Bible Reading Plan

Being connected to God is important. Diving into the Word daily is a great way to ensure that you are continually developing a relationship with your creator. Join us as we read through the Bible.

This is a Two-Year Bible Reading Plan.  We are currently in Year 1 of the Study.  
 
A prayer for when you read the Scriptures:
 

“Take away, O Lord, the veil of my heart while I read the Scriptures.  Blessed art thou, O Lord:  O teach me thy statutes!  Give me a word, O Word of the Father: touch my heart:  enlighten the understandings of my heart:  open my lips and fill them with thy praise.”

-Lancelot Andrewes (1755-1626), quoted in the Oxford Book of Prayer, 285

November
 
 

1 2 Sam. 21; Acts 13:42 – 52

2 2 Sam. 22; Acts 14:1 – 7

3 2 Sam. 23; Acts 14:8 – 20

4 2 Sam. 24; Acts 14:21 – 28

5 Psalms 1 – 4; James 1:1 – 11

6 Psalms 5 – 7; James 1:12 – 27

7 Psalms 8 – 10; James 2:1 – 13

8 Psalms 11 – 14; James 2:14 – 26

9 Psalms 15 – 17; James 3:1 – 12

10 Psalm 18; James 3:13 – 18

11 Psalms 19 – 21; James 4:1 – 10

12 Psalms 22, 23; James 4:11 – 17

13 Psalms 24 – 26; James 5:1 – 12
 
14 Psalms 27 – 29; James 5:13 – 20

 

15 Psalms 30 – 32; Gal. 1:1 – 10

 

 

 
 
 

16 Psalms 33, 34; Gal. 1:11 – 24

17 Psalms 35, 36; Gal. 2:1 – 10

18 Psalm 37; Gal. 2: 11 – 21

19 Psalms 38, 39; Gal. 3:1 – 14

20 Psalms 40 – 42; Gal. 3:15 – 20

21 Psalms 43 – 45; Gal. 3:21 – 29

22 Psalms 46 – 48; Gal. 4:1 – 7

23 Psalms 49, 50; Gal. 4:8 – 20

24 Psalms 51 – 54; Gal. 4:21 – 31

25 Psalms 55, 56; Gal. 5:1 – 12

26 Psalms 57 – 59; Gal. 5:13 – 26

27 Psalms 60 – 62; Gal. 6:1 – 10

28 Psalms 63 – 65; Gal. 6:11 – 18

29 Psalms 66, 67; Acts 15:1 – 11

30 Psalm 68; Acts 15:12 – 21

 

 

 

 

 

November 19-25

Below are some questions and study notes to help you in your reading.

 

Psalms 38-39

 

Psalm 38 is the prayer of a sick individual.  As a result of his illness, he confronts the sin in his life (whether he is actually being judged by God for his sin or feels judged is hard to say).  This psalm has been labeled as one of the seven “penitential psalms” by the church along with Psalms 6, 32, 51, 102, 130, and 143.  The NIV Study Bible suggests that the psalm is composed of five stanzas of four verses each, with a two-verse conclusion.  Peter C. Craigie (Psalms 1-50 .  WBC 19 (Waco, TX:  Word Books, 1983), 303f.) divides the psalm more or less into two halves with an opening (v. 1) and a conclusion (v. 22).

 

Title:  The NIV’s “a petition” is literally “to bring to remembrance.”  The same title is used for Psalm 70.

 

38.1.  An opening cry to the Lord. 

 

38.2.  Immediately, the psalmist addresses what he perceives to be the Lord’s judgment in his illness.

 

38.3-8.  Note the three-fold repetition of “because” (3a; 3b; 8).  As noted above, the psalmist attributes the illness to the Lord’s judgment of his sin.  Have you ever suffered from an illness which caused you to reflect upon your life?  Did you make any changes as a result?

            The repetition of the word “flesh” in verses 3 and 7 and other references may suggest that the psalmist’s illness was “dermatological” in nature.

 

38.9.  The psalmist cannot hide from his “Lord.”  Notice that the English translations do not place the word for “Lord” in “small caps” indicating that the Hebrew word is not Yahweh (the covenant name which God gave Moses at the burning bush).  Rather, it’s the word Adonai.

 

38.11-20.  Those around the psalmist respond to his illness. 

38.11.  Physical suffering can cause others around us to “keep their distance” (v. 11).  Sometimes, the distance is created by a fear of infection; most times, the distance is created because of the psychological difficulties caused by being around those who are ill. 

 

38.12, 19-20.  There are those around the psalmist who are endeavoring to “take advantage” of his illness.

 

38.13-14.  Contrary to those in verse 12 who talk of my ruin, the psalmist does not hear and does not speak.

 

38.15-16.  Instead of responding to those who would do him harm, the psalmist “waits” for and “prays” to the Lord his “Lord” (both Yahweh and Adonai are used here).

 

38.17-18.  The psalmist’s attitude is one of repentance.

 

38.21-22.  A concluding call for help.  Compare the parallels to Psalm 22.1, 11, 20.

 

Psalm 39 reflects on the transitory nature of life.  White (R. E. O. White, “Psalms,” Evangelical Commentary on the Bible

, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989), 380) views it as “possibly a funeral hymn, expressing with great honesty the difficulty of submitting to the imminent end.”

 

Title:  Jeduthan was appointed by David to lead public worship (1 Chronicles 16.41; 25.1-3).

 

39.1-3.  The psalmist endeavors to remain silent concerning the difficulties in life but he cannot.

 

39.4-6.  He prays to the Lord to be reminded of the brevity of life.  “This seems to be a deliberate act of facing unwelcome facts as God’s facts, and seeing them as He sees them” (Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, TOTC.  (Downer’s Grove, IL:  IVP, 1973), 156).

            “The ‘handbreadth’ (1 Kings 7.26; the measurement was that of four fingers, Jeremiah 52.21) was one of the smallest measures in the Hebrew system of measuring, so that the metaphor reduces the span of human life to something tiny from the perspective of God” (Craigie, 309).

 

39.7-11.  The psalmist prays.  “Certain themes here make this psalm a companion to Psalm 38, themes expressed in the words, My hope (v. 7, a kindred word to ‘wait,’ 38.15); I am (silent) (v. 9; cf. 38.13); and thy stroke  (NIV—“your scourge”)(v. 10; the same word as ‘plague’, 38.11)” (Kidner, 157).

 

39.12-13.  A final prayer and reflection on the nature of life.  We are strangers and sojourners  (NASB).  Compare the use of this imagery in Hebrews 11.13 and 1 Peter 2.11.

 

Psalms 40-42

 

Some see in  Psalm 40  two psalms brought together into one while others argue for its original unity.  Regardless, the psalm divides into two major sections:  thanksgiving for a past deliverance (vv. 1-10) and a cry for help for a second deliverance.
 

40.1-3 .  The psalmist waited patiently and his prayers were answered.  How patiently do you wait? 

           

40.2.  Not only is he brought out of “the pit” and “the miry bog” but his feet are placed upon “a rock.”

 

40.4-5.  Picking up the theme of “trust” from verse 3, the psalmist reflects on the faithfulness and goodness of the Lord. 

           

40.5.  “The past is full of (the Lord’s) miracles (wondrous deeds), the future full of His plans” (Kidner, 159).  Cf. 139.13-18.

 

40.6-8.  The Lord does not desire various offerings as much as a desire to do his will.  Cf. Psalm 51.17; Micah 6.6-8.  These verses are quoted in Hebrews 10.5-10 and applied to Christ whose sacrifice was “once for all.”

 

40.9-10.  The response to deliverance (salvation) is praise and witness.  Cf. Psalm 35.18.

 

40.11-12.  Picking up the covenant words of “steadfast love” (hesed) and “faithfulness” (emeth) from verse 10, the psalmist calls out to the Lord concerning a new situation caused by troubles without and sins  within.

            “hairs of my head” cf. Matthew 10.30/Luke 12.7.

 

40.13-17.  With a few minor changes, these verses are repeated as Psalm 70.

           

40.13-15.  Deliverance from the “troubles” without, namely his opponents.

           

40.16-17.  The psalmist focuses on the Lord’s glory before uttering another request for himself.  This is the order of the prayer that Jesus taught (Matthew 6.9-13). 

 

Craigie (318) calls Psalm 41  “A Liturgy for the Sick.” 

 

41.1-3.  “Six forms of blessedness are assured to the man who is concerned for the ‘poor—weak—helpless (the Hebrew term is comprehensive)” (White, 380).  If a “liturgy” (see Craigie), these verses represent the words of the priest.

41.4-10.  The Psalmist turns to his own need (or the individual in the liturgy prays).  “He will get more mercy (4, 10) from God whom he has wronged than from the friend he has helped (9)” (Kidner, 162).

           

41.9.  Quoted by Jesus in John 13.18.

 

41.11-12.  The psalmist acknowledges his vindication by the Lord.

 

41.13.  A fitting conclusion to “Book 1” of Psalms (cf. 72.18-19; 89.52; 106.48; 146.1-6).

 

Psalm 42 begins Book 2 of the Psalms “which are brought together” (in Book 2) “from various sources” (Kidner, 165)  Psalms 42-49 are attributed to “the Sons of Korah” who were temple musicians.  Psalms 42 and 43

were most-likely written as one psalm.  They were enumerated as two psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint). 

 

42.1-3

.  An expression of deep desire for God.  How do you quench your thirst for God?  Cf. Joel 1.20 for a similar imagery of animals during a drought.

 

42.4-5

.  The psalmist is saddened by his remembrance of previous trips to the temple for he is unable to go and worship in community (perhaps due to illness or possibly exile—but see note below concerning verses 6-8).  Yet, he tells his soul to hope (a refrain repeated in 42.11 and 43.5).

 

42.6-8.  The psalmist remembers the Lord from the region of the Upper Jordan.  The rushing waters of the upper Jordan mirror his experience.

 

42.9-11.  The psalmist feels utterly forgotten by God but, again, he will hope.  Reflect on how we can hope when we feel forgotten.

 

Psalms 43-45

 

Psalm 43 continues Psalm 42 (see the note above).  “When the psalmist stops speaking to himself (Psalm 42) and addresses his words to God (Psalm 43), the beginning of his deliverance is in sight” (Craigie, 329).

           

43.1.  The psalmist calls for vindication

           

43.2.  The verse parallels 42.9.

           

43.3-4.  The psalmist seeks guidance back to the temple (cf. 42.4).

 

           

43.5.  The psalm ends with the refrain of 42.5 and 11 repeated.  Ultimately, whatever life’s circumstances, our hope is in God.

 

Psalm 44 is a psalm written in the midst of national defeat. 

 

44.1-8.  The psalmist remembers past victories.  The victories were not due to “their sword or their arm (v. 3) or “my bow or my sword” (v. 6).  Rather, the victory was given by God.

 

44.9-16.  The nation has been defeated and put to shame. 

 

44.17-22.  The psalmist protests the nation’s innocence.  “But the crux is in verse 22, with the phrase for thy sake.  The psalm does not develop it, but it implies the revolutionary thought that suffering may be a battle-scar rather than a punishment; the price of loyalty in world which is at war with God…So Paul quotes verse 22 not with the despair of the ‘more than defeated,’ but with conviction that ‘in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ (Romans 8.36f.)” (Kidner, 170).

 

44.23-26.  A final call for help to the Lord to act which is rooted in Israel’s covenant relationship with the Lord and the Lord’s “unfailing love” (hesed).

 

Psalm 45 is a psalm written for a royal wedding.

 

45.1.  The prologue:  “This is one of the rare occasions when a psalmist allows us a glimpse of the process of composition” (Kidner, 171).

 

45.2-8.  The Groom (the King) is addressed and celebrated.  “It is the king’s royal attributes and divinely approved functions which give rise to such celebration” (Craigie, 339).

           

45.2.  The first attributes of the king celebrated are his lips “anointed with grace.”

           

45.3-7.  “The royal attributes combine the military role and prowess of the king with the just causes for which he must fight” (Craigie, 339).  Verses 6 and 7 are quoted in Hebrews 1.8-9 and ascribed to Christ.

 

45.9-15.  The bride is addressed and celebrated.

           

45.9 is read by some interpreters as completing the address to the king and by others as addressed to the bride.  Ophir

           

45.10-12.  The bride is addressed directly and encouraged to forget her past life and honor her husband.  Her new life will be marked by gifts and influence.

           

45.13-15.  The glory of the bridal party and the procession.

 

45.16-17.  The Hebrew makes clear that these final words of the psalm are addressed to the king.  His dynasty will be assured and his memory continued.  Such a description foreshadows the Christ, the perfect King.

 

Psalms 46-48

 

Psalm 46 was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

 

46.1-3.  In the tumult of life, God is a refuge, a shelter, even when the immovable earth and mountains move.  Craigie (344) identifies the point as “God’s protection in natural catastrophes.”

 

46.4-7.  Though there is no river which flows through Jerusalem (unlike other ancient cities such as Babylon), there is a river which flows figuratively, God’s protection.  In the midst of “international catastrophes” (Craigie, 344), God is protecting Jerusalem and her people.

 

46.8-11.  The response of God’s people in the midst of catastrophe is “to behold the works of the Lord” and “be still and know that the Lord is God.”  “To know that God is God is to know his Lordship of nature and history, and therefore to be aware of his total capacity as Protector” (Craigie, 345).

 

Psalm 47.  “From the first word to the last, this communicates the excitement and jubilation of an enthronement; and the king is God himself” (Kidner, 177).

 

47.1.  A call to praise.

 

47.2-4.  A recognition of the Lord’s victories for and goodness to the people of Israel.  What “victories” has the Lord granted you?

 

47.5-7.  “God is pictured here ascending His earthly throne…” (Kidner, 178).  This psalm may have been associated with a procession including the ark of the covenant.  For “shout,” cf. 2 Samuel 6.5.

 

47.8-9.  In the ancient world, each nation had its own God/gods.  The psalmist’s faith (and ours) is that God is king over all the nations.

 

Psalm 48 is a “hymn of Zion” (Craigie, 350) with several parallels to Psalm 46.

 

48.1.  For “city of God,” cf. 46.4.

 

48.2-3.  “ The beauty of the mountain…is associated primarily with its religious significance as the place where God may be known and experienced in a particular and direct fashion” (Craigie, 353).  “Zaphon” in the far north (the Hebrew word meant “north”) was the sacred residence of El, the chief god of the Phoenicians (NIV Study Bible).

 

48.4-8.  “Zion” is safe from enemy attack.  For the reference to “the east winds,” cf. Ezekiel 27.26. 

 

48.9-11.  The congregation addresses their words of praise to God directly.  The meditation on God’s “unfailing love” begins in the temple while their praise reaches “to the ends of the earth.”

 

48.12-14.  The worshippers are to proceed around the city, capturing what they see in their minds so that they “may tell them of them to the next generation.”  The walls of the city are a reminder that Israel’s true strength is not the city but “God” who is “our God for ever and ever.”

 

Psalms 49-50

 

Psalm 49 shares much with “the wisdom literature” of the Old Testament, especially the book of Proverbs.  Cf. Psalm 37.

 

49.1-4.  The psalmist speaks wisdom to all “peoples” and not just the people of Israel.

 

49.5-9.  Why fear the rich?  The rich person’s wealth will not keep him (or her) from the grave.

 

49.10-12.  “Verse 10 gives merciless clarity to the fact that the answer to the question ‘How much did he leave?’ is ‘Everything’” (Kidner, 183).  The exception is found in verse 11:  the rich’s only “possession” is his grave.

 

49.13-14.  Those who trust in themselves will ultimately find the grave.

 

49.15.  Craigie (360) views these words as the “imaginary words of self-confidence of the wealthy.  Most commentators consulted see them as the words of the psalmist who states his hope of redemption from the grave.

 

49.16-19.  Once again, the theme of the inevitable death of the wealthy is enunciated.

 

49.20.  Compare the statement in verse 12.  What matters is not riches but wisdom.

 

Psalm 50may have had its origin in a “covenant renewal ceremony” in Israel.  In any case, it is addressed to the people of God, Israel (in contrast with Psalm 49 which is addressed to “all peoples”).

 

50.1-6.  “God lays a double charge against Israel before a world court, summoned before him as Judge in Zion, in the presence of heaven earth as witnesses” (White, 381).  Note the use of three names for God in verse 1.

 

50.7-13.  God has no need of sacrifices as “if he were running short of provisions” (Craigie, 366)! 

 

50.14-15.  The purpose of sacrifice was to acknowledge one’s dependence on the Lord and to express thanks to him. 

 

50.16-23.  The wicked, those who are not keeping the covenant, are addressed. 

           

50.16-18.  The wicked reject the Lord’s instruction; the focus is on the seventh through the ninth commandments.

           

50.19-20.  Note the emphasis on the wicked’s use of the tongue.  Cf. James 3.1-12.

           

50.22-23.  Summary statements regarding the wicked and those who sacrifice appropriately.

 

Psalms 51-54

 

Psalm 51 been labeled as one of the seven “penitential psalms” by the church along with Psalms 6, 32, 38, 102, 130, and 143.  Of the seven, it is easily the best-known.  The title ascribes it to David “after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (cf. 2 Samuel 11-12).

 

51.1-2.  A request for mercy based which finds its basis in the character of God, especially in his covenant love (hesed).  How does the character of God help to shape your prayers?

51.3-5.  The psalmist acknowledges his sin (cf. 1 John 1.8-10).

           

51.5.  “An expression of the depth of the sense of sin, not a statement about original sin” (Harper Collins Study Bible).

 

51.6-9.  More than the acknowledgement of sin is necessary.  The psalmist pleads for restoration.

           

51.7.  For “hyssop,” cf. Leviticus 14.6f; Numbers 19.16-19.

           

51.9.  Note the parallel to the first verse.

 

51.10-12.  The psalmist desires not only “restoration” but “inward renewal” (Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, TOTC.  (Downer’s Grove, IL:  IVP, 1973), 192).  In Acts 2.38, baptism is connected both with cleansing (restoration) and “inward renewal” (even more so, the gift of the Holy Spirit).

 

51.13-15.  As with several of the psalms, a relationship with God leads one to witness and praise (cf. 35.28; 40.9-10).

 

51.16-17.  Religious ritual (though appropriate, cf. 50.14) means nothing without a proper spirit (a contrite heart).  Cf. Micah 6.6-8.

 

51.18-19.  These words are a prayer for the larger community very possibly added to the psalm at a later time. 

 

Psalm 52 is addressed to a wicked person.  The incident in David’s life described in the title is found in 1 Samuel 21.1-8; 22.6-19.

 

52.1-4.  The wicked person uses his tongue to lie and plot destruction against the faithful (possibly the poor who cannot defend themselves well in a court).

 

52.5-7.  Judgment is expressed against the wicked who chooses to trust in his wealth rather than God (cf. 49.6).

 

52.8-9.  The psalmist expresses his trust and faith in God.  “The olive is one of the longest-living trees; here the point is doubly reinforced, for he pictures an olive ‘in full sap’ (Weiser), and one that grows in a sacred courtyard where no-one will tamper with it, still less uproot it” (Kidner, 196).

 

Psalm 53 is a repeat of Psalm 14 with a few changes.  One notable difference is that Psalm 14 uses the name Lord (Yahweh) where Psalm 53 uses God (Elohim).  In addition, verse 5 of Psalm 53 differs significantly with what is enumerated as verses 5 and 6 in Psalm 14.  The comments below are adapted from the comments at Psalm 14.

 

53.1-3.  These verses are quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12 to assert humankind’s rebellion against God (cf. 10.4).

           

53.1.  “Fools are the same as the wicked in the wisdom traditions of Israel” (Harper Collins Study Bible).

           

53.4.  Cf. Micah 3.1-3.

53.6.  A final prayer for deliverance to come from Zion.

 

Psalm 54 represents a prayer for vindication and deliverance.  The incident from David’s life in the title is narrated in 1 Samuel 23.19.

 

54.1-3.  The prayer for vindication as the wicked arise against the psalmist.

 

54.4-5.  The psalmist trusts the Lord to deliver him.

 

54.6-7.  The psalmist gives thanks for his deliverance by giving a freewill offering (cf. Exodus 35.29).  The deliverance may have already happened or the psalmist’s trust in the Lord is so strong that he speaks as if the deliverance has already occurred. 

 

Psalms 55-56

 

Psalm 55 is a prayer for help when a friend betrays.

 

55.1-3.  The psalmist calls out to God for help when his enemies assail him.

 

55.4-8.  The psalmist desires to flee from his troubles, to hurry to his refuge.

 

55.9-11.  The prayer is for an experience similar to those in Babel (Genesis 11.9):  “confuse the wicked, confound their words.”  Compare David’s prayer in 2 Samuel 15.31.

55.12-14.  We discover that the psalmist’s enemy is actually a former friend who has betrayed him.  

 

55.15.  “He asks that as his enemies give lodging to evil, so Sheol may give lodging to them” (R. E. O. White, “Psalms,” Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989), 382).

 

55.16-19.  “In driving God’s servant to prayer the enemy has already overreached himself; a fact worth remembering in such a situation” (Kidner, 201).

 

55.20-21.  The psalmist’s betrayer uses manipulative and smooth speech to his advantage. 

55.22-23.  These verses may represent a second “voice” speaking (perhaps a priest).  Though his friends betray him and others attack him, the psalmist can “cast his cares” upon the Lord (Yahweh).  Compare 1 Peter 5.7. 

 

Psalm 56 is another prayer for help when “adversaries pursue” (v. 2).  For the incident listed in the title, see 1 Samuel 21.10-15.

 

56.1-2.  The psalmist’s enemies are closing in on him.

 

56.3.  When afraid, the psalmist trusts!  “Faith is seen here as a deliberate act, in defiance of one’s emotional state” (Kidner, 203).

 

56.4.  The verse becomes a refrain, repeated in verses 10 and 11, and quoted in Psalm 118.6 and Hebrews 13.6.

 

56.5-7.  A description of his enemies and a call to God to act.  In verse 5, note the repeat of the phrase “all day long” which occurs in verses 1 and 2.

 

56.8-9.  God pays close attention to our suffering!  Compare Jesus’ words in Matthew 10.30/Luke 12.7 that “the hairs are on our heads are counted.”

 

56.10-11.  The refrain of verse 4 is repeated with an added parallel phrase referring to the Lord (Yahweh). 

56.11.  Jesus taught his disciples in Matthew 10.28:  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

56.12-13.  The psalmist speaks with full confidence that the Lord will answer (or has answered) his prayer.

 

Galatians 3.1-14

 

3.1.  After setting the stage with his own experience, Paul addresses the Galatians directly (first time since 1.1).  If “Christ had died for nothing” (2.21), surely the Galatians were “foolish” for believing that they had to follow the works of the law in order to be justified.  Perhaps “their uncharacteristic foolishness must be the result of some ‘magical spell’ (as indicated in the sarcastic rhetorical question, ‘Who has bewitched you?’)” (Scott McClelland, “Galatians,” Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989), 1011).

3.2-5.  Paul addresses the Galatian’s own experience.  The Galatians had not received the Spirit by obeying the Law but by believing in Christ.

           

3.3.  Paul repeats the claim concerning the Galatians’ “foolishness” (v. 1), this time in the form of a question.  “The foolishness is…in the folly of embarking on an impossible course which seeks, as its goal, something they have already received” (ibid.)!

           

3.4.  As the footnotes of the major translations note, the word translated as “experienced” by the NIV (2011) can also be translated as “suffered.”  It is impossible to know for sure which meaning Paul had in mind.  If “suffered,” then the Galatians had already faced persecutions for their faith.  The translation does not make any difference in interpreting Paul’s argument. 

           

3.5.  Paul “bookends” the question of verse 2 with this question.  This question is asked from a slightly different perspective:  “not now from the point of view of their receiving the Spirit, but from the point of view of God giving the Spirit” (John Stott, The Message of Galatians, BST (Downer’s Grove, IL:  IVP, 1986), 71).

 

3.6-9.  Paul argues from the experience of Abraham.  (Paul’s) “Judaizing opponents looked to Moses as their teacher. So Paul went centuries further back to Abraham himself” (Stott, 72).

           

3.6.  Paul quotes Genesis 15.6, as he does in Romans 4.3, to demonstrate that Abraham was “counted” as righteous by believing God not by performing works of the Law.  Indeed, Abraham’s “justification” is hundreds of years before the law was instituted under Moses.

           

3.7.  The Galatians were “sons of Abraham by faith.”  It may be that “the Judaizers were telling the Galatian converts that they should become the sons of Abraham by circumcision” (ibid.).

           

3.8-9.   Paul quotes Genesis 12.3 and 18.18, emphasizing, again, Abraham’s “faith” and the faith of the Gentiles.  Compare his argument in Romans 4.16.

 

3.10-14.  “To show the other side of the argument, Paul conducts the Galatians on a review of Scriptures which deal specifically with the fallacy of pleasing God through legal obedience” (McClelland, 1012).

           

3.10.  Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27.26 to demonstrate that one is “cursed” if one does not obey the entire law.

           

3.11.  He quotes Habbakuk 2.4 to demonstrate that the “righteous” do not live by the law buy by faith.  Compare his usage of Habakkuk 2.4 in Romans 1.17.

           

3.12.  He quotes Leviticus 18.5 to demonstrate that “faith excludes law, and law by its very nature excludes faith” (James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary:  Volume 10:  Romans-Galatians.  (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing, 1976), 459).

           

3.13.  By quoting Deuteronomy 21.23, Paul demonstrates that Christ took “the curse” (v. 10) of the law on our behalf by dying on the cross.

           

3.14.  Note the words “in Christ.”  We receive the promise of the Holy Spirit in Christ (cf. Acts 2.33, 38).  “Faith is laying hold of Jesus Christ personally.  There is no merit in it.  It is not another ‘work’.  Its value is not in itself, but entirely in its object, Jesus Christ” (Stott, 82).

 

Galatians 3.15-20

 

In these verses, Paul plays on the fact that the Greek (diatheke) which was used to translate the Hebrew word for covenant (berith) was also the Greek word for “will.” 

 

3.15.  “Like other legal documents, testaments or ‘wills’ were sealed so they could not be altered.  In Greek law, wills were irrevocable; one could not impose new conditions or remove an heir, even if one added a supplementary testament” (Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP, 1993), 526).

 

3.16-18.  Paul applies the above legal principle to the issue at hand.  The “promise” to Abraham which was based on Abraham’s faith was not “annulled” by the “law” which came through Moses.  430 years comes from Exodus 12. 40.

3.19-20.  Paul asks (and answers) the first of two questions to help explain the purpose of the law.  The question here, “Why then the law?”  Paul’s answer is that “the function of the law was not to bestow salvation, but to convince men of their need of it” (Stott, 89).

           

3.19.  For the activity of angels in connection with the giving of the law, see Deuteronomy 33.2; Psalm 68.17; Acts 7.53; Hebrews 2.2.

           

3.20.  “This verse is probably the most obscure verse in Galatians, if not in the entire New Testament….”  One commentator suggests that there have been over 300 interpretations of the verse.  “The general thought seems to be that the promise must be considered superior to the law because the law is one-sided” (Boice, 465).

The verse itself is briefer than a modern translation such as the NLT suggests.  Cf. the NASB. 

 

Galatians 3.21-29

 

3.21-22.  Paul asks (and answers) the second of two questions to help explain the purpose of the law (see 3.19-20).  The question here is “Is the law opposed to the promises of God?”  Paul’s answer is me genoito (NIV Absolutely not!  More literally, “May it never be!;” cf. Romans 6.1-2 where the NIV translates me genoito as “By no means.”)  Cf. 2.17.  The reason that the law is not opposed to the promise is that the law (the Scripture in verse 22) demonstrates human kind’s sinfulness and need for the gospel. 

 

3.23-24.  Paul describes who we were “under the law” before “this faith” (meaning faith in Christ).

3.23.  Paul says that we were “imprisoned by the law” perhaps suggesting that “the law has kept men (and women) locked up and therefore out of trouble till the liberator should come to set them free” (Boice, 467).  Or, he could be using similar imagery to the one he uses in verse 22 where he refers to the being “prisoners of sin” since the Law shows us what sin is (cf. 4.3; Romans 7.8). 

3.24.  Paul refers to the law as a “paidagogos.”  The paidogogos was “usually a slave whose duty it was to conduct the boy or youth to and from school, and to superintend his conduct generally” (Stott, 97).  “Guardian” (NIV; NLT) and “disciplinarian” (NRSV) are used by modern translations to capture the meaning.

 

3.25.  Now that “the faith” has come, we no longer need the paidogogos.

 

3.26-29.  Who we are in Christ:  we are sons (and daughters) of God; we are one (v. 28), and we are Abraham’s “offspring” (literally, “seed”) and “heirs of the promise.”

 

Galatians 4.1-7

 

4.1-3.  Paul uses an imagery common to the ancient world to describe the human condition Before coming of age, an heir does not have access to the inheritance which is rightfully his.  He is the same as a slave.  Before Christ, we were “slaves to the elemental principles” (v. 3).  This phrase is understood in several ways:  (1)  the “elementary stages of religious experience common to all;” (2)  the law of Israel (as “elemental principles”); (3) “the elements of the universe” as demonic powers (Boice, 471f; Keener, 529).  4.9 might suggest that the third is in mind here.

 

4.4-7.  The passage hinges on the same verb translated “sent.”

           

4.4-5.  God “sent his son” that we might become “sons” (and daughters). 

           

4.6-7.  God “sent the Spirit.”  For “Abba,” cf. Romans 8.15-17.  Cf. 1 John 3.1.

 

Galatians 4.8-20

 

4.8-11.  “Paul contrasts what once we were with what we have become” (Stott, 107).  In verses 8-9, he suggests that they are returning to the pagan gods (those who by nature are not gods), the elemental principles discussed in verse 3 (4.9).  They are doing so by adopting elements of the Jewish calendar (v. 10) under the influence of the Judaizers!  As a result, Paul fears that his ministry has been wasted.

 

4.12-13.  Paul appeals to the Galatians based on his personal relationship with them.  We have no details of the illness to which Paul refers in verse 13.  “Some people have guessed that Paul caught malaria in the mosquito-infested swamps of coastal Pamphylia, at the time when John Mark lost his nerve and returned home (Acts 13.13).  If so, he would have quite naturally headed north and climbed on to the invigorating mountainous plateau of Galatia” (Stott, 113f.; cf. Acts 14.1-20). 

 

4.14.  Illness could be perceived as a sign of weakness or as a sign of God’s judgment.  The Galatians treated Paul as a messenger of Jesus and welcomed him as they would have welcomed Jesus.

 

4.15.  “Sacrificing one’s eye for someone else was a figure of speech for a great sacrifice” (Keener, 531) though some have read this statement by Paul as indication that his illness involved eye sight issues.

4.16-17.  Due to the influence of the Judaizers, Paul’s relationship with the Galatians has changed.

 

4.19-20.  Paul makes clear his intense concern for the Galatians even while admitting that he is perplexed by them.

 

Galatians 4.21-31

 

“(Paul’s) final appeal has perplexed many commentators….This may be an instance when our lack of specific acquaintance with all the dynamics of the Galatian situation hinders our ability to understand” (Scott McClelland, “Galatians,”Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1989), 1015).

 

4.21.  Paul addresses those “who want to be under the law.”  “There are many such today.  They are not, of course, the Jews or Judaizers to whom Paul was writing, but people whose religion is legalistic, who imagine that the way to God is by the observance of certain rules” (John Stott, The Message of Galatians, BST (Downer’s Grove, IL:  IVP, 1986), 121f.).

 

4.22-23.  Paul continues to use the slave-free imagery which he used in 3.23-4.11.  Here, he uses for illustration the story of Abraham who had a child with his wife’s servant rather than wait for God to fulfill his promise through his wife Sarah.  If you need to review the story, go to Genesis 16.1-4, 15; 17.15-21.

4.24-26.  Paul applies the Genesis story “figuratively” (NIV) or “allegorically” (NASB; NRSV) (v. 24).  Hagar represents slavery, Mount Sinai (the old covenant), the present (in Paul’s terms) Jerusalem.  Sarah (though not named here) represents freedom, the Jerusalem above, and is “our mother” (the mother of those saved by grace).  “Because Judaism associated the Messiah and the Spirit with the end time, Paul naturally identify followers of the Messiah Jesus with the future Jerusalem rather than the present one” (Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary (Downers Grove, IL:  IVP, 1993), 532).

 

4.27.  Paul quotes Isaiah 54.1 which dealt with the return of the Jewish people from the Babylonian exile.  Here, Paul applies the verse to the “children of the promise” (the Gentiles) who will become more numerous than Jewish believers.

 

4.28-31.  Paul applies the analogy to the Gentile believers, “children of the promise,” like Isaac.

           

4.29.  The idea that Isaac was “persecuted” by Ishmael was derived by Jewish teachers from Genesis 21.9.  The implication is that the Judaizers were “persecuting” the “true” Gentile believers who did not want to resort to obeying the Jewish law.

           

4.30.  Paul quotes Sarah’s words in Genesis 21.10 to mean that the Judaizers should be cast out of the fellowship.  Though harsh, Paul is fighting for the very essence of the gospel.

           

4.31.  Once more, Paul makes the distinction between “the free” and “the slave.”

 

Galatians 5.1-12

 

5.1.  The verse most likely completes the previous argument rather than begins a new one.  Our condition has changed from slavery to freedom.  “It is the freedom of acceptance with God and of access to God through Christ” (Stott, 132).

 

5.2-4.  In rapid-fire fashion, Paul lists three results of begin circumcised:  Christ will be of no value to them; they would be obligated (the word is related to the word translated “value” in verse 2) to obey the whole law.  And, they would be “cut off from Christ” (v. 4, NRSV).

 

5.2.  Paul’s emphasis on the fact that he is the one speaking to the Galatians is unmistakable:  “Listen, I Paul I say…”  This is extraordinarily important and personal to Paul.

5.3.  Cf. James 2.10; “Rabbis said that the law was a whole, and one had to keep all of it; rejecting any part of it was tantamount to rejecting the whole thing” (Keener, 533). 

 

5.5.  Note that Paul switches from the second person (you)  to the first plural (we).  To reject circumcision and following the law in order to “achieve” salvation is to join sides with Paul.

5.6.  Circumcision or uncircumcision does not matter when it comes to living righteously.  What matters is faith working through love.

 

5.7.  For Paul’s usage of athletic imagery, cf. 1 Corinthians 9.24—27; Galatians 2.2; Philippians 3.13, 14.  Here, he may intend a “play on words:”  “Who ‘cut in’ on you plays on the above theme of “circumcision.”

 

5.8.  The origin of this false teaching is not the one who called the Galatians (cf. 1.6), meaning God. 

 

5.9.  The result of such teaching is that it spreads like “yeast through dough.”  Paul uses the proverb in 1 Corinthians 5.6. 

 

5.10-11.  Once again, Paul emphasizes that this is personal for him.  “I  am confident…I am being persecuted.”

           

5.10.  Paul is confident that the Galatians will not buy in to this false teaching.  Rather, the one propagating the false teaching will bear the judgment.

           

5.11.  If Paul had been preaching circumcision, he would have never been persecuted.  Rather, he would have eliminated the “skandalon” of the cross.  Cf. 1 Corinthians 1.23 where Paul refers to the cross as a “skandalon” (stumbling block) to the Jews.  The cross is a stumbling block because “the cross proclaims man’s complete ruin in sin, to the degree that nothing he does or can do can save him” (James Montgomery Boice, “Galatians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary:  Volume 10:  Romans-Galatians.  (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan Publishing, 1976), 491).

5.12.  Paul desires that those who teach circumcision should go all the way.  There may also be the realization that such an act would disbar one from the congregation of the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 23.1).