We are studying Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia (Galatians) on Wednesday evenings, and I invite you to come join us in the Fellowship Hall at South Main on Wednesday nights at 6:15 p.m.
I think Galatians is the earliest of Paul’s letters in the New Testament. As he puts quill to parchment, he has hardly said who is writing before he writes, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord King Jesus.” That may be the first time those words were ever written together. Say them out loud. Let them wash through you. Do you hear it? Paul is choosing words that have defined our faith; that have formed the way we understand God, Jesus, ourselves, the world; that have shaped the entire history of the planet.
This is the vocabulary of the church being formed. No one spoke or wrote this way before Paul. And I find it amazing that, in a letter designed to lead the church to see itself as one family, Paul draws his greeting from both of the worlds present in his audience into one new understanding of God’s work. He is playing on the standard greetings of the age. In the Greek world, the word for “greetings” is Xairein; in Texas we would translate that, “howdy.” Paul chooses to say it in a fresh way by using the word Xaris or “grace” instead; like someone might say, “how do” – it is a little different, but we know where he is coming from. Then he adds Eirene, “peace.” The word is Greek, but the sentiment is unmistakably Jewish; it draws from the Hebrew greeting, “shalom,”the unmerited, immeasurable, unlimited, self-giving mercy of God. Paul is praying God’s blessing and peace on all of his readers.
He goes on to write of God as “our father.” His language is all “us,” not we versus they. He allows none of this Jew versus Gentile nonsense – he will go on to write (3:28) that “in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in King Jesus.”
Which meant then, and means now, there is a place in the family of God for you. The doors of the church are open wide to you. The pews have a place for you. We have been made one family through the self-giving love of the Lord King Jesus.
In an age that seems to think what divides us is more than what unites us, Galatians is a power reminder of the truth of our oneness; to the strength of our togetherness; to our need to remember and claim our identity as one family in Christ. So hear it again, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord King Jesus.”