The word of the day is “deliver.” In our reading of Galatians 1:3-10, St. Paul recounts the mercy of Jesus Christ who sacrificed Himself for our sins (vs. 4). The Apostle writes that Christ “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father” (vs. 4).
The idea of deliverance governs this whole cryptic sentence. Our English translations obscure the relationship between the two forms of deliverance that Paul describes in this passage. Reduced to its basic structure, however, Paul teaches that Christ delivered Himself that we might be delivered.
“To Deliver” Meaning “To Hand On”
The Orthodox Study Bible reads that Christ “gave Himself for our sins” (vs.4). However, the usage of this term in the Greek original is more precise. It means to “deliver,” “grant,” or “hand on” (Strong’s #1325, 68). For example, when the Lord blessed the loaves at the feeding of the Five Thousand, he “delivered” or “handed them on” to his disciples to give to the multitude (Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16). In the same way, the Lord took bread at the Last Supper and said, “This is my body which is given for you” (Mark 14:22; Luke 22:1 ). That is, he “delivered” or “handed on” His holy and precious Body for distribution to the disciples. But at the same time, what the Lord distributed to the disciples was the holy Body that he was to deliver on the cross. In the Book of Titus, the Apostle uses the same Greek term when he refers to Jesus Christ “who gave Himself for us” (Titus 2:4).
“To Deliver” Meaning “To Hand Over”
Yet, there is an even more specific sense of the Lord’s deliverance in the New Testament. In addition to the simple word “deliver,” the Apostle often uses a more complex term that combines the sense of being “delivered “or “handed on” with the idea of being “handed over” (Strong’s #3860, 189). Thus when the Lord speaks of His Passion, He does not simply say that he is being “betrayed” (OSB Mark 9:31). He announces that the “Son of Man must be “delivered” in the sense of being “handed over” to sinful men (Mark 9:31). The Lord says the same in the Garden when Judas arrives with a mob to betray him (Mark 14:43).
“To Deliver” Meaning “To Rescue”
Yet, we find another kind of deliverance in this reading. The Orthodox Study Bible reads that the Lord gave Himself to “deliver us from this present evil age” (vs. 4). The Greek term for “deliver” here comes from the root of “to take out.” It expresses the thought of “plucking out” or “rescuing from danger.”
Paul views the present time as “evil” in the light of the hope of the Second Coming of Christ. In the Greek original, the thought was that this current time is not inherently evil. But it is filled with evil influences, trials, and hardships (Strong’s#4190, 207). When He returns, Christ will “pluck us out” of the world, a world that is subject to corruption, temptation, and the wiles of the devil. But for now, the Almighty has not taken us out of this present age. He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual weapons of warfare against the “strongholds of evil” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Our rescue from the trials of this present age is the result of Christ’s work. But note that the Lord’s work of mercy was “for our sins.” Our study of the text’s vocabulary shows that Christ’s “deliverance” on the cross was a sacrifice on account of our sins. It fulfilled the sin and trespass sacrifices of the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 4:1-7:10).
The Lord Gave Himself as a Sacrificial Offering
The Book of Leviticus prescribes how priests should offer burnt offerings to the Lord. This Old Testament writing commands the way the animal is to be slain and prepared. Then, it says, “The priest shall then put all of it on the altar as a burnt offering, a sacrifice for a sweet aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:9). Paul states that Jesus Christ conformed to this pattern of sacrifice. He writes, “…Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us as an offering and a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 5:2). The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) and the Greek New Testament use the same word for “offering.” The term refers to a gift offered to God (Strong’s #2378, 118) by means of sacrifice (Strong’s #4376, 215), that is, ritual slaughter.
According to Hebrews, Jesus Christ is the perfect and sinless High Priest who fulfilled the Old Testament laws of sacrifice. The Lord offered the once-for-all, holy, and perfect sacrifice when He “offered up Himself” on the cross (Hebrews 7:27). Paul uses forms of the word “delivered” to speak about this self-offering of Christ. He says that the Lord “was “delivered up” because of our offenses” (Romans 4:25). Likewise, the Apostle proclaims that God “spared not his own Son but delivered Him up for us all (Romans 8:12). Furthermore, he “gave Himself, that is he “delivered Himself, as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 1:7).
Christ delivered Himself up as the final and complete sacrifice to God so that we might be delivered from the evil in this present world. When he comes again, the Lord will deliver us into His everlasting Kingdom, where He will reign in truth, goodness, and love forever.
We should be grateful for all that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us in this world. And we are bound to give thanks for all that the Lord has promised us in the world to come. But most of all, we must give Him thanks and praise that He has given Himself up as a sacrifice for our forgiveness and salvation. The Divine Liturgy profoundly expresses the key idea of our reading, the Lord’s offering of Himself. We hear it in the priestly proclamation: “…in the night in which he was given up—or rather gave Himself up for the life of the world…” (St-Tikhon’s 1984, 66).
St-Tikhon’s. 1984. Service Books of the Orthodox Church. Third ed. South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press.