Hey! Randy

Loose Thoughts on Galatians 1:2b-5

Posted by heyrandy on May 18, 2010

Paul begins his salutation. The first thing I see is Paul uses the plural “churches.” This is unique in his letters. The reason is that Galatia is not a city like Rome or Philippi but a region. There were many cities in Galatia. Which ones had churches is not known.

There is a debate over whether the area called Galatia is the northern or southern region. I cannot see how it matters. This is merely an academic dispute.

Paul doesn’t just say, “Hi, how are you all doing?” He adds theological content to his greeting. It is instructive to recognize the significance of the words he chose.  “Grace…and peace” are common in Paul’s greetings. He mentions the source, “God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” The joint source of a Christian’s blessing is always the Father and the Son. I do not know why Paul does not mention the Holy Spirit in his greetings. He does use the trinitarian formulation in other places (e.g. 2Cor. 13:14, note the order of the persons). The Holy Spirit does figure prominently in this letter, just not in the opening.

Paul uses the word God to mean the Father even when he does not explicitly say so. In the same manner he uses the word Lord to refer to Jesus. By mentioning both titles, Paul re-enforces the source of authority. God is the Father of our Lord. Let us remember that. We are not of ourselves. We are under the authority of God as the Father of Christ and as King of the universe. We are under the authority of Christ as Lord and as redeemer.

Verse 4 is the theological content. Here Paul reminds the Galatians of the heart of the Gospel: the death of Christ for the sins of his people to effect their deliverance from “this evil world.” This was done by the “will of God and our Father.” The Galatians would know this, so why is Paul restating it?

The answer is the problem that Paul is addressing with this letter: the Galatians are being seduced in to another type of Gospel, a gospel not based upon the gracious redemption from sin that God has provided but a gospel based upon the keeping of the Mosaic law. This is not a mere shift in nuance; this is a reconstruction of the very message of Christianity.

The mention  of “the present evil world” reminds his readers of the reality they are in. This is not a joy ride in the park. The world is evil. It is antithetically opposed to God and all the things of God. This is the basis of the trouble in the Galatian churches. This conflict is not new. The source of the conflict is in Eden. There the battle began. It has been raging continuously. There will be no respite until the end. The Bible does not use military metaphors for no reason (see Eph. 6:11ff).  We are in a war.

Paul does not leave us hanging. He ends his greeting with a doxology. God is to be praised. His is the “glory, forever and ever. Amen.”

Homework assignment: compare the greeting of all of Paul’s letters.

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