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Pleasing God Or Man

Pleasing God Or Man

by M. Lynwood Smith

Published in
The Christian Informer
June, 2001

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Last updated:
August 1, 2001.

In order for man to so act in religion that he will merit the approval of god, his actions must be pleasing unto him.

The only way Salvation can be obtained is by doing the things which please God; thus only do we prove our faith in Him. It is my idea that God has always tested man by giving him commands to be obeyed. If man obeys these commands, it is proof that he believes in God. If he does not obey these commandments, he could never make God believe that he has faith in Him; thus God's commandments are His faith test for man. Any time man will trust or believe in God to the extent that he will do all the things which God commands, then only is he living in such a manner that will please God. He must consider that this is God's test for him; God's command for Adam and Eve in the garden long ago was God's test for them. So long as they obeyed they pleased God, but when they allowed one word to be added unto God's commands, they brought upon them the displeasure of the Father.

It is not prudent for us to question God's ways - wonder why certain things were commanded, or what profit these things would bring. Since God is the Creator and man the creature; since He is the Father and we are the children; since He is the Ruler and we are the subjects - then we must accept the things that God has given without question, and obey them if we expect to please Him. It is true that same of the things given us by God appear foolish from a human viewpoint. Paul accepts this fact when he tells us that God takes the foolish things to confound the wise. That is where faith does such a wonderful thing.

Now after considering these matters how could we allow man to take the word of God and reason that God gave us something to be guided by but it is left up to man's own wisdom as to how he wishes to serve and obey Him? How can man believe that it does not matter how he serves God providing he is sincere?

Sincerity is an element which is essential in serving God acceptably, but sincerity in anything except that which the Lord has commanded will not avail. I believe if it had been left to man, he would have given something different in every respect from what God gave. So then we must surrender our human ideas, "And bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5), if we would please God. If we allow ourselves to change one thing in God's plan we catch ourselves pleasing someone other than God. God knows man's ways are not His ways, and His thoughts are not man's thoughts--so he gives us His ways and tests us to see if we will please Him or man. Which are you doing today, friends?

It is a fine thing if we can please God and at the same time please man; but if we are displeasing God in any respect, in order to please man, let it be anyone in life, we certainly are failing miserably. Here is a good place to take the advice that the apostle Paul gave to some brethren in Galatia who had allowed men to pervert the gospel and introduce their own ideas. Galatians 1:10-12, "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. But I certify you brethren that the Gospel which was preached of me, is not after men. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Oh, how many churches today need this instruction! When will people learn that the things which please men are the things upon which God frowns.

Let us apply this rule in some things: First, let us notice what we hear so often concerning church membership. "it doesn't make any difference to which church you belong," or "all churches are right." Now friends, think for a moment... Is this teaching pleasing to God or man? The only way it could please God is for it to be in harmony with the teachings of His Word. What does the Word say? In Matthew 16:18 Jesus says, "Upon this rock I will build my church." He does not say "churches," and until this doctrine can be proved true, this must read "church."

I admit this is a simple argument, but before anyone can prove this to be pleasing unto anyone except man, the teaching in Matthew 16:18 will have to be changed. Again we read in 1 Corinthians 12:13, "For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body." But again let us turn to Ephesians 4:4 and here we have the great Christian unities. "There is one body, and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;" (Verse 5), "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all and in you all." Now friends, Paul says, "There is one body." What is that body? In Ephesians 1:22,23, "And hath put all things under His feet and gave Him to be head over all things unto the church which is his body." Again in Col. 1:18, "And He is the head of the body, the church." Thus we see, the body is the church; there is one body. Therefore, there is one church. Now can we please God when we teach one may be in any church and be saved? Friends, anyone is pleasing man who so teaches, or God's Word misinforms us.

Next, let us consider this thought - Baptism is not essential to salvation. Does this please God or man? What pleases man? Well it pleases man to seek salvation without baptism; that is why we hear so much of this get-down-beside-your-radio religion. Fill out a card and send it in or just have faith only. Friends, that is what pleases man, but what pleases God? We must go to the Bible - because we do not know, otherwise. John 3:5 teaches that we must be born again. That is baptism, or where else does it fit? Mark 16:16 teaches that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Acts 22:16, "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins." Then we learn it is baptism that puts us into Christ, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." Could you get into Christ without water baptism? 1 Peter 3:21 says, "Baptism now saves us." Now what would we have to do to please God? It is strange, yes - dangerously strange, to teach that man can go to heaven without baptism in view of all that has been said in the Bible in favor of it. Any preacher is pleasing someone besides God when he, regardless of rank or title, preaches salvation without baptism.

Now let us come Inside the church for a moment. This spirit of pleasing man has made its way into many modern day churches of Christ just as it did same of the Galatian churches of Christ long ago. So we ask, when we come to the Lord's Holy Communion Service, cannot we please God in just any procedure just so we have the right spirit? Erring brother, you act strangely here; you who condemn the sectarians for making such arguments for the plurality of churches. I repeat the statement I made at the outset of the lesson, "Sincerity is an essential element in worshiping God, but it alone will not get the job done." God must, and is going to be pleased in His worship, if he accepts it.

Long ago, Christ told the woman at the well that "God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." I admit the right spirit must prevail in our worship and in our hearts, but I insist and demand that the other element mentioned in this verse is equally essential, and that we must worship Him in Truth. Pilate asked Jesus "What is Truth?" That is a good question and Jesus answered it, "Sanctify them through thy truth: Thy Word is Truth." Then our worship must consist at the teaching of God's Word-even if it is in the churches of Christ.

Is more than one cup in the communion pleasing unto God or man? Well, first I will say it is pleasing unto man, because more of them have it than will take the one. Brethren will tear up churches in order to have more than one cup. Brethren will disrupt the tranquility of the brotherhood in order to have individual cups in the communion service. Now we know it pleases men, but that is all right if it pleases the Lord also. But I always believed Jesus knew what he wanted, and I believe He knew what the Father wanted while He was here and did just what would please Him. If that be true, read Matthew 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:10; 1 Corinthians 11:25-28, and see if you can find more than one cup mentioned. If you do not, and you use them are you pleasing God and Christ? Friends and brethren, just as surely as our Lord did what pleased the Father when He gave unto them ONE CUP and they drank of it, just that sure you are pleasing men when you have more than one. I cannot find where the Lord changed His Holy Mind any after that time. I do find when He was instructing Paul concerning the Corinthian Church, He made Paul speak of this thing in the same number which the gospel writers spoke of it, and I know that pleased the Father. God said of Christ, "This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Why was God well pleased in Christ? Because Christ obeyed Him in all things; "I do always those things which please the Father." If we are going to embrace religion at all, let us take that which is real. Let us make the sacrifice and say with Peter in Acts 4:19, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." Again in Acts 5:29, "We ought to obey God rather than man." Even on the fateful night of all nights in the Garden, praying alone while no human eyes were looking and no human ears were listening, while the world's sins were heavily weighing upon Jesus, He could still say, "Thy will be done." "Have thine own way Lord, have thine own way; Thou art the Potter, I am the clay; mold me and make me, after Thy will, while I am waiting, yielded and still."

[This article was found in the May 1, 1960 issue of the Proclaimer of Truth. It is submitted by Cecil Smith]