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1. The Cross And Salvation (Gal. 1:3-5)

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The subject of the cross is central to the structure of all four Gospels. Everything is arranged to lead up to this climax. They are Gospels, good news of what God has done in Christ to bring about our salvation. The way that the Gospels are put together shows that the means of our salvation is the cross.

The cross is also central to the apostolic commission to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mk. 16:15). Scripture assures us that 13 everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But that raises the question, 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Rom. 10:13-15). Preaching the gospel is the means of making known God’s provision by which people can be saved. The gospel does not ask us to save ourselves: it does not tell us to do something that will save us. Rather, it says that it is done. The cross event is what saves us; that is why Paul glories in it and why he preached it.

The subject of our passage is “The work and will of God in salvation,” and the teaching in summary is that the plan and the praise for our salvation belongs to God alone. In the opening salutation to the epistle to the Galatians, Paul makes a very carefully balanced theological statement about the cross and about the whole work of salvation. In one short sentence, he deals with…

I. The Source of our Salvation.

II. The Scope of our Salvation.

III. The Splendor of our Salvation.

I. The Source Of Our Salvation (1:3)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3). What we notice in this short statement is that…

1. Our salvation is rooted in grace and results in peace (1:3a). Grace is God’s free and sovereign favor granted to undeserving sinners who believe. For Paul, God’s grace lies at the foundation of the gospel of our salvation. The call of God is a call of grace. Grace is the reason for the good news. The gospel of God is the gospel of grace. Grace is synonymous with Jesus Christ – there is no grace apart from Him, “for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). Indeed, “according to the purpose of his will” our redemption (our election, our holiness of life, our adoptions as God’s sons and daughters through Jesus Christ) ought to cause us to declare “the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6).

For sinners who believe, the wonderful truth is that our sin can never exceed God’s grace, for 20 where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:20-21). Now, by grace, we no longer live under the control and tyranny of sin and the law but under the freedom of the redemption that we have in Christ (Rom. 6:13-14), because it was “for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Grace, then, is God’s free and sovereign favor granted to undeserving sinners who believe, and…

Peace is the result which grace has achieved – namely, reconciliation with God. Peace is that spiritual well-being that comes from a right relationship with God. It is the result of the gospel at work in the human heart. Not only did grace come to us by Jesus Christ but also, having been justified by faith, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). For Christians, peace involves not only the absence of hostility between people but also the absence of hostility between us and God, having been brought into a right relationship with him through our Lord Jesus Christ. That’s precisely why Christians, who were previously “enemies” of God but who have now been “reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10), can live in peace with each other and with God.

Grace and peace, then, express comprehensively the essence of the gospel. Our salvation is rooted in grace and results in peace. Grace is the source of salvation and relates to our standing before God. Peace is the result of our salvation and relates to our state. The present result of Christ’s death on the cross, then, is grace and peace.

2. Grace and peace emanate from God and from the Lord Jesus Christ (1:3b). Grace and peace never come to man through man - only “from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:3b). Grace and peace come from “God the Father.” They find their origin, their source in him because God is a God of grace and those who receive his grace also enjoy “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).

Grace and peace also come from “our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the most comprehensive of all the names given to our Saviour because it embraces his past, present, and future. He is Lord from all eternity; he became Jesus of Nazareth at his incarnation; and he is the Christ, the Messiah, the coming One, before whom every knee one day will bow.

He is “our Lord” because of his deity, and his deity gave him his authority in what he did and said. Those who addressed him as Lord recognized that in him was a power that was not otherwise available to them. Hence, those who came for healing or the exorcism of demons called him Lord. His disciples related to him as Lord and it was in his name that they acted. As Lord, he is the exalted One. He is the all-powerful One, whose power and authority have been manifested to us by God’s resurrection of him from the dead to God’s right hand, so that, Paul says, 18you may know…19 what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:19-21).

He is “Jesus” because He is the Saviour, the One who “will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21) and of whom even the Samaritans testified, “this is indeed the Savior of the world” (Jn. 4:42).

He is the “Christ” because He is the Messiah, the anointed One, the Redeemer, the promised One, who will deliver His people from their enemies and establish his kingdom on earth. It’s his identity as the Christ about which the gospel writers testified. They leave us in no doubt about this truth – that’s why they wrote their Gospels.

Salvation, then, is a co-operative effort between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace come from “God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Christ is so closely linked with the Father that the grace and peace of Christ are indistinguishable from the grace and peace of God. At the cross the grace of God is manifested in all its fullness, and by the cross the Lord Jesus Christ brought peace to “you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Eph. 2:17), having “broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” between Jew and Gentile believers. Thus, Paul can say, “he himself is our peace” (Eph. 2:14). Through the person of Christ all distinctions are broken down, whether racial, social, or religious, so that we can live together in the new community of faith in peace. By him, therefore, an otherwise hostile relationship is made peaceful. This is the grace and peace of God.

So then, the source of our salvation is God’s grace which results in peace. Now Paul turns to…

II. The Scope Of Our Salvation (1:4)

Within the scope of salvation, Paul addresses (1) the price, (2) the provision, (3) the purpose, and (4) the plan of salvation.

1. The price of salvation is Christ’s self-sacrifice (1:4a). He “gave himself.” He delivered himself up for a specific purpose. This concept of Christ’s mission is fundamental to Paul’s message. Christ’s death was self-sacrificial - “he gave himself.” It is the death of Christ as a voluntary, sacrificial act that is in view. He “gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6). This was the nature of his self-sacrifice - a ransom. This is the term that is sed to describe the payment of the price for the release of a slave.

Among the Aztecs of ancient Mexico more than 20,000 human beings were slaughtered every year on their altars to their gods, to appease them and to purge themselves of guilt. But such sacrifices would never appease the one true God, just as all the blood of bulls and goats offered on Jewish altars could never take away sin or make the worshippers perfect (Heb. 10:1-4). Only the willing sacrifice of God’s Son was sufficient (a) to appease God’s wrath; (b) to pay the penalty for our sins; and thus (c) to make it possible for “God to be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

The first element in the scope of our salvation, then, is the price – Christ’s sacrifice of himself. The second element in the scope of our salvation is the provision...

2. The provision of salvation is for us (1:4b), specifically for our sins.” Sin and death are integrally related throughout Scripture as cause and effect. Usually the one who sins and the one who dies for their sins is the same person. But here, the sin is ours and the death is Christ’s. He died “for our sins,” bearing the penalty in our place.

It is a substitutionary atonement “on behalf of” (υπερ) our sins. This is the most fundamental feature of the early gospel, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3). The apostle Peter puts it this way: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet. 2:24). To take the place of another person is to be a substitute. That’s the ultimate test of suffering – to suffer in someone’s else’s place. And that’s the nature of Christ’s suffering. Notice that his substitutionary suffering was personal – “he himself.” It was vicarious – “our sins.” It was physical – “in his own body.” And it was shameful – “on the tree.”

Christ’s work is inseparably connected with sin: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). And again, “For our sake he (God the Father) made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, to say that Christ died for our sins is to confess our infinite indebtedness to Him for what He has done for us.

The third element in the scope of our salvation is the purpose…

3. The purpose of salvation is our deliverance (1:4c). The purpose and object of Christ’s self-sacrifice was to “deliver us.” To deliver has the sense of rescuing us from danger. Our salvation was first and foremost a rescue operation - to rescue us from the power of another; to save us from this doomed world and from eternal death. John Stott puts it this way: “Salvation is a rescue operation undertaken for people whose plight is so desperate that they cannot save themselves.” That’s why we needed a Savior who died the death we deserved as our substitute.

Specifically, Christ’s death was to deliver us “from the present evil age.” There is a distinction between the ages - the past, the present and future. The past age was the age of the law and its curse. The present age is the age in which we now live and it is evil. It is evil because (a) it is in rebellion against God – the people of this age have transgressed God’s righteous standards; (b) it is under the temporary, usurped power of the evil one; and (c) it is under the influence of corrupt spiritual powers. The future age is “the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), when Christ will have his rightful place and reign in power and glory; when all his enemies will be consigned to their eternal destiny and his redeemed people will be ultimately delivered from this present age.

Christ died to rescue us from the old age, the age of the law and its curse, and to secure our transfer to the new age, the age of salvation and grace, so that even now we might live the life of the age to come. The purpose of Christ’s death was to transfer Christians from one age to the other - from the sphere of Satan’s power to God’s - so that, while we still live physically in the present age, yet we already enjoy the life of the age to come.

This deliverance was, for Paul, the victory of the cross. The picture is of Christ as a victor who has conducted a successful rescue operation. It isn’t a removal from this present age but deliverance from it by triumphing over it: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them by it (the cross)” (Col. 2:15). Believers are rescued from this evil age through Christ’s triumphant, redemptive work. As a result, though we are in this present evil age, we do not belong to it (Jn. 17:11, 14-18; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Jn. 5:5).

The fourth element in the scope of our salvation is the plan…

4. The plan of salvation is God’s will (1:4d)according to the will of our God and Father.”

On the one hand the self-sacrifice of Christ was voluntary. He “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness” (Tit. 2:14). The Son of God “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ loved the church and “gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5: 25). It was a freewill sacrifice.

On the other hand, the origin of Christ’s death was rooted in the Father’s plan. God the Father had purposed and willed the death of his Son as foretold in the O.T. Christ’s death was eternally planned, predetermined. It was “according to the will of our God and Father.”

There is no tension between the Father’s plan and the Son’s willing sacrifice because Jesus embraced the Father’s purpose of his own accord. He set his will to do his Father’s will. He came to fulfill the Father’s will. Jesus said: ‘I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 6:38). “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (Jn. 4:34). In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus fully submitted to the Father’s will, saying: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42). It was not the Father’s will to remove the “cup” of wrath from the Lord Jesus, because it was his will that his Son should die so that we could live. The work of salvation is rooted in the heart and the sovereign will of God. God’s heart was bursting with love for the world, so much so that “he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).

It was God’s eternal plan to provide the means of redemption and his Son was the willing sacrifice. This excludes the notion that what happened to Christ was in any way accidental. It was all part of a plan to overthrow evil and to deliver human beings from it. And the plan was based fully on the finished work of God’s Son, Jesus, at the cross. Nothing else needs to be added or needs to be done. To bring human achievement into that work would be to bring corruption, weakness, and pollution to the gospel. Any such addition is heresy or legalism.

Indeed, the will of God is behind every facet of the Christian gospel. Salvation is outside the scope of the will of man and buried deep in the sovereign decree of God. It was never the will of God that human beings should be in bondage. Hence, our deliverance through the work of Christ was “according to the will of God.”

That, then, is the scope of our salvation – the price, the provision, the purpose, and the plan of God. Now, in response to God for the source and scope of our salvation, Paul concludes with

III. The Splendor Of Our Salvation (1:5)

This marvelous, succinct statement as to the source and scope of our salvation ends with this powerfully spontaneous doxology: “To whom be the glory for ever and ever (for the ages of ages). Amen.” (Gal. 1:5).

1. The glory of our salvation belongs to God alone (1:5a). Grace and glory go together. Grace comes from God and glory is due to God. This is the whole of Christian theology.

“To whom be the glory.” Such a blessing was very normal for a Jew after mentioning the divine name. Just as the name of Yahweh with its association of salvation from Egyptian bondage stirred a Jew to praise, so now the name of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ stirs Paul to a similar response. This glory (δοξα) is not empty, human praise but the unutterable splendor of the divine glory. It is “the” glory – the glory that belongs particularly to God and to God alone.

Not only does the glory of our salvation belong to God alone, but also…

2. The glory of our salvation belongs to God for ever and ever (1:5b). The eternal result of Christ’s death is that God will be glorified for ever. This is an undefinable duration of time, an appropriate idiom in an ascription of praise to God. The glory of God has an enduring quality in contrast to the fading splendor of man’s greatest glory.

Final Remarks

The subject of the passage we have just studied is “The work and will of God in salvation,” and its overall teaching is that the plan and the praise for our salvation belongs to God alone. From this short passage we have learned that…

1. Christ’s willing sacrifice of himself is the heart of the gospel. It is the central part of the plan of redemption. Christ not only revealed God to us and God’s plan to redeem us, but he carried out the plan in the sacrifice of himself. In this way, we not only know God, but we are reconciled to him.

2. The will and the work of the Father and the Son are one (Jn. 5:30; 6:38; 10:30). Grace and peace come from both. Together they planned, provided, announced and grant salvation too all who come to them by faith.

As the Westminster confession states: “The chief end of man is to glorify God.” God is worthy of glory forevermore. May we, along with the apostle Paul say: “Amen” (γενοιτο). This is a truly fitting conclusion to such a statement about our salvation: “So let it be; let it come to pass; may all the glory be to God; may God’s name be praised forever.” In the words of the Psalmist: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen, and Amen!” (Ps. 72:18-19).

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation)

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