Here are the steps I followed to bracket the whole book of Galatians:
1. Bracket every section of the book in separate tabs, including a summary of the message of each section.
2. Copy and paste the summaries into the Notes tab so you can relate each large bracket to each other, from smallest to largest, writing new summaries as you go.
3. Identify the core proposition of the book.
4. Write a Main Point Summary based on the biggest relationships of the book.
Let’s go through what that looked for me in Galatians, so that you can do this in a book yourself!
I. Original Summaries:
Note: the bolded font indicates the emphasis in the largest bracketing relationship.
1:1-10 - The Galatians must turn away from the perverted gospel because Paul, a God-called apostle, is seeking to please only God.
1:11-24 - The gospel Paul preaches didn’t come from man, because he received it from Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by his God-accomplished conversion and his subsequent lack of communication with the earlier apostles.
2:1-10 - When Paul went to Jerusalem to explain his gospel to the pillars to preserve his ministry, they didn’t add to his gospel but rather gave their blessing to Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles.
2:11-21 - Paul rebuked Peter because he tried to force Gentiles to follow the Jewish law, thus acting contrary to the truth of justification by faith, which glorifies the grace of God and carries out the purpose of Christ’s death.
3:1-14 - The Galatians know from experience and from the Scripture that justification, the blessing of the Spirit, and becoming a true Israelite happens through faith alone.
3:15-29 - God’s people were held captive under the law, but now that Jesus has come, they all experience his promised covenant, becoming his children through faith in Christ.
4:1-11 - God sent his Son and his Spirit into believers’ hearts and so redeemed them from slavery and made them his sons and heirs; how can they throw all that away by returning to slavery?
4:12-20 - The Galatians should become like Paul because they fully trusted him in the past, and because his goal was not to exclude them but to make them Christlike.
4:21-5:1 - The law teaches that since believers are born through promise, set free by Christ, they must stand firm in that freedom.
5:2-12 - Circumcision would sever believers from Christ, because salvation is through faith that works through love; but Paul was confident they would remain in his truth, and that their troublers would be severed from God’s people.
5:13-6:10 - The way to serve each other through love, instead of destroying each other, is to follow the leading of the life-giving, flesh-opposing Spirit (which looks like bearing each other’s burdens and living according to the principle of sowing and reaping).
6:11-18 - It is vital to remember that the cross of Jesus Christ is our only ground of boasting and our only distinguishing mark.
II. Joining of Brackets and New Summaries:
Then I started relating the brackets to each other and writing new summaries. The best way to do this is by opening the entire book in a discourse module, removing verse divisions so that you have each section above as one “proposition” (i.e. 1:1-10, 1:11-24, etc.), and writing your summaries in the “Mine” column. (To save space, turn off the ESV column so you can only see your “Mine” column.)
I joined the following Brackets, in the order given:
1:6-2:21 (Ground) (1:6-9 and 1:10-2:21)
3:1-6:10 (Ac-Res) (3:1-5:1 and 5:2-6:10)
3:1-6:18 (Id-Exp) (3:1-6:10 and 6:11-18)
1:6-6:18 (Neg-Pos) (1:6-2:21 and 3:1-6:18)
1:1-6:18 (Ac-Mn) (1:1-5 and 1:6-6:18)
III. The Core Proposition of the Book"
All this means that 5:2-6:10 is at the heart of the book’s logic. The core of 5:2-6:10 (Id-Exp) is 5:13-6:10 (Ac-Mn). The core of 5:13-6:10 is 5:13-15 (Concessive). The core of 5:13-15 is 5:13b-15b (Neg-Pos). The core of 5:13b-15b is 5:13b-14b (Ground). The core of 5:13b-14b is 5:13b-c (Neg-Pos). The core of 5:13b-c, and thus of the entire book of Galatians, is 5:13c: "Serve one another through love."
But notice in the MPS (Main Point Summary) that this service comes from the gospel, from responding rightly to their Christ-purchased freedom from the law.
IV. Writing the Main Point Summary:
I did this by summarizing the biggest relationships (after the Ac-Mn), which was the Neg-Pos of 1:6-6:18 (“Paul writes to exhort the Galatians to turn away… and stand”). “According to the true gospel which he preached” comes from 1:6-2:21, and “which would result in a life of loving service to others” comes from 5:2-6:10.
The bold font in the MPS shows the core emphasis of the book as a whole.
Summary: Since believers have encountered glorious spiritual realities, they must not reject Jesus’ voice but thank him for his kingdom and worship him acceptably.
This passage should impact both our daily worship of God and our Sunday worship as we gather with God’s people.
Notice that the first half of this passage, verses 18-24, are structured as a Negative-Positive. The readers have not come to a physical place (described in 18b-21); rather they have come to spiritual realities (described in 22-24).
Then the second half, verses 25-29, is a Bilateral. And the two halves of the Inference in this relationship are a negative and a positive command, which are both grounded upon the reality of God’s warnings from heaven and his promised destruction of everything except what cannot be shaken. Here are the two Inferences: Do not reject the voice of Jesus (25a) - his covenant and blood - but rather do thank God for his kingdom and worship him acceptably (28a-c).
And all of verses 25-29 is an Inference from the spiritual realities of the New Covenant, contrasted with the Old, in 18-24.
Because the proposition containing the Inference is the emphasized half of the whole Inference relationship, the two emphases of the whole passage are found in 25a and 28-29. Because believers are God’s New Covenant people, the recipients of tremendous spiritual and eternal blessings, they must be thankful for his kingdom, and worship him in an acceptable way.
And what way is that? “With reverence” and with “awe” (28). Why reverence and awe? Because “our God,” the God of the New Covenant, “is a consuming fire” (29).
How do you view God? How do you respond to God’s words? How do you feel when you read or sing or hear about the majesty and glory and love of God? How you respond shows whether or not you are truly encountering God or just a figment of your imagination.
For a quick look at people who encountered God shows this! Isaiah saw his glory in Isaiah 6:1-7 and denounced himself as full of sin in the light of God’s holiness. This isn’t just an Old Testament reality either, for when John, the beloved disciple, saw the glory of the ascended Christ, he “fell at his feet as though dead” (Rev 1:17). And the sinless, perfected saints in Heaven fall down before the throne of God in worship (Rev 4:9-11; 5:8-10).
This reveals that those who “see” the glory of God today worship him with reverence and with awe. They fear him in his unapproachable majesty, yet rest in his undeserved favor in Christ. They bow in amazement at the incomparable companionship of glory and mercy, justice and grace, shining from the face of Christ.
So ask the Lord for a godly, reverential awe of him as you read his Word. Ask him to show you his glory in Christ as you hear the Scriptures read and preached. Without the fear of the Lord, you cannot truly know anything at all, or live in a way that pleases him (Psalm 111:10; Prov 1:7).
(In another study on worship, I briefly described and applied three NT passages: Romans 15:1-6, 1 Corinthians 9:3-14, and 1 Corinthians 10:1-13. In a study of 2 Timothy 3:10-17, I demonstrated that we must study what God commanded Israel in the OT if we want to please him in the NT era). And in an examination of Matthew 15:1-9, I showed that Jesus would condemn our own passion for any elements of worship that are not directly commanded by God in his Word.)
18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:18-29 ESV).
From 2 Peter 2:17-22, I demonstrated how its teaching, specifically that of verses 20-22, fills out our understanding of the eternal security of the believer. Romans 11:16-24 also contains a difficult phrase: “you too will be cut off” in verse 22.
Let’s look at the passage as a whole first. Then we’ll focus on the application of verse 22, in light of the overall context, to the truth that is clearly taught elsewhere in the NT, that all genuine believers in Jesus Christ will enter Heaven.
The overall structure of the passage is that 16 makes a Concession that supports the emphasis of 17-24.
Within 17-24, there is a twofold Progression (17-18 and 19-24). The main points there are the call not to be arrogant (18a) and to fear God instead of being proud (20d-e, 22d).
The main point of the passage, then, is that the nature of the Gentiles as engrafted branches should cause them to fear God in humility. It is faith that connects believers to God’s gracious covenant promises (17c-d, 20c).
So Gentile Christians must fear God instead of being arrogant, and must cling to faith in Christ instead of turning to unbelief (“continue in his kindness”). (Notice how faith and fear are united, as well as unbelief and arrogance. Yet being in Christ is not a reward for faith, but the unmerited kindness of God.)
The question now is this: What does it mean to be “cut off” if you don’t fear God, if you don’t cling to faith in Christ?
What Paul writes elsewhere in Romans and in Galatians helps us understand this passage. Not all Jewish people in his day were really Jewish people. That is, “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical” (Rom 2:28). Rather, to be a true Israelite, you must be spiritually circumcised, praised by God, not men (Rom 2:29). Paul clarifies this truth further in chapter 9, “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring” (Rom 9:6-7). A true descendant of Abraham is a child of promise (Rom 9:8), that is, one whose birth is miraculous (Gal 4:23), who is in Christ through faith (Gal 3:26, 29).
Therefore, the warning in Romans 11 about the original branches being cut off doesn’t refer to being part of God’s people of promise, by grace through faith, and then being cut off, but being part of a group that externally shares in the benefits of the covenant. It is the same with the warning to the Gentiles in Romans 11: it is those who only look like they are part of the covenant who will be cut off.
Yet such people are often externally indistinguishable from genuine believers; therefore, Scriptural authors address all believers with warnings. God will use those warnings to preserve his saints, so they will never be cut off.
16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree (Rom 11:16-24 ESV).
The topic of head coverings can be controversial and difficult. Almost no-one I know believes that head coverings are required today, but that doesn’t mean they’re not! We want to be faithful to Scripture, and so we need to be very careful to interpret this passage in its literary and historical context. Only then can we accurately apply it to the twenty-first century.
The overall structure is that 2 has a Concessive relationship to 3-16. Paul praises the Corinthians in 2, that they have listened to his teaching, believing the gospel and living it out according to what he taught them. But even though they are doing this, yet they need to fix a problem in their worship, which he will outline in 3-16.
Within 3-16, there is an Id-Exp relationship, where 3-12 are the Idea, and 13-16 the emphasized Explanation.
The emphasis in the arcing relationships shows that 6d is the core affirmation of 3-12 (a wife must cover her head), and 13b is the core affirmation both of 13-16 and of all of 3-16: It is not proper for a wife to pray to God with an uncovered head.
It is interesting that my arc corresponds with Garland’s point that verses 6 and 13 are the only places with an imperative (David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003], 508). These verses are central in importance.
More support for the importance of 6 and 13 is seen in that only in 13 is a woman not contrasted with a man, but mentioned on her own. This gives us a clue to the emphasis of the passage. Also, in 11:10, “Paul adds another, though highly enigmatic, explanation for why women should be covered: ‘because of the angels.’ No comparable explanation is given for why men should not be covered. The best explanation for these breaks in the pattern is that the problem that Paul wishes to correct has to do with what the women were doing with their heads” (Garland, 507-08).
The emphasis of the passage, therefore, is clear: women, specifically wives, should cover their heads in worship. The reason why is given in three Grounds: headship (3), glory (7-10), and nature (14-15).
Notice how Paul starts talking about their worship without making clear the specific issue. Instead, he starts with a theological assertion about headship in verse 3. The word “head” could mean “the one out front." “Head” carries connotations of authority and hierarchy, but this doesn’t have to be confrontational or debasing! There is an ontological equality between men and women, which Scripture is clear on. Equally clearly, there is a hierarchy of authority within marriage.
Christ, as the perfect man, submitted himself completely to God’s authority. And Paul teaches in Ephesians 5:24 that wives are to “submit in everything to their husbands.” So should men submit in all things to Jesus Christ, as his will is revealed in his written Word.
Following Paul’s explanation of headship is the reality of glory in 7-12. (We’ll come back to the Inference from the twofold Grounds of headship and glory in 4-6 in a moment.)
This reality is similar to that of headship: a wife, in the context of worship, is under the authority of her husband (10a), as one created to be a fitting helper for her husband. If I’m bold enough to explain it this way, her primary relationship is to her husband, while his primary relationship is to God. She is her husband’s glory, while he is God’s glory (7b-c).
And a man who covers his head in worship brings shame upon his metaphorical head, God, while a woman who does not cover her head in worship brings shame upon her metaphorical head, her husband.
I’ll explain why this is the case in a few minutes; for now, we should just recognize that that motifs of headship and of glory and shame are the foundation for why Paul insists on women covering their heads in worship.
(One of the hardest verses in the Bible to interpret is verse 10! Angels covered their feet and face in the presence of God (Is. 6:2). This is perhaps what verse 10b is referring to. They are part of God’s created order, and they keep order; therefore, so should men and women.)
The third Ground is in 14-15. The reason why it is not proper for a wife to pray in public with an uncovered head (13) is because of what “nature itself” teaches believers.
But “nature” cannot mean what occurs naturally, because both men and women can grow long hair. It seems that “nature” here (φύσις) means social convention, the regular or established order of things. Paul is speaking of the order of things in culture. This isn’t necessarily about hair length, but about the distinctions between men and women in this culture.
“For a Hebrew woman to go out uncovered was widely regarded as a disgrace (3 Macc. 4:6; b. Ned. 30b) because a covered head was a sign of modesty (b. Yoma 47b). To go out with loose hair in public (m. B. Qam. 8:6) was a greater disgrace and considered grounds for divorce (m. Ketub. 7:6; b. Ketub. 72a). Paul is not imposing Palestinian customs on the Corinthians, however. The Corinthian culture also looked askance at women going out in public without a head covering. The literature suggests that it was taken for granted that respectable women would wear some kind of head covering in public (Conzelmann 1975: 185; cf. Plutarch, Mor. 232C, 267A)” (Garland, 520).
Also, “[a]ccording to Tacitus (Germania 19), the husband of an adulterous wife cuts her hair, strips her, and banishes her from the house (see also Dio Chrysostom, Or. 64.3; cf. Jer. 7:29; Ezek. 7:18). The shame attached to the shorn head of a woman runs deeper than that she might appear mannish. The shaved head is imposed upon the adulteress to expose her publicly (Winter 2001: 128–29). Paul resorts to hyperbole to make the point that if a woman appears bareheaded, it is as shameful as being shaven (Delobel 1986: 376). Since it is shameful, she needs to be covered” (Garland, 520).
In Paul’s day, for a woman to have an uncovered head would shame her “head,” her husband - and this ought not to be. Her is Paul’s point: Because of creation order - of headship and glory - a wife ought to follow social customs that do not shame her husband.
To apply this in 2020, we need to discern what our culture says about the distinctions between men and women. Obeying this verse requires us to read not only our Bibles but also our culture.
The principle is that women should honour social conventions; in Paul’s day, that meant that women should cover their heads in public. In our day, however, for a 21st-century woman to wear a head covering would not be necessarily modest, nor would a lack of such a covering shame her husband - I speak from experience as a husband! But if my wife dressed immodestly, mannishly, outrageously, immorally, I would be shamed and embarrassed. So women in the West today should follow the principle of this passage instead of covering their heads. They should not dress in revealing clothing, or in outrageously rebellious clothing, or in ostentatiously wealthy clothing.
The head covering of the first century was culturally contingent. In the 21st century, if a woman’s head is uncovered, is this shameful? Is she suggesting sexual availability? No, it doesn’t, and she isn’t. But God’s creation design is not culturally contingent; it is a universal principle. Woman still came from man; this is a permanent and unchanging fact.
For help applying this with clothing, see 1 Tim 2:9-10.
The principle of headship in the home, of authority, of love (husbands) and respect and submission (wives) - basically of order founded at creation - was very important to Paul. And it should be to us also, in spite of our egalitarian, distinction-levelling culture. Men and women are whom God made them to be, not whom we wish we were. We must all submit to God’s wise plan, his will, in our bodies and natures as men and women. That way lies freedom.
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God (1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV).
@Mildred-Codilla I saw that no-one has replied to this yet, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
One outline that is helpful is this: God - Man - Christ - Response. It presents God as holy and righteous, man as sinful, Christ as the answer through his death on the cross, and the required response of repentance and faith.
It would be important to quote Scripture there as well, since it is God’s Word that is powerful to save, not our words. For example, the 10 Commandments show our sinfulness, as does Romans 3:23. Romans 6:23 is helpful to show God’s gift of salvation, and its source in Christ.