Salutation Part 5 of 6-series: Lessons on Galatians
by John Lowe
This verse proves:
1. That it was entirely voluntary on the part of the Lord Jesus. No one forced him to come; no one could force him to do anything. God will compel the guilty to suffer, but he never will compel the innocent to endure sorrows, even in behalf of others. The whole work of redemption must be voluntary, or it could not be performed.
2. It revealed great compassion on the part of the Redeemer. He did not come to take upon himself unknown sorrows and suffering. He did not work in the dark. He knew what was to be done. He knew just what sorrows were to be endured and for how long, how intense, and how awful. And yet, knowing this, he came resolved and prepared to endure all those sorrows and suffering, and to drink the bitter cup to the last drop.
3. If there had not been this compassion in his bosom, man would have perished forever. Little man could not have saved himself; and he had no power or right to compel another to suffer in his behalf; and even God would not lay this mighty burden on any other, unless he was entirely willing to endure it. How much, then, do we owe to the Lord Jesus; and how completely should we devote our lives to him who loved us, and gave himself for us! The Lord Jesus became a vicarious offering, and died in the place of sinners. It is not possible to express this idea more distinctly and clearly than Paul has done in this verse. Sin was the cause of His death; to make amends for sin was the propose of his coming; and sin is pardoned and removed only by his substituted suffering.
In the previous verse, Paul calls Him, “our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is my Savior. Can you say, “The Lord is my Shepherd?” It is one thing to say He is a Shepherd; it is another thing to make it possessive. The Lord is my Shepherd. The Lord is my Savior. Can you say that He is yours?
that he might deliver us from this present evil world,
This age is evil, corrupt and corrupting, deceived and deceiving. The word evil (Gr ponēros), means not only evil in its nature but actively and viciously evil in its influence and actions. It is used to describe Satan, the god of this age, who is corrupting man and dragging him to destruction. The substitutional sacrifice of Christ alone can liberate man from Satan. The atonement of Christ triumphs over Satan’s powers and frees the Christian from the penalty of sin, which is death—“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23; KJV). Ultimate deliverance for the believer comes with physical death or with the return of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of His sacrifice was to deliver us, rescue us, and set us free from this present evil world. Christ not only delivers the believer from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin. Salvation is emancipation out from a state of bondage. This is the defining concept of the epistle. The word “rescued” (Gr exaireō) is used in Acts 23:27 to speak of Paul’s rescue from the mob, and in Acts 7:34 to speak of Israel being taken out of Egypt. Here it means not only to redeem us from the wrath of God, and the curse of the law, but also to rescue us from the corruption that is in the world through lust, and the vicious practices and customs of the world, unto which we are naturally enslaved. Sin had endangered and enslaved us; Christ delivered us and set us free. From this we may note:
1. This present world is an evil world: it has become evil from the effects of the sin of man, and as long as we remain in it we will experience sin and sorrow because of the many snares and temptations to which we are exposed.
2. But, Jesus Christ has died to deliver us from this present evil world, not at this time to remove his people out of it, but to rescue them from the power of it, to keep them from the evil with which it abounds, and at the appointed time time to take them out of this world and to another better world.
Christ alone can deliver us from this present evil world. This proves the genuineness of the gospel. Christ gave Himself for our sins. He took your place and my place on that cross. He died for us and rose from the dead “that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” All is due to His atoning death.
“Deliver us from this present evil world” cannot mean the earth and its products, or even wicked men. The former we will need while we live, the latter we cannot avoid; if truth be told they are those who, when converted, form the Church of God; and, it is through the conversion of sinners that the Church of Christ is maintained; and the followers of God must live and labor among them, in order to make their conversion possible. There are several opinions concerning the meaning of this clause which are:
1. The apostle must mean the Jews, and their system of carnal ordinances; statutes which were not good, and judgments by which they could not live—“Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live” (Ezek 20:25; KJV); and the entirety of their ecclesiastical regulations, which was a burden neither they nor their fathers were able to bear—“Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10; NKJV). The apostle takes opportunity, in the very beginning of the epistle, to inform the Galatians that it was according to the will and counsel of God that circumcision should cease, and all the other ritual parts of the Mosaic system; and that it was for this express purpose that Jesus Christ gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins, because the law could not make those that came to it perfect. It had pointed out the sinfulness of their sin, in its various ordinances, such as washings, etc.; and it had showed them the guilt of sin through its numerous sacrifices; but the common sense, even of its own prophets, told them that it was impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. A higher atonement was necessary; and when God provided that, all its shadows and representations ceased by necessity.
2. The word rendered “deliver us” means, to pluck out, to tear out; to take out from a group, to select; then to rescue or deliver. This is the sense here. He came and gave himself that he might rescue or deliver us from this present evil world. It does not mean to take away by death, or to remove to another world, but to separate us from what the apostle calls here, "this present evil world." The grand purpose was to rescue sinners from the dominion of this world, and separate them unto God.
3. Some suppose that it means "the present state of being, this life, filled as it is with tragedy, sin, and sorrow; or, rather, the sin itself, and the misery that it causes."
4. Another opinion understands the meaning to be deliverance from "the men of this age, Jews, who reject the Messiah; and Pagans, who are devoted to idolatry and crime."
5. Paul calls this present world evil because everything in it is subject to the hatred of the devil, which reigns over the whole world as his domain and fills the air with ignorance, contempt, hatred, and disobedience of God. As long as a person is in the world he cannot by his own efforts rid himself of sin, because the world is bent upon evil. The people of the world are the slaves of the devil. If we are not in the Kingdom of Christ, it is certain we belong to the kingdom of Satan and we are pressed into his service with every talent we possess. We live in this devils’ kingdom; and Christ came to deliver His children from this kingdom.
The Father and Son are each said to "deliver us" (Col 1:13): but the Son, not the Father, gave Himself for us in order to do so, and make us citizens of a better world (Php 3:20). The Galatians in desiring to return to legal bondage are, he implies, renouncing the deliverance which Christ obtained for us.