2. The Evil Age
The letter of Paul to the Galatians is one of both concern and hope. At the start of the book, he first greets the ecclesias in Galatia,
Galatians 1:3.: Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4. who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5. to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. NKJV
This is a greeting of hope, speaking of the hope offered though the death and resurrection of Jesus. In particular, Paul is looking at their deliverance from “this present evil age.”
Deliverance from from the evil age, of course, implies that there was something wrong with world at that time. From a historic point of view there is some difficulty in comparing the world of the first century to that of the late 20th century. Both periods have their obvious problems - with wars and oppression in various parts of the world. These wars and oppression, though, are really only symptoms of the evil of the age. The true evil is the attitudes of people that cause these things.
Even the most respectable and esteemed society can be based on the principles of an evil age. One example is in the time of prohibition in America. During that period, many of the wealthy and honoured citizens had based their wealth on the illicit supply of alcohol. In many parts of the society, these backgrounds were known and tacitly accepted. In some others, the backgrounds were known and wholeheartedly approved. A society that to many was glamorous, respectable, exciting and fun, was to others - including the law - an evil society.
The people accepting the distribution of bootleg alcohol were still inherently the same type of people as the “law abiding” citizens of the time. What was different is that they had chosen to accept a different set of values. One part of the society saw the bootleggers as being evil, while another saw the law-enforcement officers as being evil.
Consider now what the average citizen (if such a thing existed) would think. With no history to the time, and without an implicit trust in the 1920's American government, the average citizen would have trouble working out who was evil and who was not. On one side, there is the glamour of the wealthy society, and on the other the respectability of a uniform. There is a problem here, because it is no longer clear what is good and what is bad.
Another example of confusion between good and evil occurs with the scribes and Pharisees. The Pharaisees were highly respected religious leaders of the time. They were considered by many to be the true representatives of God. But then the man we call Jesus came along and started criticising them. To many people this would have appeared uncalled for. One example of the interaction between Jesus and the Pharisees is in Matt 23:27.
Matt 23:27.: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28. "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. NKJV
In this passage, Jesus attacked the nature of the true character of the Pharisees. He claimed that their outside appearance was a deception, using the example of a painted tomb. The image is one of a grand and beautiful tomb, which people look at, appreciate and like. The tomb, however, is really just the container of dead men's bones.
In Mark, Jesus claimed that scribes did the things that make them appear respectable and “good”, but it fact they did not represent goodness at all.
Mark 12:38.: Then He said to them in His teaching, "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, 39. "the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, 40. "who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation." NKJV