10. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
10. Nunc enim suadeone secundum homines, an secundum Deum? vel quaero hominibus placere? si enim adhuc hominibus placerem, Christi servus non essem.
11. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
11. Notum autem vobis faeio, fratres, Deuteronomy Evangelio, quod evangelizatum est a me, quod non est secundum hominem;
12. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
12. Neque enim ego ab hormine accepi illud, neque didici; sed per revelationem Iesu Christi.
13. For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it;
13. Audistis enim conversationem meam, quae aliquando fuit in Iudaismo; quod supra modum persequebar ecclesiam Dei, et vastabam illam,
14. And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
14. Et proficiebam in Iudaismo supra multos aequales meos in gernere meo, quum vehementius studiosus essem paternarum traditionum.
Having extolled so confidently his own preaching, he now shows that this was no idle or empty boast. He supports his assertion by two arguments. The first is, that he was not prompted by ambition, or flattery, or any similar passion, to accommodate himself to the views of men. The second and far stronger argument is, that he was not the author of the gospel, but delivered faithfully what he had received from God.
10. For do I now persuade according to men or according to God? The ambiguity of the Greek construction in this passage, has given rise to a variety of expositions. Some render it, Do I now persuade men or God? Others interpret the words |God| and |men,| as meaning divine and human concerns. This sense would agree very well with the context, if it were not too wide a departure from the words. The view which I have preferred is more natural; for nothing is more common with the Greeks than to leave the preposition kata, according to, to be understood.
Paul is speaking, not about the subject of his preaching, but about the purpose of his own mind, which could not refer so properly to men as to God. The disposition of the speaker, it must be owned, may have some influence on his doctrine. As corruption of doctrine springs from ambition, avarice, or any other sinful passion, so the truth is maintained in its purity by an upright conscience. And so he contends that his doctrine is sound, because it is not modified so as to gratify men.
Or, do I seek to please men? This second clause differs not much, and yet it differs somewhat from the former; for the desire of obtaining favor is one motive for speaking |according to men.| When there reigns in our hearts such ambition, that we desire to regulate our discourse so as to obtain the favor of men, our instructions cannot be sincere. Paul therefore declares, that he is in no degree chargeable with this vice; and, the more boldly to repel the calumnious insinuation, he employs the interrogative form of speech; for interrogations carry the greater weight, when our opponents are allowed an opportunity of replying, if they have anything to say. This expresses the great boldness which Paul derived from the testimony of a good conscience; for he knew that he had discharged his duty in such a manner as not to be liable to any reproach of that kind. (Acts 23:1; 2 Corinthians 1:12.)
If I yet pleased men This is a remarkable sentiment; that ambitious persons, that is, those who hunt after the applause of men, cannot serve Christ. He declares for himself, that he had freely renounced the estimation of men, in order to devote himself entirely to the service of Christ; and, in this respect, he contrasts his present position with that which he occupied at a former period of life. He had been regarded with the highest esteem, had received from every quarter loud applause; and, therefore, if he had chosen to please men, he would not have found it necessary to change his condition. But we may draw from it the general doctrine which I have stated, that those who resolve to serve Christ faithfully, must have boldness to despise the favor of men.
The word men is here employed in a limited sense; for the ministers of Christ ought not to labor for the express purpose of displeasing men. But there are various classes of men. Those to whom Christ |is precious,| (1 Peter 2:7,) are men whom we should endeavor to please in Christ; while they who choose that the true doctrine shall give place to their own passions, are men to whom we must give no countenance. And godly, upright pastors, will always find it necessary to contend with the offenses of those who choose that, on all points, their own wishes shall be gratified; for the Church will always contain hypocrites and wicked men, by whom their own lusts will be preferred to the word of God. And even good men, either through ignorance, or through weak prejudice, are sometimes tempted by the devil to be displeased with the faithful warnings of their pastor. Our duty, therefore, is not to take alarm at any kind of offenses, provided, at the same time, that we do not excite in weak minds a prejudice against Christ himself.
Many interpret this passage in a different manner, as implying an admission to the following effect: |If I pleased men, then I should not be the servant of Christ. I own it, but who shall bring such a charge against me? Who does not see that I do not court the favor of men?| But I prefer the former view, that Paul is relating how large an amount of the estimation of men he had relinquished, in order to devote himself to the service of Christ.
11. Now I make known to you. This is the most powerful argument, the main hinge on which the question turns, that he has not received the gospel from men, but that it has been revealed to him by God. As this might be denied, he offers a proof, drawn from a narrative of facts. To give his declaration the greater weight, he sets out with stating that the matter is not doubtful, but one which he is prepared to prove; and thus introduces himself in a manner well adapted to a serious subject. He affirms that it is not according to man; that it savours of nothing human, or, that it was not of human contrivance; and in proof of this he afterwards adds, that he had not been instructed by any earthly teacher.
12. For I neither received it from man. What then? shall the authority of the word be diminished, because one who has been instructed by the instrumentality of men shall afterwards become a teacher? We must take into account, all along, the weapons with which the false apostles attacked him, alleging that his gospel was defective and spurious; that he had obtained it from an inferior and incompetent teacher; and that his imperfect education led him to make unguarded statements. They boasted, on the other hand, that they had been instructed by the highest apostles, with whose views they were most intimately acquainted. It was therefore necessary that Paul should state his doctrine in opposition to the whole world, and should rest it on this ground, that he had acquired it not in the school of any man, but by revelation from God. In no other way could he have set aside the reproaches of the false apostles.
The objection, that Ananias (Acts 9:10) was his teacher, may be easily answered. His divine instruction, communicated to him by immediate inspiration, did not render it improper that a man should be employed in teaching him, were it only to give weight to his public ministry. In like manner, we have already shown, that he had a direct call from God by revelation, and that he was ordained by the votes and the solemn approbation of men. These statements are not inconsistent with each other.
13. For ye have heard of my conversation. The whole of this narrative was added as a part of his argument. He relates that, during his whole life, he had such an abhorrence of the gospel, that he was a mortal enemy of it, and a destroyer of the name of Christianity. Hence we infer that his conversion was divine. And indeed he calls them as witnesses of a matter not at all doubtful, so as to place beyond controversy what he is about to say.
His equals were those of his own age; for a comparison with older persons would have been unsuitable. When he speaks of the traditions of the fathers, he means, not those additions by which the law of God had been corrupted, but the law of God itself, in which he had been educated from his childhood, and which he had received through the hands of his parents and ancestors. Having been strongly attached to the customs of his fathers, it would have been no easy matter to tear him from them, had not the Lord drawn him by a miracle.