Part 3: Paul’s Introduction – The Glory of God (1:5)
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he chastises them severely for allowing themselves to be led astray by a group of legalists who insist, among other works, that circumcision is necessary for salvation. To the contrary, Paul insists, salvation comes from God alone because He alone has the power to save and He alone is willing. (If you would like to catch up with this series on Galatians, you can read part 1 on the power of God and part 2 on His grace.)
Paul concludes the introduction to his epistle by declaring,
5to [God and Father] be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (1:5)
This is a natural consequence of the processes he has described in the previous four verses. If God alone is able to save us, because we are infinitely sinful and cannot atone for our sins; and if we are saved because He alone is willing, since we desire no reconciliation with him in our status of unbelief and therefore enmity (Jas. 4:4, Rom. 5:10), then the obvious conclusion is that God alone receives the glory for our salvation. Early reformers understood this concept as “soli Deo gloria,” or “to God alone be the glory.” It is only because of His ability to save and His graciousness in doing so that we are saved from the eternal consequence of our sins. Paul writes:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
It was God’s work and will that produced the sacrifice for our salvation; therefore there is none other than He who should receive the credit, and the glory, and the praise.
The Galatians cannot continue to think that they must do things to earn their salvation and give God His deserved glory at the same time. If they believe that they have a hand in their salvation, then God does not get glory for the whole process of salvation—which He should, since He alone is responsible for it. Paul states that glory goes to the one “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). God gave Himself for our sins. God was willing to die for us. That is why He alone gets the glory.
Underlying the actions of the Galatians is pride. Pride had a hand in the original sin, by causing Adam not only to desire, but to believe that he could have equal standing with God. Satan told Eve, “[Y]ou will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5b). She saw “that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6b). They already knew what good and evil were. That is no excuse. They knew that they could every tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16). That is no excuse. No, they ate the fruit because they wanted to be wise. They believed that God was insufficient, that somehow the mind He gave them was not good enough.
This same pride is evident in the thoughts and actions of the Galatians. By believing that there was something they could do to gain salvation, they declared that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was not enough. They believed that God was insufficient, that somehow the sacrifice He gave them was not good enough. Through that belief, they said that they were equal to God because they too could contribute to the act of salvation.
Pride is something I struggle with, as well. Very often, I wrongly take credit for my intelligence, falsely believing that it is something that I have cultivated over the years. To the contrary, my brain—and everything else, for that matter—comes from God. On occasion I stand unabashedly in the limelight and take full credit for my accomplishments. By not acknowledging God’s tremendous influence on my successes, as well as the gifts He has given me in my body and mind, I take from Him the glory that He deserves. Humility, the recognition of our lack of worth and ability before God, glorifies God by giving Him due credit for His work in our lives.
So does thankfulness. Paul said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). This does not necessarily mean that we should sing God’s praises at every meal. By referencing the trivial acts of eating and drinking, Paul exhorts us to worship God for His sovereignty and influence over every part of our lives. Even down to these menial acts, praise Him for His control over all. Paul refers to two actions that are necessary for our continued living; thank God for His continual provision. God controls every aspect of our lives and He provides for us. Understanding how helpless we are compared to God fosters thankfulness and worship in every aspect of our lives, down to the trivial, and this ultimately glorifies God.
God is due all the glory because He has all the power and the most outstanding example of love and grace. The Galatians did not recognize that their shift toward legalism took from His glory, though their insistence on their own works for salvation represented God as less than He is. The more we understand His character, the more we will understand why He deserves all the glory. Seek to understand the cross more fully, to experience its love more deeply, that you may give all the more glory to God.