18 March 2019Galatians 1:1-5
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (v.3)
Psalm: Psalm 100
Greeting the churches in Galatia (in the middle of modern Turkey), Paul shows himself to be someone whose picture of himself and of human society has been completely transformed by the presence and action of God in Jesus. Steeped in Judaism, but now no longer bound by it, Paul finds some key words and phrases that he regularly uses – not to define or explain his new convictions about God and human possibilities, but to suggest what is reliably at the heart of this life-enhancing mystery that has enveloped Paul and his Christian friends.
So theology (speaking about God) is everything. And in order of priority:
The one God, ‘our God and Father’, is worthy of worship (‘To God be glory for ever’).
From now on, whenever God the Father is mentioned, so is ‘the Lord’ Jesus Christ.
In his earthly life, Jesus (‘Christ’ is more or less an extra name) ‘gave himself’ (ie. died, on a cross) ‘for our sins to set us free from the present evil age’.
‘God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead’: this marked the transition from the present age to something dramatically new and different.
Paul and all the friends of Jesus (everywhere, not just in Galatia) celebrate their participation in this new age. They taste it even while ‘the present evil age’ continues. It is shaped and resourced by gifts from God the Father and Jesus Christ:
‘Grace’ (God’s unconditional and unquantifiable love that changes human situations that are degenerating into despair, hatred, wickedness and selfishness); and
‘Peace’ (God’s wholesome and harmonious environment where bonds of friendship and mutual sharing, and just dealings with each other, become possible, permeated by a sense of unshakeable serenity).
Paul declares his unique vocation: he has been commissioned by God and Jesus Christ, directly and without human mediation, as an ‘apostle’. He is therefore an authoritative and reliable messenger of God and of the good news God has for the whole human family.
- Perhaps the hardest questions we are asked: Why do you believe in God? What do you believe about God? We know we should use our own words in reply, but they are not easy to find and they are difficult to make persuasive. How do we help each other in the church to prepare us for our witness beyond the fellowship of the church?
- Few, if any, of us profess our vocation in the terms that Paul used. So what vocations do you have from God and the ever-living Jesus? Who or what has prompted you to embrace them?