Not long ago the Movie “Amistad” made Sengbe Pieh, mostly known by his slave name “Cinqué”, famous. It’s a fascinating story but has a sad ending not addressed in the movie. According to one 12 all thingshistorian, “Born to royalty in Africa, Cinque led the revolt of fifty slaves aboard the ship bound for America. They killed all but two of the crew, manacled them to the bridge, and demanded a return to Africa. The Spanish ship’s mate deceived them, however, and took them to Connecticut. There the slaves were indicted for murder and piracy. The case became a national sensation. Former President John Quincy Adams represented the slaves and won them an acquittal.” It was quite a dramatic trial with flashbacks to the slave trader’s journey from Africa to the new world. But what it doesn’t tell you is that, “Released to freedom, Cinque returned to Africa to become a slave trader!”

Paul was criticized by the Judaizers for being like Cinque. Yes, Paul would adopt the lifestyle of those around him in order to win others for Christ. When he was with Jews who observed the dietary laws, he would observe them as well. If he was with gentiles who would eat the meat that had been sacrificed to idols in Corinth and then sold in the market place, he would eat with them without condemnation. As he said, it’s not a matter of what you eat or what you drink that mattered. It was all about the gospel of Jesus Christ. But this led the Judaizers to accuse Paul of being a “man pleaser.” They said he spoke out of both sides of his mouth. When with the Jews, he taught law-keeping. When with the Gentiles he taught freedom from law-keeping. In Galatians 1:10, Paul answers this charge. He writes, “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.”

If Paul was trying to be a man-pleaser he would not be pronouncing a double curse upon them. He preached the same message of salvation by grace through faith alone to both Jews and Gentiles. Yet, he accommodated himself to the culture he was with in order to get a hearing for this truth. His setting aside his right to eat what a gentile might eat while with the Jews seems to be what was held against him by the Judaizers. Simply choosing to abstain from offensive behavior is not the same as preaching such abstinence is essential for salvation. But since the Judaizers insisted on attacking Paul for his sensitivity to their customs, he had to come straight out and confront those who opposed him. One commentator observed, “Men who are determined to find fault will never lack excuses to criticize. Such men want conflict, not reconciliation.” Have you ever heard the saying, “No good deed goes unpunished?” His sensitivity to Jewish customs was used to attack his motives. But Paul says, if I at all compromise the gospel to please men, ‘I should not be the servant of Christ.’ His point is clear: he says, I am the servant of Christ, and you face His curse unless you repent.” (See John Rushdoony’s Commentary)