Paul an apostle—sent neither by human commission nor from human authorities, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the members of God’s family who are with me, to the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
lToday we begin a series of devotions based upon Galatians. The letter begins in a way that is used in many letters of the time. That is the sender, who in this case is Paul, writes to the recipients, who are the churches of Galatia, then follows a word of greeting. Being Paul he departs from mere greeting and fills these opening words with theology.
Paul wants to say something about his credentials and he makes the point that no human agency has given him the title apostle, this title comes from Jesus Christ and God the Father. Paul doesn’t work alone. In other letters he refers to his associates by name, here we are just told that it is those who are with him who are part of God’s family.
Who are the churches in Galatia? The word Galatia is derived from the same word as the words ‘Gaul’ or ‘Gaelic’, it seems to have been likely that they were Celts. There are two suggestions about where the churches in Galatia were situated. On the one hand the term may refer to those who migrated into Asia Minor and settled there in the third century BC on the other hand it may refer to the Roman Province which was designated as such in 25 BC. The former is to the north of what is now central Turkey and the latter is to the south.
Paul greets the Galatian churches with a common greeting of grace and peace coming from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins in order to liberate from this present evil age. Paul is not only thinking about freedom from another world but is mainly thinking of those things that oppress us, things as greed, racial division, and materialism.
In these few words Paul refers both to resurrection and the sacrificial death of Christ, matters that we will read more of in this letter and in others of Paul’s writings
Gracious God, you come to us in Christ, giving of himself for our sins, raised from the dead by you, bringing liberation from things that oppress, from those things that prevent us from drawing to you. We thank you for messengers like Paul, and others through the ages, who demonstrate to us, something of you love and concern for us, who share the message of good news. To you be glory for ever and ever. Amen
The Rev’d David Whiting is Minister of the Sunderland and Boldon URC Partnership.