Over the next four months, I will be studying and teaching on the book of Galatians. A perennial favorite of mine. Each time I have studied this book I have grown, and I am already thoroughly enjoying the beginning of this study. To study Galatians is to focus on the Spirit’s work in our lives, to meditate on His glory and preeminence in all of history, and to delight in the truth and simplicity of the Gospel. Overall, Galatians helps us see, according to most reformers, that if the doctrine of justification is corrupted (i.e. changed, tweaked even, added to, or watered down), then all true Christian doctrine is undone, we are left to the whims of passing fads and opinions. But to really know Him, we listen to His voice alone, discerning the false teachers who muddle up the truth.
In Galatians, Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit) was writing to a group of churches, a circular letter to all churches in a particular Mediterranean area Paul founded, and had visited at least twice. His tone is very pastoral, fatherly, emotional and bold. He addresses both the false teaching that has been spread after his departure, and the attacks against his role as apostle.
Over the course of these four months we will see that while Paul is putting forth that the law does not justify us, he is not advocating that we refrain from reading or knowing the Law. Paul is no antinomian! Rather he proves how justification apart from the law is exactly what all of the OT pointed to, the promise by faith to Abraham our father. There is continuity.
Paul begins his letter with a reminder that he was called by God, not mere man; he is sure of his calling and was not sent by a delegation of men.
In verse 3 Paul continues as is his custom “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This grace and this peace mentioned here are not mere words, but are great gifts of God that underlie our ability to be in relationship to God. We stand in this grace to which we were introduced by faith, and because we are justified we have peace with God. (see Romans 4:13-5:5, and perhaps linger there for a few days.) This grace, and this peace, are only available to believers. And they are free flowing in abundance toward us who believe! In this grace we too must stand, in Him we abide. This is not the peace some imagine of quietly enjoying our earthly life and possessions, but the knowledge of God’s delight in us, His peace which He gives that carries us through a life of earthly tribulations.
Vs. 4 reminds us of the important truth, that Jesus did not succomb to the will of men, or even follow a “plan B;” rather He gave Himself. This plan from all eternity played out as He wanted it to. (for further study, see Matt 20:28; John 10:14-17; 11:51-52; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Titus 2:13-14)
The Son’s will was one with the Father, He was willing. He partook of flesh, obeyed perfectly and died–that we might partake of Him, of His nature–He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. This demonstrates His love, and if we fear and tremble we need only look to the cross as a reminder. We are His beloved by choice. (Romans 5:8, 1 John 3:16, Ephesians 5:25)
Part of the glorious Gospel is our deliverance from the evil that dominates this present age–not a deliverance from the material world (cf John 16:33, 17:5, 14-21 and Mark 16:14), for we still sojourn here on earth. We are delivered from the power that controls this present age; and from the prince who once controlled us, and the fears that once enslaved us. His love now controls us! He gives us the victory to overcome! He will do all His holy will in our lives. He has delivered us from the realm in which sin is irresistable! Now we can struggle against in, and walk in His victory.
Vs 5 is a doxology, following the gospel summary of vs 4. This is a great reminder that the true Gospel draws our hearts into a frame of worship. We are worshippers; and when our hearts are freed from worshipping self, idols, and other lesser loves, we can finally ascribe to God the glory due His name! As in these Psalms, which you will enjoy meditating on: Ps 29:2, 96:8, 84:5. Through this study, I long to ascribe to God the glory due His name; along with the sum total of our justification. We do not add to it, earn it, or work to make it better, or to keep it, or further the work into sanctification. It is Christ who lives in me, hallelujah!
A parting word from Luther:
Grace remits sin and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever…Sin is not cancelled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair….the fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. 1