Studies in Galatians --Part 1

Studies in Galatians

James Gunn

The great strength of the so-called Brethren movement at the beginning lay in the sound expository and doctrinal teaching of its founders, but since the works of F. W. Grant in the United States until the recent volumes of Eric Sauers in Germany, the Brethren have produced practically no contributions to deeper studies in theology.” Such is the criticism of a modern book reviewer.

One of the dangers in the assemblies today is that of resting upon the laurels of a past generation of writers; another is that of being satisfied with a superficial ministry, both oral and written, that does not adequately edify the Body of Christ.

If assembly testimony is to be strengthened, and if the assemblies are to be a blessing to the visible Church of our Lord Jesus, there must be a return to the ministry of former times, to an expository, doctrinal ministry.

God is the God of variety; creation proves this. How numerous are the colours in nature! How many the different species in the vegetable kingdom! How many in the animal kingdom! Yet these are all blended together in nature to form one divine whole.

In order to study nature so as to bring its wonders within our reach, we departmentalize our studies. The artist studies colours and their harmony; the bontanist and the horticulturist, developments in the vegetable world; the biologist and zoologist, the different species among the animals; and the geologist and mineralogist, the formation and the mineral content of the earth.

The Word of God is one; it is a divine unity; this should not be forgotten. Nevertheless, in order to reduce its contents to our own capacity, for our own benefit, we departmentalize it, and engage in different types of study. We shall attempt to mention some of these: expository studies, doctrinal studies, dispensational studies, topical studies, biographical studies, word studies, etc. It is our intention to place emphasis upon doctrinal studies.

Doctrinal Studies

In doctrinal studies it is necessary that the student decide which doctrine he is going to examine. Probably this type of study could be pursued in three stages.

First: The preparation of a list of selected doctrines. This might be the place to insert a list of doctrines, not of course, an exhaustive list.

The doctrine of God:

· The Holy Tinity.

· The Father.

· The Son.

· The Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of creation:

· The Universe.

· Angels.

· Man.

The doctrine of salvation:

· Sin.

· Redemption.

· Salvation.

· Justification.

· Sanctification.

· Glorification.

The doctrine of revelation:

· Revelation.

· Inspiration.

· Interpretation.

Second: Having made a list, we now select one doctrine or one phase of the doctrine, and with the help of a concordance or through personal reading, we examine progressively every reference that can be found to this doctrine throughout the Word of God.

A doctrinal study may also be conducted in a more particular manner in one book of the Bible. It is our purpose to study some of the doctrines and some of the major themes in Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

It would be well to carefully and prayerfully read through this Epistle as many times as possible, and to notice repeated references to important subjects; for example, reference to Christ, to God, to the Holy Spirit, to grace, to the crucifixion of Christ, etc. We shall then be prepared to consider the details in the references to each separate subject.

Third: We shall examine each reference and seek to understand it in the light of its context, and having done so we shall prepare a systematized outline of every point we have found.

This is an excellent way to learn sound doctrine. The study of a doctrine in one book or epistle is not as tedious as the more general scheme of going through the whole Bible, but certainly not as comprehensive.

The Doctrine of Christ in Galatians

We are limiting our investigation into this important doctrine to the many references found in the Epistle to the Galatians. Much profit is gained by what has been called spade work, the digging into the background, the attempting to discover the reason for the prominence of this doctrine in this particular apostolic epistle. The error of Judiaism seems to have appeared in two forms among New Testament churches. The saints at Galatia, predominantly Gentile believers, were taught that faith in Christ and His atonement was insufficient for salvation, and that it was therefore necessary to keep the moral law and be circumcized. Hebrew believers apparently were taught that the sacrifice of Christ was incomplete in itself and that, consequently, it was necessary to perpetuate the ceremonial law. Both the Epistle to the Galatians and the Epistle to the Hebrews are defensive and corrective, and in both Christ is the pre-eminent character.

A survey of the doctrine of Christ in the Galatian letter reveals that He is referred to directly some 45 times. Paul thereby shows that Christ was the remedy for the deception that had affected the churches of God in that province, and for the resulting departure. Christ is the corrective for every error, the solution for every problem. We ourselves prove this when we take the Lord into our personal difficulties. What difficulties the disciples encountered in the storm-tossed boat (John 6:16-21)? The night was dark, the sea wild, and they were making no progress. When Jesus came into the ship, we read, “immediately they were at land.”

With the presence of the Lord, storms subside, problems dissolve, burdens lighten, darkness dispels, and the peace of God garrisons the heart and mind; may we therefore seek the Lord and seek His presence constantly.

An examination of the 45 references to the Lord Jesus in this Epistle enables us to classify each. There are references, some of which have to do with His person, some with His work, and some others with His relationship to His own.