The history of biblical exposition boasts of a rich heritage when it comes to commentaries on Galatians. We cannot list all of the great commentaries here, so I simply offer a brief annotated list of commentaries I have found helpful for sermon and Bible study preparation. Another list can be found over at Tim Challies’ site.
Additionally, allow me some remarks about my rationale for these titles. There are so many more that could be mentioned such as Longenecker, Ridderbos, and Moo. I have certain reservations about all of these, and so they didn’t make the cut. There are others for which I would have no reservations, such as Calvin. But when I pick out commentaries for ministry, I try to get something practical (Ryken, and Schreiner), rigorously exegetical and modern (Lightfoot, Schreiner, McWilliams), theological (McWilliams), and historically classic (Luther and Lightfoot). Above all, however, the greatest standard for my choices tends to be theological soundness. With few exceptions, I have no time for liberal or Barthian commentaries. Lastly, let me advise you not to feel like you need to go overboard. Please don’t use too many commentaries at once (I often don’t use all five for every verse). You do not want to spend all your time reading commentaries and leave yourself no time in the actual composition of the sermon or lesson.
- Thomas Schreiner, Galatians: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary. This is number one on my list for many good reasons. First, it is scholarly and rigorously exegetical. Schreiner has a mastery of the secondary literature, but he does not plague his main text with it. Second, it is recent, up to date, and orthodox in the Reformed tradition. Third, each section ends with fine practical and pastoral points of application, which will help the preacher who struggles in making the connection between the text’s meaning and its significance for us today.
- David McWilliams, Galatians: A Mentor Commentary. This commentary was recommended to me by friend and fellow pastor, Glen Clary. What Glen likes about is what I like about it: it is exegetical, but Galatians is handled with sensitivity to Paul’s redemptive-historical and eschatological perspective. If you love the juicy insights of Reformed biblical theologians like Vos, Ridderbos, Kline, and Gaffin, you will love this commentary.
- Martin Luther, 1535 Lecture on Galatians. I went ahead and got the two volumes of Luther’s works published by Concordia for this. It is not cheap, and there are other abridged editions of the lectures you can get for much cheaper. However, when it comes to Luther’s work on Galatians, why go cheap and abridged? Luther’s text is not very detailed with regard to exegetical insights from the Greek text. However, he is worth reading for his theological articulation of Reformation theology and pastoral wisdom to bring comfort to weak, weary souls that are ravaged by the guilt of sin. His passion for the doctrine of justification by faith alone needs to be our passion. That said, be prepared to filter Luther through Calvin, because the former was susceptible to greater bouts of overstatement than the latter. Luther can leave you at times wondering if the law plays any role at all in the ongoing life of the believer.
- J.B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. This is also outdated, however it remains an abidingly valuable Protestant exposition of Galatians. With Luther, this commentary is a classic with historical value. With its close read of the original Greek, it is also detailed and theologically sound. His introduction is quite lengthy, and really delves into the depths of introductory matters concerning Galatians.
- Philip G. Ryken, Galatians: Reformed Expository Commentary. There are two items I would like to mention which I believe make this commentary useful. First, Ryken takes aim at the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, offering helpful criticisms. Second, it is pastoral and practical. This commentary set is made up of sermons preached by a pastor in the context of real church ministry. He will guide you in what issues you can address to a modern audience from the text of Paul’s letter.