According to Paul, grace and peace come from God the Father and His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Then in Galatians 1:4, Paul says something more about Jesus. He “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” Notice Paul’s identification of himself as a sinner. It was “our sins,” he says, that Jesus died for. The law condemns us all to hell. If the law is our standard, not only will we live with uncertainty and stress, we will eventually end up condemned to hell. Paul realizes that it includes himself. Jesus had to die for us. If a man could make himself acceptable to God by works of the law, Jesus would not have had to die for our sins. If the legalists of Paul’s day are right in that there are still stipulations of law that are essential for our salvation, we shouldn’t have needed a savior. But Paul knew he did. Sinners know that they do. The healthy don’t need a physician, only the sick. The righteous don’t need a savior; only sinners do.

Many people refer to Jesus as our example. Although this is true in several respects, it’s not exhaustive. Jesus set an example for us to follow and said so after He washed the feet of his disciples. But he didn’t set an example for us when He raised Lazarus from the dead. He is much more than our example. When you’re drowning, you don’t need someone standing on the dock doing the dog paddle and shouting, “go like this.” We need someone to save us. That’s what Jesus did, and then he illustrates a lifestyle that’s worth living. Kenneth Boles writes, “Paul wants to establish from the beginning what is the important theme of Christianity. Salvation is not based on man’s ability to keep God’s rules but on Christ’s ransom, paid with his blood. It was Christ ‘who gave himself as a ransom for all men’ (1 Tim 2:6, cf. Mark 10:45). As the Galatians will be reminded, the atoning sacrifice of Christ is not compatible with man-made salvation. Either Jesus saves us, or we save ourselves.”

It was God’s will that Jesus would die for our sins to “rescue us from this present evil age.” The Greek word for “rescue” or “deliver” in this verse is used five times in the book of Acts to describe how God rescued people who could not rescue or “deliver” themselves: The rescue of Joseph from his afflictions (7:10), the deliverance of Israel from Egypt (7:34), the rescue of Peter from prison (12:11), the rescue of Paul from the temple mob (23:27), and the deliverance of Paul from the Jews (26:17). The interesting thing is that even the Law of Moses was included in the idea of “this evil age” in Galatians 4:3. Jesus died not to enable us to live out the law, but to save us from the consequences of having broken it. The law condemns us all, and it’s too late to win God’s approval by keeping the law. The law never has and will never make anyone acceptable to God. Jesus saves us from the law and makes us acceptable to God by His righteousness, not our own. In Galatians 3:10-11, Paul will lay this out clearly. He writes, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” In other books, he makes other clarifying arguments as well. In Ephesians 2:8-9, he writes, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” John Piper concludes one of his sermons on Galatians by saying, “The substitutionary death of Christ is our only and all-sufficient hope of escaping God’s wrath. And because of it, God is willing to grace us with his very Spirit when we repent and turn away from self-confidence and put all our confidence in him, that is when we are crucified to the old way of legal effort and live, instead, by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us.”[1]