"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Apostle's Introduction (Galatians Part 1)

As part of this new effort, I want to spend at least one day a week looking at a specific Bible passage. Rather than just jump around, I'm going to go through a book of the Bible. So to start I'm going to use Galatians and for a translation I'm going to use the Lexham English Bible (a version is free for download at the link). I've had this version for a while in Logos Bible Software and this will also help me to evaluate the translation.

Galatians 1:1-5 Paul, an apostle not from men nor by men but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, 2 and all the brothers with me, to the churches of Galatia. 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins in order to rescue 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. 

This is a fairly standard opening for one of Paul's epistles. He identifies himself as an apostle, that is as one who is sent as a representative. But he is not a representative merely of some humans, like the church in Jerusalem or in Antioch. He is an apostle of Jesus Christ and therefore of God the Father.

In this introduction Paul includes a reminder of what God the Father has done through Jesus by mentioning the resurrection. Galatians is a fairly focused letter from Paul about the need to live in light of Jesus' resurrection. That God the Father raised Jesus from the dead is the Father's seal of approval that Jesus accomplished what He was sent to accomplish.

Paul also notes, as the book of Acts makes clear, that he was not travelling alone. There are others with him who he considers brothers. They are brothers not according to the flesh but because they are also believers. Part of living in the light of the resurrection is recognizing that other believers are now family.

Then comes the statement about to whom the letter is addressed, the churches of Galatia. These are churches that Paul founded during his missionary journeys and also churches that he appears to have visited on multiple occasions.

Paul then provides a benediction of grace and peace for these churches. The source of these blessings is God the Father and  the Lord Jesus Christ. Interesting that the original languages contain an "our" that the translators appear to disagree on with whom it should be associated. The LEB has "our Lord Jesus Christ" while the ESV has "God our Father." Other versions appear to be fairly evenly split between the two readings and at this point I don't see a large theological significance either way. Other passages clearly say that we our now adopted children  with God as our Father. Likewise, Jesus is clearly taught to be our Lord, so either reading is consistent with the remainder of the Scriptures.

Paul now comes back to the point of the resurrection. It was God the Father that raised Jesus but what work did Jesus do that the resurrection is evidence of having been completed? Jesus died in our place ("for our sins") so that we might be delivered ("to rescue us from the present evil age"). This is substitutionary atonement and is a stumbling block for many. Properly understood, this should remove pride from the Christian life. God saves us not because we are good people. Jesus had to die to pay the penalty we deserved due to our sin. This age is evil, but until we are saved we are participants in the evil. We are not rescued because we are good people. Therefore, we should not look down on others who have not yet been redeemed.

This act of redemption did not occur by a unilateral decision on the part of Jesus, but was accomplished in accordance with the Father's will. John says we love God because God first loved us. God does not love us because we love Him, but because of who He is. Therefore, again, pride has no place in the Christian life. Glory belongs to God "forever and ever."

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