Galatians: questions from my first “slow read” thru Gal. 1


One of the things I like to do whenever I read a text from which I’m going to teach or preach is to do a “slow read” of the text the first time I read it. As I do my “slow read,” I jot down any and all questions that spring to my mind, trying not to let a single question fail to be recorded.

This practice often helps me not only see where the text is going, but to see where the text might be headed with me. It also helps me discern what parts of the text need more exploration on my part than others and also helps me anticipate potential questions that might arise from my message. After I have gone further into the book I’m studying and know the book better, I check back on these initial questions and note how answers have come to them in my mind, have been modified, or how I just flat out barked up the wrong tree by asking a particular question when a different one would have served me better. All of this helps me navigate the woods, so to speak.

Following is the list of “slow read” questions that came to my mind on my first pass through Galatians 1 as I prepared for this morning’s class. The numbers before each question correspond to the verse number in Galatians 1 that sparked the question in my mind.

1 – Who is Paul? What do I know of him? What did the Galatians know of him when Paul wrote them?

1 – What does the word ‘apostle’ mean and why use that word here?

1 – How, specifically, does this verse say Jesus was raised from the dead?

2 – Who are the brothers and sisters with” Paul at the time he wrote this letter?

2 – Where, and what, is Galatia?

3 – What is the significance of the words ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ here? Why use these words and not others?

3 – Who is “Lord”, and, “consequently, who is not?

4 – Why did Jesus die? To what end was his death?

4 – Was the death of Christ an “accident?” Where was God in it all?

4 – Of whom is God the “Father?”

5 – Explain the meaning of this phrase: “to God be the glory forever and always!”

5 – What does the word “Amen” mean?

6 – Who is the “one” who called the Galatians?

6 – On a scale of 0-10, how serious is the problem Paul is addressing here?

6 – What would Paul call “the grace of Christ?”

7 – Who are the people confusing the Galatian Christians and how are they confusing them?

7 – How many “gospels” are there? How many true ones?

7 – What could motivate someone to try and change the gospel of Christ?

8 – Would Paul have seen the two examples of apostasy he gave in this verse to be hypothetical or a potential reality?

8 – What sort of confidence did Paul have that he was preaching God’s will?

8 – What does it mean to be “under a curse?”

9 – Why would Paul repeat what he just said?

10 – What is it that makes this verse sound like Paul is an addressing an accusation made against him?

10 – How is it that it’s not possible to be simultaneously a people-pleaser and a God-pleaser? Similarly, how it it not possible to simultaneously call two people or entities, “Lord?”

10 – Is Paul’s view of himself as Christ’s “slave” to be normative for all Christians? Why use the word “slave,” Paul?

11 – This verse is a restatement of the claim Paul made in vs. 1. Again, why repeat what you’ve just said, Paul? What does this repetition of thought say about the matters, and people, you perceive are at the root of the problem you’re addressing?

12 – Paul’s message came to him as a “revelation from Jesus Christ.” How do you back up this stupendous claim, Paul?

13 – How might the Galatians known of Paul’s reputation? What do I know of his reputation of living prior to his life in Christ?

14 – Does the word “traditions” have a negative, positive, neutral, or dual connotation here?

14 – What does Paul perceive as the path of advancement within his previous way of faith?

15 – Does this verse imply God sets all Christians apart from birth to a certain purpose or task?

15 – Was God’s grace irresistible to Paul? That is, could Paul have successfully resisted becoming a Christian and apostle?

16 – God was pleased to reveal his Son in, and use a man like, Paul. What does this say about God’s character?

16 – How important is it to Paul that he preach to people who are not Jews?

17 – If Paul didn’t get his ideas from humans, where did they come from?

17 – How could the fact Paul didn’t confer with the apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem advance Paul’s train of thought here with the Galatians? Is Paul speaking disparagingly of the leadership in Jerusalem?

18 – What did you do while in Arabia Paul? Why go there right after your conversion?

18 – Why return to Damascus after being in Arabia, and why stay there so long, Paul?

19 – Paul, what’s the significance of your noting to the Galatians that you met James, the Lord’s brother?

20 – Is swearing an oath to God always wrong?

21 – Why is Paul at pains to document his distance from the influence of, or the influencing of, the Judean churches?

22-23 – Has my reputation as a Christian surpassed the reputation I had before I believed?

24 – What impact does my way of life and my walk with Christ have on other Christians?

Galatians: misc. study resources (2)


Yesterday I pointed out a way you can access some of the material in high-quality study aids without having to purchase them. Of course, if you want to get your chest waders on and truly wade out into the Galatian pond, you’ll want to make some wise acquisitions for your study library.

If you’re the average Joe or Suzie, you can’t go wrong in acquiring a copy of Tom Wright’s devotional commentary entitled: Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004). While being quite readable and accessible, it’s based on solid scholarship. Since it’s not a verse-by-verse commentary, it won’t give you details, but it will provide you with the text of the KNT and will enable you to closely follow Paul’s flow of (sometimes convoluted) thought in Galatians. No matter who you are, if you’re studying Galatians, you’ll want this one on your shelf.

If you want to acquire a verse-by-verse commentary on Galatians, I’d choose Witherington’s Grace in Galatia. Witherington explore every nook and cranny in Paul’s letter while conversing with current scholarship at every hand. Witherington, like Wright, possess that all too rare ability to explain the complex in simple terms which makes all of his work, compared to much of the academic field, a joy to engage.

Teachers and preachers will likely want a copy of John R.W. Stott’s The Message of Galatians nearby. Stott’s ability to see threads of thought and to word things in memorable ways was well known. Though his work on Galatians was first published well over forty years ago (1968), it’s still brimming full of relevant observation. The wise leader will definitely want to have Stott whispering in their ear as they construct their message. If Stott is not available to you, I’d say consult Charles Cousar and his work in the Interpretation series.

If you’ll be leading discussion on Galatians in either a class or small group setting, you might want to pick up a copy of the study guide that complements N.T. Wright’s devotional commentary. Max Lucado’s Life Lessons’ guide on Galatians is also helpful, being a bit more “broad” in terms of the questions it offers. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go with the guide by Wright (which was co-authored by Dale & Sandy Larsen) simply because it dovetails well with the rest of Wright’s outstanding material on Galatians.

word for the weak: week thirty-four


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is priorities. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class. The page numbers below correspond to the pages in the Daily Companion Bible.

• Mon., Aug. 20 – Micah 6.6-8; Matthew 6.25-34 (p. 200)

• Tues., Aug. 21 – Amos 5.11-15,21-24; Mark 12.28-34 (p. 201)

• Wed., Aug. 22 – James 1.19-27 (p. 202)

• Thur., Aug. 23 – Matthew 25.31-46 (p. 203)

• Fri., Aug. 24 – Luke 18.9-14; James 4.1-10 (p. 204)

This week’s memory verse is: “He has told you … what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)

word for the weak: week thirty-three


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is leadership. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., Aug. 13 – John 13.1-20

• Tues., Aug. 14 – 1 Peter 5.1-10

• Wed., Aug. 15 – Exodus 33.7-23

• Thur., Aug. 16 – Exodus 8.7-17; Deuteronomy 1.9-18

• Fri., Aug. 17 – Deuteronomy 4.1-14; Hebrews 3.12-13

This week’s memory verse is Heb. 3.12: “Watch out … that none of you have an evil, unfaithful heart that abandons the living God.”

word for the weak: week thirty-two


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is influence. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., Aug. 6 – Joshua 2.1-24; 6.15-25; James 2.24-26

• Tues., Aug. 7 – Numbers 22.1-28; 24.1-14

• Wed., Aug. 8 – Ezra 4.1-5; 4.24-5.17; 6.14-18

• Thur., Aug. 9 – Acts 6.8-15; 7.54-8.3; 9.1-22

• Fri., Aug. 10 – Matthew 5.14-16; 2 Corinthians 2.12-3.6

This week’s memory verse is 2 Cor. 2.15: “We smell like the aroma of Christ’s offering to God …”

word for the weak: week thirty-one


This week’s theme in MoSt Church‘s 2012 Bible reading project – the Uncommon Truth for Common People project – is God’s will. Each week’s theme and Scriptures are discussed in our Wednesday night auditorium class.

• Mon., July 30 – Psalm 119.97-112
• Tues., July 31 – Psalm 37.3-7; James 4.13-17
• Wed., Aug. 1 – Psalm 27; Matthew 6.7-15
• Thur., Aug. 2 – Acts 16.6-10; Colossians 1.9-14
• Fri., Aug. 3 – Psalm 19.7-14; Proverbs 2.1-11

This week’s memory verse is James 4.15: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.”

this went thru my mind


Color: True Colors: What Your Brand Colors Say About Your Business

“Studies have shown that a products color influences 60 to 80 percent of a customer’s purchasing decision …”

Gun control: * The Aurora Debacle by Ben Witherington; * God, Guns, and Guts by Roger Olson; * Commenters Debate Guns, ‘What If’ by Todd Leopold; * Maintaining Sanity in an Insane World by Paul Smith

* “The typical arguments for lax gun control laws no longer hold any water at all. But let’s listen to them one more time.”

* “I have been told that up to half of all adults in some parts of the country carry concealed weapons (licensed or not). My question is whether it is time for Christians to speak out openly from pulpits and pages (of Christian publications) about our obviously increasing gun culture and culture of violence. Is this a subject for sermons? I think it is.”

* “If only there had been someone else with a gun there to stop him. Because nothing is safer than having multiple gunmen in a dark, crowded theater full of panicky people running around.”

“This should not be a debate over guns. What it needs to be is a discussion over morality and the depths of depravity to which our culture has sunk.”

Money, power, property & church: * Physical Churches: Do They Matter Anymore? by Jeremy John; * The Drain on Church Power by Terry Rush

* “Micah Bales asked a deep question. He suggests that the wealth in property we’ve inherited is hindering our work for social justice. … He asks, ‘What would happen if we put the movement of the Spirit ahead of property management?’”

* “The church is at its best relying on God’s grace-provision.  Each passing of the plate is to transfer cash into grace. Dependence is the issue at stake. … When money is the assumed strength of the church, God’s power is drained.”

Parenting: 5 Tips on Talking to Kids About Scary News by Sasha Emmons

“We talked to Dr. Paul Coleman, author of How to Say It to Your Child When Bad Things Happen, to find out the best ways to talk to kids about disturbing images and event.”

Preaching: Why Should a Pastor Preach Through Whole Books of the Bible? by Brian Croft

“Your people should be growing in their love and knowledge of God’s Word.  They should be learning how to better read their own Bibles.  As I experienced yesterday, they should be growing less afraid of the hard, difficult passages nobody would choose to preach. So are they?”

Reading & study: Pastors: Fight for the Time to Read! by Justin Taylor

“He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!”

World population: Beyond 7 Billion by Kenneth Weiss

“The world population is currently estimated to be: 7,028,146,971.”