Salutation Part 4 of 6-series: Lessons on Galatians
by John Lowe
3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father,
This greeting is often used as a benediction in our churches; it is a request that the blessings of God the Father and God the Son may be bestowed upon them. It is Paul’s formal greeting that he uses in most of his epistles. It is a prayer for “grace” (Gk. charis), meaning “unmerited favor,” and “peace” (Gk. eirene), which is a sense of well-being resulting from a personal relationship with God that is unaffected by the circumstances of life. Paul wanted his fellow believers in Galatia to experience God’s presence in their daily lives.
The word grace was the usual Greek (gentile) form of greeting in that day, while peace (shalom) was the religious greeting of the Jews. Now the grace of God must be experienced before the peace that is from God the Father can be experienced, there can be no true peace without grace. By these two words, Paul sums up all the blessing his heart desires for them. In Christ, God revealed His grace, and through Christ, He bestowed His peace. Grace is the sum of all the blessings extended by God; peace is the sum of all the blessings experienced by man. This customary salutation is not an automatic thing with Paul. He uses it here even though he has so many faults to find with these Galatians. He does not withhold the wish for divine grace and peace even for those whom he is about to scold; and they come from God the Father as the fountainhead, through Jesus Christ as the channel of conveyance.
The greeting of the Apostle is refreshing. Grace cancels sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by observing the Law, and no person has ever been able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Furthermore, sin cannot be taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person tries to gain esteem for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, many struggle with the concept that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God. The world brands this a malicious doctrine. The world promotes the rational and natural approach of good works, as the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sin. But it is impossible to gain peace of conscience by following the methods and means of the world. Experience proves this. Various holy orders have been founded on the assumption of securing peace of conscience through religious exercises, but they proved to be failures because such beliefs only increase doubt and despair. We find no rest for our weary bones unless we cling to the word of grace.
and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
The Apostle does not wish the Galatians grace and peace from the emperor, or from kings, or from governors, but from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. He wishes them heavenly peace, the kind of which Jesus spoke when He said, “Peace I leave unto you: my peace I give unto you.” Worldly peace provides quiet enjoyment of life and possessions. But when affliction comes, particularly in the hour of death, the grace and peace of the world will not deliver us. However, the grace and peace of God will. They make a person strong and courageous and able to bear and to overcome all difficulties, even death itself, because we have the victory of Christ’s resurrection and the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins. The Father and the Son cooperate fully in the salvation of sinful man.
The Apostle adds to the salutation the words, “and from our Lord Jesus Christ.” Was it not enough to say, “From God the Father”? We are to seek God as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:23-24: “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” Begin with Christ. He came down to earth, lived among men, suffered, was crucified, and then He died and was buried, but He could not be kept in a tomb—He rose three days later; today He is standing clearly before us, so that our hearts and eyes may affix upon Him. Concentrate upon Jesus Christ, who says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” By doing this, you will recognize the power, and majesty focusing on your condition according to Paul’s statement to the Colossians, “In Christ are hid all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” and, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Paul is wishing grace and peace not from God the Father alone, but also from Jesus Christ. We are to hear Christ, who has been appointed by the Father as our divine Teacher. Paul ascribes to Him divine powers equal with the Father, as for instance, the power to dispense grace and peace. Jesus could not do this unless He was God. Only God can create these blessings and bestow them on His children. The angels cannot. The apostles could only distribute these blessings by the preaching of the Gospel. In attributing to Christ the divine power of creating and giving grace, peace, everlasting life, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins, the conclusion is inevitable that Christ is truly God.
The Greek omits the second "from," and joins God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ in close union, by there being only one preposition—“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7; NKJV).
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
Who gave himself for our sins,
This is another marvelous verse—I feel inadequate as a commentator to explain it, and I can’t rise to the level of it; I will simply say some things about it.
Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins.” There is nothing that we can add to the value of His sacrifice. Nothing! He gave Himself. What do you have to give? Anything? Can you add anything to His sacrifice? He gave Himself. How wonderful and glorious that is! I am speechless when I read a verse like this. He gave Himself! When you give yourself, you have given everything—who you are, what you have, your time, your talent—everything. He gave Himself. He couldn’t give any more. Paul just couldn’t wait to say it. Having mentioned Him, he says, “Who gave himself for our sins.” This is the foundation and origin of Paul’s subject.
The reason why Paul introduces this important doctrine so soon is probably that this was the cardinal doctrine of the Christian religion, the great truth which was always to be kept before the mind, and because this truth had been in actual fact lost sight of by them. They had embraced doctrines which tended to obscure it, or to render it null and void. They had been led into erroneous thinking by the Judaizers who were their teachers, who taught that it was necessary to be circumcised and to conform to all of the Jewish rituals. Yet the tendency of all this was to obscure the doctrines of the gospel, and particularly the great truth that men can be justified only by faith in the blood of Jesus, which is the idea conveyed by these verses.
• “For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace” (Gal 5:4; NLT).
• “I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ” (Gal 1:6-7; NLT).
Paul, therefore, wanted to make this the starting point in their religion; a truth that would never be forgotten, that Christ gave himself for their sins, so that He might deliver them from all the bad influences of this world, and from all the false systems of religion manufactured in this world. The expression "who gave" is one that often occurs in relation to the work of the Redeemer, where it is represented as a gift, either on the part of God, or on the part of Christ himself—“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; KJV). (Also see Romans 4:25, 2 Corinthians 9:15, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 5:25, Titus 2:14.)
Christ voluntarily and vicariously offered Himself on account of our sins, which enslaved us to the present evil world. The preposition “for” speaks of substitution, instead of, in behalf of. “Christ who knew no sin, was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor 5:21). He exchanged places with us; He took all of our sins upon Him, and gave us all of His righteousness. He was both the purchaser and the price of our redemption. There was no One other than Christ good enough to pay the price of sin. At Calvary Jesus Christ once for all settled the sin question. Just before He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, He said, “It is finished” (19:30). Our sins made His sacrifice necessary, and His sacrifice is the only basis for our acceptance by God.