“Paul an apostle, not from human beings neither through human beings, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead, and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father. To Him be the glory for the ages of the ages. Amen.” Galatians 1:1-5
I’ve spent the better part of eight hours today studying these texts for a project I’m working on, and I was overwhelmed by the wonder of all that I studied and read. Please, spend time just reading over the verses and try to do that without any preconceived ideas concerning theological issues.
One of the many great themes of Christianity that is introduced here is the idea that God wants to give us the gifts of grace and peace. The reason that Jesus died and was resurrected was that we could receive these two gifts.
Grace comes from the Old Testament word meaning steadfast love. Thomas Schreiner, in his wonderful commentary on Galatians in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series on the New Testament writes, “God’s grace in Paul refers to His free mercy that is lavished on all who believe in Jesus Christ. Grace in Paul must not be limited to unmerited favor but also refers to God’s transforming power.” Galatians, Schreiner p. 75
God’s steadfast love transforms our heart because when we contemplate the wonder of His substitutionary death we are lifted to the Heavens themselves with the joy that flows through us. This is the peace that always accompanies the right understanding of grace. Peace is the simple realization that we can be right with God again through the merits of Jesus Christ and not of our own efforts.
What a wonderful blessing Paul declares to the Galatians, “May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 3) Isn’t that what we all long for in our lives? We desire to live in the knowledge and assurance of God’s steadfast love and rejoice in the peace that settles upon us because we know we are one with God again.
And how is this all obtained? “May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age.” We receive grace and peace through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Galatian churches were about to turn their back on this wonderful truth and fall into the trap of law keeping in order to try and earn their salvation, but Paul is having none of it.
Our salvation is based on what Christ has done and not on what we do. “The grace and peace that comes from Jesus are rooted in His self-giving at the cross, where He suffered in the place of believers so that they would be forgiven of their sins.” Galatians, Schreiner, p. 76
When people begin to drift towards law keeping as a method of salvation they have forgotten the cross. We are safe when our eyes are fixed on Jesus and not on our performance or lack of it. God’s promise in John 10 that nothing or no one can snatch us out of His hand shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is a promise and by faith we may claim that promise.
It is our faith in the grace of God that pleases Him and leads us to peace and brings glory to God. The root of all our sin is to hold back giving glory to God and self-exalting ourselves. This was the beginning of sin in the Garden of Eden when Satan told Eve she could be like God and she took the bait. Ever since, mankind has been chasing Godlike status at the expense of giving glory to God.
This is the problem with perfectionism. It becomes another way of man to believe that he can become like God on this earth in the here and now. Do we really believe we can become perfect, obedient, self-sacrificing copies of Jesus so that we live sinless lives in thought, action and deed?
This is not the message of Galatians 1:1-5. God is God and we are not Him and never will be Him. We are lost, sinful people who have strayed from our Creator and Savior. It is His initiative to redeem us through the cross event that saw Him willingly shed His blood so that whoever believes in Him could have eternal life. It is His glory that is to be proclaimed throughout the world. It is to His glory that we find grace and peace and walk in the newness of life.
I hope each of you can find a little time to study these verses more fully as we have just scratched the surface of these verses and there is so much more to be mined out of them for our benefit. I praise God for His goodness and wonder that freely “saved a wretch like me.”
* The persecution of Christians continues – they need our support and prayers. Go to http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ for updates on persecution of Christians