When it comes to unpacking the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and applying to our lives, the epistle to the Galatians may very well contain the most potent six chapters in all of Holy Scripture.
From the beginning to end of this letter, Paul calls the Galatian believers to turn from any- and all- ‘non-gospels’ that have crept in masquerading as the truth, and to hold fast to the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ that he- and the other Apostles- faithfully delivered to them.
In the opening verses of chapter one Paul basically introduces, and summarizes, his entire letter. He begins, in verses 1 & 2, by reminding the Galatians, in no uncertain terms, who he is, “an apostle- not from man nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.” Why does Paul, start off his letter so abruptly and forcefully? The answer lies only few verses later, when Paul expresses his shock and dismay that this church that he had started, and very recently spent time with, had already begun to believe “a different gospel.” It seems other teachers had come in, shortly after Paul left, and began to lead the people away from the Gospel that he had proclaimed to them and by which they had come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.
However, before engaging these other teachers and their “different gospel,” Paul reminds his readers of the one true Gospel, “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” (Gal 1:3-5). This is the Gospel in a Pauline nutshell; by grace, we now have peace with God, because Jesus Christ- by the will of the Father- gave Himself for our sins, delivering us- saving us- from the darkness of this fallen world, so that through faith in Him we have life, to the glory God alone forever and ever! As Timothy Keller, in his book, ‘Galatians for You,’ writes, “The Gospel is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is not only the way to enter the kingdom; it is the way to live as part of the kingdom. It is the way Christ transforms people, churches, and communities,”
Even in his opening remarks, Paul wants to make it clear that salvation belongs to God alone, there are no alternate routes by which we may come to Him, but through Christ, and His sacrifice on our behalf, accomplishing what never could. To any who wish to add something to this great Gospel, he says, “This work is of God, from beginning to end! God alone conceived of it, God alone enacted it, and God alone applies it to the lives of His people, and to that end, God alone gets the glory!” Commenting on these verses, Martin Luther wrote, “These words are like so many thunderclaps of protest from heaven against every kind and type of self-merit. Underscore these words, for they are full or comfort for sore consciences.”