Galatians 1:3


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.







Grace be to you and peace.
Here is the salutation, wherein he wishes them God's gracious favour and goodwill, whereby He is well-pleased with the elect, in and for Christ (Romans 3:24), and peace; i.e. —

1. Peace of conscience, and with God (Romans 5:1).

2. Peace with the creatures, as with the angels (Colossians 1:20); with the godly (Isaiah 11:9); with ourselves, all within us being conformed to the rule of the renewed mind (Romans 8:1); and in some respects with our enemies (Proverbs 16:7); and with the beasts of the field (Hosea 2:18).

3. Prosperity and good success (Psalm 122:7). All which he seeks from God the Father as the fountain of grace, and from Jesus Christ as the conduit or pipe to convey grace from the Father unto us (John 1:16).

(James Fergusson.)

James Fergusson. .
1. God's gracious favour and goodwill is to be sought by us in the first place, whether for ourselves (Psalm 4:6) or others. All things are mercy to the man who has obtained that mercy.

2. Peace also is to be sought — after grace, not before it. Peace without grace is no peace (Isaiah 57:21).

3. Grace and peace are such as we cannot acquire unto ourselves by our own industry or pains: they come from God, are to be sought from Him, and His blessing is more to be depended upon for attaining of anything which comes under the compass of grace and peace, than our own wisdom, industry, or diligence.

4. Whatever favour we seek from God, we are to seek it also from Jesus Christ as mediator; for He has purchased it (Ephesians 1:7). He is appointed Lord of His own purchase, and there is no coming to, or meeting with, the Father but in Him (John 14:6).

5. They to whom grace and peace belong, are such as acknowledge Jesus for their Lord to command and rule them, and do yield subjection to Him in their heart and life.

(James Fergusson. .)

Grace releases sin, and peace makes the conscience quiet. The two friends that torment us are sin and conscience. But Christ has vanquished these two monsters, and trodden them under foot, both in this world and in the world to come. This the world does not know, and therefore it can teach no certainty of the overcoming of sin, conscience, and death. Only Christians have this kind of doctrine, and are exercised and armed with it, to get victory against sin, despair, and everlasting death. And it is a kind of doctrine, neither proceeding of freewill, nor invented by the reason or wisdom of man, but given from above. Moreover, these two words, grace and peace, do contain in them the whole sum of Christianity. Grace contains the remission of sins; peace, a quiet and joyful conscience. But peace of conscience can never be had, unless sin be first forgiven. But sin is not forgiven for the fulfilling of the law: for no man is able to satisfy the law. But the law rather shows sin, accuses and terrifies the conscience, declares the wrath of God, and drives to desperation. Much less is sin taken away by the works and inventions of men, as wicked worshippings, strange religions, vows, and pilgrimages. Finally, there is no work that can take away sin, but sin is rather increased by works. For the justiciaries and meritmongers, the more they labour and sweat to bring themselves out of sin, the deeper they are plunged therein. For there is no means to take away sin, but grace alone. Therefore Paul, in all the greetings of his Epistle, sets grace and peace against sin and an evil conscience.

(Luther.)

The apostle fitly distinguishes this grace and peace from all other kinds of grace and peace whatsoever. He wishes to the Galatians grace and peace, not from the emperor or kings and princes, for those do commonly persecute the godly, and rise up against the Lord and Christ but from God our Father: which is as much as to say, he wished them a heavenly peace. The peace of the world grants nothing but the peace of our goods and bodies. So the grace or favour of the world gives us leave to enjoy our goods, and casts us not out of our possessions. But in affliction, and in the hour of death, the grace and favour of the world cannot help us; they cannot deliver us from affliction, despair, and death. But when the grace and peace of God are in the heart, then is man strong, so that he can neither be cast down with adversity, nor puffed up with prosperity, but walketh on plainly, and keepeth the highway. For he taketh heart and courage in the victory of Christ's death: and the confidence thereof beginneth to reign in his conscience over sin and death; because, through Him, he hath assured forgiveness of his sins: which, after he has once obtained, his conscience is at rest, and by the word of grace is comforted.

(Luther.)

A Greek and Hebrew salutation, expressingthe apostle's best wish.

I. GRACE. A Greek thought Christianized. Takes the conception of beauty of form, gesture, tone, into the spiritual realm. As here used —

1. It is to be regarded as the attitude of God in Christ towards men. The Divine pity, gentleness, favour; the bearing of a condescending, forgiving, loving God.

2. It is to be possessed as the spirit of a Christian. "Grace of life." Moral beauty. The indwelling in Christian character of all that the Greeks conceived in their "Three Graces."

II. PEACE. May include —

1. Freedom from persecution — a great desideratum.

2. Absence of internal dissention — main purpose of this letter.

3. Inward calm and quiet confidence in God — ideal peace. The wish of Paul the gift of Jesus.

(U. R. Thomas.)

I. The eternal love of God as it sends the Redeemer for man's salvation is GRACE.

II. The fruit of grace flowing from God through Christ is PEACE.

1. Sometimes mercy is the channel through which grace becomes peace when the invocation is addressed to an individual (1 Timothy 1:16 cf. ver. 2).

2. For the Church it is enough that grace in heaven has peace as its counterpart on earth. It is

(1)reconciliation with God;

(2)the tranquil harmony of all the faculties of the soul;

(3)the fellowship of brotherly love;

(4)victory in the conflict with evil;

(5)the earnest of everlasting rest.

(W. B. Pope, D. D.)

I. A FORMULA. The heathen commenced their letters with "Health!" The apostle wished his readers something higher than health or happiness, so he commences "Grace and peace."

II. A BENEDICTION. But how in the case of those who rejected grace, or, by unbelief, forfeited peace? In the same way as the minister declares absolution, which is lost if a man rejects it. He has done what he could to show that in Christ there is full absolution for the sinner if he will take it.

(F. W. Robertson.).

The child frightened in his play runs to seek his mother. She takes him upon her lap, and presses his head to her bosom; and, with tenderest words of love, she looks down upon him, and smoothes his hair, and kisses his cheek, and wipes away his tears. And then, in a low and gentle voice, she sings some sweet descant, some lullaby of love; and the fear fades out from his face, and a smile of satisfaction plays over it, and at length his eyes close, and he sleeps in the deep depths and delights of peace. God Almighty is the mother, and the soul is the tired child; and He folds it in His arms and dispels its fear, and lulls it to repose, saying, "Sleep, my darling, sleep! It is I who watch thee." "He giveth His beloved sleep." The mother's arms encircle but one; but God clasps every yearning soul to His bosom, and gives to it the peace which passeth understanding, beyond the reach of care or storm.

(H. W. Beecher.)

The tree of peace strikes its roots into the crevices of the everlasting rock. It grows securely from that rock, and casts out its cool shadow in the sunshine, and makes sweet music in the storm; and is to the believer as the shadow of a great rock and fruit of refreshment in a weary and parched land.

(Dr. Cumming.)

I have read that a soldier, dying in the Crimea, requested to have the passage read to him, "Peace I leave with you," etc. When it was done, he said, "I have that peace. I am going to that Saviour. God is with me: I want no more," and expired.

I. The blessings desired — their nature — connexion, grace may exist without peace, but not peace without grace; yet peace flows from grace.

II. Their source — God the Father is the fountain of all grace — Christ is the medium of communication.

III. Their supply — free — sufficient for all — constant — inexhaustible.

(J. Lyth.).

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