1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead), 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:
1:3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 1:4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 1:5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.
Paul himself preached the gospel to these churches (1:8), but after he left Galatia, some men arrived preaching a very dangerous (1:8-9) distortion of the gospel (1:6-7) to the churches in Galatia (1:2). Apparently they said that Paul obtained his version of the gospel from other people; not directly from Christ, like the disciples did. They also apparently called into question Paul’s apostleship and, therefore, his authority.
Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians to correct that distortion, and he starts by claiming that he is “an apostle”, which means somebody sent from God. Paul continues by claiming that he was “sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father” (NIV 1:1). This is an important part of his defence of the message he preached, and is emphasized in 1:11-12.
Paul was given a message that differed greatly from the average Christian understanding of his day. Through supernatural revelations (1:11-12) he was given a message that would change Christian thought. We have become very used to his teachings, but in those days Paul was extremely controversial.
Grace (1:3) is God’s good will and work toward us. By definition we do not deserve grace. Grace is what God freely gives.
“The Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself“ willingly (1:3-4) by becoming a human being and by even allowing people to kill Him. This act of grace forms the basis of our salvation: “so that He might rescue us from this present evil age”. Because of what Christ did we may have “eternal life” (6:8). This was His plan from eternal ages. If He did not give Himself, this life would have been all that we may have.
This was “according to the will of our God and Father” (1:4). We sometimes teach our children to love Jesus and to fear the Father. We also sometimes think that Christ died to pacify God and to convince Him to accept us. Paul’s message is the opposite: Christ’s death for our benefit was the will of the Father and initiated by the Father:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).