Galatians 1:2-5: The Greeting

Galatians 1:2‑5  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
“And all the brethren with me, to the assemblies of Galatia. Grace to you, and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, so that He should rescue us out of the present wicked age, according to the will of our God and Father: to whom be glory to the ages of ages. Amen.” ch. 1:2-5.
Although Paul writes the letter and speaks with the authority that the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father had given him, yet he includes with his own name “all the brethren with me” (vs. 2). You will remember that Paul often chose other brethren to travel with him, and to labor with him in the work of the gospel. You will remember that Timothy (Acts 16:3), Titus (Titus 1:5), Silas (Acts 15:40), Luke (Acts 16; compare “they” in v.8 with “we” in v.10) and others traveled with Paul and helped him; you will remember Mark started on this happy path, but turned back from it. (See Acts 13:5, 13; 15:37.) How good would it be today if some young men were willing to go forth and labor with their older brethren. Not only could they often make the load lighter for the older men and help in the happy work of preaching the gospel, but it is also very good training for these young men. Now Paul includes all these in his message to the churches in Galatia. They have all one mind about this matter. The Bible says, “That in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established” (Matt. 18:16). So Paul includes “all the brethren with me” (vs. 2). We do not know their names or who they were, but they all had one mind. If we compare Phil. 4:21, 22, we see that Paul makes a difference between “the brethren which are with me” (vs. 2) and “all the saints.” “All the saints” in the epistle to the Philippians would mean all the saints who lived in Rome (from where Paul wrote). “The brethren with me” (vs. 2) would include those fellow-laborers, of which we have spoken.
We must notice that although Paul includes all the brethren traveling with him, yet he does not mention them again, and throughout the epistle he generally uses the singular; as, for example, v.6: “I marvel.” These false apostles and teachers have challenged Paul’s authority, and Paul himself replies to their challenge.
“To the assemblies of Galatia” (vs. 2). It was always Paul’s custom to find some word of praise for the ones to whom he is writing, as, for example, 1 Cor. 1:4-9. Although the Corinthian Christians were wrong in so many ways, yet Paul delights to find something he can praise, and so he gladly writes, “I thank my God always on your behalf!” (1 Cor. 1:4). But in this letter to the assemblies of Galatia, there is not one word of praise or commendation. There is nothing for which he can give thanks. This tells us how very serious Paul considered the case of the assemblies of Galatia. And yet this same teaching which made Paul so indignant is the common teaching of Christendom today. Let me ask, Are you trusting in Christ alone, or in Christ and something else? Christ and your good works? Christ and your overcoming? Christ and your watching? Christ and the law? If you have added any of these, or any other thing, to Christ, then you are just as bad as these Galatian Christians; you have “fallen from grace” (ch. 5:4); you have a “different gospel” (vs. 6), and you are cursed (vss. 8, 9).
“Grace to you, and peace, from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” v.3.
Though Paul cannot praise them, yet he can offer to them grace and peace. It may be they refuse grace and choose law, turn from peace and obtain a curse; but grace and peace are sent to them. That grace and peace come from the highest source, even “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 3). We have just seen the Son and the Father together giving Paul his authority. Now we find the Father and the Son together offering grace and peace to the Galatians. It is very beautiful to see the Father and the Son linked together in their loving care of the believers, and in v.4 we again see this beautiful unity of the Father and the Son. “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, so that He should rescue us out of the present wicked age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
It was our Lord Jesus Christ who gave Himself for our sins, but God the Father gave His only begotten Son, and our Lord gave Himself according to the will of God and our Father. Thus three times in these four verses we find the Father and the Son linked together for our blessing. It reminds us of John 10:27-30 where the Son and the Father together hold fast the Lord’s own sheep, and of the father and the son who went both together in Gen. 22:6, 8.
The two great subjects of the epistle to the Galatians are the attack on Paul’s authority and the attack on the grace of God which saves poor lost sinners without their works. We have seen that v.1 immediately met the first attack, and now v.3 meets the second attack. “Grace to you” who have despised God’s grace, who have fallen from grace, who have chosen law instead of grace. God delights to once again send to the assemblies of Galatia His grace and His peace. And though they may seek to be justified from their sins by works, yet Paul reminds them that Christ gave Himself for their sins. So even in his greeting Paul meets both attacks of the enemy. These two subjects (Paul’s authority as an apostle and the grace of God) are like two threads running all through the epistle, and in these opening verses they are knotted together in Paul’s greeting to the Galatian assemblies.
Christ “gave Himself for our sins” (vs. 4). I love to repeat these words to myself. As I look back over the years and see the multitudes of sins all along the pathway sins that nothing I can do will ever remedy or remove—these sweet words answer all. Christ “gave Himself for our sins!” (vs. 4).
In Gal. 3:1 we read: “O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes has been placarded [displayed, or painted, or portrayed, or depicted] Jesus Christ crucified.” Paul had told them the story of that terrible day at Golgotha outside the gates of Jerusalem when the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. Paul had told them that story till the Galatians saw it all. They saw the mocking, the scourging, the crown of thorns, the purple robe. They saw the holy Son of God go forth bearing His cross. They saw Him stripped of His clothes, and those cruel nails driven through His hands and feet. They saw Him hanging on the cross between two thieves and they gazed on all His agony. Then they had watched the sun darkened, and they had heard that bitter, bitter cry, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?”. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46). They had seen all this, even placarded before their very eyes. They had heard it all. They had heard that cry, “It is finished.” John 19:30. But how little had it entered into their souls! True, no living man has ever known the depths of sorrow and anguish that our Lord Jesus suffered when the Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). No eye has ever seen the load our Savior bore in those hours of darkness and not one can ever measure the depths of bitterness in that bitter cry, “Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34). But this had been placarded before the eyes of the Galatians. They had seen it. They knew what Paul meant when he wrote, “Grace to you, and peace, from... our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins.”
That is the price their sins had cost our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the price my sins and your sins have cost“HIMSELF!”
God is satisfied with that price, but the “senseless Galatians” (ch. 3:1) had forgotten that great Savior placarded before them and they wanted to add their own works, circumcision and the law to the price that Christ had paid.
If I owe a mighty debt, and my friend pays every cent of it for me and hands me the receipt, how can I add a further payment? This is what the Galatians were doing.
If a man pays a great price to set a slave free, why should the freed slave add to the price that has already been paid?
But this is what the Galatians were doing.
In Gal. 1:4 we read that our Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself for our sins” (vs. 4). But in Gal. 2:20 we read, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”
Not only has my Savior paid my mighty debt, but He has bought me. I am His, altogether His and His only. What love! What grace! How can I doubt Him? Yet this is what the Galatians were doing. They could not or they would not, trust in Christ alone. They wished to add their own wretched works. “O senseless Galatians!” (ch. 3:1).
This salvation was all “according to the will of our God and Father” (vs. 4). On the one hand Christ “gave Himself,” on the other hand “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). They have one mind in rescuing poor lost sinners. Well may the Apostle exclaim, “To whom be glory to the ages of ages. Amen” (vs. 5). Gladly do we who believe also say, “Amen!”
But there is another little word in this verse that we have not looked at yet. Christ “gave Himself for our sins, so that He should rescue us out of the present wicked age.” What does the present age mean? V.5 tells of the coming ages, but the present age means the age in which you and I are living. We say it is the age of progress. It is the age of airplanes, of radios and of the atomic bomb. It is the age of war and jealousy among the nations. It is an age of fear and perplexity, when no one knows what will happen next— “men’s hearts failing them for fear” (Luke 21:26). The present age means all the opinions, the hopes, the fears, the aims and aspirations at any time in the world. These make a very great power; they are like the air we breathe, for they are all around us and even unconsciously they affect our lives. As we read the newspaper, we breathe in, or drink in, the spirit of the present age, and how often our hearts are filled with fear and dread after reading it. That is the power of the present age. Thanks be to God, Christ gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from the present age and all its wickedness. (The original Greek makes the word “wicked” very emphatic.) It is not “in order that He might rescue us,” but the result of having given Himself for our sins is “He has rescued us.” We may turn back again to this “present wicked age,” but Christ has rescued us from it. We are not of the world, just as Christ is not of the world. (John 17:14.) And amid all the fear, strife and hatred, the Christian may go quietly on his way because Christ has rescued him from this present age and all its wickedness. What is the meaning of “rescue”? It tells of great danger and a great salvation from that danger. So we were in danger of being swallowed up by the present age, but Christ has saved us from it. He has rescued us. Thanks be to His name! Again truly may we cry, “To whom be glory to the ages of ages. Amen” (vs. 5).
Very often “this age” is compared with “the coming age” (Mark 10:30) and surely it is so compared here in vv. 4, 5. (See also Luke 16:8; 18:30; 20:34, 35; Rom. 12:2.) “This age” is passing away quickly. “The coming age” is eternal. “This age,” “the world,” is under “a god” (2 Cor. 4:4), the devil, or under “princes” or “rulers” (1 Cor. 2:6). These are against the eternal God, “the King of the ages” (Ezek. 21:21).JND. (See also Eph. 2:2-7.) We in China often feel greatly the power of the god of this age. He is the devil, Satan, the dragon, that old serpent. (Rev. 20:2.) He is the serpent that deceived Eve. In China we see his “image and superscription” (Matt. 22:20) everywhere. On the old postage stamps and money, on the ornaments, even on the clothing and roofs of the houses, on everything, everywhere we see the image of the dragon. He is the god of this age, and he rules in China with a very heavy hand and with very little to resist him.
This is the reason that China suffers such sorrow and misery. The service of the dragon, of the god of this age, is very, very bitter service. How different from the service of Christ, who says, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). But China refuses Jesus, the Lamb of God, and chooses the dragon, the god of this age, instead.