Recently, I spent nine weeks teaching through the book of Galatians to a small group of people who had never studied it before. I had created my own outline for the book first, but then took advantage of a number of commentaries to help me work through the text. I was fascinated by the similarities found between Paul’s letter to the Galatians and his much longer and more detailed letter, Romans. This study taught us all a great deal about God’s grace which is extended to all and about the dangers of legalism that still noses its way into churches around the world. Three commentaries that I found particularly helpful were the following:
The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians by Scot McKnight (1995)
As in all piece to this fantastic series, this book is organized in a chunk-by-chunk way. McKnight first records the passage to be discussed, then delves into its Original Meaning, before Bridging the Context, and finally discussing that passage’s Contemporary Significance. While I found the application section helpful at times, I discovered overall that I did not cover the same applications as he did, at least not as much as I had anticipated. Part of the reason for this is that McKnight’s book is written obviously for an English-speaking, Western audience, and my audience does not fit this profile. Thus, I found the first two sections most helpful and had to use my own wisdom in drawing culturally significant applications for my own unique audience.
The New Testament Commentary: Galatians by R. Alan Cole (2008)
This series follows a much different format than The NIV Application Commentaries, for instead of working through a passage chunk-by-chunk, they work verse by verse. I find this format particularly helpful in my own studies, for oftentimes I’ve already worked through the passage extensively and have a good grasp of the historical and literary contexts, so that I don’t so much contextual help as I do textual. Cole focuses a bit more heavily on the original languages behind the English interpretations, which is where I often need the most help. My Greek is sketchy at best, so sometimes I need to be led by the hand through the importance of “why this word and not that.” Cole does provide short introductory paragraphs to each section that serve as signposts for context and theme, but for the most part he builds his case within the verse notes. I think that if a person were to read through Galatians three or four times first and then to read through this Commentary in its entirety, they would walk away virtually fluent in the message and meaning of Galatians.
Be Free (Galatians): Exchange Legalism for True Spirituality
by Warren Wiersbe (2009)
This book has the feel of a father teaching his way through the book of Galatians. I’d compare it almost to a Sunday School class as they work through a Bible study, lacking the fire-and-brimstone that might be present in a sermon as well as the deep theological sinew of a career exegete. It’s simple to read, highly enlightening, and certainly worthy of the description “devotional commentary.” I would recommend a similar personal Bible study approach as I recommended with Cole’s book, though with perhaps a slightly different outcome: read Galatians three or four times and then this book in its entirety, and you’ll walk away with a very strong familiarity with the meaning and message of Galatians.