Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (1:3–4)
As Paul explains later in the epistle, the gospel he preached was “not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11–12). Two of the most precious words related to that God-given gospel are grace and peace. The first is the source of salvation and the second is the result. Grace is positional, peace is practical, and together they flow from God our Father through His Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Greek culture of Paul’s day the common greeting was chara (“joy”). But although joy is among the many blessings Christians receive from God and should reflect in their lives (Gal. 5:22), the distinctly Christian greeting of grace … and peace held special meaning and significance for Paul and for other believers in the early church.
Since it offered no grace and provided no peace, the law system being taught by the lying Judaizers is attacked even in this simple greeting. If being right with God and possessing salvation is by works, as those false teachers maintained, then it is not of grace (Rom. 4:4–5) and can bring no peace, since one never knows if he has enough good works to be eternally secure.
In verse 4 Paul gives a succinct summary of the true gospel of grace and peace, showing its nature, its object, and its source.
the nature of the gospel: christ’s atoning death and resurrection
who gave Himself for our sins, (1:4a)
In turning from grace to a legalistic system of salvation by works, the Galatians had ignored the significance of the death of Christ.
The heart of the gospel is Christ’s willing sacrifice of Himself for our sins. Salvation is not earned by one’s efforts to eliminate sin, but by one’s trust in God’s promise to forgive sin through the work of Jesus Christ. His atoning death was the most essential part of the divine plan of redemption, without which all of His teachings and miraculous works would have been meaningless and a mockery. Apart from Christ’s sacrificial death, His earthly ministry would have portrayed the power and truth of a great and wonderful God—but a God with whom men could never be reconciled, because they had no way out of their sin. Since no man can eliminate sin by works (Rom. 3:20), it must be forgiven. That is why it was absolutely necessary that “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). If Christ had not died on our behalf, He could not have been raised on our behalf; and if He had not been raised, Paul says, then preaching the gospel would be vain, trusting in the gospel would be worthless, and all men would still be in their sins (1 Cor. 15:14–17).
The statement who gave Himself for our sins affirms that the purpose of Christ’s coming was to be a sin offering (cf. 3:13).
the object of the gospel: to deliver from the present age
that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, (1:4b)
The purpose of the gospel is to deliver (the Greek subjunctive expresses purpose) those who believe in Christ from this present evil age. Jesus’ death was a rescue operation, the only possible means of saving men from the doomed world and from eternal death by providing for them eternal life.
Exaireō (deliver) carries the idea of rescuing from danger. The word was used by Stephen in his sermon before the Sanhedrin as he described the divine deliverance of Joseph and the children of Israel from Egyptian affliction (Acts 7:10, 34). Peter used the word to describe God’s deliverance of him from prison (Acts 12:11), and the Roman commander Claudius Lysias used it of his rescue of Paul from the belligerent mob in Jerusalem (23:27; cf. v. 10). Galatians 1:4 contains the only metaphorical use of the term in the New Testament.
Age (aiōn) does not refer to a period of time but to a passing, transitory system, in this case the evil, satanic world system that has dominated the world since the Fall and will continue to dominate it until the Lord’s return. Although they are not removed from the earth until they die or are raptured, believers are rescued out of this present evil age the moment they receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. They are still in the world, but they are no longer of it (John 17:11, 14–18; Phil. 3:20–21; 1 John 5:5). The faithful Christian life is the heavenly life lived on earth.
the source of the gospel: the will of god
according to the will of our God and Father, (1:4c)
The source of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ is the sovereign, loving, compassionate, gracious will of our God and Father, who “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). It was not the Father’s will for that cup to be removed, because otherwise the world could not be saved. It was the will of the Father for His precious Son to die in order that those who trust in Him might live. The Father sent the Son to die, and the Son willingly laid down His life.
Specifically, every rescued believer is delivered because of the sovereign, gracious will of God. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13). Salvation is thus removed from the will of man and is buried deep in the sovereign decree of God.
3 The greeting of “grace and peace” (charis, GK 5921; eirēnē, GK 1645) is Paul’s customary greeting to his churches (used in this same form in Ro 1:7; 1 Co 1:3; 2 Co 1:2; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Phm 3). These words represent the character of the relationship between God and humanity that is now possible in Christ. The word “grace” connotes the Old Testament concept of God’s taking the initiative to remedy humanity’s greatest need, as realized in the New Testament narrative of the person and work of Christ. C. E. B. Cranfield (Romans [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975, 71]) notes with respect to this expression that “this … part of the epistolary prescript [is made] a vehicle of profound theological and evangelical meaning” as it suggests God’s undeserved love revealed in Christ. The term “peace” deepens this notion of grace in that it refers to the cessation of enmity and hostility between God and fallen humanity on the basis of the person and work of Christ. It is also possible that in combining these two terms Paul has adapted for Christian use the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24–26.
4 Paul now develops further what he means by referring to God and the Lord Jesus as the source of “grace and peace.” Jesus “gave himself for our sins.” It is of note that Paul does not elsewhere include a description of Jesus’ sacrifice as part of his epistolary introductions (though at Ro 1:4 he does mention Jesus’ “resurrection from the dead”). But the character of Jesus’ sacrifice and its sufficiency apart from “practical Judaism” are what is at issue in the Galatian churches. So here Paul stipulates in abbreviated form the content of the gospel message he preaches.
The expression “Jesus Christ … gave himself for our sins” not only speaks to the substitutionary atonement of the Lord Jesus in behalf of sinful humanity; it also speaks to his willingly laying down his life by commandment from the Father (Jn 10:17–18). Thus, Paul’s words to the effect that Jesus accomplished this “according to the will of our God and Father” is in keeping with Jesus’ own self-understanding of his sacrifice. In addition, Jesus’ sacrifice according to God’s will “rescues us from the present evil age” (cf. Ro 9:16, where Paul says that this deliverance does not depend on human effort or will but on God’s mercy). The reality of human sinfulness is that it results in devastation both in how life is lived in the present and in how death is experienced as a final alienation from God. “Rescue” (exelētai, GK 1975) “denotes not a ‘deliverance from,’ but a ‘rescue from the power of’ ” (Boice, 426). Thus, defeat of the power of this “age” (aiōnos, GK 172) to incite and exacerbate human sinfulness is included in humanity’s rescue in Christ’s self-sacrifice. God’s power in Christ is available to the believer not only to rescue from eternal death but also to energize an obedient life as a dependent disciple of Jesus (cf. Ro 6:12–14). This notion will be more fully developed later in the ethical section of the letter, as Paul exhorts the Galatians to live out their faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.
 Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 562–563). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.