“Who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Galatians 1:4 Knowing verse three is talking about Jesus would we really need anything more to understand the gospel?
I’ve been studying Galatians fairly extensively over the last number of months and few verses, if any, hold the wonder of this verse. It is a summary of all that Paul is going to say in his letter and in reality a summary of the amazing grace of God. It is in reality, the foundation of our salvation through faith in the grace, mercy, and love of the Father, who gave His Son and sent the Holy Spirit.
Jesus gave Himself, “for our sins to recuse us,” couldn’t be written any plainer. It is not my works, my striving, my efforts, my law keeping, or myself that rescue’s me but it is Jesus and He does that according to the will of the Father. He gives Himself freely, not out of obligation or order, but because He loves us. He “gave Himself” is literally “sacrificed Himself” and reminds us of the expression “to give one’s life/body” used by Jews and soldiers when speaking of the martyrs.
Jesus died, because of our sins, so that we can have freedom from bondage to “the present evil age,” and find grace and peace in Christ. For Paul time, as it was for the Jews, was divided into two ages, “the present evil age,” and “the age to come.” Ephesians 1:21 makes this clear, “Far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.”
Ronald Fung gives us a stunning overview of this present evil age in his commentary on Galatians. “To Paul the present age is evil because it is sway of a wicked spiritual being and under the control of wicked spiritual forces, chief of which are the powers of sin and death. This ‘present evil age,’ is thus Paul’s description for the totality of human life dominated by sin and opposed to God; in this context, ‘age’ has much the same force as ‘world’ often has in the writings of John and which both words can have in Paul’s letters. It denotes, ‘not only the current era of world history but the way of life that characterizes it.’’’ The Epistle to the Galatians, p.41 The last quotation, ‘not only…’ is from F. F. Bruce’s Commentary on Galatians, p. 77 and quoted here by Fung.
The wonder of the gospel is that through faith in Christ we are ushered out of this present evil age and into the age to come. When Jesus broke into history through life, crucifixion, and resurrection the age to come (kingdom of God) broke in upon all who would believe. Though we continue to live in this evil age physically we are not part of it. The promises of God regarding redemption, eternal life, and freedom in Christ are all ours.
This is why, for Paul, the law was at war with the gospel. For him a Christian who has put his/her faith in Jesus Christ and found freedom from the present evil age cannot continue to put their trust and effort in the Mosaic Law. With the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, the age to come has ushered in the New Covenant and the law of love, the law of Christ is written upon the heart of the believer.
Paul will go on in Galatians to tell us we know we are Christians because at our baptism we also received the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit continues to guide and lead us all the days of our lives. The result is a born again Christian pours forth from their character the fruit of the Spirit, love, peace, patience, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, joy and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) Paul, goes on to say how do you know you are walking in the Spirit? We carry each other’s burdens, restore each other in gentleness, and love each other in Christ.
Paul’s argument in Galatians is very simple since God has already rescued us through His Son Jesus and given us the Spirit as proof of our relationship with Him. Since we already have status as sons and daughters of the King who rescued us out of this present evil age and given us the gift of faith, then what can the law do for us that Jesus hasn’t already done?
1 “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” Galatians 3:1-2
How foolish to start with grace, receive the Spirit through grace, be baptized through grace, walk with Christ through grace, receive the fruit of the Spirit through grace only to think there is something more that needs to be added to grace to make us right with God.
The sad thing is that in our own time there are still Christian’s who hang onto the law, like a drowning man to a branch, in hope that their performance will impress God or show their true commitment. You know, Paul said if we do that we make Jesus of no account or of no importance. Further Paul states, “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Galatians 3:10
We can’t do everything written in the books of the Law so the law does what it was intended to do—show us we need Christ. But once we have Christ we are no longer under the bondage of sin and the law. “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” Galatians 3:19a
Now, there is no need to write me and attack me as an antinomian (against the law), that has been done enough over the last few years. I am not running out to murder anyone or burn your house down because I am not under the law as a form of salvation by works theology. I live by the law of Christ, not always well or successful, which is the law of love towards the world around me. There is no merit in this love – it is simply the outpouring of a heart that has been surrendered (imperfectly) to Christ. Of course love encompasses ethical and moral laws but these are not meritorious.
In other words, what I am saying is that a saved person lives a Christian life of love, surrender, surprise, joy, peace, and assurance because they live it trusting Jesus for everything including salvation. We live in the age to come that has broken in upon us when we were given the gift of grace. Our lives are a joyous “thank you” for all Jesus is, was, and will be in our lives. Our faith is in the great “I AM” not in our works or us.
This is the will of our God and Father.