2. Strategic Teaching Point – eg. Galatians 1:3-5
This is not the whole of Paul’s opening, it is just the grace and peace greeting. But it could be preached as a gateway into Galatians. If the point he is underlining here is made strongly, it sets up questions over his authority (go back to verse 1, or leave until next time and connect that with the biographical sections that follow at the end of chapter 1 and start of chapter 2), and questions over their move from this gospel (move on into verse 6 and following, or leave that until next time). Interestingly, with the explosive content that follows, I suspect many readers miss the greeting, but notice what Paul says and doesn’t say:
He builds on the giving grace of the God with a Trinitarian reference to God the Father and Jesus Christ. But don’t miss that this God is referred to as “our Father.” Christ is the self-giving solution to our sin problem and Christ delivers, rescues, saves us from an evil world (Paul is not going light on sin!) This rescue mission of Jesus is the plan and desire of the God who is now our Father, and it is all about Him, He gets the glory as we respond to this truth.
But notice what is missing. The gospel is surveyed and it is all about God and the work of Christ. There is no reference to our commitment, our diligence, our law-keeping, our fleshly efforts to be godly, etc. Yet how easily we will corrupt the glorious grace of the gospel into something about us. And that is the issue Paul will chase from verse 6 . . .
3. Biographical Instruction
Following the greeting and gratitude, many epistles will include a biographical section setting the scene for the letter. Again, Paul tends to use this as an instructional opportunity. As preachers let’s not skim this section either. These sections allow us to establish epistles in a narrative setting, which has numerous benefits for a series of messages. Here are a couple of examples:
* Galatians – After the explosive opening, Paul addresses the two critiques against his ministry by using biographical instruction. First, that he is not a full Apostle (Galatians 1:11-24) Second, that his is not the full Gospel, he is not preaching the whole truth (2:1-10).
* Philippians – Paul really takes advantage of his situational info to teach some key truths in 1:12-26, which then leads into the main proposition of the epistle for the final verses of chapter 1.
* 1 Thessalonians – Notice that Paul’s biographical section extends to the end of chapter 3! The main body of the letter doesn’t arrive until the fourth chapter . . .