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AM Bible Study Archives
"A Greeting With An Edge"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
June 8, 2005
Paul begins this letter with the standard greeting that was often used
in ancient letters. But this was no ordinary letter. It was a letter that
Paul wrote out of a holy sense of anger. He was writing because his beloved
friends in Galatia were beginning to abandon the vital doctrine of
'justification by faith alone'. They were setting aside the grace of God
and placing themselves once again under the shackles of Judaistic law. He
wrote to urge them to "Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ
has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage"
This letter is the first of Paul's New Testament letters to have been
written. It touches on the same theme as Romans - justification by faith in
Christ's sacrifice. But whereas in Romans Paul was expressing that
doctrine, here Paul is defending it. The two letters deal with the common
themes of justification by faith, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
A good way to divide this letter would be as Paul speaks of matters that
are PERSONAL (chps. 1-2), DOCTRINAL (chps. 3-4), and PRACTICAL (chps. 5-6).
As we begin by looking at the introduction, we find all the major themes of
the letter in it. Unlike letters today, ancient letters began with stating
who they were from. Paul uses a traditional form in writing the letter; but
clearly in it - rumbling like a coming thunderstorm - are the passionate themes
he seeks to address. In it, we see . . .
I. WHO THE LETTER IS FROM (vv. 1-2a).
A. Paul. This of course was a normal way to begin; but his readers
would have remembered his story; and of how he had persecuted the church and
sought to advance in the very Judaism that his readers were turning to
(1:13-14). He stood as a model of how God saved a man by grace; not by
works of the law (v. 15).
B. He speaks of his office as an apostle (apostolos; "a sent one", in
the sense of a delegate or a messenger). He makes this point because his
apostleship was being challenged (1:11-12), and because others were
pretending to speak as sent apostles (1:8-9; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-12; 6:12-13).
1. He asserts that his apostleship was not "from men" (which
speaks of source).
2. He also asserts that it was not "through man" (which speaks of
3. Others were "apostles" in the sense that they were sent under
the authority of other apostles (2 Cor. 8:23; Phil. 2;25). But Paul asserts
that his apostleship was received direct - "through Jesus Christ and God the
Father . . . (Gal. 1:16; Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-8, 15; 26:12-16).
4. This is why he asserts that it was through God the Father,
"who raised Him from the dead". The other apostles received their
apostleship while Christ lived and walked on the earth. Some may have
challenged Paul's apostleship because he converted after Christ had
ascended; but Paul maintained that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him and
called him personally (1 Corinthians 15:8-9.
C. He also mentions "and all the brethren who are with me". This may
have meant his co-workers and co-missionaries; but it also could mean the
other apostles. Whoever it is, he sees himself in union with them as
"brothers". Paul did not receive his apostleship from any man; nor did he
look to the other apostles to approve him. But that is not to say that he
didn't stand in agreement with them. They, in fact, did examine him and
approve him (1:18-24; 2:6-10). What he has to say to his friends in this
letter is something that is in full agreement with the faith once delivered
to the saints and preached by the apostles of Christ.
II. WHO THE LETTER IS TO (v. 2b).
A. It was written to the believers in the churches in Galatia.
1. Galatia is a region of Asia Minor. It contained many cities
that Paul visited on his missionary journeys; such as Iconium, Lystra, and
Derbe (Acts 14:1-23; 16:1-5).
2. Paul says "churches" (plural) because Galatia was a region
with many cities; and each collection of local churches in a city was looked
upon as a church. This reminds us that the problems Paul addressed were
wide-spread. Sometimes, false-doctrine spreads like wildfire; and in this
case, it could have terribly distorted the purity of the faith while it was
still in the cradle! How thankful we should be that God gave us the Book of
III. WHAT THE LETTER IS ABOUT (vv. 3-5).
A. It is about "grace and peace". This was a typical greeting; but
here, clearly, it is more than a greeting. It is the theme of the good
news! "Grace" is God's favor giving apart from works; and "peace" with Him
is the result. What a contrast this greeting is to the things that Paul was
fighting against - righteousness before God on the basis of works of the law!
1. The source of this "grace and peace" is "from God the Father
and our Lord Jesus Christ". Grace and peace are only secure and effective
unto salvation if they are of a divine source. The word "from" underscores
the Father's sovereign decree to save! How secure such grace and peace are!
2. The means of this "grace and peace" is through the sacrifice
of Jesus Christ; "who gave Himself for our sins". The preposition used here
"huper", in this case, means "on behalf of" or "for the sake of". Here is a
clear testimony to the substitutionary character of Jesus' sacrifice for us.
He willingly gave Himself for the sake of our sins (Ephesians 5:2; 1 Timothy
2:6; Titus 2:14). God accomplished this for us by the sacrifice of Christ
on our behalf; and not on the basis of our works. This is a point that Paul
makes in this letter over and over again!
B. The purpose of this sacrifice - and the grace and peace that comes
from it - is "that He might deliver us from this present evil age". The word
"deliver" comes from a Greek word (exaireġ) that carries the idea of
"deliverance from danger". The word "rescue" might be a good way to put it.
God's work of saving us through the sacrifice of Christ is a rescue
operation. This present evil age is passing away (1 John 2:17) and is
destined for God's wrath (John 3:36); and God, in mercy, rescues us from
that doom through Christ.
C. The motive of this sacrifice is "according to the will of our God
and Father". This plan was not created to, in some way, stop the Father
from pouring out the wrath on us that He wishes to pour out. He is "not
willing that any perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter
3:9). The God who is willing to save us through Christ is the one from whom
this great "grace and peace" came.
D. Finally, the purpose of this plan is that God should be glorified;
"to whom be glory forever and ever". Our salvation has its ultimate purpose
in the glory of God (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
* * * * * * * * * *
Ordinarily, Paul follows his greetings with words of thankfulness to God
for the readers. But there are no words of thankfulness for the readers in
this letter. This is because Paul is upset with them. They are turning
away from all this, and embracing a false gospel instead (1:6-7).
Perhaps, then, it's important to notice that he ends the greeting by
stressing the glory of God throughout the ages through the very gospel that
they are departing from. And it's important to note that he ends with the
affirmation "Amen" - which means, "It is so!" May we, too, say a hearty
"amen" to the gospel of God's gracious gift of justification by faith alone!