Galatians 1:3, 4
Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,…
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, 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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,