Paul, an apostle, not by human sources, nor by human appointment, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead, and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Although Paul defends his apostolic authority in this passage, his main concern is not apostolic authority but the defense of his gospel against Judaizing detractors. Paul defends his gospel and apostolic authority, which were received from God alone and not from mere man. His calling to apostleship demonstrates God’s method of grace. Even his greeting of peace supports his contention for the gospel of grace alone that is being contested by the Judaizers. Right from the start Paul defines his grace-driven message of atonement and eschatological deliverance. Contemplating the work of Christ Paul breaks into doxology.
Paul speaks of his person and calling with the same deliberateness with which a soldier might give his name, rank and serial number and with the authority akin to an ambassador just come from the court of his king with an urgent message. The introduction resonates with urgency. It was customary in Paul’s world to specify the writer and those to whom a letter was addressed. The Liturgical Press. However, Paul’s approach to his hearers is terse, nervous and tense. That Paul found it necessary to assert his apostleship in this way is due to the antagonism of his opponents. A glance at the opening of Paul’s other epistles demonstrates, by contrast, that here he feels that he must affirm, assert, and even force the issue of apostolic authority. His call to apostleship demonstrates God’s method of grace; we should never forget that defense of apostleship is secondary to Paul’s pre-eminent concern – the nature of the gospel itself! and derivatives occur in Galatians only four times whereas euangelion (gospel) and its derivatives occur fourteen times. “This is reason enough to try a different approach and to analyse the argument from a reader’s point of view…”
Paul, an apostle, not by human sources, nor by human appointment, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead. The highly strung atmosphere calls forth the double negative ouk ap anthrōpōn oude di anthrōpou. Paul, by means of this double negative and accompanying prepositions, defines his apostleship with careful nuance. Paul’s apostleship is not traceable to human origin, but also to no mere human medium. / Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ … Θεοῦ/) An actual analysis confirms the importance of this contrast, which creates an element of tension right through these chapters and which is only relieved in 2:20.” On 4:21 he adds: “It is significant that the formal reference to Paul’s position as apostle in the prescript is immediately qualified by the double contrast between man and Christ/God…. His apostleship and the way he received it is an illustration of the unusual and unexpected way God works – in accordance with the ouv kata. a;nthrōpon nature of the gospel itself.” On the three co-ordinate prepositional phrases modifying the verbal adjective apostolos (“a person who has been sent”), see Martyn who thinks that 1 Corinthians 1:9 “tips the balance in favor” of rendering both instances of dia (“by”) meaning “originating actor.” “In the whole of this verse Paul is concerned not with misunderstandings as to who may have mediated his sending, but rather with misconceptions as to who sent him.” It was through no mere man that Paul, the apostle, was divinely called, but by (through) Jesus Christ and God the Father which, incidentally, speaks worlds about Paul’s view of the person of Christ. It is natural for Paul to distinguish Christ from mere men and to associate Him inseparably, in a single breath, with God the Father. Everywhere Paul assumes the Deity of Christ.
The medium (corresponding to the second of the two negatives oude di anthrōpou) through which Paul was called to be an apostle was Jesus Christ who cannot be severed from the Father who raised Him from the dead. Paul’s purpose for adding these words is not only to trace the salvation of sinners to the Father’s design in Christ but also specifically to affirm his own apostleship as one who had himself seen the risen Lord. The former cannot be excluded, however. We cannot read on in the epistle’s quick movement toward the main theme without realizing that Paul immediately begins an attack on every attempt to detract from the gospel of grace. The eschatological event of the resurrection is God’s breaking by grace into our human situation and need, exclusive of human merit. The resurrection of Jesus provides the sourceand context for Paul’s entire theology and ministry. Ramsay notes: “Paul’s whole theory of life had been founded on the belief that Jesus was dead; but when he recognized that Jesus was living, the theory crumbled into the dust. If He was not dead, He was not an imposter.” He adds: “The power which Paul’s Gospel had over the Galatians lay in its origin out of his own experience. He was the living proof that it was true. It had given him his new life. What it did for him it could do for all.” Indeed, “it remade the universe for him; it recreated his life and soul and thought and energy; the simple fact that he stood and spoke before them was the unanswerable proof that his message was true” (Ramsay, Historical Commentary, 333, 334).
By adding and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia (Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch), the apostle indicates that he is not alone in his concern for the straying believers to whom he writes. By all the brothers Paul probably intends co-laborers in the gospel at Antioch. Paul’s closest associates support the letter written by him to the Galatians, with its stern warning and pastoral pleading. Though Paul writes the letter, those he names also speak authoritatively and with deep concern to the Galatian churches. Antioch would be considered the mother church of the Galatian churches who, through the Holy Spirit’s leading, had chosen Barnabas and Saul for the evangelistic work which led to the Galatians’ conversion. Ramsay points out in his Historical Commentary that since Antioch shares in the sending of the letter it must have been publicly read or in some manner approved by the church, perhaps through its representatives. Moreover, this origin explains why Antioch, so inseparably associated with Galatian evangelization, is not explicitly mentioned as the mother church in the body of the epistle. On the surface it seems that Paul speaks only of his own work and when he does mention Antioch it is by way of criticism of their one time defection from consistency with the gospel. “But when all Antiochian Christians are associated with the Apostle as issuing this authoritative letter, we feel that the Church of Antioch is placed in the honourable position which she had earned” (Ramsay, 244).
Paul then gives the greeting, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. The order grace followed by peace arises from the essence of the gospel itself. Grace precedes and becomes the foundational principle for peace. By grace Paul means the blessings that come to us through the atonement. Greek letters characteristically incorporated the term charein (“to rejoice”) for which Paul substitutes charis (“grace”). Peace, the common Jewish greeting, is added to grace, but with heightened meaning and greater depth. Since Jesus purchased our peace by satisfying God’s wrath (Rom. 3:21-31), the peace of God should permeate our lives (Rom. 5:1). “When things ‘go wrong,’ as is now happening among the Galatian congregations, Paul does not first of all reach for a word of exhortation. He simply takes the congregations back to their birth. He takes them back, that is, to God’s graceful election. Brought back to that point, the churches can see once again that not a single thing which human beings can do could possibly serve as the fountainhead of their redemption. God, the gracious one, and he alone, shows himself to be the new creator in Jesus Christ, the one whose grace is more powerful than is evil” (Martyn). This is a powerful truth and at the same time brimming with pastoral instruction. The minister of Word and Sacrament whose life blood is the gospel will help his flock look to grace in times of need, whatever the circumstances may be.
Both subjective peace and eschatological renewal are founded upon the objective accomplishment of atonement. Paul’s concept of the church calls from his robust heart a greeting that transfigures the peace greeting of his day by the salvation event of Christ. The gospel transforms convention. “For Paul the ultimate source of grace is always God. In consequence, grace cannot be a mere benign regard, as the translation ‘favor’ might suggest, but a positive display of power better rendered by ‘benefaction’.” In one sense the entire epistle is an unfolding of the salutation!
Grace and peace stream from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, indissolubly united as in verse 1. It is accordingto the plan of God the Father and the entrance of Christ into the world that redemption has been achieved. In verse one the Fatherhood of God speaks of a relation existing in the nature of God between the Father and His Son. Here God our Father anticipates Paul’s later emphasis on adoption (cf. 3:21–4:6). Hence, the relation existing between the Father and the Son is crucial for the adoptive relation between the Father and the believer. Lord is the title applied to the Savior as risen, ascended, regnant and coming again (see especially Phil. 2:9-11). Paul did not preach himself but Jesus as Lord (2 Cor. 4:5). That Jesus is Lord means that He is YHWH, the Creator and Redeemer, Jehovah, the covenant God who revealed Himself to Moses in Exodus 3. It means that Jesus was worshipped and acclaimed as God. In Philippians 2:9-11 Paul transfers Isaiah 45:23, a passage that insists that God has no rivals, directly to Jesus. In the same way, Jesus has no rivals. Before Him every knee will bow! The ontological (His essential nature) and economical (His achievement) recognition of Jesus’ Lordship stand side by side. That is, who Christ is and what He accomplished are inseparable. Note Romans 14:9: Christ died and rose again to establish His lordship over the dead and the living. Cambridge University Press, 35-46.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Redeemer who gave Himself for our sins so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age. Christ is the Redeemer who delivers us by voluntary sacrifice. The participle tou dontos indicates the freedom of Christ’s sacrifice, the voluntary, deliberate and intentional nature of the atonement (cf. 2:20; 1 Tim. 2:6; Titus 2:14). Christ gave His life for our sins. huper tōn hamartiōn hēōn is the language of substitution. (Rom. viii. 3), on account of them, namely, in order to atone for them. See Rom. iii. 23 ff.; Gal. iii. 12 ff.” Meyer stresses that in essentials peri is not different than huper, “and the idea of satisfaction is implied, not in the signification of the preposition, but in the whole nature of the case.” Through His self-deliverance to the cross Christ delivered us. hopōs exelētai hēmas is redemptive language. Behind it lies Paul’s deep concern over salvation, which presupposes the wrath of God against sin.Apart from Christ’s redemptive work there is no salvation, no deliverance from sin. The cross of Christ needs no legalistic augmentation!
The historical cross is an eschatological event. Christ freely sacrificed Himself so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age. As in Jewish thought, the New Testament, and Paul in particular, know of two ages, two contrasting aeons, distinct and discernible. 1-41. The present age, the age ushered in by the arrival of the Messiah, is distinguishable from the age to come. Paul, however, grasped that Christ’s achievement transfigured the two-age scheme. Paul understood that the new age had found its inauguration in the death and resurrection of Jesus and that His redemptive work found its meaning, composition and texture within this eschatological frame of reference. This age, or world order, from which the believer is delivered in Christ’s redemption is pointedly the present evil age, the world order characterized by sin and its attendant consequences, disorder and death. The hopōs of verse 4 indicates that Paul’s “age” perspective is an unfolding of the redeeming work of Christ. Implicit in Paul’s proclamation of deliverance from this age is deliverance to the age to come. The coming age is implicit. Believers have already been delivered to the coming age, the new eschatological order (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). If in Judaism the crucial matter is still future, for the Christian what is vital is the achievement of Christ in the past. The cross and resurrection together form the context of proclamation in the present and determine the Christian’s orientation toward the future since the achievement of Christ is the turning point of the ages. In Christ, the coming age is the overwhelming present reality that defines the Christian’s present privileges and obligations. Since the resurrection of Christ inaugurated the age to come, the two aeons, then, are contemporaneous and overlapping. The new age is now concurrent with the present age. “Heaven, so to speak, has received time and history into itself, no less than time hasreceived unchangeableness and eternity into itself.” 40. This two-age construct, moreover, has implications for Christian existence.
Christians might think of the two-age construct in terms of musical harmony. You find yourself in a room and a cacophonous band begins to play loudly and erratically. Then, from another room, you hear for the first time a Bach motet, at full volume; in beautiful, entrancing harmony the sounds invade the room in which you are living. As the music of Bach wafts into the room, the cacophony also continues. Immediately, under the spellbinding attraction of the motet, you make your way toward the harmonious music. “That is my home! That is where my heart is! That is where I long to live,” you say to yourself. “That will be my destination! Harmony has invaded my life; the beauty for which I long answers to the purpose of my existence.” Even though you as a Christian still live in the midst of discord as you journey toward the room from which harmony, beauteous concord, emanates, you have come to disown the cacophony of this world as you journey steadily onward toward the next, your real home. Like a Bach motet intruding into cacophony, in Christ the beauty and harmony of eternity have entered into time.
The apostle’s emphasis upon deliverance from the present evil age through the cross contradicts the teaching of the Judaizers. To negate and challenge their perspective meant for Paul stressing the redemptive accomplishment of Christ. Galatians can be understood only if we appreciate that Paul is confronting a view that reinterprets, denigrates and denies nothing less than the gospel (1:7; 2:14)!
Paul adds that this deliverance accomplished by Christ is according to the will of our God and Father. Paul’s emphatic teaching about God reminds us that the fundamental error of the Judaizers, which is also true of all serious deviation from truth, originates in a wrong doctrine of God! It is the Fatherwho has purposed the redemption of His people and designed their deliverance from this evil age of corruption to the age that is to come. The redemption achieved by Christ sacrificed on the cross was according to the will of God. Paul’s gospel is radical. Redemption was no accident but was purposed in the divine good pleasure. The atonement of Christ and the deliverance purchased by Him, therefore, is thoroughly adequate, altogether sufficient to accomplish its purpose. The cross needs no supplement. At this point Paul’s passionate soul bursts into a surge of worship.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Paul cannot contain his gratitude, and will not restrain his praise for deliverance through Christ, a deliverance willed by the Father. To Him Paul ascribes splendor and the weight of majesty!, II. 237: glory “denotes ‘divine and heavenly radiance,’ the ‘loftiness and majesty’ of God, and even the ‘being of God’ and His world.” Martyn says helpfully that Paul brings the Galatians climactically into God’s presence “by inviting them to utter the word ‘Amen!’” and he is robbing the Galatians “of the lethal luxury of considering themselves observers. With him, they stand in God’s presence. Fundamentally, then, they are dealing with God, not merely with Paul.” Paul, then, presents his word as God’s Word to the churches.