Grace, Peace And The New Age
From Paul, whose call to be an apostle did not come from human beings or by human means, but from Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from death. All the believers who are here join me in sending greetings to the churches of Galatia: May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. In order to set us free from this present evil age, Christ gave himself for our sins, in obedience to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and ever! Amen (Galatians 1:1-5, Good News Bible)
Paul's letter to the church in Galatia was intended to combat the introduction of a false gospel to the early church. Specifically, the syncretistic gospel of the Judaizers was no gospel at all. Indeed it was not "good news" but was a message of death, according to the apostle Paul.
In the opening lines of the letter, Paul emphatically defends his apostleship. The opponents of Paul claimed his apostleship was second rate at best. It seems they peddled the idea that Paul was given the label of apostle by the church in Antioch. However, Paul forcefully defends his call to the apostolic ministry. He claims without equivocation, it was Jesus Christ and God the Father who assigned him an apostolic charge. Paul had seen the Lord Jesus Christ on the way to Damascus and had received truth without an intermediary. The enemies of Paul would have claimed this was suspect. Nonetheless, Paul never wavered from his claim; his apostolic ministry was based upon the personal call of Jesus Christ and the revelation given him by the Lord. Paul will address these issues more fully in the body of his letter.
In his introduction, Paul simply reminds his readers that no human being had a hand in his call to the apostolic ministry. Indeed, there were many who recognized the validity of Paul's work and the apostle references them as "all the brethren who are with me" or "all the believers who are here." This body of witnesses joined Paul in sending greetings to the Galatian church.
When Paul declares grace and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, he is not expressing a pious wish but is exercising an aspect of his office as apostle. While this is something any Christian can do ("may the peace and grace of the Lord be with you"), an apostle enjoyed special authority given by God to declare the Good News of grace and peace. Paul will describe just what grace and peace are in the rest of the letter. He will show the far reaching effects of the grace of God and peace with him in Jesus the Christ. Again, Paul is building a base in this introduction.
In verses four and five, Paul presents a distillation of the rest of the letter. In fact, he presents a thumbnail for the gospel itself. As we will see, the "present evil age" is a life lived under law whether lived the past or present. The present evil age is experienced by those who reject salvation in Christ alone regardless of their ethnic, cultural or socioreligious background. Throughout the letter, Paul develops the idea of an exodus from the present evil age and entrance into the new age of Jesus Christ. He is not talking about a future apocalyptic event; this happens the moment one possesses a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. They leave the present evil age and began to live in the new age of grace in Jesus. A person receiving Jesus Christ is a new creation and does not spend time in limbo awaiting life in the new age of grace.
There are many false religions, ideologies and philosophical systems today. Each of them is part of this "present evil age." Any belief system lacking the exclusivity of Christ is a false gospel and is evil. There are no exceptions. Paul makes this very clear throughout the letter.
We will return to Galatians next week. To read articles in this series in the "off weeks" go to CottCommChurch.com and click on the "articles" link.
|Practical theologian David Eric Williams is a community church pastor and hospital chaplain ordained with the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference.
Eric's ministry is focused on Christ centered expository Bible teaching that is covenantal in nature. His goal is to help families fulfill the kingdom mandate by developing a Christian worldview firmly founded on biblical truth.
He holds a BA (History/Sociology) from Regents College, University of the State of New York, an MA (Theology) from the Southern California Graduate School of Theology and an MAR (Biblical Studies, Graduate With High Distinction) from Liberty University School of Divinity.
You may contact Eric by email.