Posts Tagged ‘J. Louis Martyn’

 The Epistle Reading for this past Sunday, 2 June 2013, in the three year lectionary is the beginning of the lexio continua (sequential reading) of Galatians.

Galatians 1:1-10 (English Standard Version)

 1Paul, an apostle— not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me,   

 To the churches of Galatia:  3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As 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.

 10For 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.

I concentrate on verse 10.  The Greek verbs translated in the ESV “seeking the approval of man” and “please” were verbs used at the time by the rhetoricians or  public speakers, rhetors, to persuade an audience to their point of view.   Rhetoric or public speaking was an art highly developed at the time. Apollos may have been so skilled (Acts 18:24)  It was even used as public entertainment. So when Paul writes to Timothy cautioning him that the times come when “itching” ears will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit themselves (2 Timothy 4:3), the Greek verb for “itching” can be literally translated, “ears wanting to be tickled”, i.e. pleased. Paul is saying to the Galatians that he did not employ his rhetorical skills.  Paul even commented on the scuttlebutt regarding his speaking skills:  2 Corinthians 10:10.  In his first letter to the Corinthian, he purposely did not use “lofty speech” but he preached “Christ and Him crucified”, so that their faith was based not upon Paul and his great speaking skills but on Jesus Christ alone (see  1 Corinthians 2:1-3   ).  The Apostle is saying to the Galatians that he did not use rhetoric to persuade them or please them.  He was called to please God by the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

FWIW, this past Sunday when I came to reading the last sentence of verse 10, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ”, I was overwhelmed, felt like preaching the text, then and there.  I stumbled and paused. My wife told me afterward she noticed.  I thought that when I preach and teach the Gospel, it just may not please man.  When I’ve tried to please man, then I was no servant, or slave, of Christ. Again, the Greek verb translated as “pleased” has to do with rhetoric. Paul did not try to please man to convince them of the Gospel, but to proclaim and preach the Gospel, Jesus Christ for sinners and God the Holy Spirit do the convincing. Having it our way puts us into the driver’s seat. Choice means us directing the building of the Church, her administration, her sacraments, her life, her preaching and teaching in order to ‘reach’ people by pleasing them, even righteously (self-righteously?) convincing them. We’ve made pleasing man into an art, a science, i.e. the ultimate: Church Growth…and in many incremental steps leading up to such. We think we can make faith. A commentator, J. Louis Martyn,  points out this is not the case as evidenced by the Apostle in this Text:

Paul is entirely in earnest, then, with what he says in 1:10. Both in his original oral proclamation and in his letter, he understands himself to be a slave of Christ rather than a rhetorician who is seeking to persuade those to whom he speaks, For, as we have seen, the power to persuade —specifically the power to elicit faith —resides in the glad tiding of Christ’s death in our behalf, and only in that glad tiding. When this gospel is proclaimed, it is not Paul, but rather God, who calls and re-calls churches into existence as his new creation.


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