In verse one of this letter to the Galatians, we have Paul introducing himself. In so doing he spells out with one word, that he was sent by, and is a messenger of Jesus Christ and God the Father. That one word was apostolos – Apostle to us Gentiles. In proclaiming this he is immediately trying to settle all claims against him and to designate where he obtained this information on grace on mercy. To the skeptic (this tends to be religious folk,) there is much to argue over, especially since you may not have any concept of how or why God talks to us. With Paul, we have the dramatic incident where he was knocked to the ground and made blind. Jesus spoke to him and this could be the place where all his instructions and definitions began.
Something we seem to overlook when considering who Paul was. He tells us when he went by the name Saul, that he was a rising star among the ranks of the Pharisees; he was well versed in the law and the prophets, and, he was so zealous for the religious tradition of the Jews, that he went around arresting, torturing, and having many followers of this new “religion” -believers in Jesus Christ, imprisoned or killed. [You can find this testimony in the 26th chapter of the book of Acts.] In Acts 7:58.59, Saul/Paul held the cloak of those who stoned Stephen to death.
You might wonder how someone so deeply invested in rules and tradition could find anything that looked like grace and mercy in the books of the law, and yet, these very books became the basis for our freedom.
In Matthew, we see Jesus, quite successfully standing his ground with the adversary, Satan by quoting portions of the Law back to Satan. If the law, this oppressive collection of writings we like to control people with, could bring peace, freedom, and a momentary respite from Satan’s onslaught, then couldn’t it do that for us? Perhaps this understanding will give you a greater insight into words like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
With that let’s dive into Galatians again.
Galatians 1:2-5 NASB and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3) Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4) who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5) to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
and all the brethren who are with me
Acts 16:6 NASB They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;
It was on Paul’s second great missionary tour, about A.D. 51, that, he in company with Silas and Timothy, passed through from Lycaonia in Phrygia and Galatia, and planted the seeds of the Christian faith (Act_16:6). From The People’s New Testament (B. W. Johnson)
This region then called Galatia is now modern-day Turkey
A piece of evidence we have for who these brethren were comes from Acts 18 where we see Priscilla and Aquilla. Having spent some time in Ephesus he may have picked up some followers there, and there is always Dr. Luke to record everything.
Acts 18:23 NASB And having spent some time there, he left and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
“To the churches of Galatia”
As we saw in our example from Acts 16, Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia Minor, the region called Galatia.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,”
Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible tells us to look at his comments on Romans 1:7 where Paul uses similar terminology.
Romans 1:7 EMTV To all those who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace to you – χαρις υμιν; May you be partakers of the Divine favor, the source whence every blessing is derived.” “..the several acceptations of this word grace which occur in the sacred writings.”
When I look up this word grace in the Word Study Dictionary I get a rather extensive definition. I only included 1-4, but I made the lettering of the things I thought applied most directly. I gave you the large paragraphs as there are things in there that can add to your understanding. [I apologize as it makes this post so long.]
1. The word χαριν signifies in general favor or benevolence, but especially that favor which is powerful and active and loads its objects with benefits. Luke_1:30: Fear not, Mary, thou hast found Favor, χαριν, with God. Luke_2:40: And the child grew – and the Grace of God, χαρις θεου, the favor of God was upon him. Luke_1:52: And Jesus increased in Favor, χαριτι Grace, with God and man. Act_2:47: Having Favor, χαριν, Grace, with all the people. Act_4:33: And great Grace, χαρις, Favor, was upon them all. The apostles were at that time in universal favor with the multitude. In this sense, the word occurs in a great variety of places, both in the Old and New Testaments.
2. Hence it is often used for the blessing which it dispenses; for, if God be favourably disposed towards a person, his beneficent acts, in that person’s behalf, will be a necessary consequence of such favor. John_1:14: Full of Grace and truth; accomplished in all spiritual blessings. John_1:16: And Grace upon Grace: he who is full of the most excellent blessings, confers them liberally on all believers. Act_11:23: When he had seen the Grace of God, i.e. had the fullest evidence that they were richly endowed with heavenly gifts. 1Co_1:4: For the Grace of God which is given you – the Divine blessings conferred upon you. 2Co_9:8: God is able to make all Grace abound toward you; i.e. to enrich you with every benediction. This is also a very common acceptation of the word; and in this sense the word grace or favor is now generally understood among religious people. The grace of God meaning with them some Divine or spiritual blessing communicated.
3. It is sometimes taken for the whole of the Christian religion, as being the grandest possible display of God’s favor to a lost, ruined world: and in this sense it appears to be used, John_1:17: For the Law was given by Moses; but Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ: where the term Grace is evidently opposed to Law; the latter meaning the Mosaic, the other the Christian, dispensation. Act_13:43: Barnabas persuaded them to continue in the Grace of God; i.e. to hold fast their profession of the religion of Christ. Rom_6:14: Ye are not under the Law, but under Grace – ye are no longer under obligation to fulfill the Mosaic precepts, but are under the Christian dispensation. See also Rom_6:15; and see 2Co_1:12; 2Co_6:1; Gal_1:6; Col_1:6; 2Ti_2:1, Titus_2:11: The Grace of God, that bringeth salvation unto all men, hath appeared. The Jewish religion was restricted in its benefits to a few; but the Christian religion proposes the salvation of all men; and the author of it has become a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. Heb_12:15: Looking diligently lest any man fall from the Grace of God – lest any man apostatize from the Christian religion, and the blessings of pardon and holiness which he has received through it. 1Pe_5:12: This is the true Grace of God wherein ye stand – the Christian religion which ye have received is the genuine religion of God.
4. It signifies all the blessings and benefits which Christ has purchased, and which he gives to true believers, both in time and eternity. See Rom_5:15, Rom_5:17, where the grace of God is opposed to death; i.e. to all the wretchedness and misery brought into the world by Adam’s transgression. 1Co_16:23: The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all – May every blessing purchased by Christ’s passion and death be the portion of you all. Gal_5:4: Ye are fallen from Grace – ye have lost the blessings of the Gospel by submitting to circumcision.
J. Vernon McGee tells us, This is Paul’s formal greeting that he used in most of his epistles. The word grace (charis) in this verse was the gentile form of greeting in that day, while peace (shalom) was the religious greeting of the Jews.
Many commentaries state something similar when they say; this was a standard greeting for Paul; evidence for the commonality of his greeting is demonstrated in his letters as he opened with this statement five times. While that is evidently true, this was anything but a typical statement to Paul. He had learned what grace was, and it was probably something he had little to no concept of before his conversion.
We sing songs with the phrases like, I once was lost, but now I am found, and, who saved a wretch like me. The comprehension of what you were before you accepted His grace can often be the driving force in the impact you now want to make on others.
Verse 4. “who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age,”
The greeting, deemed so common, included the name, Jesus Christ. In this case, Paul includes a brief definition of what Jesus did for us.
He gave Himself for our sins … that in itself sounds great but it is not compulsory to live here on this earth. Varying translations convey different implications and meaning; for example:
The Amplified Classic version tells us – [That it is Jesus] Who gave (yielded) Himself up [to atone] for our sins [and to save and sanctify us], in order to rescue and deliver us from this present wicked age and world order, in accordance with the will and purpose and plan of our God and Father-
The idea of “in order to,” leaves the door open to some choosing not to partake in this rescuing.
The American Standard Version conveys the idea that He might. “who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father:”
This in no way means that deliverance is merely something at God’s whim. No, the effort has been for all and available to all. Clearly, not all choose to accept deliverance. This is the case with many of the Jewish people.
The majority of translations use the word might. I understand that God desires to rescue. If it is within His capabilities to save us, why doesn’t He just do it? The answer is because He has never circumvented a human’s free will, and we have a choice.
In speaking to Joshua, he said, choose you this day whom you will serve. You can find this in Joshua 24:15.
If it helps I have an analogy that came to me one day. Imagine that the earth is a great big adoption agency. God comes down, looks around at all the people, and knows immediately that He must have them all. In order to do that He pays the ultimate price, which happens to be the blood of His only son, who gave His life voluntarily, knowing full well the implications and ramifications, but the Son, and the Father, knew that the end result would be so glorious, that Jesus paid with His own blood. Having signed the adoption papers He loudly calls for everyone to jump in the truck. (There was a time when we could fill the back of the truck full of people and go off to town.) Some come quickly, while others take their time deciding if this comfortable life at the adoption agency isn’t better. One young kid with purple hair, says okay, but I don’t take out the trash. He quickly learns that there are responsibilities and that this new found life and the grace associated with it, does not give us license to act irresponsibly. Unfortunately, because of deception, life’s hurts, misunderstandings forced upon them by others, or just their unwillingness to change, a few do not get into the truck. For us, the truck is an analogy of our trip we will someday make to heaven when He calls His church back home to Himself. The payment, of course, was the price for Adam’s transgression, blood. The adoption agency is this planet we live on. If you understand the story of Adam’s transgression, then you know that Adam, by his actions, signed the earth away to a fallen and mutinous angel named Lucifer.
Our life here is not to try and win back a conquered earth, as it will be restored by fire. Our job is to tell people that this God who paid the price for us, has our best interests in mind. If you understood His character, and most of us don’t, then you would tell people that His goals are based in salvation, and since you have come to understand His love for you, then convey that.
Odd, how salvation means something different to everyone. Oh sure, there are similarities in every life story, but in the end, our stories are all as individual as we are. Most of the time, we can easily just call these struggles life. For me, I would say that the damage I have sustained has shown its ugly head through a need to feel useful. Some have seen the gifts or capabilities I have but the door has never fully opened, as far as I can tell, and therefore I am not teaching. Others, see nothing but the damage my past has caused, and though our life and relationship with Christ are entrenched in a God who has paid the price for our damage (past, present, and future) some will never let you get beyond your mistakes. God has forgiven and forgotten your mistakes; try to center your thinking around that.
Verse 5 really needs no explanation and can stand on it own. “ to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.”
One of the occasional topics at church is worship. In worship, I try to recognize that it is to God that all glory belongs. But, in worship, God, through the Holy Spirit, tries to show me that same glory, now resting in me. How do I know that? I know that because the Word of God has taught me that in accepting Jesus Christ, I have come to be “in Him.” If I am in Him, then wouldn’t His glory rest upon me as well? You would think so, and yet, it seems that is rarely the case. Perhaps, we just don’t realize it.