Monday, April 18, 2011

Galatians Part 3: Reasons for writing (1:3-9)

II. Reasons for writing—1:3-9

A. Christ gave Himself for us—1:3-5

1:3—Grace to you—“Paul’s nearly standard formula of Christian blessing and greeting seems particularly appropriate at the start of this letter. Normally, Paul alters the traditional Greek greeting  (chairein) to the important Christian word 'grace' (charis; GK 5921).This is always striking, but it is  doubly striking here, inasmuch as it occurs in a letter to churches where the sufficiency of salvation by grace was being questioned and perhaps even denied.”1

Our salvation is purely by grace. Paul uses the word “grace” more than any other New Testament  writer. It refers to an undeserved act of kindness. In his use of charis, Paul gave immense theological  significance to the fact that it refers to all that God has given us in Christ. In Paul’s mind we simply do  not have the ability to repay God for what He has done for us.

“[T]he word χαρις contains the idea of kindness which bestows upon one what he has not  deserved… χαρις is used of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases then in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them  to the exercise of the Christian virtues."2 

and peace—The peace (Gr. eirene - ειρηνη) that God gives is a peace that denotes a state of favour with God into which God’s people are brought by the death of Christ. This peace is sustained by God’s persevering grace. 

from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ—The source of our grace and peace is undoubtedly  through the Father and the Son. “[1] THEREFORE, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, [2] through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom 5:1-2) 

1:4—who gave Himself for our sins—Christ willingly gave Himself to die for our sins. “Here Paul brings to the attention of the Galatian Christians who were practically ignoring the substitutionary character of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, a declaration of the true ground of acceptance with God (2:21; 5:4)”3 When He died He made atonement for us. The atonement points to two things: the love and justice of God.

God’s love is expressed in the fact that He gave His Son. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 HCSB)

However, many today only see the love of God and cannot get themselves to see the justice of God. Yet, the justice of God certainly is an essential attribute of His character. There was a penalty due to us for our sins. The justice of God required a payment for this penalty. 1 Jn 4:10 bears this out for us, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (NASB) ). The word propitiation means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in so doing  changes God’s wrath toward us into favor.”4 This can clearly be seen in 2 Cor 5:18-19, “[18] All of this comes from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. [19] For in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself by not counting their sins against them, and he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (ISV) Jesus willingly bore God’s wrath against us because of our sin.

so that He might rescue us from this present evil age—We were bound by the evil of this age, but Jesus came to rescue us from this evil. Sin bound us completely to the point where we needed someone to step into the gap for us with God to bring about our deliverance. The gospel brings about our emancipation from the bondage of sin. “Truly recognizing one’s spiritual state is a gift of grace. Outside of God opening the eyes of the heart man thinks himself wonderfully pure, or at least acceptable in God’s sight. That is why the unregenerate person cannot understand the urgency of the gospel message: until they see the depth of their sin and the holiness of God, they find no reason to seek remedy for their condition.”5

According to some, that which is dead, still lives. Even though man is dead in sin, dead to God and eternally separated from Him, he still has that little spark that will bring him to life in order to choose God. According to this line of thought man is free to choose and God is not free to choose, promoting the servitude of God to that almighty free will of man.

When we look at the Scriptural witness of man’s heart and his ability to choose God over evil, we have to conclude that man is evil and has no ability to choose God over evil. We see this witness in the Old and New Testaments.

Gen 6:5 “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Scripture lays the foundation of man’s inability to choose good over evil as early as this. In Gen 8:21 God says “for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth;” Man has a propensity for evil because that is who he is. How much can man change himself from one who follows continually after evil to one who continually follows after God? “Can the Ethiopian change his skin Or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good Who are  accustomed to doing evil.” (Jer 13:23). We can change our natures of enslavement to evil just as much
as a leopard can change its spots, or as much as you and I can change the colour of our skin.

Mankind has come up with the humanistic notion that there is a spark of “good” in each of us, and it has become so pervasive that it has crept into many Christian theologies. However, Scripture stands at odds with this humanism. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 NASB) “The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.” (Ps 58:3 NASB) “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps 51:5 NASB)

In the New Testament Paul continues with this total depravity of man. Does he start his gospel message in Romans with “Jesus loves you more than you love yourself?” No! This is what he wrote in Rom 1:21-25: “[21] For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing to be wise, they became fools, [23] and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. [24] Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. [25] For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” (NASB)

Paul continues to show the total inability of man to seek after God in Rom 3:10-18. Dr. James White has this to say about this passage, “This litany of quotations is specifically designed to have one effect: to shatter, destroy, and obliterate any last shred of self-righteousness that might remain after the preceding arguments have been understood. These testimonies are fatal to any kind of 'optimistic humanism.' Outside of God’s grace, man is a corrupted creation, violent, hateful, without understanding, without fear of God. Rather than finding in man 'seekers' who simply need a 'nudge' in the right direction, Scripture tells us that man does not understand and does not seek after God. Man is deceitful, even with himself, and is quick to curse God. Total depravity painted in the most vivid colors.”6

Man is spiritually dead and desperately needs new life. Death came into this world through sin, and death so spread to all men. (Rom 5:12) We cannot escape the fact we are slaves of sin, and slaves do not have any rights against their master. What kind of choice is left to a slave? A slave has NO choice! The person without Christ is dead in his sin, dead to God, and we know that dead people cannot move themselves to life. Just as Lazarus had no ability to bring himself back to life, and also had no choice in the matter if someone else brought him back to life, so we have no ability to choose God and spiritual life, and no choice as to whether to accept or deny the life God graciously chooses to give us.

Although man is spiritually dead, it does not mean that he is spiritually inactive. They are active, but active against God in their rebellion and suppression of the truth. They are still active in their sin, which they are slaves to. “[5] For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. [6] For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, [7] because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, [8] and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:5-8 NASB)

Those that are according to the flesh (“carnal”), the unsaved who are still in their sin, are hostile to God. The unsaved are “not even able” to subject themselves to the law of God; in fact, they cannot please God. They do not have this ability. They do not have the “will” to take that step to God, for they are unable to please God. Why? They are dead in their sin, and dead to God. The unsaved have a nature bound in sin. Sure, the will of the sinner is not done away with altogether, but the will of the sinner can only operate within its own nature, and that nature is hostile towards God and cannot please God. Man has an inability to comprehend God’s salvation (1 Cor 2:14); in fact, the preaching is foolishness to the unregenerate (1 Cor 1:18) and it went as far as being a stumbling block to the Jews (1 Cor 1:23).

“This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself, nor that man's spirit is inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead. What it does mean is that since the fall man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation. His corruption is extensive but not necessarily intensive.”7

Man is not unable to exercise volitions…, he is unable to exercise holy volitions. Even our righteous deeds are seen as polluted garments (Is 64:6). Man’s will is perverse. John testified when Jesus came into the world that “men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” (Jn 3:19 NASB) Later Jesus told the Jews “you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (Jn 5:40 NASB)

How did Jesus deal with man’s inability? “[43] Jesus answered and said to them, Do not grumble among yourselves. [44] No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (Jn 6:43-44 NASB)

Man does not have the final say in the work of salvation, and man has no control over God in this regard. Unless the Father draws us, we cannot come to Him. Outside of the first move of the Father, man does not have the ability to move first to God, and is not even able to do so. We do not unveil God through our own wills, but Jesus reveals God to whomever He wills. “All things have been  handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” (Mt 11:27 NASB)

Man does not “will” himself to salvation, but rather “the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” (Jn 5:21 NASB)

Man is utterly unable to save himself and cannot therefore make himself believe. “For those who live according to the flesh [unsaved] set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit [saved] set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  [6] To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  [7] For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.  [8] Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8 ESV) The unsaved man cannot understand the things of the Spirit and so, in his natural state cannot reach out to God. “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14 NASB) When we read Rom 3:9-18, we discover that Paul’s teaching of the total inability of man with regards to salvation is perpetuated. Paul simply ensures that both Jew and Gentile understand that all are under sin and that “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD.” (vv10-11)

Man is literally bound by sin. It is for this reason that we need a Saviour. It is Christ who saves us, not we who accept His helping hand in salvation. It is not analogous to having fallen overboard on a ship and a life ring being thrown at us. No! We have fallen overboard and have indeed drowned. No life ring will help us. We need someone to dive in and get us out of the water, since we are dead. 

according to the will of our God and Father—“It  is hard to imagine a statement better calculated to oppose any intrusion of human will or merits in the matter of attaining salvation.”8 John, in Jn 1:12-13, makes it clear that our salvation is “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (v13) Salvation, or the election of the saints does not depend on “human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:16 ESV) Eph 1:4-5 reveals to us that the predestination of God’s elect is “according to the kind intention of His will.” (v5) The salvation of the elect is not a “fatalism” or “mechanistic system,” but is brought about by a God that is personally involved with personal creatures. “In love [5] He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph 1:4-5 NASB). Election is permeated with God’s love for the elect.

God decides whom He will show mercy and compassion to, and it does not depend on man’s will, “but on God who has mercy.” So is election, based on God’s free will to choose whomever He wishes to salvation, so “then it does not depend on the man who wills.” Who obtains salvation? “[T]hose who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened “ (Rom 11:7 NASB) Even the disciples did not choose Jesus, “but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit” (Jn 15:16 NASB). Jesus died for us, not because we were good, but in spite of the fact that we were ungodly. (Rom 5:6-8)

Romans 9:11-16 sums our election up very well. “[11] for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, [12] it was said to her, THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER. [13] Just as it is written, JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED. [14] What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! [15] For He says to Moses, I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION. [16] So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (NASB) Before Jacob did anything good or bad, God chose him. Would you say that a foreseen will in Jacob to follow God would have been a foreseen good deed in Jacob? Certainly! Yet, how did God choose Jacob above Esau? God chose Jacob before either of them could do either good or bad, “so that God's purpose according to His choice would stand.”

God’s choice of us has nothing to do with any works on our part, and that includes the making of a “holy” choice by our “free” wills, “but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity” (2 Tim 1:9 NASB). Our election was made in eternity past and is not based on any of our actions made in the spans of time.

When David chose the five smooth stones from the brook (1 Sam 17:40) for his battle with Goliath, how did David go about choosing the five stones? Perhaps David saw their willingness to be chosen? The choice of stones was entirely in David. This is what it means when God chose us. Of course we are not lifeless stones, but before God chooses us, we are spiritually just as lifeless, and our hearts are still made of stone (Ez 36:26). God will be the one who will remove the heart of stone and give us a new heart of flesh!

To read a more in-depth article on the matter of election read “Who's Free? God or Man? A study on the 'choices' of man in salvation. 

1:5—to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen—Paul ends his thoughts here with a doxology, which is unusual for Paul at the beginning of a letter. After having set the scene for the rest of the epistle Paul now centers here on the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus Christ and the work He has done. God’s glory will last forever; however, the “present evil age” will not! 

B. Gospel being perverted—1:6-9

1:6—I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him—Paul expresses an amazement concerning something that does not make sense to him. They to whom he preached the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ are now deserting God. The word deserting comes from the Greek metatithemi (Gr μετατιθημι), which in the middle voice as here in verse 6 means “changing one’s loyalty as a follower turn from, desert, become apostate.”9 The word here is in the present tense which “indicates that when Paul wrote, the defection of the Galatians was yet only in progress. Had he used the perfect tense, that would have indicated that the Galatians had actually and finally turned against grace and had come to”10 a final place of apostasy from the gospel.

Since Paul had to defend his apostleship and the gospel in this epistle, it is evident that the Judaizers that came with the false gospel had a significant influence on the Galatians. However, at the point of Paul’s writing, they had not yet fully apostatised. This then led Paul to write this epistle to put the minds of the Galatians at ease concerning his apostleship and also to correct them concerning the gospel. At this point they were only in the process of deserting God for the false gospel.

who called you by the grace of Christ—It is God who calls us. Without the work of God calling us, we will not hear and we will not believe. While we are yet unregenerate, we are hostile to God and are not even able to subject ourselves to God (Rom 8:5-8).

Our call to salvation is purely by grace. We cannot for a moment think that our own works of “good deeds” such as good choices—choosing God—can save us. It is either by grace or not at all. “[8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. [10] For we are His workmanship” (Eph 2:8-10 NASB). It is clear that our salvation is not of ourselves. A million choices in ourselves for God cannot save us. Yet, one call to salvation from God saves us, since it is by grace. Salvation is a free gift. Our salvation is solely the workmanship of God. We are simply the clay and God the Potter (Rom 9:19-21).

for a different gospel—How do we recognise a different gospel? Simply by knowing the true gospel. From the Greek heteros (Gr ετερος) we find that the word translated “different” means “another i.e. one not of the same nature, form, class, kind; different.”11 The gospel of the Judaizers was not even related to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It differed in nature, form, class and kind. The amazing thing about this different gospel was that it did not come from some foreign land. This counterfeit gospel came from some that came from the church at Jerusalem. Within the cradle of Christianity lay snakes so poisonous that Paul had to write against them. The infiltration did not come from outside forces or religions like Buddhism or Islam, but it came from a perversion of the true gospel. Yet, the perversion was enough for Paul to say that it was a gospel of a different kind and not of the same kind. In order to know more about what the gospel is and what we as Christians should believe, read the article called “What is the Gospel? What is the foundation to the Gospel?

This different gospel of the Judaizers was a gospel of good works and of following the Law. It is amazing how many people still believe that we need to perform good works and laws in order to be saved. Some say we should follow days and months like they did in the Old Testament or to follow days and months as declared by the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church or any other group. The gospel is removed from this, since Jesus came to save us from the curse of having to follow this kind of law.

1:7—which is really not another—Here we have another word to show that what the Judaizers preached was not the true gospel. The word here translated as “another” comes from the Greek allos (αλλος) which means “another person or thing of the same kind.”12 What Paul is saying, is that the gospel of the Judaizers is not another gospel of the same kind. Their gospel differs from and stands in contrast to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ—Paul understood the Judaizers very well. He knew the result of their gospel. It was a gospel that would bring a disturbance in the church. It was also a gospel that was distorted. The Greek word for “disturbing” here is tarasso (ταρασσω), which means to “stir up, disturb, throw into confusion… in our lit. of mental and spiritual agitation and confusion… caused by false teachings.”13 It is evident from this that the gospel these Judaizers preached caused confusion that brought trouble to the minds of the Galatians. What were they to believe?

These Judaizers were intent on perverting the gospel of Christ. The word “want” comes from thelo (θελω) which means “take pleasure in, like…w. inf. foll.”14 as with the infinitive “to distort” that follows. The words “to distort” is derived from metastrepho (μεταστρεφω), “turning something to its opposite state change, alter, cause to be different.”15 From this we can gather that the Judaizers took pleasure in perverting the gospel. Either they knew what they were doing or else they were totally deceived. No matter what the case may be, verse 8 gives the end result of such teachers.

1:8, 9—but even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! [9] As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!—The discussion of the previous verse ended with the fact that the Judaizers were deceived about their gospel or else they knew they were perverting the gospel. Paul makes no excuses for either. Even if Paul himself preaches a gospel contrary to that of Jesus Christ, he is to be accursed. It would not matter whether Paul was deceived or knew that he was perverting the gospel, he would be accursed! The same would go for any angel claiming to come from heaven with a different gospel.

The word for “contrary” is para (&piαρα),“with the accusative [the direct object], adversatively [sic] against, contrary to, without regard for, beyond.”16 Anyone who goes against, contrary to, beyond the gospel of Jesus Christ would be accursed! Paul is adamant about this issue since he repeats it in verse 9. Anyone who does go against or contrary to the gospel should know that he is warned!

Paul certainly wanted to make sure that the Galatians understood what he meant. Paul used three words (v6-10) to ensure that the Galatians understood that the gospel preached by the Judaizers was not the gospel of the free grace of Jesus Christ.

Paul first used heteros to show the Galatians that the Judaizers were preaching a different gospel. In case they were not quite clear on this he, secondly, used allos preceded by not to inform them that the Judaizers were not preaching a gospel of the same kind. They were preaching an alien gospel. Finally, to ensure that the Galatians really understood, he used a preposition—para with the accusative (direct object)—to enforce the concept in their minds

For a series on teachers that teach a false gospel, contrary nto the true gospel, read "Heresies in the church."

C. Questions to ponder

1. Why did Paul write the Galatian letter?
2. Can salvation be apart from grace?
3. Where does grace come from?
4. Why did Jesus die for His people?
5. Who’s will is it that we are saved from this evil age?
6. Who deserves glory for the salvation plan?
7. What did the Galatians do to desert Christ?
8. What are the main points of the gospel?
9. What was the gospel they were busy turning to?
10. How do we recognise a false gospel?
11. What should our attitude be toward a false gospel?

End Notes

[1] Barker, Kenneth L. & Kohlenberger III, John R., Consulting Editors, Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Volume 2: New Testament, Premier Reference Series, An Abridgment of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, p708.
[2] Thayer, Joseph Henry, D.D., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, Twenty First Zondervan printing, 1981, p666.
[3] Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Volume One, Galatians in the Greek New Testament, Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, 1973, p32.
[4] Grudem, Wayne, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, p575.
[5] White, James, Dr., The Potter’s Freedom: A Defense of the Reformation and a Rebuttal of Norman Geisler’s ‘Chosen but Free’, Calvary Press Publishing, Amityville, NY, 2000, p77.
[6] White, p.82.
[7] Boettner, Loraine, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1932, p61.
[8] Barker, p708.
[9] Friberg, Timothy & Friberg, Barbara & Miller, Neva F., Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000, p261.
[10] Wuest, p35.
[11] Thayer, p254.
[12] Friberg, p44.
[13] Arndt, William, F. and Gingrich, F. Wilbur, A GREEK-ENGLISH LEXICON of the NEW TESTAMENT and Other Early Christian Literature, Second Edition, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1979, p805.
[14] BAGD, p355.
[15] Friberg, p261.
[16] Friberg, p294.

For more on this series, simply visit the Galatians label.
The next part in the Galatians series will be available next Monday!

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