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Galatians and Ephesians
By James Montgomery Boice A. Skevington Wood
ZondervanCopyright © 1996 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGALATIANS 1:1-5
Text and Exposition Introduction (1:1-10)
1 Paul, an apostle-sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead- 2 land all the brothers with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
An opening salutation consisting of the author's name, the name of those to whom he is writing, and (in most cases) an expression of good wishes on the recipient's behalf is characteristic of most ancient letters, Paul's included. But Paul's opening remarks also generally breathe something of the content and tone of the letter or, at the very least, employ explicitly Christian terms as greetings. None of Paul's opening remarks are more characteristic of the letter to follow than those in Galatians. The usual elements are present-the writer's name, the name of the recipients, and a wish for grace and peace on their behalf-but there are a brevity and vigor of expression that immediately plunge the reader into the heart of the Epistle and that reflect Paul's concern. Most surprisingly, there is no expression of praise for these churches-elsewhere a normal procedure (Rom, 1 and 2 Cor, Eph, Phil, Col, 1 and 2 Thess).
Of particular importance is Paul's abrupt restatement of his claim to be an apostle, precisely the point that had been denied by those who were subverting the Galatians. In these few verses the three major themes of the letter-the source of authority in religion, the doctrine of grace, and the promise of full deliverance from sin's power-are tied together in a way that relates all solely to the sovereign and gracious will of God.
1 By adding the word "apostle," Paul at once highlights his claim to be commissioned by Jesus to preach the gospel with authority and to plant Christianity. It was this commission that had been challenged by the Galatian legalizers. In early use of Greek, the word "apostle" (apostolos) was used of a naval expedition, commissioned to represent Greek interests in foreign service. In Greek-speaking Judaism it was used of authorized representatives, either an individual or a body of persons. With the coming of Christ, the word was applied to those commissioned by Christ as bearers of the gospel. It is this sense, coupled with the idea of the full authority deriving from Christ, that prevails in all seventy-nine instances of the term in the NT.
It would seem from the opening chapter of Acts (vv.21-26) that two major prerequisites for being an apostle were: (1) to have been an eyewitness of Christ's ministry from the time of the baptism by John up to and including the resurrection, and (2) to have been chosen for the office by the risen Lord. At first the number of those so commissioned was twelve (Matthias having been chosen to replace Judas), but there is no indication either in Acts or elsewhere that the number was always so limited. Paul obviously claimed to have fulfilled the conditions as the result of his Damascus experience; and Luke, who clearly endorses Paul's claim, also speaks of Barnabas as being called to this office. Other examples are: James, the Lord's brother (suggested by the phrase "then to all the apostles," which follows mention of James in 1 Corinthians 15:7), and Silvanus (1 Thess 2:7, cf. 1:1).
The difficulty was not that the office could not be extended by the Lord to others in addition to the Twelve-this was possible-but rather that Paul, according to his enemies, did not meet the conditions. They could claim that he had never met Jesus. Certainly he had not been an eyewitness of Christ's ministry. They could claim that he had never received a commission. It would be easy, for instance, to contrast Paul's description of his Damascus experience with the very formal and official action of the Twelve in choosing Matthias. Paul answered by entirely overlooking the matter of his not being an eyewitness of the whole of Christ's earthly ministry, though undoubtedly he considered his Damascus experience to be the equivalent of this, and by denying that his status had relation to men or to the decisions of men at all. Instead, Paul's claim was that his apostleship came to him directly from and through God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul's specific choice of words is of interest, for he employs two prepositions (apo and dia) to deny that his call to apostleship came either "from" or "through" man. Thus, as Lightfoot notes (in loc.): "In the first clause he distinguishes himself from the false apostles, who did not derive their commission from God at all [whereas] in the second he ranks himself with the Twelve, who were commissioned directly" by him.
On the positive side, Paul stresses that his call came rather from God himself through the Lord Jesus Christ. Here the preposition apo is dropped, but the effect is not to eliminate the truth that the call is "from" God. That much is obvious. Rather, the single preposition anchors Paul's call in the historical experience on the Damascus road in which Jesus, through whom the call came, appeared to him. By linking both the Father and the Son under one preposition, Paul also stresses that there is no difference between them so far as the appointment of the apostolate is concerned. Reference to the resurrection stresses the important point that it was by the risen and glorified Lord of the church that Paul was commissioned.
The gospel committed to Paul is a great gospel to possess. Anchored in history, it has been articulated and communicated to believers of all times by those who were specifically chosen by the risen Lord and were empowered by him for this task. It is the logical outcome of the principles stated here that for the NT as well as for the OT, "prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21).
2 From Paul's normal habit of including the names of his fellow missionaries at the beginning of his letters (1 and 2 Cor, Phil, Col, 1 and 2 Thess, Philem) as well as from the fact that he usually refers to the Christians in the place from which he is writing in different terms, it would appear that "the brothers" mentioned here are his fellow missionaries, though their actual identity cannot be known until the date and place of writing are determined. The interesting point is that Paul does not name these fellow missionaries, as he does elsewhere, not wanting to give the impression that his gospel requires additional support. It was, after all, received directly from God. At the same time, he wishes to remind the Galatians that the gospel that had been preached to them, far from being a Pauline oddity, is actually the received doctrine of all the Christian church and its missionaries.
3 Paul's nearly standard formula of Christian blessing and greeting-"grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ"-seems particularly appropriate at the start of this letter. Normally, Paul alters the traditional Greek greeting (charein, a verb) to the important Christian word "grace" (charis, a noun). This is always striking. But it is doubly striking here, inasmuch as it occurs in a letter to churches where the sufficiency of salvation by grace was being questioned and perhaps even denied. In the same way; "peace" (eirene, the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word shalom) is also especially appropriate, for it denotes that state of favor and well-being into which men are brought by Christ's death on the cross and in which they are kept by God's persevering grace. To choose law, as the Galatians were doing, is to fall from grace. To live by works is to lose the peace with God that was purchased for believers by Christ's atonement.
It is characteristic of Paul to join the names of the Father and Son together in the statement that they are the source of grace and peace, as he does here. But the inversion of the order-"by Jesus Christ and God the Father" (v. I)-to "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (v.3) heightens the effect. It is a good equivalent of Jesus' words "Father, ... you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21) and thus a good statement of the full divinity of Jesus.
4 To the doctrines of the Christian faith already stated in germinal form-the source of authority in religion, the person and character of God, the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, grace, and peace-Paul now adds a statement affirming the substitutionary death of the Lord Jesus Christ and its outcome in the deliverance of men from sin. All this, he asserts, is according to the will of the Father. It is hard to imagine a statement better calculated to oppose any intrusion of the will or supposed merits of man in the matter of attaining salvation. This phrase, which does not occur in other Pauline greetings, is undoubtedly added for the sake of the erring Christians in Galatia.
Salvation begins in the eternal counsels of God. It is a matter of his will and not of the will of man. As Paul says elsewhere, "It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy" (Rom 9:16). The will of God to save men leads next to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ with its focus in his substitutionary death for sinners. Finally, the goal is articulated; for the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which originated in the will of the Father, was designed to "rescue us from the present evil age." The word "rescue" or "deliver" (exeletai) denotes not a "deliverance from" but a "rescue from the power of." Thus, it strikes the keynote of the latter, ethical section of the letter, peaking in the great challenge at the beginning of chapter 5-"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (v.1). The deliverance is conceived of here, not as a deliverance out of the present evil world (though that will also be true eventually), but as a deliverance from the power of evil and the values of the present world-system through the power of the risen Christ within the Christian.
5 It is not customary for Paul to include a doxology at the beginning of a letter, but the doxology that occurs here serves an important purpose. It sets the gospel, centering in the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ and his work, above any human criticism or praise. The fact that the glory of God and the giving of glory to God will last forever (literally, "unto the ages of ages") contrasts markedly with "the present evil age," which is passing away.
B. The Reason for the Letter
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! At this point Paul would normally introduce an expression of praise for the Christians of the church to which he is writing, followed sometimes by a mild suggestion of that which is not so praiseworthy. But here, instead of an expression of praise, there is an abrupt and indignant cry of astonishment at what seems to be happening among the Galatians. Paul had delivered to them the one gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. They had received it. But now, according to reports that had come to him, Paul has reason to believe that the Christians of Galatia are on the point of turning from the gospel of Christ to embrace something that was no gospel at all, but only legalism. So in this brief expression of his feelings, Paul declares his astonishment at this almost inconceivable turn of events, pronounces a judgment upon any who would pervert the gospel of grace, and reiterates that there is only, one gospel that makes salvation possible.
Excerpted from Galatians and Ephesians by James Montgomery Boice A. Skevington Wood Copyright © 1996 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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