Before we jump into Galatians a reminder: your New Testament is not organized in the order in which it was written. Galatians is one of the first scriptures to be written, and so Paul’s theology is still young, and in the process of being developed. In fact, Paul’s first two letters, 1-2 Thessalonians, deal very little with our union with Christ. It is in Galatians that we begin to see union with Christ, as a theology, developed. Also, keep in mind that Paul didn’t just make this theology up on his own. First, as we have tried to show in past blog posts, it is a theology rooted in Jesus’ own teaching about the sharing of the divine life (zoe) with mankind. Second, we believe that Paul was guided by the Spirit of God in his writings.
Galatians 1:1-4. Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age (v.4). Wow, that’s a big statement to open up the letter. Notice first that Paul is using the language of substitution- “for our sins.” Jesus died for us, in our place. This will be a major pillar in Paul’s theology moving forward, even in this letter (see Galatians 2:20 and 3:13). And of course we love and cherish this doctrine. Jesus the just, took my place- by grace I am saved!
But it is union with Christ that allows us to experience the benefits of Christ’s substitutionary death. These two truths (substitution and union) work together in our salvation to secure for us all of Christ’s blessings. And these blessings are so secure that Paul can use this language in verse 4- “to deliver us from the present evil age.”
What is the “present evil age?” And how does the death of a man 2000 years ago deliver me from it?
The word “age” is the Greek word aeon. It can also be translated as “world.” Sometimes it refers to a specific length of time, but not always. In Jewish thought, there were two ages: this present evil age, and the age to come (the one where God restores everything to Israel). Paul is telling us that as Christians we are living in the “present evil age,” but we are not controlled by it any longer. We are already delivered from it.
But how can that be? In essence Paul is claiming that we are living in both the present and the future simultaneously. How is that possible? Because “to live is Christ.”
Our union with Christ, although not expressly noted here in Galatians, is the reason that we are no longer in bondage to the very aeon in which we live. This age or world which is our physical home is not our controlling destiny. A few years down the road Paul will write these words:
2 Corinthians 5:17. If anyone is in Christ he is the new creation. The old has gone the new has come.
How do I know that there is a new day coming that will change everything? Because it has already happened inside of me. Through the indwelling Christ, I am already living eternally, righteously, and gloriously. I am no longer a slave to this evil age and its trappings of time and temporary pleasure.
Are you living trapped as a victim of this age? Is all of your meaning, purpose, identity, and happiness wrapped up in this world? This aeon? What would it change for you to get past living FOR this age, and rather to live IN this age as an invader FROM the next?