Paul anchored all that God has done in the past Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which inaugurated the messianic age – Galatians 1:1-5.
In Galatians, Paul declared that his apostleship came from the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the one who gave his life to “deliver us from this evil age.” This anticipated the defense of his apostolic calling and his disagreement with certain Jewish believers who were operating as if the old era was still in effect.
In the first two chapters, Paul details how he received his gospel for the Gentiles by divine revelation, a commission confirmed by the leadership of the Jerusalem church, and how during an earlier controversy at Antioch, certain “false brethren slinked in to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Jesus” – (Galatians 2:4-5).
In Antioch certain men from Jerusalem had disrupted the church, claiming that it was improper for Jewish Christians to have table fellowship with uncircumcised Gentiles. But a church divided along ethnic lines would be the inevitable result of such regulations.
- (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; to the assemblies of Galatia; Grace to 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, to whom be the glory unto the ages of ages: Amen!”
Customarily, Paul began his letters with salutations and gracious words of thanksgiving for what God had done, but in Galatians, his words are noteworthy for their brevity and lack of any such thanks. Instead, he launched into a stinging rebuke, indicating the depth of his concern and the level of his agitation – (“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in grace”).
And he defined his apostleship by using a double negative in the Greek sentence (“neither from men nor through man”), then by employing a positive affirmation (“but through Jesus Christ”). In this way, he introduced a key issue that he addressed in later paragraphs – his divine appointment to the apostolic office – (Galatians 1:10–2:10).
His Jewish opponents did not dispute his office but claimed that his apostleship was received from human authorities, presumably, the church leadership in Jerusalem. This implied that his authority was derived from human authorities.
Paul denied that his commission was dependent on any human authority, whether the mother church in Jerusalem or the church at Antioch. Instead, he affirmed he had received it directly from Jesus – (1 Corinthians 9:1, Acts 9:4-6, 22:7, 26:16).
And from hits beginning, his apostolic ministry focused on proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles without requiring them to conform to the regulations of the Torah – (Acts 9:15, 13:46-48, 22:21, Ephesians 3:1-8).
Unlike his opponents, Paul received his commission from the risen Jesus. He also linked his gospel to the “Father…who raised Jesus from the dead.” The fatherhood of God plays an important role in Galatians, being linked to the idea of “adoption” by God of Gentile believers – (Galatians 3:7, 3:26, 4:2-7, 4:22-31).
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” that enslaved humanity had been defeated. The resurrection constituted the inauguration of an entirely new era and the final stage in the redemptive plan of God. And nothing could ever be the same again – (1 Corinthians 2:5-8, Ephesians 1:17-23, Colossians 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22).
Paul wrote from this perspective when he exhorted the Galatians not to subject themselves again to the “elementary spirits of this world.” They would do so if they placed themselves under the calendrical rituals of the Torah. With the coming of the Son, the jurisdiction of the old order had reached its end – (Galatians 4:3-11).
By reminding his audience that the God who commissioned him is the same one who raised Jesus from the dead, Paul prepared his readers for the description of how he received his gospel by a direct revelation from Jesus – (Galatians 1:11-16).
And Jesus is the one who “gave himself on account of our sins.” His death was necessary “on account of” the sins of humanity that had alienated men from God – (Matthew 20:28, 26:28, Romans 4:25, 8:32).
The same idea is implicit in Paul’s declarations that 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,” and, “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. If the Galatians placed themselves under the Law, they would risk the loss of God’s “grace and peace.” To return to what had preceded Jesus was regression and tantamount to rejecting the redemptive purposes and grace of God.
By means of his death, God “rescued us from the present evil age.” This clause stresses the apocalyptic nature of what God achieved in Jesus. In him, the expected messianic age commenced in the middle of the present age and inaugurated the era of fulfillment – (Romans 12:2, Colossians 1:12-13).
In the Hebrew Bible, history is divided into two ages – the present evil age and the age to come. The Messiah would usher in the future age. But in Paul’s Christ-enlightened view, the Law belonged to the “present age”; it was part of the old order that began to pass away with the resurrection of Jesus – (Galatians 2:19, 4:3-9, 5:5, 1 Corinthians 7:31).
By emphasizing his death and resurrection, Paul has highlighted the all-sufficiency of Christ’s death for the forgiveness of sins and the rescue of believers from this “present evil age.” In him, God has acted decisively in a way that impacted human history, indeed, the entire created order.