By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 29, 2016
Depending upon the reason for the message we may use the salutation of "Dear", "Sir or Madam", "To Whom It May Concern", "Folks", or the name of the person or persons we are addressing. Sadly, many greetings have gone out of vogue do to instant messaging or texting and email. And it is important to note that many young people do not understand the importance of a formal or business style of greeting when putting together correspondence for a job or college application. This is because our world has become way too lax in how it addresses others or the politeness, articulation, and education of what these kinds of greetings infer.
Galatians, though one of Paul’s shorter letters is highly respected as one of his greatest and most influential. Since both Romans and Galatians teach the doctrine of justification by faith alone (sola fide), it has been seen as a shorter version of Romans. Paul begins this instructional letter with a greeting that focuses on who it is for, who it is from, and why he is writing it. Let's see what Paul's greeting contains and how it influences the entire letter to the Galatians.
READ: Galatians 1:1-5
On this Memorial Day weekend it is important for us to remember the men and women who fought and died for our freedom. It is fitting then that we study Paul's letter to the Galatians. Galatians eloquently defends Paul’s apostolic authority and contains in summary form what the apostle taught. In particular it contains a clear statement of justification by faith and builds on that foundation a defense of Christian liberty against any form of legalism. Right away we discover that..
I. Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority! (Vv. 1-2)
Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia:
1. The opening of Paul's letter here is both normal and kind of abnormal. It does not contain the usual niceties of a standard greeting of the day. Rather it bluntly goes to the heart of the issue at hand that Paul wanted to put to rest immediately, namely his authority to be who he was in Jesus! Notice how the letter begins: "Paul, an apostle". Right away Paul reminds his readers of who he is: an apostle. Not just one of the many disciples of Jesus but a member of the innermost circle an apostle. One who was literally sent by Jesus himself for a specific purpose; because this is what the word "apostle" carries with it in its definition. One who is sent for a specific reason and this was Paul. He was "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ". This was important because Paul saw himself as equal to any of the other inner disciples of Jesus along with Peter, John, Matthew and such. And his reasoning was obvious: he was sent by Jesus himself and not by mere men! Paul had met Jesus in a life-changing event on the road to Damascus years earlier. He had been freed from his Pharisaic legalism. This would be extremely important in his later discussions with the early church concerning his authority and his theology. What is more is the fact that "God the Father, who raised (Jesus) from the dead" saw him as one of the apostles. If Jesus who died for their sins and God the Father who sent Jesus and raised him from the dead saw Paul as an apostle as well, they could not therefore reject his teaching or authority! And so Paul, the Apostle, now greets the Galatians, along with "all the brothers" in Jesus with him! Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority!
EXAMPLE: We will learn that the bluntness of Paul's greeting was because of the heresies that had crept into the Galatians church. We will discuss these in the following weeks. Paul was being like a military drill instructor so-to-speak. When a person goes to boot camp their heads are shaved and their identities are stripped down and they learn to obey immediately the orders they receive from their drill instructors, their DIs. To do so will save their lives in conflict. Paul was a spiritual drill instructor. He needed to establish his authority immediately without question so his disciples in Jesus would follow his teaching concerning Jesus without question. Not mindlessly, but without illogical and irrational spirituality that would confuse them as new believers; which in fact was exactly what had occurred because of evil folks who came in wanting to pervert the gospel message of salvation by faith. Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority!
The great German theologian and pastor Martin Luther was especially attached to Galatians and referred to it as his "wife" and his Commentary on Galatians was widely read. On this Sunday before Memorial Day we would do well to take time to pause and pray for those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms. In this Galatians is a good letter to read because it is often called the “Magna Charta of Christian Liberty,” proclaiming that salvation comes not by works but by grace through faith and in fact we discover that…
II. Paul's greeting contains God's grace! (Vv. 3-5)
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
1. Paul did not want his readers to forget who it was they followed and why. They all were believers not because they adhered to a set of guidelines, laws, rules, or regulations. Rather, it was by God's mercy. So Paul begins by writing, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". Grace and peace came not only from God the Father who had given the Hebrews the Law, but also the "Lord Jesus Christ" (the Messiah)! God had now given them Jesus who fulfilled the law! Grace is God's mercy that gives us more than we truly deserve and his peace is the peace that not only surpasses all the understanding of mankind, it brings us peace with a holy and righteous God the Father because of our sinful ungodly condition! This is why Paul continues his greeting with: "who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father"! Jesus willingly gave his own life as the ultimate sacrifice for mankind's sin. As Jesus taught Nicodemus, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." (John 3:16-18 NIV) Paul therefore wanted his readers to understand the significance of Jesus' sacrifice and how God, "to whom be glory forever and ever", viewed it! There is nothing that can be added to this or taken away from it! It is not Jesus "and" nor is it less than what Jesus had done! It is all because of Jesus! Remember this is not the peace the world gives, but the peace of God (John 14:27) but what is more it is because of the grace of God through Jesus! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!
EXAMPLE: Far too many either think that they can just either just smile or wave at the grace of God or that they have to add something to it. Neither is true. God is not some sleepy-eyed baldheaded man sitting on a cloud smiling and waving at his creation below nor is he some terrible task master checking off the good things you do to see if they outweigh the bad things you do in life. Jesus established for us once and for all the grace of God through the gospel message. We are saved by grace through faith, not by anything we do. Our freedom from spiritual slavery was bought by Jesus' death and sealed by his resurrection! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!
Paul's greeting establishes Jesus' and his authority! Paul's greeting contains God's grace!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.