Galatians 1:1-5 & 1 Corinthians 1:23-24
From the Reformer
St. John concludes from the works attributed to the Father and the Son that they are divinely One. Hence, the gifts which we receive from the Father and from the Son are one and the same. Otherwise Paul should have written: “Grace from God the Father, and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ.” In combining them he ascribes them equally to the Father and the Son. I stress this on account of the many errors emanating from the sects.
The Arians were sharp fellows. Admitting that Christ had two natures, and that He is called “very God of very God,” they were yet able to deny His divinity. The Arians took Christ for a noble and perfect creature, superior even to the angels, because by Him God created heaven and earth. Mohammed also speaks highly of Christ. But all their praise is mere palaver to deceive men. Paul’s language is different. To paraphrase him: “You are established in this belief that Christ is very God because He gives grace and peace, gifts which only God can create and bestow.”
—Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians
Pulling It Together
Why is it so important to believe that the Christ is “very God of very God” as the old creed states. There are many reasons but the one that Paul and Martin deal with here is that only the Savior God, Jesus, is able to dispense grace and peace. For Paul, these two gifts of God are critical for fallen humanity. We need peace to live with ourselves. We let God and ourselves down so often that without peace, we would eventually lose heart. That kind of peace is only generated by grace. We do not speak here of someone who is able to steel himself and press on after every increasing failure because he wants to be religious. We are thinking of the person who has fallen into despair over their sins and cannot go on. Only when this desperate person receives grace from God can she press on and that is because such grace provides peace or space in her soul for a loving God. Before, her soul was possessed only with thoughts of self or worse, an angry God.
Only God provides such gracious peace. It does not come through the Church, or the apostles, or a pope, or a priest, or a pastor, or any other agent of God (including a less than divine son). Nor does peace come from your devotional life or your good works. Grace and therefore peace come from God alone. Anything less is not authentic grace because it does not come from God.