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11 September 2019

Rescued from this Evil Age - (Galatians 1:1-5)

Paul's Conversion - www.clipart.christiansunite.com
In the first chapters of his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul narrated how he received his gospel for the Gentiles by divine revelation, a commission confirmed by the leadership of the Jerusalem church.  He described how during an earlier controversy at Antioch, “false brethren secretly introduced, slinked in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4-5).
In Antioch, certain Jewish believers in Jesus came from Jerusalem and disrupted the church there with their doctrines.  These included a claim that it was improper for Jewish Christians to have table fellowship with Gentile believers, a position that would include communal meals among church members. The end result of such a policy would be a church divided along ethnic lines.
(Galatians 1:1-5) - “Paul, an apostle — not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father who raised him from among the dead, And all the brethren with me; — unto the assemblies of Galatia: Favour unto you and peace, from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ — Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father — Unto whom be the glory unto the ages of ages: Amen!
Paul customarily began each of his letters with a salutation to its addressees. Included were brief references to the key topics he intended to address in the letter.  For example, his declaration that he received his commission not from men but “through Jesus Christ,” anticipates the defense of his apostleship (1:12-16).
Prayers and thanksgiving reports for what God had done normally followed Paul’s salutation. As was his custom, Paul began his letter to the Galatians with a salutation.  What sets this one apart from his other letters is its brevity and lack of any prayers or words of thanksgiving.
Rather than offering thanks, Paul launches immediately into a stinging rebuke of the Galatians (“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in grace”). This indicates the depth of his concern and the level of his agitation.
Paul opens his letter by identifying himself as “Paul” or Paulos, the Greek form of a Latin name (cp. Acts 13:7). It means “little.” Though a Jew by birth, Paul was a Roman citizen and “Paul” almost certainly was his Roman surname, not his personal name or praenomen. Paul never used his personal or family name in any of his surviving letters;  “Paul” and “apostle” were his preferred designations (“Paul” 29 times; “apostle” at least 30 times).
In the book of Acts, Paul is identified by his Jewish name “Saul” prior to his Damascus Road experience.  When he began his missionary activities, he was thereafter designated “Paul,” not “Saul,” except when he recounted his conversion story (Acts 13:1-3, 22:7, 22:13, 26:14).
The Apostle possibly favored the use of his Roman name as part of a strategy to be the “apostle to the Gentiles.” It may also have been his way of identifying himself with his (largely) Gentile congregations. In the first verse of Galatians, he also identifies himself as “apostle” (cp. Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1).
“Apostle” or apostolos designated someone as an agent, representative, messenger or envoy who represented another person, organization or institution.  It means “one who is sent.”
Paul goes on to define his apostleship; first, by use of a double negation (“neither from men nor through man), then, by a positive affirmation (“but through Jesus Christ”). This introduces a key issue Paul will address later in subsequent paragraphs, his apostleship (1:10 – 2:10).
The opponents of Paul did not dispute his office or accuse him of being a false apostle. Instead, they claimed his apostleship was derived from and dependent upon human authorities, most likely the “elders” in Jerusalem, therefore, he had a derived authority. This, in turn, insinuated that his ministry and the content of his gospel were under the jurisdiction of that human authority.
Paul denies that his apostolic commission is derived from or dependent on any human authority, whether the mother church in Jerusalem or the church at Antioch. Instead, he affirms that he received it directly from Jesus by revelation (cp. 1 Corinthians 9:1, Acts 9:4-6, 22:7, 26:16).
The “but” in the clause is a strong adversative that contrasts his authority’s true source with the false charges of his opponents (“but through Jesus Christ” [alla]). His heavenly commission included the task of proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles and to do so without requiring them to conform to the Law (cp. Acts 9:15, 13:46-48, 22:21, Ephesians 3:1-8).
Unlike his opponents who were authorized by men from Jerusalem, Paul received his apostleship and mission direct from Jesus.  As elsewhere, Paul closely links Jesus with God yet maintains a distinction between them.  The clause, “through Jesus Christ and God,” makes clear that the ultimate source of his commission is God.
Paul also links his gospel to God, who is further identified as “Father,” the same one “who raised Jesus from the dead” (cp. Acts 2:24-32, 3:15, Romans 4:24-25, 10:9, 14:9, Ephesians 1:19-20). The fatherhood of God plays an important role in this letter and is linked to the idea of “adoption” (3:7, 3:26, 4:2-7, 4:22-31).
In Chapters 3 and 4, another issue will come to the surface:  who are the true children or “seed” of Abraham; those who are circumcised or those whose right standing before God is on the basis of faith in Jesus, the “true seed of Abraham”?
The resurrection of Jesus was an apocalyptic event of cosmic import.  It signaled the commencement of the messianic age, a fundamental change in the state of world affairs. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “powers and principalities,” the cosmic forces opposed to God that held humanity in bondage were defeated (1 Corinthians 2:5-8, Ephesians 1:21, Colossians 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22).  The resurrection of Jesus was nothing short of an act of new creation and the inauguration of a new era, a new stage in the redemptive plan of God.
Paul will use this apocalyptic view when he exhorts the Galatians not to subject themselves once more to the “elementary spirits of this world” by placing themselves under the calendrical rituals of the Torah. With the coming of the Son, the jurisdiction of such things had run their course (Galatians 4:3, 4:8-11).
By reminding his audience that the Jesus who commissioned him is the same one who was raised from the dead, Paul prepares for his description of how he received his gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-16).
Paul addresses his letter simply to “the assemblies of Galatia,” plural (see Acts 13:14 - 14:23, 15:41, 16:5-6, 18:23, 1 Corinthians 16:1).  This is a circular letter intended to be read to each of the house churches in Galatia.
“Assemblies” translates ekklésia, an “assembly; a congregation.”  The term is commonly rendered “church” or “churches” in English translations.  The New Testament usage is derived from the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint in which ekklésia translates the Hebrew term qahal Yahweh, the “assembly of Yahweh” (e.g., Deuteronomy 23:1-2, Judges 20:2, 1 Chronicles 28:8, Nehemiah 13:1).
The reapplication to the church of terms used by the Hebrew Bible for ethnic Israel is in keeping with the New Testament practice of (e.g., Exodus 19:5-6, Revelation 1:6, 5:9-10).
Jesus is the one who “gave himself on account of our sins.” “Gave” is in the active voice to emphasize the willing participation of Christ in his unjust death (cp. Isaiah 53:5, Mark 10:45, 14:24, Matthew 20:28, 26:28, Romans 4:25, 8:32). He was not an unwilling participant but an obedient and, therefore, willing sacrificial victim.
This last clause anticipates another topic of the letter.  The Greek preposition huper or “on account of” has the sense, “for the sake of, because of, on account of.”  Paul more often describes how Jesus died “for us,” he now states that it was “because of sins.” This echoes the sacrificial system of Leviticus in which sin offerings expiated the sins that had defiled the Tabernacle and disrupted Israel’s relationship with Yahweh. The death of Christ was necessary “on account of” humanity’s “sins” that alienated it from God.
The same idea resurfaces in later passages. Paul will describe how “the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself on account of (huper) me” (2:20). Likewise, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse on account of (huper) us” (3:13).
The death of Christ was “according to the will of our God and Father.”  It is important for Paul to stress the magnitude of what God has done in the death of His Son.  That pivotal event occurred centuries after the Mosaic Law was given to Israel.  If the Galatians place themselves under the Law by adopting circumcision, they risk the loss of God’s “grace and peace” that was obtained at the cost of the death of Jesus.
The Apostle will stress the centrality of Christ’s death for the gospel (e.g., Galatians 2:21, “for if righteousness is through the Law, then Christ died in vain”).  His death was not just another in a long line of Divine acts; it was not an afterthought or backup plan necessitated by the failure of Israel to keep the Law.
Instead, the death of Jesus was and is the center of God’s redemptive plan of God from the beginning (“according to the will of our God and Father”). To return to what preceded His final redemptive act by submission to the dominion of the Torah would be tantamount to abandoning the real purpose of God.
By means of the death of Christ, God has “rescued us from the present evil age.” This clause stresses the apocalyptic nature of what God accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In Christ, the expected messianic age commenced and the future age irrupted into the present one (Romans 12:2, “Be not configuring yourselves to this age” (cp. Colossians 1:12-13).
In Second Temple Judaism, history was divided into two ages:  the present evil age and the age to come. The latter one was expected to be inaugurated by the arrival of the Messiah. The Law of Moses, the Torah, belongs to the “present age”; it is part of the old order that began to pass away following the death and resurrection of Jesus (cp. Galatians 2:19, 4:3-9, 5:5, Isaiah 65:17, Matthew 12:32, Romans 5:12-21, 12:2, 1 Corinthians 1:20, 2:6-8, 7:31, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 1:13, Hebrew 1:2, 2:5, 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, 1 John 2:15-17).
With the resurrection of Jesus, the “age to come” began to dawn, though it still awaits its final consummation.  In Chapter 4, Paul will link the Law to the stoicheia tou kosmou…the elemental spirits of this world” (4:3, 4:9). Thus, to return to the Law of Moses is to regress to the old order that has been made obsolete by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
To whom be the glory unto the ages of the ages.” This doxology marks the end of the salutation and the transition to the body of the letter.
This opening section is noteworthy among Paul’s letters for its brevity and curtness. Its lack of positive reinforcement for his audience indicates that Paul was agitated when he wrote the letter.  After his brief preliminaries, he immediately launches into the defense of his gospel and apostleship, beginning with a stern rebuke to the Galatians (1:6-10). His concern over the churches of Galatia and severe disagreement with his opponents become very apparent as the letter progresses.
By bringing up the death and resurrection of Jesus in his opening remarks, Paul highlights the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins and the rescue of believers from this “present evil age.”  The letter will go on to demonstrate the inadequacy of the Torah for achieving God’s redemptive purposes.
The Law belongs to the old age that began to pass away with the death and resurrection of Christ. To return to its jurisdiction is to regress to enslavement under the old order.

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