John Calvin wrote Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536 in Latin, then a couple years later in French in 1541. This book was primarily intended as an introduction to the Protestant faith and discusses a wide range of topics from the sacraments to being saved through grace. This text is commonly used by Calvinists for reference. While I will not read the whole thing (mainly because it has over a thousand pages) I am interested to see Calvin’s views on certain doctrine!
Martin Luther’s commentary on Galatians was a helpful insight to the true meaning of that book. Martin Luther recognized Paul’s emphasis on being saved through grace. This recognition is probably one of the things that encouraged Luther to branch off from the Catholic church. This very doctrine is one of the main things that separated his Lutheran church from the Catholic church.
Now, you cannot read Galatians and post about it without doing a post about the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” I find the fruits of the spirit very important because I can examine myself and look for the fruits of the spirit. If I do not find any evidence of them in my life, then I can rightly assume that I am not getting into the word and filling myself up with God. This has really helped me in my walk as a Christian and i hope it does for you too.
The “Love your neighbor as yourself” commandment is one of the most commonly known ones in the Bible. However, have you ever really thought about this commandment or the reason for it? Jesus said it was second only to loving God supremely. That must mean its pretty important, doesn’t it? Well first of all, what does loving your neighbor look like? Well obviously its not just being nice to the person that lives next door. Loving your neighbor looks like being a light of Christ to the people that you encounter every day. Also, if your love people, then you will want above all else for them to be saved. Why is this important? Simple. By loving people you will want them to accept God so they can go to Heaven. That, in turn, will make you witness and try to bring them to a saving knowledge.
The two main stories of Galatians are Paul’s rebuttal of the false apostles, and his story of grace. Reading Galatians with Martin Luther’s commentary is really helpful to understand Paul’s message to the Galatians and to us today. We are saved by grace. I’m sure you all know this song, but take the time to really think about the lyrics http://www.constitution.org/col/amazing_grace.htm
Galatians 4:17, “They zealously affect you, but not well. Yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.” So, Martin Luther interprets Paul’s thoughts here as this, “Do you Galatians know why the false apostles are so zealous about you? They expect you to reciprocate. And that would leave me out. If their zeal were right they would not mind your loving me. But they hate my doctrine and want to stamp it out. In order to bring this to pass they go about to alienate your hearts from me and to make me obnoxious to you.” This, I can see, is exactly what Paul is trying to get across. Paul is a very good rhetorician and I think that he gets across perfectly the point that the whole letter of Galatians is trying to get across.
Galatians 4:8-9 says, “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” Luther goes into a long discourse about these two verses. Eventually, he arrives at a point where he makes the argument that there are two levels of knowing God. The first is understanding that the universe, earth, and people in general had an intelligent designer. The second is the actual knowledge of Jehovah God. Now, I could not agree more with this. The existence of a god is undeniable. Why, you ask? Well I have multiple reasons, but the one that i will address here is this: without God, how do you account for a conscience? With a molecules to man viewpoint there is no way to account for morals and values. There simply isn’t.
Galatians 4:6 says, “Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” This really brought my attention to the many names that God has, such as Abba, Father (essentially daddy), Jehovah Rapha (God who heals), Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide), and others. It is a really cool thing to study and know these names so that you can call on God accordingly in prayer. To emphasize, it is not essential to call God Jehovah Rapha when you’re praying for healing, but there is just something different about it.
The main theme of Galatians is that we are saved by grace, not by works. One of the questions that this brings up is why we need the law. Why did God give Moses the ten commandments if we are saved by grace? There are two simple answers. The first is that the Jews did not have Christ when Moses received the commandments. The second is that we need them to know that we are sinners. Why do we need to know that we are sinners, you may ask? Simple. If we are not aware that we are sinners, then we won’t be aware that we need a savior.
To say that Jesus was never a sinner is denying that He died on the cross. While not a sinner in His own right, he took on the sins of every person. He took what made you a sinner and claimed rights to it. Additionally, He was the only person who could ever do that. No other person was, is, or will ever be holy enough to claim the sins of somebody else. This is what Martin Luther gleaned from verse 13 of chapter 3, which says, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.