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11 September 2019

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

Paul's Conversion -
In the first verses of the book of Galatians, Paul declared that his apostleship was from the very same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the one who gave his life in order to “deliver us from this evil age.” The two claims anticipate Paul’s defense of his apostolic calling and his opposition to a group that operated as if the old era was still in full effect.
(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!
In the first chapters of the letter, Paul narrates how he received his gospel for the Gentiles by divine revelation, a commission confirmed later by the leadership of the Jerusalem church.  He describes how during an earlier controversy at Antioch, “false brethren secretly introduced, slinked in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 2:4-5).
Jewish believers from Jerusalem had disrupted the church at Antioch with their doctrines, including their claim that it was improper for Jewish Christians to have table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentile followers of Jesus. But a church divided along ethnic lines would be the inevitable result of such restrictions.
Paul customarily began his letters with a salutation and words of thanksgiving for what God had done.  However, in his letter to the Galatians, Paul begins with a salutation noteworthy for its uncharacteristic brevity and a lack of any words of thanksgiving. Instead, he launches immediately into a stinging rebuke of the Galatian churches (“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in grace”). This indicates the depth of his concern and the degree of his agitation.
Paul commences by identifying himself as “Paul” or Paulos, the Greek form of a Latin name (cp. Acts 13:7). Though a Jew by birth, he 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 in his letters; “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 designated “Paul,” not “Saul,” except when he recounted his conversion story (Acts 13:1-3, 22:722:1326:14). Paul possibly favored 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.
Paul defines his apostleship; first, by using a double negation in the Greek sentence (“neither from men nor through man”), then, by employing a positive affirmation (“but through Jesus Christ”). This introduces a key issue Paul addresses in subsequent paragraphs - his divinely appointed office (Galatians 1:10 – 2:10).
His Jewish opponents did not dispute his office; instead, they claimed his apostleship was derived from and dependent upon human authorities, the church leadership in Jerusalem. This implied that his was a derived authority and under the jurisdiction of Jerusalem.
Paul denies that his commission was 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 9:1Acts 9:4-622:726:16). His commission included the task of proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles and to do so without requiring them to conform to the regulations of the Torah (cp. Acts 9:1513:46-4822:21Ephesians 3:1-8).
Unlike his opponents, Paul received his apostleship and mission directly from the risen Jesus. He also links his gospel to the “Father…who raised Jesus from the dead” (cp. Acts 2:24-323:15Romans 4:24-2510:914:9Ephesians 1:19-20). The fatherhood of God plays an important role in this letter and is linked later to the idea of the “adoption” by God of Gentile believers (Galatians 3:73:264:2-74:22-31).
The resurrection of Jesus was an apocalyptic event that signaled the commencement of the messianic age. In his death and resurrection, the “powers and principalities,” the cosmic forces opposed to God that held humanity in bondage, were defeated (1 Corinthians 2:5-8Ephesians 1:21Colossians 2:151 Peter 3:22).  The resurrection 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. NOTHING COULD EVER BE THE SAME AGAIN.
Paul uses 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 its course (Galatians 4:3, 4:8-11).
By reminding his audience that the God who commissioned Paul is the same one who raised Jesus from the dead, he prepares his readers for the claim of how he received his gospel by a direct revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-16).
Jesus is the one who “gave himself on account of our sins” (cp. Isaiah 53:5Mark 10:4514:24Matthew 20:2826:28Romans 4:258:32). This claim anticipates another topic.  The preposition huper has the sense, “for the sake of, because of, on account of”; that is, Jesus died “because of sins.” This echoes the sacrificial system in the book of Leviticus where 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” the sins of humanity that had alienated men from God.
The same idea resurfaces in later passages. Paul describes 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.” Likewise, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse on account of (huper) us” (Galatians 2:20, 3:13).
The death of Christ was “according to the will of our God and Father.”  This stresses the magnitude of what God did in the death of His Son, an event that occurred centuries after the Torah was given to Israel.  If the Galatians place themselves under the Law, they risk the loss of God’s “grace and peace” that was obtained at the cost of His son’s life (e.g., Galatians 2:21, “for if righteousness is through the Law, then Christ died in vain”).  His death was the center of God’s redemptive plan from the beginning (“according to the will of our God and Father”). To return to what preceded it by submitting to the deeds of the Torah is tantamount to abandoning the purpose of God.
By means of the death of Christ, God “rescued us from the present evil age.” This stresses the apocalyptic nature of what God achieved in the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In him, the expected messianic age irrupted into the present one, the age of fulfillment is already underway (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 future age would 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. This does not mean that it was bad but that with the new age something vastly superior has dawned (e.g., Galatians 2:194:3-95:51 Corinthians 7:31Ephesians 5:6Colossians 1:13Hebrew 1:22:59:26).
With the resurrection of Jesus, the “age to come” began though it still awaits its consummation at the return of Jesus.  In Chapter 4, Paul links the calendrical regulations of the Law to the stoicheia tou kosmou…the elemental spirits of this world” (Galatians 4:34:9). Thus, to return to the Law of Moses is to regress to the old order that is 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.
By emphasizing 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 those redemptive purposes. The Mosaic legislation belongs to the old era that began to pass away with the death and resurrection of Christ.

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