The Reluctant Puritan Bible Study

I’ve decided to post notes from my personal Bible study here at The Reluctant Puritan. The purpose here is twofold. One I would like to potentially engage your thoughts and comments, and two, knowing that I am committed to posting (approximately) each week will help keep me accountable in this study.

I have chosen to start with Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Let me first say that I am not a pastor or theologian. And my goal in this is not to teach as much as to learn. I will be recording my thoughts and questions here as I go through the book each week. I encourage comments, but as I mentioned, if there is not a lot of interest in interaction, I will continue to chronicle my thoughts.

I will be using several sources as reference materials. Primarily I will be using Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians, John MacArthur’s commentary on Galatians, and John MacArthur’s Galatians Bible Study guide.

Before beginning with a verse by verse study of the book, I would like to examine briefly Paul’s reason for writing this letter. It is written to combat false teaching that had taken hold in the churches in Galatia.

John MacArthur summarizes as follows:

The Judaizers were causing great confusion in the churches and were seriously distorting “the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:8). They taught that Gentiles must become Jews by circumcision before they could become Christians and that all Christians, Jewish and Gentile alike, were righteous before God only if they remained bound under the Mosaic laws, regulations, and ceremonies (see 2:3–5, 11–14; 3:3–5; 4:8–11, 21–31, 5:1–4; 6:12–13). This danger had probably threatened the churches even while Paul was in Galatia, and it doubtlessly intensified after he left. “As we have said before, so I say again now” the apostle reminded believers there, “if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9; cf. vv. 6–8). (MacArthur, J. (1996, c1987). Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press.)

With that as background, let’s look at verses 1 and 2.

1 Paul, an apostle not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead 2 and all the brothers who are with me, To the churches of Galatia: (ESV)

In the first verse, we read that Paul calls himself an apostle. Further, he indicates that he was not appointed by men, but through Jesus. My first question here would be, “What is an apostle, and what does Paul mean when he calls himself one?”

Apostle is a transliteration of the Greek word apostolos which means a messenger, or one who is sent on a mission. MacArthur’s commentary details two types of apostles mentioned in the New Testament. First, the Twelve disciples and Paul are referred to as “apostles of Jesus Christ.” The are others such as Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and others were also referred to as apostles, but as “apostles of the Church.”

Paul appears to associate himself with the smaller group of apostles, the “apostles of Jesus Christ.” The second question that occurs to me is, “by what authority does Paul claim this special status?”

My thought and understanding is that this calling of Paul’s was that is was a witness to the risen Christ and that Jesus called him directly to be an apostle. Whereas others such as Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, et al were appointed by the church. Any other thoughts?

Also in verse one, Paul says that he was not called for men or through men, but through Jesus and God the Father. Why does he need to make this point?

Paul needs to differentiate himself from the false teachers that are present in Galatia. He points to his divine calling as proof of his authority.

So I’ve only gotten through two verses (actually only one). In the interest of maintaining a certain amount of brevity on my posts, we will stop here. I have a feeling that I’ll be parked in Galations for quite awhile. As time goes by, I hope to be a bit more focused in these notes, and I really do hope that some of you will join in. I really am looking forward to learning more about this great Epistle.

soli Deo gloria

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