Galatians 1:3–5 (ESV) … “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
As he often does in his introductions, Paul here invokes a blessing on his readers: ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (v. 3).
Grace has been beautifully defined as ‘that goodwill on God’s part which not only provides and applies salvation but blesses, cheers, and assists believers … that many-sided favour that comes in the form of hope to saints in despondency, of joy to them in sorrow, of patience to them in suffering, of victory to them under assault, and of final triumph to them in the hour of death’. It is wonderfully comprehensive! Little wonder that Paul’s prayerful wish for his beloved Galatians should be grace! It was just what they needed—and what we need as well.
So, too, the peace that he invokes. Peace in the midst of trials, peace that arises from a sense that we are right with God, peace that comes from trusting that all things are working together for our good, peace that keeps anxiety at bay—we all need constant supplies of it!
And what an encouragement to seek such blessings when we see from whom they are said to come: ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins’. We look for grace and peace to the God who has made us his children and to the Christ who gave his life for us. Surely we will not look in vain!
Verse 4 is a reference to the cross. There Jesus ‘gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age’. And he did so ‘according to the will of our God and Father’. The death of Jesus was at one and the same time a voluntary act of self-giving for the salvation of his people and an act of obedience to his Father in heaven. They were together in this!
The fruit of it for believers is deliverance from what is described here as ‘the present evil age’—the godless world to which all of us, on account of our fallenness, so naturally and tragically belong. Because of Calvary, the sin and the evil powers that shape the lives of so many of our fellow human beings (and once shaped ours) no longer control us. We have come instead under new, healthful, transforming influences which are changing us into the likeness of God and enabling us to live for him.