To Deliver Us from the Present Evil Age
Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia might very well have been his first, along with his letters to the Thessalonians. Scholars sometimes like to speak of a younger Paul who wrote these letters and a mature Paul who wrote Romans and his pastoral letters (Timothy, Titus) years later as if he changed his message somewhere along the line. The fact of the matter is that the message of the gospel never changed from the mouth of Paul, and what Paul preaches in this letter so clearly is the same in all of his letters and is the heart of the gospel, and that message is: We are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The great Reformer, Martin Luther, loved this epistle so much that he once said that it “is my epistle, to which I am betrothed. It is my Katie von Bora” (a reference to his dear wife, J. Pelikan, “Introduction to Volume 26,” LW 26: ix).
Paul is clear in his greeting that he received his apostleship from God and not man, a defense he would make all his life as he was not of the original band of twelve commissioned by Jesus. But to manifest his power, God turned a hard-hearted persecutor of the Church into her greatest apostle and missionary. He had been a zealous Pharisee keeping the law and the tradition of the fathers blamelessly (Philippians 3:4-6). But when God in His mercy and grace chose to reveal to Paul His gospel of grace (1:16), Paul died to the law and rose to Christ and was reborn. Grace recreated him and from then on that’s all he knew and all he would preach (1 Corinthians 2:2).
And so he did. And in reference to this gospel, I wish to capitalize on that line where, speaking of Christ, Paul writes, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of our Father.” The purpose of the gospel is to deliver is from this present evil age. And IT IS an evil age—this time, this world, everything on this side of eternity, is an evil age, and it is critical that we understand this. Since the fall, this world lies under the dominion of Satan and is filled with darkness. We need only survey history and our own darkened hearts and minds subject to the flesh to see this. But through Christ, God has invaded this dark realm and introduced light and life to scatter the forces of darkness and death. And through faith in the work of Christ on the cross, God delivers those who believe from this present evil age by transforming them into new creatures and transferring them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son; that is, it is a change that happens within us and to us. And it is the will of our loving Father to do this for us—to Him be the glory. Amen.