Part of the criticism of the Judaizers was that Paul was spreading his own message, and even then would say whatever was popular. To this, Paul responds by affirming that his message was truly from God and that he is doing anything but preaching to please him. Paul says, “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. 11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:10-12).
Implicit in these verses are Paul’s attitudes towards preaching the gospel. How should we preach the gospel?
First, we should preach for God. Again, Paul’s critics claimed that Paul preached his own message. But here he is clear that his message was from God. Historically, it was the risen Christ who came to Paul. Thus, Paul was unique in that it wasn’t people who led him to Christ, it was Christ himself who preached the good news to Paul. This is important for us to understand—the same gospel that Paul preached, the other apostles and early Christians taught. There aren’t any contradictions in the message that was preached and we should expect that because it was God who gave the message.
In fact, even today, one source of our boldness in evangelism and discipleship—knowing that the message we preach isn’t one of our devising, but one that comes from God himself. That not only means we have confidence in what we preach, but that we do it in such a way as to please him. We are bearer of his message, therefore we preach for his pleasure.
Moreover, this means that, secondly, we should preach without fear. The Judaizers said that Paul only preached what people wanted to hear. That is only he preached that the Gentiles didn’t need to keep the law because he knew that’ what they wanted to hear. But then, when he was with the Jews, he would preach to keep the law. But Paul says that simply isn’t true—“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” (1:10).
Of course, later in chapter two, he gives an account that bears this out (2:11ff). It seems that these Judaizers had gotten to Peter so that though he would preach the gospel to the Gentiles, he would not eat with them if they weren’t eating kosher. And Paul went off on him. You can imagine the scene as he describes it: ‘You’re an apostle, Peter—entrusted with the gospel for all men, yet you discriminate according the law? What happened? You used to eat with Gentiles all the time?’ And we know what happened—the Judaizers came to Antioch where they were and Peter changed his behavior out of fear. These men claimed to be from James in Jerusalem, and therefore their message of keeping the law came from James. Rather than defend what he knew, Peter folded to these imposters. Yet, Paul didn’t fold. Paul continued to preach the gospel without fear, even confronting Peter on his behavior.
In all of this, there is a word for us today isn’t there? After all, we live in a time where people get easily offended, and we don’t want to offend. But we can never stop preaching the gospel simply because it offends someone. We shouldn’t be offensive in the way we preach, but we should never stop sharing Christ simply out of fear of what others would think. Because preaching the gospel is essential.
When I was in college, I think it was Michael W. Smith who put out an album and one of the quotes in the liner notes was a quote from St Francis of Assisi. The quote was ‘Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.’ And I just thought that was great. But there are two problems with it. First, St Francis never actually said that. Secondly, while the gospel can and should be supported by our actions, though our lifestyle should be shaped by and bear witness to the truth of the gospel, unless the gospel is actually proclaimed with our lips, then no one will be saved. The life you led will be in vain, because people will still be in their sins.
To see this, all we have to do is to look back on the movie The Passion to see this. I remember people saying we needed to plan for a worldwide revival that was going to come about from this movie. I mean, there was this thought that you just needed to take lost people to see that movie and then give an invitation at the end, and that would be it. But what happened? Nothing. Now, I’m not saying that there wasn’t any good that came from it. But there was no worldwide revival, not great turning towards Christ, no one ever saved in the screening I saw. Why? Because though they saw the events of the gospel portrayed for them, no one explained what it meant. All they saw was a man get beaten, crucified, die, be buried, and then maybe rise again with that little hint of the resurrection at the end with a naked Jesus. But the problem was that they weren’t told what it meant.
And that’s the point of preaching the gospel. You aren’t just saying, ‘Hey Jesus is the answer’ or ‘God loves you.’ You have to tell them that God made them along with the rest of creation. That despite being loved by God and made in his image we rebel against him in sin, trying to run our own lives, instead of loving God. The result we deserve is hell. Yet the Holy God who judges sin also loves rebels and is willing to forgive, and so sent Jesus to stand in our place and die for us. More than that, Jesus came back to life, never to die again, to reign as the King over all things. Therefore, it is him we must trust; it is him we must love; it is him we must serve. We live that kind of life because we will find our sins forgiven and the desires of our soul satisfied in Christ.
That is what we must preach in order to see the lost get saved, and to see the saved become committed disciples of Christ. We must never change that message, nor must we shrink away in fear from telling anyone this incredibly good news of Jesus Christ.