Dawn of the New Age (Galatians, Part 2)
We continue this series, using a question-and-answer format to explore Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me,
Why does Paul specify that his apostleship is “not from men nor through men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father”?
Probably to assert his authority as an apostle, which was coming under attack by certain opponents. These opponents had come to visit the Galatian churches after Paul left, and were claiming that what Paul had taught them about following Jesus was wrong. Specifically, the opponents were claiming that Paul had neglected to tell the Galatians that if they wanted to be Christians, it was necessary for them to be circumcised as Jews and follow the law of Moses. Paul gets particularly defensive in this letter (he spends much of the first two chapters defending his legitimacy as an apostle of Christ), so we can reasonably infer that his opponents must have been undermining his credibility to the Galatians by claiming that he wasn’t a real apostle (after all, he was not one of the Twelve). And here in the greeting of the letter, Paul is already defending himself and reminding the Galatians that he has been called by God.
Why does Paul identify the Father as the one “who raised [Christ] from the dead” in the greeting?
One answer is that Paul simply uses every opportunity in his letters to teach and remind his hearers of precious gospel truths, such as the fact that Jesus was raised victoriously from the grave. But there might be another reason why Paul mentions Jesus’ resurrection here in the introduction (this is the only time he does this in the introduction to a letter): it may be that Paul is anticipating a major theme in the letter. Paul is going to argue that a new age has dawned in the history of the world now that Jesus has come. With Jesus’ death and resurrection, the “age to come” has broken in and invaded the “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). In Jesus, all of God’s promises concerning the end of time and the renewal of all things have begun to be fulfilled. For example, read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and listen to God promise a time when he will deal with his covenant-violating, law-breaking people in a new way. He says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jer. 31:33). They will no longer need the detailed Mosaic law to show them how to live as God’s people, but the Spirit will show them how to “love the Lord” and “love your neighbor” (see Matthew 22:34-40) from a transformed heart.
But the opponents in Galatia were insisting that the Christians there continue to live under the Mosaic covenant. In effect, they were trying to go back in time and act as if the new era in Christ had not come. But it had come—and the resurrection was the proof. And Paul’s reference to Jesus’ resurrection here in the introduction foreshadows the argument he is going to make in the body of the letter.