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The unique character of the introduction to this epistle.
pp. 105 - 108
The salutation of verse three, leads on to the augmenting reference to the sacrifice of
Christ, with which the introduction to the epistle closes:
"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world,
according to the will of God and our Father: To Whom be glory for ever and ever.
Amen" (Gal. 1: 4, 5).
If the salutation, wishing "grace" and "peace" be something which the other epistles
of Paul would lead us to expect in this place, the words that follow, and which are quoted
above, are so unusual that their addition must have some most intimate bearing upon the
purpose of the epistle. If the reader will consult the opening words of the epistles of Paul,
it will be discovered that the salutation concludes with the wish for "grace" and "peace"
and that epistle proper immediately follows. We are therefore obliged to ask why the
apostle adopted such a different approach here? The answer that satisfies the question as
to the strangeness of the challenging word of the first verse satisfies this question also.
The Galatians were being carried away from the basic facts of salvation by grace to a
system of legal works and ceremonial religion. This is diametrically opposed to the great
central fact of the Gospel that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures". To
this sacrificial death the apostle returns again and again in the course of his argument.
See how it forms the climax to his personal testimony of the second chapter, "I am
crucified with Christ" (2: 20) shatters the whole fabric of legalism that the Judaistic party
had been erecting. "O foolish Galatians" the apostle cries--Why? because "placarded"
before their eyes (as the word "evidently" literally means) "Jesus Christ hath been
evidently set forth crucified" among them (3: 1). How then could they think of being
made perfect by the flesh?
Do they lean toward the possibility of accomplishing a righteousness in their own
works of the law, it is met, exposed and rendered impossible by the fact that "Christ hath
redeemed us from the curse of the law" by hanging on a tree (3: 13). So on to the
personal appeal with which the epistle ends, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the
cross of our Lord Jesus" (6: 14). The same impassioned love for truth which made Paul
use such language of the apostles as is recorded in Gal. 2: 6, which made it necessary to
speak of Peter's defection and Barnabas' fall; which justified the use of the epithet
"foolish" and the charge of being "bewitched" (3: 1); which classed the withdrawal
from free grace to legal observances as all one and the same with Paganism (4: 8-11);
and that could contemplate anathematizing an angel (1: 8), or "the cutting off" of those
that trouble the church (5: 12); and which moved him to make the lengthy and personal
appeal with his "own hand" at the close of the epistle, this same impassioned love for the
truth would not hesitate to sweep aside convention and to introduce in the very salutation