For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)



In this series through the book of Galatians we are taking a bold stand for the gospel of freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.


It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1


And we must fight for freedom. Always – we must fight for freedom. Even in the church, that organism that is marked by people who follow Jesus, we find ourselves still needing to fight for freedom. We actually have to defend the gospel of grace. We must stand firm, with a strong footing, on the grace alone, Christ alone, good-news of the Gospel.


We have to do this because there will always be some who teach a “different gospel”, a gospel of slavery. They are afraid of the gospel. They are afraid of grace. Because grace is scandalous and rebellious and defiant. Grace says Jesus + Nothing = Everything. So you do nothing. Jesus does it all. And we get everything. Those who are afraid of grace teach a Jesus plus kind of gospel. They say, “Yes, Jesus died for your sins – but you still have to do this or that and stop doing these things or those things.” And that… is not good-news. That is bad news. It is slavery. But Jesus came to give us freedom. Freedom from our sin, freedom from religion, and today we are going to learn that he even gives us freedom from the disease to please.


How many of us have that disease? Do you have the disease to please. Are constantly seeking approval? Most of us are plagued by this disease. But here is the good-news, the gospel sets us free from the need to please. True freedom comes when you live your life to the fullest – the fullest joy, the fullest confidence, the fullest fulfillment… and you cant live like that if you are enslaved to the need to please. So today, we are going to get set free!


We are going to look at Galatians 1:10. Lets look at it.


For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)


When Paul asks this question it might be helpful for us to remember what he has just said in verse 9. He has just finished getting kind of upset about those who are teaching a Jesus plus gospel and he says, “If I or an angel from heaven or if anyone preaches a gospel different than the one that we received from Christ he can go to hell.” Or may he be damned.


So with that in context, we see now that Paul saying something like, “What does it look like, does it look like I’m seeking the approval of men when I say things like this? I don’t care about men! I only care about the Gospel! And if anyone preaches a gospel different than the grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone Gospel then he can be cursed.”


He goes on to answer his own question. “If I were seeking the approval of men I wouldn’t be servant of Christ.” In other words, “I wouldn’t be sticking my neck out on the line for this Gospel defense. If I really cared about pleasing men I would cave into these “Jesus +” teachers  and I would just allow these Gentiles to become Jews. I’d just try to keep the peace and let them all get circumcised, and let them get enslaved into the same traditions that Jesus died to set us free from. No, Paul has been set free from the need to please.


“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Bill Cosby






For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12)


This is not man’s gospel but the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the difference between man’s gospel and God’s Gospel. This is how man does gospel. Man says, “This is my goal, this is the end game.” Then he reverse engineers that goal into a set of steps and processes. Let’s say heaven is our goal. Well… we just reverse engineer heaven. “How can I get to heaven? Here is what I got to do. This is what I need to stop doing… etc….” Man’s way is always “try harder, do better, be gooder”, “faster, stronger, smarter, better!”, “Get er’ done”, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, “if you can dream it, you can do it” (Walt Disney), “never stop improving” (Lowes). That is how man does things. It’s, in fact, the American way. All you need is a little hard work and tenacity and you can accomplish anything.


But the Gospel of Jesus sounds quite different. It sound something like this,


“For it is by grace that you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) 


So when you think about, that is the opposite of man’s gospel. It almost sounds like, “You can’t do it!” All of your striving and working does nothing. God’s gospel is not a result of works it is a free gift. Jesus does it all. That is Jesus’ gospel. It is Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Jesus does everything, you do nothing, and then you get everything. That is nothing at all like man’s gospel. You see no man would invent something like this. Only God could. And that is where Paul got this message. From Jesus Christ himself.


Paul’s Former Life

For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:12-14)


Paul says listen, you wanna play the ‘Jesus meets you half way and then you have to do the rest’ game… well, I have been there done that! And let me tell you, it gets you no-where!” Paul goes on to recount for them the kind of person he was before he meet Jesus – in his former life. That’s what he calls it. “His former life.” Can I just say… when you meet Jesus you have a former life experience. You go from, “I once was blind…” to, “but now I see.” “I once was lost, but now I’m found.”


But Paul’s former life is sort of funny. Paul’s former life was not like some of ours. He isn’t saying, “I once was blind so I used to chased dirty women in the bars.” Instead, he is saying, “I once was blind so I used to chased ‘filthy rags’.” That’s because Paul know that the Bible teaches that all our good works are like filthy rags.


“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isa. 64:6)


So you see, in Paul’s former life he was a legalist. He reverse engineered heaven and holiness by doing good works. He was a Pharisee after all. He obeyed every single law in Judaism. He says, “I was zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”  So when you think about it, he is saying, “In my former life I tried to earn heaven by obeying the law. I did everything that I was supposed to – and I did it better than everybody else. I was a super Jew. I was better than you’ll ever be! So listen, I know how to play that game and let me tell you where it got me. I was so zealous for the things of God that I was actually destroying the things of God.”




But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:15-17)


Paul is going to continue to prove that he is preaching Jesus’ Gospel by showing that after he got saved by Jesus he did not get his training from the Apostles or other men. He did not go to seminary. This is a different kind of argument than we would use today. We wouldn’t say, “Hey I didn’t go to seminary, I wasn’t mentored by the Apostles, I got the message from Jesus himself.” No, we would never say that. I would never put that on my resume. But… Paul… can because it is all true.


But I want us to notice something for tonight. Because I want us to get back to one of  those things I mentioned before that the gospel sets of free from. Remember? The Gospel sets us free from the disease to please. Paul is proving, even by the use of this strange argument, that he isn’t trying to please men. He has been set free from that. But there is also a really awesome thing hidden here that you might not have caught. Listen:


“But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…”


Did you catch that? He is talking about God the Father here. He says that God set him apart, before he was even born, to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (or those who are far from God). So think about that for a moment. God determined before Paul was ever born, that he would be a minister of the Grace alone Gospel…and yet, God allowed Paul to grow up in Judaism and then be so zealous for the traditions of his fathers that he actually persecuted the Christians.


That’s interesting to me as I’m sure it’s interesting to many of you. When you think about it, no one here can say, “God would never use me because I have such a messed up life.” Because Paul had a very messed up life. He killed Christians, and yet God was pleased to use him. In fact God used all of his experiences and maybe even brought him through those experiences in order to use such a one as Paul. And this all seems to please God. It pleases him to save sinners.


Paul says, “God was pleased to reveal his Son to me… I once was zealous for the traditions and laws of Judaism. I even persecuted Christians! But then… God was pleased to reveal the gospel to me. It pleased God to save me by grace alone. God did not save me b/c of my works. God did not save me because I was zealous. God saved me… simply because… it pleased him to do so.”


And that’s the magical hidden thing I want us to see in this text. That it pleased God to save a murderer of the Christians. You see, the Gospel sets us free, not just from the disease to please people but it also sets us free from the same disease to please God.


So…again… let me set you free right now… You can stop trying to please God! You can stop trying! You can’t please God! You can stop seeking his approval. He has already given it to. So much that he willingly gave his Son to die for you! It pleased hime to give his son to die for you. You have his approval!


Here’s the thing. Striving to please others is ridiculous. It is slavery, and we all need to be set free from that. But it is at least a little bit possible. You might actually be able to fool some people. You might actually please some folks. But it is still slavery. It’s a disease! So stop! Stop trying to please man… and then what we typically say, or at least this is what I have heard (maybe you have too), instead, try to please God!


…As if! That is actually a greater kind of slavery. “Hey, you can barley please imperfect people, so why not try to please a perfect deity? You can’t seem to please people who don’t know what your really thinking, so why not strive to please a god you knows exactly what your thinking?” The truth is, you can’t please God. So – doesn’t that sound like an even deeper kind of slavery? I don’t know about you, but it actually sounds like an awfully frightening thing. “How can I ever please God?!” I would much rather to try to please men. At least you can trick them. At least you can fool them! At least you can learn the rules and play their game! But you can’t fool God! You can’t learn the rules, or play a game, and you can’t manipulate God!





I bet, there is some one out there saying something like, “Well… that sure is a unique perspective, Mike… but why is it that I’ve never heard that before?” Why is it that what I normally hear is, “Don’t try to please man, instead try to please God?”


Well let me ask you something. How do you please God? The Bible says…


“Without faith it is impossible to please God…” (Heb. 11:6) 


OK…so faith in what? In our works? No. The better question is, “Faith in whom?”


And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)


Once a crowd of people asked Jesus…


“What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29)


“The devil is forever attracting people to good works to ensure that they never reach the point of thinking that they need the grace of Christ.” Martin Luther



Jesus pleases God, and faith in Jesus pleases God. It is faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone. So… place your faith in Jesus, the only one who pleases the Father. It pleased the Father to crush him for your sins and pleases God to save sinners like you, like me, and even like Paul though this grace alone, faith alone Gospel of Jesus Christ.


You see, this gospel of Grace – this good-news of freedom is a message of true freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Gal. 5). Freedom from our need to please others and even freedom from our need to please God.