1. Locate the Passage
1:1-5 is the introduction to the letter
2. Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository.
3. Determine the Structure of the Passage
This passage includes Paul’s customary introduction with one exception. He does not include any commendation of his recipients. The introduction identifies the recipients as the churches of Galatia. Aside from the identification of the recipients (v. 2), the passage has the following distinct divisions:
- An assertion of apostleship (v. 1)
- An extension of blessing (v. 3)
- An amplification of the death of Christ (v.4)
- An ascription of glory to the God (v. 5)
4. Exegete the Passage
Paul had traveled in the region of the churches of Galatia during his first missionary journey. At some point following this journey, he received notification of the insidious influence of the Judaizers among the churches. These false teachers insisted that faith in Jesus, while being commendable, was not enough for one truly to be right with God. In their view, one must also submit to Jewish regulations, particularly the rite of circumcision, in order to be related rightly to God. Alarmed by this “addition” to the pure gospel of grace, Paul writes this letter to address the crisis.
In verse 1, Paul asserts and defends his apostleship. He is an apostle (apostolos) not on the basis of human origin or agency. Rather, his apostolic authority has its source and agency in Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised (egeirantos-aorist active participle) Him from the dead. Verse 3 contains Paul’s customary blessing of grace (charis) and peace (eirene). Grace refers to the unearned, unmerited favor of God while peace refers the result of grace, namely a reconciled status with God.
Verse 4 is an expansion of the greeting/main clause of verse 3. Notice how it focuses on the glorious transaction which occurred at the cross. This verse addresses the voluntary nature of Christ’s sacrifice. He gave (dontos-2nd aorist active participle) Himself. Next, it addresses the purpose of that sacrifice. He gave Himself for (huper-“for the sake of”) our sins. Third, the verse indicates the intended effect of Christ’s substitutionary death. He gave Himself for our sins to deliver (exeletai-2nd aorist middle subjunctive-“rescue” or “snatch out”) us from the present evil age. Finally, the verse identifies the origin of such rescuing activity as the will (thelema) or good pleasure of God the Father. Verse 5 concludes the thought of verse 4 with an ascription of glory (doxa) to God. Good theology leads to doxology!
5. Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Structure of the Sermon
- Paul asserts the authenticity of his apostleship (1)
- Paul extends a blessing to the recipients (2-3)
- Paul amplifies the message of the cross (4)
- Paul ascribes glory to God (5)
In preaching this passage, the preacher should, after addressing the introductory matters of verses 1-3, devote most time and attention to the content of verses 4-5. A resulting main idea for the sermon: Because the gospel of grace originates with God and centers in the sacrifice of His Son, cling to it and give God glory.