COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 2
Gal 1:3 “ Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ . . .”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Galatians 1:3
THE SOURCE OF GRACE AND PEACE
In Paul’s letters, he generally introduced his words within a certain context. For some, that context was the report of spiritual qualities that were discerned to be in them. To the Romans, he affirmed that their faith was “spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom 1:8). To the Corinthians he made reference to the report of divisions among them (1 Cor 1:11). In his second letter to the Corinthians he built around the good report Titus had given him of their response to his first letter (2 Cor 7:6-9). He wrote to the Ephesians because he had heard of their “faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints” (Eph 1:15). The Philippians were reminded of their gracious support of Paul, and consistent faith and fellowship “from the first day until now” (Phil 1:5). Even though Paul; had not yet been to Colossae, he had heard of their “faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love” they had “to all the saints.” These things prompted him to write to them (Col 1:4). His letter to the Thessalonians mentioned their “work of faith,” “labor of love,” and “patience of hope” (1 Thess 1:3). These qualities, together with the nature of their response to the preaching of the Gospel, had confirmed to Paul that they had been elected by God (1 Thess 1:4-6). His second letter to the Thessalonians was occasioned by him knowing they were suffering for righteousness sake (2 Thess 1:4-7). The epistle to the Hebrews, which I believe was written by Paul, was occasioned by them failing to grow up into Christ in all things, even though they had been in Christ long enough for this to have taken place (Heb 5:11-14).
All of this confirms that what believers are taught is, in part, determined by where they are in Christ Jesus, what they are doing, and what has resulted from their commitment to Christ, or lack thereof. Wayward congregations were not given the precious jewels that were vouchsafed to those who had been faithful, and faithful brethren were not addressed as though they were fundamentally wayward. Furthermore, the state of the individual congregation was addressed from the foundational point of view, not the mundane and practical perspective. This is because a failure to grow, or going backward is always occasioned by a deficiency in the perspective of the purpose of God, and His great salvation that is the means through which that “eternal purpose” will be finally realized.
GRACE BE TO YOU
Gal 1:3a “Grace be to you . . .” Other versions read, “grace to you,” NKJV “grace be with you,” GENEVA “Good will,” GWN “give you grace,” NLT “blessing,” LIVING “be kind to you,” IE “spiritual blessing,” WILLIAMS and “grace and spiritual blessing.” AMPLIFIED
THE WORD RARELY USED PRIOR TO THE NEW COVENANT. Here is a word that, as used in our text, is uniquely associated with the New Covenant. As regards the posture of God toward men, “grace” is used fourteen times from Genesis through Malachi (Gen 6:8; 19:19; Ex 33:12,13,16,17; 34:9; Judges 6:17; Ezra 9:8; Psa 45:2; 84:11;Prov 3:34; Jer 31:2; Zech 12:10). In those texts, most of its use pertains to sparing the people from judgment. According to appearance, it seemed as though God had acted in contradiction of His righteous nature, granting clemency and protection where it was not deserved. This is not the primary manner in which the word “grace” is used in the New Covenant writings.
Men said to have experienced “grace” include Noah (Gen 6:8), Lot (Gen 19:19), Moses (Ex 13:13,17), Israel (Ex 33:16; Ezra 9:8), and Gideon (Judges 6:17). Occasionally it was declared to be a Divine trait, and was much coveted by discerning souls (Psa 84:11; Prov 3:34). An era of “grace” was also foretold by Zechariah the prophet (Zech 12:10).
As used in the above texts, “grace” means “Graciousness, kindness, favor, and well favored . . . accepted.” STRONG’S Noah was spared from the flood, Lot from the destruction of Sodom, and Israel from extinction. Moses and Gideon were given special favor in relation to leading the people of God. Moses was granted relatively extensive exposure to God, together with a revelation of His nature. In this respect, he was unique among even the prophets (Num 12:6-8).
ITS UNIQUENESS IN THE NEW COVENANT. The word “grace” is used 131 times from Luke through Revelation. This is to be compared with the fourteen times it is used as referring to Diviner favor from Genesis through Malachi.
In The Gospels. It is used only four times in the Gospels – and they all have to do with what Jesus possessed. The grace of God was “upon Him” as He grew (Lk 2:40). He was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). From Him we receive “grace for grace,” or “grace upon grace” NASB (John 1:16). “Grace and truth” came by Christ (John 1:17). Jesus is also said to have spoken “gracious words” (Lk 4:22). In the Gospels, the same word translated “grace” is also rendered “favor” (Lk 1:30; 2:52).
In The Book of Acts. The word “grace” appears ten times in the book of Acts. There we find expressions like “great grace” (4:33), “the grace of God” (11:23; 13:43; 14:26; 15:40; 20:24), “the word of His grace” (14:3; 20:32), and “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (15:11). The “grace of God” was seen in people (11:23). Men were exhorted to “continue” in it (13:43). Believers were “recommended to the grace of God” (14:26). Men are declared to be saved “through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (15:11). Those who believed were said to have done so “through grace” (15:27).
In the Epistles and the Revelation. From Romans through Revelation, the word “grace” is found 116 times. As in the book of Acts, it is always related to something that has been done – a Divine accomplishment. “The grace of God” is mentioned eighteen times. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” is mentioned thirteen times. “His grace” is mentioned seven times. Eleven times “grace” is said to have been “given” to those in Christ Jesus (Rom 12:3,6; 15:15; 1 Cor 1:4; 3:10; Gal 2:9; Eph 3:2,7,8; 4:72 Tim 1:9).
This “grace” is associated with the experience of being justified (Rom 3:24); salvation by faith (Rom 4:16); access by faith (Rom 5:2); abounding favor (Rom 5:15,20); abundance (Rom 5:17); men reigning (Rom 5:21); being freed from the dominion of sin (Rom 6:14); the election of God (Rom 11:5); distinguishing salvation from a system of works (Rom 11:6); spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6); being a wise master-builder (1 Cor 3:10); being a prodigious laborer (1 Cor 15:10); a godly life (2 Cor 1:12); the humility of Christ (2 Cor 8:9); sufficiency (2 Cor 12:9); what we are called to (Gal 1:6); being called by God (Gal 2:9); being made accepted (Eph 1:6); the forgiveness of sin (Eph 1:7); being made alive with Jesus (Eph 2:5); God’s kindness toward us (Eph 2:7); being saved (Eph 2:8); the measure of the gift of Christ (Eph 4:7); spiritual knowledge (Col 1:6); consolation and hope (2 Thess 2:16); the gifts of faith and love (1 Tim 1:14); being strong (2 Tim 2:1); bringing salvation (Tit 2:11); teaching us how to deny sin and live godly (Tit 2:12); Christ tasting of death for every man (Heb 2:9); Divine help (Heb 4:16); serving God acceptably (Heb 12:28); establishment (Heb 13:9); the final revelation of Christ (1 Pet 1:15); being stewards (1 Pet 4:10); standing (1 Pet 5:12); and growth (2 Pet 3:16).
CONCLUSIONS. The New Covenant is not a covenant of tolerance and the withholding of wrath, but of benefit and participation. By saying, “grace be to you,” Paul is expressing his desire and prayer that the work of grace may be found in the Galatians – that all of the rich benefits it brings will be realized by them. The salvation of God is an economy of grace, and participation in that salvation is no larger than the work that grace is said to produce. Salvation begins with deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, but it is manifested by the perceived presence of the realities with which it is associated, and which it produces
PEACE BE TO YOU
1:3b “ . . . and peace . . . to you” Other versions read, “shalom.” CJB
A raw count of the word “peace,” without regard to any particular meaning, finds it is used more in Moses and the prophets than in the New Covenant writings (318 to 111, KJV 264 to 95, NASB 155 to 96, NIV 164 to 94. NRSV). The disparity in the various version counts confirms that the use of the word “peace” is more consistent in Matthew through Revelation. This indicates that there is more focus, or centrality, in the use of the word after the appearance of Jesus Christ. The word “peace” is used twenty-six times in the Gospels, five times in Acts, and sixty-three times in Romans through Revelation. That circumstance suggests there is more exposition of the term – particularly as it regards man’s association with God.
DURING THE OLD COVENANT. For example, within the code of the Law, the word “peace” is associated with special offerings (peace offerings) one hundred and twenty times. Over forty times “peace” is used to describe the cessation of trouble in either life or death. There are only twenty-three references to peace as it relates to men and God (Job 22:21; Psa 4:8; 29:11; 37:11,37; 85:8; 119:165; 125:5; Isa 26:3.12; 27:5; 32:17; 48:18; 53:5; 54:10,13; 55:12; 57:2,19; Jer 33:6; Ezek 34:25; Hag 2:9; Mal 2:5). Of those references, only one speaks of a contemporary experience (Psa 119:165). The rest are either prophecies, or a statement of something that will be realized under certain conditions. Thus, the burden of the references to “peace” in Moses and the prophets relates to conditions between men, expressions of good will (“go in peace”), and prophecies of a time of blessing.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD. In this day of salvation, the vast majority of the references to “peace” have to do with man’s association with God through Jesus Christ, and because of His great salvation. Its lexical meaning is, “harmony, concord; security, safety, prosperity, felicity (happiness); The tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is,” THAYER and “as a religious disposition characterized by inner rest and harmony, peace, freedom from anxiety; as a state of reconciliation with God.” FRIBERG
THE MINISTRY OF PEACE. In the Gospels, salvation is referred to as “the way of peace” (Lk 1:79) and “peace on earth, good will toward men” (Lk 2:14). That is, the inhibiting barrier of sin is removed in Christ Jesus, so that hostility no longer exists between the redeemed and the One who has redeemed them.
Jesus said He did not come to “send peace on the earth,” and that we are not to think He did (Matt 10:34; Lk 12:51). Even though the redeemed experience this peace while they are in the earth, it is not the location of earth that is the locus of that peace, but their position in Christ and the heavenly places. In the world, Jesus said, “ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Therefore, we should not be thrown into a state of consternation because our lives in this world are disrupted and often burdensome.
The Gospel is referred as “the Gospel of peace” (Rom 10:15), and Jesus Himself is said to have come and “preached peace” (Eph 2:17). The Kingdom of God is, among other things, a state of “peace” (Rom 14:17). The “God of hope” fills men “with joy and peace in believing,” in order that they might “abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom 15:13).
“Peace” is promised to “every soul that worketh good” (Rom 2:10). Those who are “justified by faith . . . have peace with God” (Rom 5:1). This is a peace associated with being “spiritually minded,” or being able to have the “mind of the Spirit” (Rom 8:6). God is said to be the “Author” of peace (1 Cor 14:33). Jesus is said to be “our Peace,” so that when we possess Him, or He dwells with us, we have peace by virtue of His presence (Eph 2:14). This is a peace that Jesus made (Eph 2:15; Col 1:20), and it is the means through which “the unity of the Spirit” is maintained (Eph 4:3).
The “peace of God” goes beyond all human understanding, and keeps, or guards, “our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). When allowed to do so, it will “rule in your hearts,” or “(act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state]” AMPLIFIED (Col 3:15). Wherever this peace is found, the “fruit of righteousness is sown,” yielding the harvest of spiritual growth and maturity (James 3:18).
When a person has peace with God, things are seen differently. What appears to be against us is perceived as being controlled by the God of peace. The world is seen for what it really is – the arena of spiritual warfare, temporal in existence, and inferior in power. This is a peace that has keeping power, and grants discretionary powers to the one possessing it, so that he is able to navigate safely through “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4).
As with “grace,” when “peace” is with the individual, it brings all of the benefits that are associated with it. These are benefits that are necessary to survival, and to growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Also, like all other “spiritual blessings” (Eph 1:3), it is not theoretic, and does not come in word only. It is a benefit that is either possessed or forfeited.
FROM GOD THE FATHER AND OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
1:3c “ . . . from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ . . . ” Other versions read, “from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” NASB and “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you . . .” NLT
A COMMON SALUTATION. This same phrase is mentioned in other letters Paul wrote to the churches and individuals (Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Eph 1:2; Phil 1:2, Col 1:2, 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; Phile 1:3). In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul combines peace, love, and faith, saying they are “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 6:23). In his letters to Timothy and Titus, he joins “grace, mercy, and peace,” affirming them to be “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Tit 1:4). In his letter to “the elect lady,” John uses a similar salutation: “Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3).
Of course, these are more than mere salutations, or greetings. They speak of the nature of spiritual life, which cannot be sustained by our works – even though they are necessary, and we have been created in Christ Jesus to walk in them. When salvation is said to be “not of works” (Eph 2:9), election is affirmed to be “not of works” (Rom 9:11), and our calling is declared to be “not according to our works” (2 Tim 1:9), the point is the basis of salvation – the foundation upon which it rests. When it comes to the appointed cause of salvation, the purpose belongs to God, and the achievement of what was required to allow God to be righteous in saving men (Rom 3:26) is accredited to the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who haggle about the role of works have not perceived this essential distinction. Their bantering is more akin to children arguing about things of which they know nothing, or, at the best, very little.
ESSENTIAL KNOWLEDGE. What is more, things that are essential for the working out of salvation also come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, the essential “fruit” is appropriately called “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22; Eph 5:8). Faith comes from God (Eph 6:23), or is “obtained” from Him (2 Pet 1:1). Repentance “unto life” is “granted” by God (Acts 11:26), given by the exalted Christ (Acts 5:31), and given by God (2 Tim 2:25). The insightful confession of Jesus as “Lord” is made “by the Holy Spirit” NKJV (1 Cor 12:3). “Every good gift,” we are apprised “cometh down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). If believers have learned to love one another, it is because they have been “taught of God” to do so (1 Thess 4:9). If they possess “everlasting consolation and good hope,” it is because “Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father,” has given it to them (2 Thess 2:16). If they have escaped from temptation, it is because a faithful God has made “a way of escape” for them (1 Cor 10:13). If they have been able to deny “ungodliness and worldly lusts,” living “soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world,” it is because “the grace of God” that brought them salvation has taught them to do so (Tit 2:11-12). If they have not fallen, it is because the Lord has kept them from doing so (Jude 1:24). If they have managed to stand, it is owing to the work of Him who is able to “make him stand” (Rom 14:4). If they have been “added to the church,””it is because “the Lord added” them ( Acts 2:47). If the works of believers have been perfected, or made complete, it is because the Lord Jesus has made them “perfect in every good work” (Heb 13:21). If they are “established,” it is because God has done it (1 Pet 5:10). If the saints are abounding and increasing in love for one another, and toward all men, it is because “the Lord” has made them “to increase and abound” (1 Thess 3:12). If they have been raised to walk in the newness of life, and are doing so, it is owing to “the operation of God” (Col 2:12; Rom 6:4). In summary, it may be said of every spiritual virtue and achievement: “what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7).
GRACE AND PEACE. We cannot overstate the necessity of grace and peace. Where either or both of these realities are missing, salvation cannot be claimed, for they are integral to salvation itself. The very phrase “the grace OF God,” accents that it comes from God (Rom 5:15; Eph 3:2,7; Col 1:6; Tit 2:11; Heb 2:9). The same may be said of the expression “the grace OF the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:11; Rom 16:20,24; 1 Cor 16:23); 2 Cor 13:14; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28); Rev 22:21). The same is true of “the peace OF God” (Phil 4:7; Col 3:15).
Jesus once said to His disciples, “MY peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). This is to be contrasted with Israel under the Old Covenant, to whom the Lord said, “I have taken away My peace from this people” (Jer 16:5). The Lord also revealed to Paul, “MY grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor 12:9). The fact that the grace and peace belong to, and are owned by, both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, is what makes them effective for their intended use.
There is no such thing as a salvation that is received and sustained that does not rest wholly upon what the Lord gives. In the case of our text, “grace and peace” are like the two pillars that held up Solomon’s temple – named Jachin and Boaz (1 Kgs 7:15-22). Having come from a background in which the works of men were emphasized above the works of God, I can testify of the debilitating effects of such a theology. I also know by experience of the sufficiency of the “wonderful works of God,” and the joy and confidence that comes from resting in them.