unto you,” said the Redeemer, “when all men speak well of you,” (Luke 6:26).
(3) one of the main differences between Christians and the world is, that others aim to please people; the Christian aims to please only God (Cf. 1 Thes 4:1; 2 Cor 5:9; Col 1:10). And this is a great difference.
(4) it follows that if people would become Christians, they must cease to make it their object to please people. They must be willing to be met with 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 people, and be content with an honest effort to please God (Cf. Mark 8:34-35; Matt 5:11; Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 16:13).
(5) true Christians must differ from the world. Their aims, feelings, purposes must be unlike the world. They are to be a special people (not normal); and they should be willing to be esteemed such. It does not follow, however, that a true Christian should not desire the good esteem of the world, or that he should be indifferent to an honorable reputation (Cf. 1 Timothy 3:7); nor does it follow logically that a consistent Christian will not often command the respect of the world. In times of trial, the world will put confidence in Christians; when any work of benevolence is to be done, the world will instinctively look to Christians; and, notwithstanding, sinners will not love religion, yet they will secretly feel assured that some of the brightest ornaments of society are Christians, and that they have a claim to the confidence and esteem of their fellow-men.
Let us remind ourselves that God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path with the song “Thy Word”: