I, Paul, and my companions in faith here, send greetings to the Galatian churches. My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of some human higher-up. It comes directly from Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I'm God-commissioned. So I greet you with the great words, grace and peace! We know the meaning of those words because Jesus Christ rescued us from this evil world we're in by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sins. God's plan is that we all experience that rescue. Glory to God forever! Oh, yes!
(Galations 1:1-5 The Message)
We begin a new series this morning in the book of Galations. The author is Paul, a disciple of Christ, born out of the ranks of the Jews - - a former persecutor of the believers in Jesus. He begins with his credentials. Whenever we are establishing new "relationship" with people, isn't this similar to what we do? We discuss what we do for a living, if we are married or single, how many kids we have, where we went to school, etc. Each of these "facts" somehow give us some "credibility" in the group we are associating with.
Paul begins with his appointment - - his authority to be writing this message. In some respects, I guess this is important to get out there right up front so there are no questions about why he should be trusted to direct the actions of the church. He is not "people-appointed" - - there was no board of elders "voting" him into his role as apostle. He was God-sent - - therefore, his message would be God-approved.
Two words will play an important part in our study of this book: Grace and Peace. Grace because it describes the process by which we are brought into the Kingdom of God and the very thing that holds us in that position. Peace because it becomes the outflow of our position in Christ. Paul will deal with tough topics in this book - - things like how a Christian can live an imperfect life and still experience the grace and peace of God! He sets the stage for us to understand God's love expressed through his immense grace.
Paul begins with Christ's rescue - - freeing us from our confinement to live sinful lives, bound by the very thing we so desperately desire to be free of. He accomplished our rescue by the Cross. Offered as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. This is a tough thing to grasp if you have no knowledge of the Old Testament Law of Moses. The Law was a system of rules and regulations God established with Israel in order to point them to the plan of redemption in Christ. The Law contained multiple "sacrificial" offerings - - everything from the choicest grain of your harvest to the pure and spotless lamb offered as an atonement sacrifice. Each carried a meaning unique in describing provision and grace. Each pointed to Christ - - to the hope of deliverance.
Rescue is often a misunderstood process. The term means to bring into liberty. It is the setting free of our mind, will and emotions from all which seeks to control, or interfere, with our living according to the will of God. It involves removing us from the obligation to continually "pay for" our sins - - because Christ's sacrifice was once and for all - - setting us right with God regardless of our sin. It is both the power and the authority to bring change beyond our capability.
Think about it. Does a prisoner of war play any part in his rescue? No! It is the work of the Special Ops personnel sent on the mission to free the one who has been bound. Those Special Ops troops plan, prepare, and then execute the plan. In turn, the one bound is set free. Think of Christ as the ultimate Special Ops soldier! He and his Father planned, prepared, and he executed the plan perfectly. Nothing we do adds to the plan! His rescue is perfect because the plan was perfect!
God's plan: For us all to experience this rescue! Paul could not say it any better! If you are struggling to be rescued - - it is time to step back and allow the one who has the plan for your rescue to step in. If you have been rescued, but still struggle with the feelings of bondage, it is your divine rescuer who wants to help you enjoy total and complete liberty in him. Hope you will follow along with me as we dig deep into this letter to the Galation church. May we all come to appreciate the complete rescue of Christ!