Most of us introduce ourselves differently in different settings. We may introduce ourselves in relation to who our spouse is (hello, I’m Lisa’s husband) or who our children are (hello, I’m Bethany’s dad). We may choose to introduce ourselves in relation to where we work, what we do, or what we once did. We are trying to give the person a reference point, but we may also be trying to frame the conversation and establish why we should be heard. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, his introduction framed the focus of his letter.
Paul identified himself as an apostle, but immediately turned the focus on Christ. He pointed out that he secured the title of apostle from Jesus who was raised from the dead. He did not earn the title like one would earn a degree or rise through the ranks to become an army commander. Instead, God gave Paul the title and responsibility of being an apostle. At the very onset of the letter, Paul emphasized God’s grace over humanity’s efforts.
Paul called for grace and peace to be bestowed on his readers, which he did in other letters as well. Here however, he gave a deeper explanation (compare to Eph. 1:2 and Col. 1:2). He emphasized salvation as a gift, noting that Jesus gave Himself for our sins to secure our salvation. Passages such as John 3:16, Romans 6:23, and 1 John 5:11-12 come to mind when we think of salvation as a gift. Jesus Himself is the gift and we need nothing else.
Paul wrote to the Galatians to address the false teaching that more than Jesus was needed for salvation. Some people in Galatia had abandoned the gospel of Christ, accepting the idea that circumcision, Jewish rites, and keeping the law were also required for salvation. As such, Jesus’ death was necessary, but it wasn’t enough to secure salvation. For Paul, Jesus was more than enough and his introduction in the letter pointed to this truth.
Paul’s apostleship was not based on some merit or status he secured through hard work nor was it based on his acceptance by his listeners (Gal. 1:10). His apostleship was secured by God giving him that responsibility, just like God had given Paul salvation through faith in Jesus. Paul was called on to live in light of what God gave him, but his possession of salvation and his role as apostle were solely based on God’s grace alone. How we gain something is how we keep it. Paul gained salvation through faith in Jesus alone, and he would keep that salvation through faith in Jesus alone.
How might you illustrate the point that how we gain something is how we keep it?