Grace to You and Peace
1Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me; To the churches of Galatia: 3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Out of the 13 Epistles attributed to Paul in the New Testament, Galatians might be the most unique in style and content. While we generally consider Paul’s work to be instructional, inspirational, and often challenging, we find an almost rancorous tone in the letter to the Galatians. In that respect, this book of the Bible stands alone. The only other book that comes even close are the letters to Corinth. In Galatians, we find Paul focusing almost entirely on a culture clash. For reasons we don’t totally understand, the Christians in Galatia were basing their Christianity on the ways and culture of the Jews. For the Galatians, a heresy had arisen that said the only way to Christ was through Judaism. Paul rises up in staunch rebuke for that practice. The Old ways have been replaced by the saving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
God’s powerful Spirit is proof that a new age has invaded the cosmos. Paul’s thinking in this letter is ultimately framed by an apocalyptic perspective. The rivals’ advocacy of the Law places them squarely in the age of Moses and in an age that has passed away with Christ’s coming. Christ’s saving work has radically altered the way Moses’ Law is to be understood in this new era.
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (pp. 18–19). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
While the lines between Jew and Gentile were strict and uncrossable in the Old Testament, the work of Jesus has erased those lines and a new order has emerged where all are embraced by forgiveness of sins won on the Cross. The Galatians were slowly but surely undoing that work and returning the people to a Law based religion. This placed their very salvation on the line.
Galatia was located in what is modern day Turkey. In Acts 13–14 Paul founded churches in the southern portion of the Galatian province in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe and visited them again in Acts 16:1–5. The expanded Roman provincial territories in the south could have been the recipients of the letter. Paul may have visited the northern, ethnic Galatian lands in Acts 16:6 with a possible second visit in Acts 18:23.
Das, A. A. (2014). Galatians. (p. 23). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
As was the custom of the time, the writer of a letter put their name at the beginning. We put ours at the end. Different cultures, different times. After signing his name, Paul immediately identifies himself as “an apostle” sent through Jesus Christ. This is no small issue. Paul writes with authority granted him by Jesus. Following this signature, Paul shares words of blessing and grace. This letter is being written because of the love of the Father for His Children. We do well to read this letter with that gracious love in mind for ourselves as well.