Our preaching may persuade men, but does it convince God?
Galatians 1.10: For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
This seems like a strange verb to use in relation God and the Gospel.
Paul is saying that, in his work as an apostle of God (v. 1) and his ministry of the Word and Gospel of God (vv. 6, 7), his desire was to persuade God, not men. If he were trying to persuade men, then he would couch his preaching and teaching in language and according to demands to which they could readily accede. In this case, he would have convinced them to receive the Gospel by saying, in essence, that they could remain Jews and retain all their familiar and comfortable religious practices, simply adding Jesus to the formula, but leaving nothing behind. He would not have challenged their holding to the elementary principles and practices of their Greek, Roman, and pagan culture, or the rites and protocols of their Jewish faith (4.8-11). All they would have had to do would have been to fit Jesus in and they would be fine.
But Paul was not trying to persuade men. He was trying to persuade God. But of what?
Of the genuineness and faithfulness of his ministry, for one. But even more, like the suppliants throughout the psalter who sought to get God to act in one way or another by reminding Him of His promises, Paul was hoping to persuade God to act according to His Word and promises, and to pour out the blessings of His Spirit on his ministry.
This gets at the question of Paul’s orientation and motive in ministry. He did everything only to please God. He sought only to see God do the things He had promised when the Gospel is faithfully proclaimed. Unless God is persuaded that our preaching and teaching are true, according to His Word, He will not be moved to bless our work, for His way of working is always according to what He has declared or promised. Paul was seeking to persuade God to do His work among the Galatians, whereas the false preachers were merely trying to convince men to receive their teaching and thus become their disciples and, incidentally, supporters.
Whom are we trying to persuade?