1 Paul, an apostle—sent not with a human commission nor by human authority, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers and sisters with me,
To the churches in Galatia:
3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (TNIV)
This is the first of several posts on the opening section of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Here we will look at what role this section plays in Paul's overall argument. I will probably write a post of this nature at the start of each new section of Galatians. My goals in blogging through Galatians are multifaceted. There are several levels at which we need to understand Scripture. One of them is at the level of overall argument. I hope these posts help us see what Paul is trying to accomplish in each section of Galatians.
In all of Paul's letters, the first several verses usually telegraph his overall argument. Galatians is no different. One thing that's very clear is that Paul is facing challenges to his apostolic status, and hence his authority (see Gal 1:11-2:21). False teachers had come in to the church and they challenged Paul's credentials as an apostle. In a brief yet powerful way Paul addresses the issue of the source of his apostolate in the first verse. It's from God. The second verse, then, serves to show that while Jesus commissioned him, he's no lone ranger, no matter what his opponents might claim. It's an early statement of his authority, paving the way for what he will say in the rest of chapters 1 and 2.
Verses 3-5 are key for framing how we understand the latter two thirds of Galatians. The key question is, how is one part of the people of God? Paul emphasizes faith and Christ's work, but he does so in a way that draws on the Galatians knowledge of the Christian story as a whole, which is something he will do at great length in Gal. 3:7-4:7. Here Paul picks out a key part, again framing the latter discussion, emphasizing, in the words of Ambrosiaster, that, 'Christ by atoning for our transgressions not only gave us life but also made us his own so that we might be called children of God' (Galatians, p. 4).