The introductory greeting. The style of this greeting, compared with those found in St. Paul's other Epistles, gives indications of his having addressed himself to the composition of the letter under strong perturbation of feeling. This transpires in the abruptness with which, at the very outset, he at once sweeps aside, as it were, out of his path, a slur east upon his apostolic commission, in protesting that he was "apostle, not from man nor through a man." It appears again in that impetuous negligence of exact precision of language, with which the mention of "God the Father" is conjoined with that of "Jesus Christ" under the one preposition "through," as the medium through which his apostleship had been conferred upon him. We cannot help receiving the impression that the apostle had only just before received that intelligence from Galatia which called forth from him the letter, and that he set himself to its composition while the strong emotions which the tidings had produced were still fresh in his mind. That these emotions were those of indignant grief and displeasure is likewise evident. He will not, indeed, withhold the salutation which in all Christian and ministerial courtesy was due from him in addressing what, notwithstanding all, were still Churches of Christ. But all such expressions of affectionate feeling he does withhold, and all such sympathetic reference to matters and individuals of personal interest, as in almost every other Epistle he is seen indulging himself in, and which are not even then found wanting, when, as in the ease of the Corinthians, he has occasion to administer much and strong rebuke. No such sympathetic reference, we observe, is found here. As soon as he has penned the salutation, itself singularly cold in respect to those he is addressing, he at once proceeds, in Galatians 1:6 , to assail his readers with words of indignant reproach.
Grace be to you and peace ( χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ); grace to you and peace. Here, as often, we have combined the form of salutation prevalent among Greeks, χαίρειν (found in its unaltered form in James 1:1 , "wishing joy"), Christianized into χάρις , grace, which denotes the outpouring of Divine benignity in all such spiritual blessings as sinful creatures need; and the Hebrew greeting, shalom , which in its transformation into εἰρήνη may be supposed to have dropped in its Christianized signification some of its originally comprehensive meaning, which comprised all "health and wealth" as well as "peace," and to have generally expressed the more limited idea of that calm sense of reconciliation and that perfect security against evil which constitute the peculiar happiness of a soul which believes in Christ. It is nevertheless conceivable that εἰρήνη , as used in Hellenistic Greek, may at times have widened the sense proper to it in ordinary Greek into the more comprehensive import of the shalom , which it was regularly employed to represent. From God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ ( ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρός καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ ). These words regularly form a part in the apostle's formula of greeting. With slight variations they are found in all his Epistles, except, perhaps, the First to the Thessalonians, where, though read in the Textus Receptus, they are omitted by recent editors. "Our" is added to "Father" in at least seven of St. Paul's Epistles (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon). This warrants the belief that, when as in 1 Timothy, Titus, and here, he wrote "God the Father," he most probably did so with reference to God's fatherly relation to the members of Christ's Church. Tregelles and the margin of the revised Greek text, in fact, read ἡμῶν after πατρὸς here, omitting it after κυρίου . Uniformly in this formula of greeting we find only one preposition, "from" ( ἀπό ), before the two names, "God" and "Jesus Christ;" as in the first verse in this Epistle there is only one preposition, " through ," before "Jesus Christ" and "God . " The apostle, looking upwards, discerns, as St. Stephen did, in the ineffable glory, the supreme God in whom he recognizes "our Father," and with him Jesus Christ, "our Lord;" that is, our Master, Head, Mediator, " through whom are all things, and we through him." Grace and peace coming down from heaven, must come from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. From the very nature of the case it is obvious that the blessings referred to come to us through Christ, though also " from " him; as also that St. Paul's delegation as apostle, spoken of in the first verse, originated from a volition and appointment of God the Father, as well as was brought about " through " the ordering of his providence. But in each case the preposition used by the apostle preserves its proper force, not to be confused by our thrusting into it another notion not just then in the writer's view.
The apostolic benediction.
"Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." This benediction is a proof of the hearty love of the apostle, as well as a mark of his unswerving loyalty to the doctrine of salvation by Christ only.
I. THE BLESSINGS WISHED FOR . "Grace and peace." Nearly twenty times in Scripture are these two graces linked together, but never so significantly as at present, when the Galatians manifested a disposition to return to the Law with its terrors and disquietudes.
1 . Grace is free , undeserved love manifesting itself in a free gift. ( Romans 5:15 .) It is the foundation of our redemption. It is also an operation of that free love in our hearts—grace, quickening, sanctifying, comforting, strengthening. It is the first blessing the apostle asks for; it is what we all need; it is but the beginning of blessings innumerable.
2 . -Peace is not peace with God ( Romans 5:1 ), but the peace that springs from it. The true order of blessing and experience is not peace and grace, but grace and peace. Grace is the root of peace; peace is the inner comfort that springs from grace. The apostle desires that the Galatians may not only share in Divine grace, but possess the assurance of it. Without peace, thousands are unhappy, and the desire of it causes many a pagan to bear labour and pain in the vain effort to enjoy it. The worldly man longs for peace without grace. But the two are inseparably linked. Without it there is no progress in religion, and no real test of the value of a man's religion. Luther says, "Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet. The two fiends that torment us are sin and conscience." Another says," If you have peace, you are rich without money; if you have it not, you are poor with millions."
II. THE SOURCE OF THESE BLESSINGS . "From God the Father, and from cur Lord Jesus Christ"—from God the Father as Fountain, and Jesus Christ as the Channel of conveyance to us. The highest blessings of the gospel, as well as the appointment to apostolic office, spring alike from Father and Son. They are here both associated as objects of Divine worship, and as the sources of spiritual blessing. This proves Christ's Deity. "The living fountain of grace which ever flowed and never ebbed in the bosom of our God has been gloriously opened to a thirsty world in the bleeding side of Christ."
The gospel of self-sacrifice.
In sending an Epistle to an apostate people, Paul does not indulge in unmeaning compliments. These Celts in Asia had been showing some of their proverbial fickleness, and going back from the doctrine of justification by faith to a ritualism whose development must be self-righteousness. It is needful for their recovery from apostasy that the authority of the apostle and the truth of the gospel should be put before them in unmistakable terms. Hence we find Paul plunging at once into the needful expositions of his own apostleship and of the gospel of Christ with which as an apostle he was charged. In this salutation we have the following lessons distinctly taught:—
I. PAUL 'S APOSTLESHIP WAS RECEIVED DIRECTLY FROM JESUS CHRIST . ( Galatians 1:1 .) Doubtless he had merely human hands laid upon his head at Antioch ( Acts 13:3 ), but the imposition of the hands of the brethren was not the conveyance of authority, but simply the recognition of authority as already conveyed. The "ordination" at Antioch was the recognition by the Church of' authority and mission already conveyed by the Lord to the apostle. Accordingly in this instance before us Paul claims an apostleship directly from the hands of Christ. He was an apostle "not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead" (Revised Version). No intermediate hands conveyed the authority to him; he was conscious of having received it directly from the fountain-head. This gave him confidence consequently in dealing with the Judaizing teachers. It mattered not to him what parade of authority these teachers made; he stood as a rock upon his own commission with all its hallowed associations. And should this not instruct every true teacher as to the source of his authority? It is a mistake to imagine that men can do more than recognize God-given authority. It is from Christ directly we must each receive our office. Church officers, in putting their imprimatur upon any of us, merely recognize a Divine work which they believe on due evidence to be already there.
II. THE DESIRE OF THE APOSTLE FOR THE GALATIANS ' WELFARE . ( Galatians 1:2 , Galatians 1:3 .) The deep longing of Paul and those associated with him in his captivity for these apostate Galatians was that grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ might be theirs. "Grace," the gratuitous, undeserved favour which wells forth from the Divine heart, when it is received into the sinner's soul, produces "peace which passeth all understanding." It was this blessed experience Paul desired for the Galatians. They may have traduced his office and his character, but this did not prevent him entertaining the deep desire that into "truths of peace" they, like himself, should be led. And indeed we cannot wish people better than that grace and peace from heaven should be theirs. To live in the felt favour of God, to realize that it is at the same time quite undeserved, produces a peace and a humility of spirit beyond all price!
III. THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED WAS THAT OF THE SELF - SACRIFICE OF CHRIST , (Verse 4.) Jesus, he asserts, " gave himself for our sins." The foundation of the gospel is self-sacrifice. But we must always remember that self-sacrifice, if for the merest trifle, may be moral madness. In self-sacrifice as such there is no necessary virtue. A man may lose his life in an utterly unworthy cause. Hence the necessity for the self-sacrifice of Christ must be made out before its real virtue is established. This necessity appears when we consider that it was "for our sins ' he gave himself. For if our sins had been removed at some meaner cost than the blood of the Son of God, we should be disposed to say that sin is after all a light thing in God's sight, a mere bagatelle to him. But inasmuch as it required such a sacrifice to take away sin, its enormity is made manifest to all. Christ laid down his life, then, in a noble cause. Surely to take away sin, to remove from human hearts their heavy burdens, to bestow on men peace and deliverance from all fear, was a worthy object in self-sacrifice. We stand before the cross, therefore, believing that the sacrifice upon it is of infinite value and efficacy. He was no martyr by mistake as he died upon the tree, but the most glorious of all heroes.
IV. CHRIST 'S AIM IN SELF - SACRIFICE WAS OUR DELIVERANCE FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD . (Verse 4.) The world is the totality of tendencies which oppose themselves to God. To love such a world is incompatible with love to God the Father ( 1 John 2:15 ). It is, moreover, made up of "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" ( 1 John 2:16 ). Now, it is to this world that the ritualist falls a prey. This was the danger of the Galatians. The revival of rites and ceremonies, which had been fulfilled and therefore done away in Christ, pandered to the lust of the eyes and to the pride of life. Hence Paul proclaims at the outset that one purpose of the gospel of self-sacrifice is to deliver its recipients from the power of this present evil world which is constantly trying to bring us into bondage. The religion of Christ is freedom. He means to deliver us from bondage. It is our own fault if we are not delivered.
V. THE FINAL END OF THE GOSPEL IS ALWAYS THE GLORY OF THE FATHER . (Verse 5.) Hence the doxology with which the apostolic desire closes. It is with doxologies that the dispensation of grace must end. Heaven itself is the concentration of the doxologies which have been gathering upon earth; the full concert after the terrestrial rehearsals. And it is here that the safety of the whole dispensation may be seen; for if the glory of some imperfect Being were contemplated, his designs would of necessity run contrary in many cases to the real good of others. But God the Father is so perfect that his glory always consists with the real good of all his creatures. Doubtless some of his creatures will not believe this, and will insist on suspecting and hating his designs. In consequence they must be exposed to his righteous indignation. But this is quite compatible with the fact that the Divine glory and the real good of all are meant to harmonize. Happy will it be for us if we join in the rehearsals of his glory here, and are promoted to the chorus full-orbed and like the sound of many waters above. But even should we insist on discord, our own discomfort alone shall be secured; discords can, we know, be so wedded to harmony as to swell and not diminish the effect of the full orchestra. And God will secure his glory even in our poor despite.—R.M.E.
The tone of this Epistle is decidedly controversial. In the first and second chapters the writer establishes against Judaistic assailants his apostolic authority. This, however, is only subsidiary to his main design, which is in the third and fourth chapters, as an accredited servant of God, to establish the gospel of Christ, or justification by faith against Judaism (a different gospel), or justification by the works of the Law. The fifth and sixth chapters may be said to contain the application. There is thus the same central thought in this Epistle that there is in the Epistle to the Romans. Here there is the thought as it flashed out against Judaism as it threatened the very existence of Christianity in a very interesting circle of Churches, and while the writer's feelings were still keen. In the later Epistle there is the thought as it shaped itself against Judaism, when there was time to look at it calmly and in its widest aspects. It is worthy of being remembered that an historical interest attaches to this Epistle. The Romanism with which Luther was confronted bore a striking resemblance to Judaism. On that account he was led to make a special study of this Epistle. "The Epistle to the Galatians," he said, "is my Epistle. I have betrothed myself to it; it is my wife."
I. ADDRESS .
1 . The writer. "Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)." Paul's apostleship was not without relation to men. It was directed to men, and intended for their benefit. His appointment to office was announced to him by a man (Ananias). But the authority under which the appointment was made was not derived from men. Nor was it through man as the medium that it was communicated. It was communicated through Jesus Christ. The Lord said by Ananias, " He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my Name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel." When afterwards he essayed to preach the gospel at Jerusalem, he was overruled. While praying in the temple he fell into a trance, and saw Jesus , who said unto him," Depart; for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles." The authority under which Paul acted as apostle was ultimately derived from God. That is not the form in which it is put here. For the same preposition is used in connection with God as with Christ, as if God were in himself both the Medium and the Source of authority. And, in keeping with that view, one of the forms in which Ananias announced to Paul his appointment to apostleship was this: "The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth." Authority was communicated to Paul only through God as the Father , i.e. as acting through his Son Jesus Christ. This great Agent the Father raised from the dead. In the corresponding place in Romans the raising of Christ is also introduced: "Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship." The thought there is that, as divinely attested in his resurrection, he could appoint to apostleship. The further thought is suggested here that, as raised, he could appoint him to apostleship. He was not among those who received appointment from Christ when he was in flesh; but the risen Christ had appeared to him, and, without any elective body of men coming between, without any action of the Church as in the election of Matthias, had immediately appointed him to apostleship.
2 . Those associated with him. "And all the brethren which are with me." However high ground Paul took as to his apostleship, that did not separate him from his brethren. He even courted their Christian sympathy and support. He was open with. his companions in travel, and divulged to them his thoughts, read to them his letters. On this occasion he could say that they were at one with him. In the whole of his warm remonstrance against giving way to Judaism, there was not one expression which they wished him to tone down.
3 . The Churches addressed. "Unto the Churches of Galatia." At the dawn of history the home of the Celtic race, known to the Greeks as Galatians, and to the Romans as Gauls, was the continent west of the Rhine, with these adjoining islands. In their migrations hordes of Celts poured into Italy. They also followed the course of the Danube, turning southward into Greece. Three tribes of them, crossing the Hellespont, after wide devastations, were confined in the heart of Asia Minor. The tract of country which they occupied, about two hundred miles in length, and watered by the Halys, was called after them Galatia (land of the Celts). The head towns of the three tribes were Tavium, Pessinus, and Ancyra. The original inhabitants were Phrygians, and in later times there were additions of Romans and of Greeks and also of Jews. But the predominant element was Celtic, and the Celtic language was spoken along with Greek. To peoples, then, with more or less of a Celtic origin this Epistle to the Celts is invested with special interest. Paul came into contact with this new race in his second missionary tour. There is a singular meagreness of information regarding his visit. All that is recorded is that, being overruled as to his intended route, he passed through the region of Phrygia and Galatia. As meagrely it is said, in connection with his third missionary tour, that he passed through the same region in order, stablishing all the disciples. The result of his evangelizing was the formation of several Churches. They are (as was pointed out by Chrysostom) addressed here without title. What there is of characterization is thrown into the salutation.
II. SALUTATION . Notwithstanding what he refuses to them at the present juncture, he heartily wishes them well.
1 . Blessing invoked. "Grace to you and peace." He invokes grace on them, or the bestowment of the Divine favour, not because of merit in them, but because of merit obtained for them. As the result of grace, he invokes peace , or the absence of inward misgiving, and as far as possible the absence also of disturbing influences from without, Judaism included.
2 . From whom invoked. " From God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ." He first invokes blessing from God the Father. He goes to the very fountain-head. The fatherhood of God is the ultimate reason for our being blessed. It is impossible to go higher than that. Where is there hope for the child who disobeys his father's command? The hope lies in what the father is. He naturally pities his child, and desires to bless him. So where is there hope for us in our state of disobedience? The hope lies in what God is. He is the Fountain of all fatherly feeling. As the Father, he was moved with compassion toward us, and desired to bless us notwithstanding all our unworthiness. It was the fatherly feeling that moved to redemption. It is the fatherly feeling that moves to bless in connection with redemption. This, then, is the height to which we must lift up our eyes, from whence cometh help. He also invokes blessing from our Lord Jesus Christ. As the Father was formerly bound with Christ by the preposition "through," so now Christ is bound with the Father by the preposition "from." Such freedom is significant. He who is the Channel is also the Source of blessing. He is Jesus, the higher Joshua, who saves his people from their sins. It was through him that effect was given to the fatherly feeling in God, and that the Father approaches man with blessing. He is the Christ who was anointed of God for this end. He is our Lord, as the successful Accomplisher of salvation placed over the house of God, to whom it belongs to dispense blessing. It is to him, then, as sovereign Dispenser of blessing that we must look. Central truth made prominent by being thrown into the salutation. "Who gave himself for our sizes, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father." The language has evidently a sacrificial colouring. The worshipper came with his sins before God. The oblation he presented to God was an animal. With his sins taken over, the animal paid the penalty in its death. So the oblation which Christ presented to God was himself. With our sins taken over, he really and fully suffered the desert of them in his death, especially in the hiding of the Father's countenance. What gave this self-oblation infinite value was the dignity of the Sufferer; and also his perfect trust in God, and all-absorbing love for men, and never-failing hope for their salvation in the mysterious forsaking which made trial of him. The object with which Christ gave himself Was, not only that he might deliver us from the guilt of sin, but also that he might deliver us from the manifestation of sin in this present evil world. This world is thought of, not as it might have been, but as it actually is. It might have been a good world; it is instead an evil world. Its evil character consists, not only in its opposing itself in its opinions and practices to men's good, but especially in its opposing itself to God. It is a world that, in its wickedness, forgets God, casts off God. "The Lord shall not see;" "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him?" Now, Christ died that we might be delivered from this tyrannous world, and introduced into the liberty, if not at once of a perfect form of society, yet of a personal condition, and Church condition too, in which God has something of the place to which he is entitled. And all this is to be thought of as according to the will of our God and Father. The Father has the primacy throughout. It was in his will that salvation originated. It was his will that was carried out by Christ. "Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will , O my God: yea, thy Law is within my heart." The outcome is the doing of the Father's will by man as it is by the angels.
III. DOXOLOGY . "To whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen." The foundation of the ascription of glory to God is the glory displayed by God in salvation. There was a glorious display of wisdom in the planning of salvation. There was a glorious display of justice in the satisfaction made for sin. There was a glorious display of power in the overcoming of sin. There was especially a glorious display of love in its overflowing on sinners. In view of such a display it becomes us to ascribe glory to God. We cannot take it to ourselves. Our language must ever be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us." In what God has done for our salvation there will be found subject for our doxologies to the ages of ages. To every ascription of glory it becomes us to add our "Amen." May our "Amen" become ever deeper, and may the circle of such "Amens" evermore increase.—R.F.
Christ's sacrifice for our deliverance.
The salutation is more than a kindly expression of good will; it is a true benediction based on the grand assurance of grace and peace that grows out of a right understanding of the sacrifice of Christ. St. Paul describes the bearings of that wonderful sacrifice in order to give support to his benediction. But it is clear that he does this with great fulness and distinctness for a further purpose. He wishes at the outset to set forth the fundamental principles of that gospel which the Galatians are forsaking for "a different gospel, which is not another gospel." We have here, then, St. Paul's compendium of the gospel which, for force and terseness, will even bear comparison with St. John's—the most perfect of all compendiums of the gospel ( John 3:16 ). The two do not cover exactly the same ground, for the gospel is so large that no sentence can comprehend even its leading truths, and so many-sided that no two minds can see it in the same light. Consider the main points of the one now before us.
I. CHRIST VOLUNTARILY SACRIFICED HIMSELF . In the passage just referred to St. John tells us how God gave his only begotten Son on our behalf, now St. Paul reminds us that Christ also freely gave himself. It was of his own will, subject also to the will of his Father, that he lived a life of humiliation. He could have escaped the cross by abandoning his mission. He went right on to death clearly knowing what was before him, able to deliver himself at the last by calling legions of angels to his aid ( Matthew 26:53 ), yet willingly submitting to death. The self-sacrifice of Christ was distinct from suicide in the fact that he did not seek death, and only met it in the course necessary for the carrying out of his life's mission. It is important to bear in mind that the essence of the sacrifice of Christ lies in this conscious, willing surrender of himself. It is not the mere tortures he suffered, nor the bare fact of his death that gives a value to his endurance. If he had died of a natural disease after bearing worse pain he could have made no atonement thereby. The willing "obedience unto death" gives a sacrificial value to his death.
1 . This only could be a "satisfaction" to God.
2 . This only could be a claim upon our faith and love.
II. THE OCCASION OF THE SACRIFICE WAS OUR SINS . We cannot say that God would not have become incarnate if man had not fallen. But if the happy event at Bethlehem would still have taken place, the awful tragedy at Calvary would have been spared. It is not only that the sin of the world directly caused the rejection and killing of Christ; his submission to death was occasioned by sin; it was to save us from the power and curse of sin.
1 . Sin alienated us from God and occasioned the need of a reconciling sacrifice.
2 . Sin cast us into bondage and created the necessity for a redeeming ransom.
III. THE OBJECT OF THE SACRIFICE WAS TO DELIVER US FROM THE PRESENT EVIL WORLD .
1 . It was not to deliver us from God, as false notions of the atonement have almost suggested, but the very opposite, i.e. to deliver us from that which is most opposed to God.
2 . It was not primarily to deliver us from the future evil world , from the pains and penalties of sin there to be endured. A most degrading view of redemption is that which regards it as having little effect on our life now—as chiefly a means of escape from future suffering.
3 . It was essentially deliverance from the dominion of the evil present , of our own bad habits, of the corrupt customs of the age.
IV. THE DELIVERANCE THUS EFFECTED WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE WILL OF GOD .
1 . The object was in accordance with the will of God. He was the first to desire the deliverance of his poor lost children. When they are delivered they are brought out of conflict into harmony with his will.
2 . The method of the deliverance was also in agreement with God's will. It was God's will to send his Son. What Christ did was accepted by God as well-pleasing in his sight. The whole sacrifice of Christ was an obedience and submission to God's will. Herein lay its value ( Hebrews 10:9 , Hebrews 10:10 ). The fact is here declared by St. Paul. He offers no theory to account for it. Theories of the atonement are after-growths of theology, and valuable as some of them may be, they are not of essential importance. The fact is the one ground for our faith.—W.F.A.