§1 Identification of the Senders and the Addressees and a Wish for Grace and Peace (Gal. 1:1–5)
1:1 / As in all of his letters Paul begins by identifying himself as the sender. In ancient times a letter typically began with the writer's self-identification, and the opening commonly continued by naming the addressees and wishing them good health.
In Paul's letters, this typical wish is replaced by a wish for grace and peace. In the opening of Paul's letter to the Galatian churches, as in most of his other letters, Paul identifies himself as an apostle (cf. Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; and, if Pauline authorship is accepted, Eph. 1:1 and Col. 1:1). In Galatians Paul places his name in direct relation to his self-designation as apostle and then immediately goes on to qualify what kind of apostle he is. Often at the beginning of a letter Paul qualifies his apostleship as being by the will of God. In Galatians Paul makes a similar point in a particularly graphic and emphatic way, by describing the means by which he became an apostle and the identity of the one who called him: the source of his life's work is Jesus Christ and God the Father. And so Paul stresses that he is an apostle sent not from men nor by man. Paul's inclusion of both the plural and singular emphasizes that his apostleship did not originate from either a human group or an individual.
Paul represents himself to the Galatian churches as an apostle who acts on the highest authority, that of the risen Jesus Christ and God the Father. Among Paul's letters, the emphasis that divine authority undergirds his apostleship is most pronounced in his Galatian letter, even in contrast to Romans, where Paul also takes pains to underscore his apostleship (Rom. 1:1–6). In Galatians he is concerned to present himself as one whose apostolic function has divine authentication. Paul is sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father—by those whose authority and power the Galatian believers have already accepted.
In Galatians, unlike the other letter openings, Paul says that the one who called him is not only God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1) but also Jesus Christ. This unusual reference to Jesus Christ in connection with the authentication of his apostleship suggests that Paul wants to prove to his readers that he has the authority to preach the gospel of Christ (cf. 1:7) to them and to shape their life of faith in accordance with that gospel. Paul maintains a focus on Jesus Christ in the following verses which continues to function to validate his apostleship. Furthermore, Paul's description of the one who called him— God the Father, who raised [Jesus] from the dead—stands out from Paul's other letter openings. Here Paul appeals to the current faith of the Galatians who worship God as Father (cf. 1:3 and 4:6) and believe that he raised Jesus. Throughout this letter Paul speaks little about the resurrected Jesus Christ, stressing instead that Jesus Christ is the crucified one. The reference to Christ's resurrection is to an aspect of the faith that Paul knows his hearers are convinced of. The one who sends Paul to preach is the one who has the highest authority in the Galatian community—God the Father who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
God was spoken of as a "Father" in both the Greek world in which Paul missionized (Zeus was referred to as "father") and the Jewish thought world that shaped his gospel (e.g., Isa. 63:16; Jer. 3:4; 31:9). Thus, the apostle seems to have found it a particularly useful appellation for God. He uses it in all of his opening addresses, usually in the context of his wish for peace (e.g., 2 Thess. 1:2; Phil. 1:2). At times Paul refers to the fatherhood of God in relation to Jesus (e.g., Rom. 15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31), but in this case, since 1:3 refers to God as "our father," it appears that Paul means God as the father of those who believe in Jesus Christ. The emphasis on God as father at the opening of the letter (1:1, 3–4) signals that one of the concerns Paul will address is that of inheritance and sonship (3:15–4:7).