And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1. The Galatians
and all brethren which are with me unto the churches of Galatia
When Paul writes to the various believers in each city he just said the church in. ( i.e. singular )
Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,
….unto the church of God which is at Corinth,
II Cor. 1:1
Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians
1 Thess. 1:1 & II Thess. 1:1
Only here in Galatians does the apostle address himself to ‘churches’, which suggests that the epistle to the Galatians is addressed to several assemblies in a region. The exact geographical region has been the point of much dispute amongst Bible scholars, but it does not really matter where it was, it is the message that is the important issue, and it’s quite clear that the heresy that Paul was addressing had infected a large region! Once error creeps in, it can spread like wildfire. It may be added here that such endless questions as to the exact region, and which assemblies Paul had in mind, distract from the important issues of the letter, and this is one of the tactics of the devil.
However we are fairly safe to assume that the assemblies include those on his missionary journeys in that region, and consist of churches that he himself established. In Acts 13-14; 16:6, we note that there are clues indicating the close affection between the Galatians and the apostle:
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
Paul wasn’t allowing sentiment though, to get in the way of telling the truth! He was ruthless with them, because of the love he had for them and the truth of the Gospel. A love that leaves people alone when in error is no true love. Just as a (real) parent would scold the wayward child, so Paul brings the Galatians to account: remember that God, who loves us, chastises us for our profit. Away with such sentimental ‘love’ that has no place for discipline and correction.
As to the date, opinion is divided: it is regarded as one of the earliest of Paul’s letters that we have in our possession; no one knows for certain when, but most scholars put the date somewhere between 53 and 58 AD. However this is only of academic interest and has nothing to add to the message of the book. But what is significant, as we shall see later, is that the events of Chapters 1 and 2 were written before the ‘conference’ of Acts 15.
2. The Gospel
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ
Whilst verses 3 to 5 may seem only to be Paul giving a salutation it is important to remember the truths that he states, for these are the basics of the gospel, the gospel which the Galatians had turned from.
Grace is the first thing mentioned. This is the foundation, God’s grace; if mercy is withholding something we deserve (Hell) then Grace is giving us something we do not deserve. This gospel is a gospel of grace; it is not by the works of the flesh that the Galatians had slipped into. In the NT the word grace appears some 122 times; let us be reminded of some relevant ones to our studies.
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The gospel of the grace of God.
For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Then Paul mentions peace. We were enemies of God and had neither peace with Him, nor peace within ourselves. But God came and dealt with our sin and ourselves.
The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord of all)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of peace, to follow the works of the flesh is to be in turmoil and restlessness, as the Galatians found out, and as Paul later explains. But then we turn to the one who made this possible – the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
There are two things here that we shall consider: Jesus gave Himself and it was for our deliverance.
2.1 Jesus gave Himself
This salvation was not cheap, it demanded of Jesus a heavy price, so that we could have the free gift of eternal life; how could anyone now suggest that there is anymore to pay or do? If God spared not His Son how shall he not freely give us all things with Him? Rom.8:32. Here Paul makes it plain to the Galatians that Salvation is from Him and not by the works of the flesh, it is God who saw the need and provided the remedy, we had no part in it whatever; it is the gift of God not of works, Eph.2:8-9.
The idea behind the word ‘gave’ here is to give voluntarily, Jesus freely gave Himself over to the plan of redemption, no one compelled Him, not even His Father; Jesus willingly gave Himself for our salvation. Jn. 10:14-18; Eph.5:25; Titus 2:14. Neither did He give someone or something else but HIMSELF, God the Son took it upon Himself to come to this earth and pay the price for our redemption. It is all of Him, His grace and love.
He gave Himself for:
- our sins Gal.1:4
- for us (as individuals) Gal.2:20
- for the church (ie. His church, not the organisations called churches) Eph.5:25
- a ransom for all I Tim.2:6
- for us to redeem Titus 2:14
In the above reference in Titus the word ‘redeem’ means ‘to release on the payment of a ransom’ and in I Timothy the word ‘ransom’ indicates that Jesus Himself was the ransom, His very life. So we have it that the Lord Jesus’ death was the substitutionary death for us.
2.2 To deliver us
And this is the reason, the specific purpose that God had in mind: to deliver us from the world. The word deliver implies rescue: that is by removing us from the system of this world, so that we might belong to another – God’s kingdom not by taking us out of the physical world, but by changing our nature so that we are not a part of this world. Peter puts it like this:
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
II Pet. 1:3-4
God has delivered/rescued us! It is no wonder that Paul says …. to whom be glory for ever and ever! Gal.1:4b-5. Let us be ever mindful of what God has done for us, and be always be careful to give Him the praise due to Him, for He alone is worthy.