Welcome to the Elijah’s Bunker blog! Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will feature verse-by-verse Bible study, beginning with Galatians. Saturday will be an opportunity to share prayer requests, and Sunday will be a hodge-podge of topical studies, Q and A, and discussion of Christian media. You can find out more about the blog under the “About” tab. Now, let’s dive right into the Scriptures! Today’s passage is Galatians 1:1-5.
1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead),
2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Today’s passage is only the introduction to this letter and thus will not involve a very in-depth study, but there are still plenty of treasures to be gleaned from it. Let’s look at a couple of preliminaries first. The first thing to observe is who wrote this letter (Paul and some Christians with him - verses 1-2), and to whom (the Christians in the region of Galatia - verse 2). From Acts and Paul’s other epistles, we know that before coming to Christ, Paul was a Pharisee – a background which clearly made him very qualified to write Galatians, which largely deals with the subject of faith versus works. (We will study Paul’s past in more depth on Wednesday.) Galatia was a region between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, in modern-day Turkey. Paul established churches there on his first missionary journey (see Acts 13 and 14 – many of the cities mentioned in those chapters were in Galatia), and this letter is thought to have been written fairly shortly thereafter.
Next, let’s examine a couple of statements that Paul made in his introduction. Firstly, he was “an apostle.” This is the Greek word apostolos, which means a delegate, messenger, ambassador, or commissioner. As we see in 1 Corinthians 12:27-31, apostleship is a spiritual gift (as opposed to discipleship, which we are all called to). Specifically, Paul was enabled by God for the specific purpose of being a messenger of the Gospel and an ambassador of Christ. He emphasizes this with the statement “not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father” – in other words, Paul is establishing that his authority comes from God, which is necessary because he is going to harshly rebuke the Galatians in this letter.
Another thing to note is Paul’s inclusion of the Gospel in his very introduction of himself. Notice that he both stated that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that He rose from the dead. According to Romans 10:9, that is the essence of the Gospel: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Returning to the Galatians text, we see that Paul considers the Gospel to be a crucial part of his identity (take a look at his introductions to other epistles, and you’ll see that he made a habit of it). Christ was the foremost part of his person. We further see this principle in Romans 13:14, which tells us to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live be faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”
Let’s also consider the phrase “Grace to you and peace.” This exact phrase, or a very close version of it, appears in nineteen of the twenty-one epistles (the two exceptions are James and 1 John). It may seem like a very simple greeting – and was apparently quite common – but it is also very beautiful. Take a moment to ponder the implication of how marvelous it is to be living in a perpetual state of grace and peace through Jesus Christ. Its repetition should make us pay attention, not gloss over it! :-)
Now, I’d like this blog to operate exactly like a small-group Bible study. In other words, I want this to be a dialogue, not a monologue! :-) So please, share your view of each day’s passage with us – any knowledge you have it, related Scriptures that you’d like to share, thoughts or interpretations, etc. To get things rolling, I’ll try to post a couple of discussion starters each day (but feel free to ignore them and comment on something else in the passage). Here are today’s:
1 – In his introduction, Paul portrays himself as a believer in Christ above all else. How can we make “follower of Christ” our primary identity? What can we do to ensure that everyone we interact with knows this about us?
2 – Notice Paul’s impromptu praise in verses four and five. What applications for our own lives can we draw from this?
3 – What are your favorite verses dealing with grace and peace? I’m partial to Isaiah 54:10 “‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ says the LORD who has compassion on you” and 2 Thessalonians 3:16 “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”
Be sure to come back Wednesday for a study on verses 6-12, when we’ll actually get into the meat of this epistle and go a little more in-depth (or at least as we can go in a short blog post)! :-)