On a January afternoon in 2003, a father and his son walked through a local park in the city of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. Twin Lakes sits on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. As you’d expect for a day in the middle of January, it was cold. The temperatures were well below freezing.
To that point in the season, there had been relatively little snowfall and so the nearby sledding hill, which was often frequented by local children, sat empty. That fact perhaps made it all the more unlikely that a father and his son would be in the right place at the right time.
As they were walking, they came to an outdoor porta potty where they felt like they heard something. It was a whimpering or whining sound. To what must have been their absolute shock, when they opened the door, wrapped in a canvas bag, they found a baby boy.
All alone in that bathroom, exposed to the cold, there was no way the child would have survived if he hadn’t been found.
Because of sin, the whole world is in a desperate situation which will bring death and from which we cannot save ourselves. And just like that baby boy who was found in that Wisconsin bathroom, we too can only know salvation through the intervention of a father. And a son.
In Galatians 1:3-5, the Apostle Paul will talk of how Jesus has rescued a sinful world from the present evil age.
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
The mention of grace and peace is standard in Paul’s opening greetings. He mentions grace and peace at the beginning of all of his letters.
Those two words are packed with theological meaning.
Grace is the unmerited favor of God that he grants to us because of the gospel. Grace is a gift. It’s something that we cannot earn or deserve.
And because of grace, there is peace made with God. The ordering matters. It is grace and then, because of grace, there is peace.
That grace and peace does not come from ourselves, but as Paul says, the source of it is from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In three verses, Paul has pointed both to the resurrection from the dead of Jesus and now he points to the Lordship of Jesus. For Christians reading this letter today, it can be easy to take these facts for granted, to read over them pretty quickly. But Paul is making important statements about Jesus, especially when we remember that people were undermining the gospel to these Galatian churches. But really, it’s just as important for us to remember what Paul is saying here because there are people in our own time and in our own society who undermine and distort the gospel.
Today, people so often will acknowledge that Jesus really existed but then totally disregard the reality of who he is. So many people love a few moral teachings of Jesus here or there but get real quiet when the exclusivity of Christ gets mentioned.
It’s really easy to be a cultural Christian. But are you a Christ-centered Christian?
And Paul will say much more about Jesus in verse 4.
Now before we look at this verse, I want you to ask yourself this question: “Is this what I truly believe?” Because Paul is pointing to the gospel.
Talking about Jesus, he says:
4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
There are three significant things which Paul reveals in this verse.
Jesus gives himself for our sins.
This is something that Jesus himself talks about during his ministry.
the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
That is sacrificial language. Sacrifice points to a cost of forgiveness. In the Old Testament, you couldn’t just sacrifice any old thing. It had to be animals without blemish. It was literally costly. It was also an act of faith to trust that the Lord would still provide, even when you had made the sacrifice.
It points to God’s requirement for holiness and necessity of atonement. Most significantly, the sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to a greater sacrifice that is fulfilled in Christ.
Hebrews 10:12-14 says:
when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
I could not pay the cost for my sins. You could not pay the cost for your sins. We could not make it right. But Jesus could. On the cross.
Some hear that message and are offended by it. They don’t think that they need Jesus. They think “I never asked him to die for me,” why is that necessary? Why couldn’t a gracious God just forgive us?
Because in a righteous savior going to the cross, being sacrificed for our sins, Jesus is showing us just how costly our sin is.
And this is a point to which Paul will build up in Galatians. Chapter 3, verse 13, Paul says:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”
Now again, some will be repulsed by that message.But even among those who believe that Jesus died to forgive sinners, people have different views of how to respond to that.
Some treat that as a justification or license to sin. “We’re forgiven. Love, love, love. Jesus is love. He loves you.”
The problem is that too many people want salvation without the savior.
To deliver us from the present evil age
The text continues:
To deliver us from the present evil age.
The Greek word that translated as “deliver” here can also mean “rescue.” I think that’s perhaps a more helpful way of reading this verse. English Bible translations are somewhat evenly split on “deliver” vs “rescue” here.
At the cross, Jesus has rescued us. We were helpless and dead in sin.
I read a story this about a rollercoaster that got stuck at an amusement park in California in 2016. 21 riders were trapped 148 feet up in the air.
The ride could not be lowered. Fire Crews were called and got a ladder.
The ladder wasn’t tall enough!
Rescue crews had to go into the ride with a harness. One by one, they took out each passenger and had to manually lower them the 148 feet to the ground.
They rescued them. Those people were not saving themselves. They weren’t getting down by themselves. Without a rescuer, they were hopeless.
We were hopeless at the height of our sins when Jesus came to our rescue.
But as I said, many want the salvation without the savior.
Present evil age
Now there are many things which Jesus rescues us from. The wrath of God, the penalty of our sins, but he also has rescued us, as the text says, from the present evil age.
The present evil age is the state of the fallen world.
Jewish theology had the idea of two ages where there would be a new age that would be greater than the present age. This idea gets picked up in the New Testament. Jesus makes several references to a distinction between ages.
In one sense, that new age has already been realized because of the cross. In Christ, we are forgiven, we have Spiritual blessings, we have an inheritance through Jesus. What’s more, we have a reason for hope. And we have a citizenship which is in heaven.
But we still live in a world where there is still sin as people who have a dual citizenship.
I think about when my wife was pregnant. In one sense, you’re already preparing for parenthood. Especially for the mother. You’re already having to make different lifestyle choices for the health of the baby. You’re making different decisions on spending, you’re thinking about the future.
It’s a time between two ages. There’s the period where you have no kids and the period where you have one, but in the pregnancy, there’s some overlap between the two times.
In Christ, we live in a period of overlap between the old and the new.
Where we are in a world that is fallen but with a new identity in Christ. Where we live in a world where there is sin, but where we have the hope of the gospel. Where we live in a world where there is still death but where we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Where we still struggle with our own sins but where we have grace and peace.
When we want the salvation without the savior, we cheapen what Jesus has done. It’s not merely a matter of forgiveness so that we can just keep on sinning, but it’s a rescue from a world of sin.
Do you look at the gospel as a rescue mission? For the people trapped in the roller coaster, the rescue crew did not go up there to save them so they could stay on the ride. It was so that they could get out.
The world is dead in sin but the gospel promises us another world.
Jesus has given himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, the last part of verse 4 says:
according to the will of our God and Father
It was the divine plan from all of eternity.
It was the divine rescue that was the only way to rescue a sinful world from the present evil age.
It had to be a divine plan because sinful people could not create our own perfect future. We could not create a new age where we overcome disease and death, let alone sin. Because we continue to sin and the world is fallen, but we have a savior who has overcome the world. And he did that by giving himself for our sins.
The world is dead in sin but the gospel promises us another world.
The response to the gospel
Verse 5. After Paul has talked about Jesus rescuing us according to the will of God the Father, Paul says:
5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
To know the gospel, to know the forgiveness which is found in Christ is meant to cause a response of praise.
Now if you don’t believe in the gospel. If you don’t believe that Jesus has died for your sins. If you are not born again in Christ, then there is no reason for you to join in this response of praise.
Praise and giving glory to God follows from knowing you’re forgiven.
And the more we’re aware of our sin, the more heartfelt the praise. And the more we look to the cross, the more we can praise. And the more that we appreciate that we had been in need of rescue, the greater our praise.
to whom be the glory forever and ever.
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