PAUL’S APOSTOLIC SALUTATION TO THE GALATIANS—continued (Gal. 1:1-5)
There is a little addition in the text which we should not overlook. The greetings here to the Galatians come from Paul the apostle. But there are brethren with Paul who also send their greetings. The Greek text beautifully emphasizes that these brethren are “with me.” Paul is the host, so to speak. He is in the middle and forefront of the brethren; they stand firmly with him in this battle, unmoved from the faith and hope of the Gospel. Perhaps these are the brethren in the Church at Ephesus, or they may also be the brethren in Corinth. (See Lightfoot, page 55.) At any rate, Paul is not standing alone, and the fact that these brethren are with him indicates that they too are partakers with Paul of this grace and peace which Paul preached. Paul was, no doubt, not a little comforted with the presence of these brethren in this critical hour in the church, where it seemed that the work of Paul might have been in vain in the Galatian churches, and that the work of Satan might triumph.
THE CONTENT OF THE BLESSING SPOKEN TO THE GALATIANS (Gal. 1:2)
The content here is like unto that which is addressed by Paul in his other letters to the various churches and individuals. (See Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:2;Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; etc.) Paul does not use any endearing terms to the Galatians. His soul is too perplexed about them. Writes he, “for I am perplexed about you.” (Gal. 4:20) His deep concern is that of “travail” of soul over them, “until Christ be formed in them.” He wishes that he could be present with them “now,” (Gal. 4:19, 20) He wished that he could write them as he did to the Philippians: “brethren beloved, my joy and crown.” (Phil. 4:1) Paul’s heart is not cold; it is all ablaze for the glory of God and for the truth of the Gospel. His heart throbs with love, seeking to prevent the sheep of Christ from going farther astray.
The truth of the matter is that Paul writes one of the richest and most glorious of all the greetings to the churches to these Galatians. This greeting is so expanded that it expresses in a nutshell the full truth of the Gospel. Without this full truth of the Gospel there is no greeting possible. Now it is Gospel-greeting! It is Gospel-greeting just as we have Gospel-greeting of Jehovah God in Exodus 20:2: “I am the LORD (Jehovah) thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Yes, yes, these are the “law” of God’s ten words. But they are delivered to a people of God who were “saved” under blood. In these ten words Israel is addressed at Sinai as a redeemed people, by their redeemer-God. And thus it is here in this greeting from Paul to the Galatians. They are addressed as the congregation, as those who have God as their Father in Christ Jesus, their Lord, Who gave Himself also for their sins. And so these too are blessings from God Who saved us. (Titus 3:4-7) And they are brought from this God by ambassador Paul, who had possibly seen Jesus on the Mount of God in Arabia. For certain he had seen the glorified Son of man on the way to Damascus. (Acts 9:1-9; Acts 22:3-21; Acts 26:9-20) Paul had seen glories greater than those seen by Moses on the Mount at the law-giving and the receiving of the instructions to build the tabernacle after the pattern of the heavenly. (Heb. 8:5; Ex. 25:40) Had he not been taken up in the “third heaven”? (II Cor. 12:2)
What an ambassador of Christ!
What a great pouring forth of the riches of the Gospel-blessing here!
The great blessing is all summed up in one word:Grace. Yes, it is “grace unto you,” Galatians. Grace is the very opposite of “works of law” and merit. It is the free-gift of God, nothing less. It is for the vilest of sinners and given to “godless” ones. (Rom. 5:6) It abounds more where sin abounds, and sin abounds where the “law” is added. (Rom. 5:12-21) This is the very benefit which these Galatian churches need, and by which grace “Christ must be formed in them.” (Gal. 4:19, 20) This grace is the fountain of all blessings. Grace is an eternal virtue in God Himself, by which He is most beautiful and resplendent in glory. By His goodness, grace, and love, God saves us. Grace is back of election; the Bible speaks of the election which has its origin and motivation in grace. (Rom. 11:5) Faith is a gift of this grace. And by this faith, which Christ purchased for us on the Cross, we are justified. This is the grace which the Galatians and the church need!
Paul also adds the term “peace.” Grace and peace! This is a peace which we have with God, being justified by faith. It is the peace which we have with God, a good conscience, so that although our conscience accuses us that we have kept none of God’s commandments, that we have broken. them all, yet God deals with us as if we had never sinned, since the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is imputed to us. It is peace in the Cross. What a tremendously appropriate blessing this is for the Galatians and for all who take refuge to God by the blood of Christ.
Grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only way to the Father, for He is the truth and the life. (John 14:6) No one cometh unto the Father but through Him, and no one receives grace from God which results in peace of conscience, but by our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorified Christ. Yes, He is “Lord.” And this means that He bought us to be His own property in life and in death. (Rom. 14:8) Whether we live or die we are the Lord’s. He is God in the flesh, “Jesus” Who came to save us from our sins as His people. And He is the Anointed Mediator, prophet, priest, and king. He is the “Christ.” And grace and peace come from God the Father through this Christ.
Now this Lord Jesus Christ is all that He is in glory because He “gave himself for us.” He did this once and for all at the end of the ages. He became the sacrifice for our sins. He suffered the wrath of God against our sin and damnworthiness. The Greek participle used here, which is translated “gave,” shows that it was a pure, free offering by the Lamb of God. He did this not many times, but only once. He cried out “it is finished”! He bowed the head before God, angels and devils, before all the saints in heaven and on earth; it was His official work, dying according to the Scriptures. He did this once for all at the end of the ages. (Heb. 9:26)
And what a great purpose Christ had in mind. It was not simply some repair work. It makes one think of Christ’s rescuing this people, saving them, as they are in an evil age. The text says, “that he might deliver us out of this present evil world.” The term “deliver” in the Greek is a very strong word. It really means “to pluck out” forcefully. This is the great work of the power of the resurrection by which the dead are made alive. This is the work which calls the things which are not as if they were. (Rom. 4:17) But to do this Christ had to give His life in the atoning death of the Cross, having power to lay down His life, and having power to take it again. (John 10:18) No man took Christ’s life from Him. He gave Himself freely on the Cross. The saints were dead in trespasses and sins, entirely one with this evil world, except that they were given to the Father, and it was the Father’s will that none of these should perish, and that Christ would raise them up again in the last day. (John 6:40) This is placed by Paul in this greeting. It is the very ground of salvation. It is the only ground of righteousness and justification and peace. Here in the very beginning we .have the keynote of Paul who glories in nothing save in the Cross of Jesus Christ. For the “present” evil world is this entire “age” from the time of Adam’s fall till the time when God shall destroy the elements of the world with fire. It is the world that perished in the flood in the days of Noah, and which will one day be destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven as was Sodom and Gomorrah! (Luke 17:22-37)
That Christ thus died for our sins to rescue us was not his own doing. He came to do the “will of God.” The text says, “according to the will of God our Father.” This too is very meaningful. The emphasis is on God the Father, the triune God as He is our Father for Christ’s sake. It is the Almighty God Who is our Father. He sent His Son in the fulness of time. It was written of Him in the volume of the Book (Scroll) “behold, I come to do thy will, O God.” It was “according” to the will of God that Christ died on the Cross. He cried out in Gethsemane “nevertheless not my will, but thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) He was bruised for our iniquities. And that is the source of this grace and peace of which the benediction speaks.
Yes, here we have the entire gospel summed up briefly and masterfully by Paul in this blessing and greeting. The entire Christ and the God of our salvation is set in very bold relief. It sets the stage, so to speak, for the entire book of Galatians. We see the architectural lines here of salvation, the pattern of sound words.
Small wonder that Paul ends this blessing with the “unto whom be the glory unto ages of ages.” The glory here is the manifestation of the wonderful virtues of God as they are displayed in the works of His will in heaven and on earth and in hell. It is particularly in the great salvation in Christ that God shows the glory of His wisdom and power. We see this in such passages as Ephesians 1:7-10, and Ephesians 3:9, 10, 16, and in many other parts of Scripture. It is in salvation that God displays the riches of His glory far more yet than by what He does in the works of creation. (Psalm 19:1)
In view of this glory not only for the present time and in this present world does God have His Son give Himself on the Cross. This is a great work which must be to the exclusive glory of God in the ages to come, the ages of ages. There will in this Christ be a never-ending display of all the goodness of God and of the effulgence of His glory in the new heavens and in the new earth.
When we thus set in array all this glory of God’s work in Christ, we surely become aware that this is all very firm and sure. It is realized in the cross; it is the execution of God’s sovereign will; it is for the glory of the thrice holy God! We hear something of “Thus saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” Had the Galatians not read any farther than through this “Greeting” they should have recoiled from falling away from Him Who called them, and they would indeed have seen that the never-ending streams of mercy flow from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and shouted with the Apostle, “far be it from me to glory, save in the Cross of Jesus Christ through which the world hath been crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”