October, November, December 2011

Want to learn more about Galatians? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 14-part series.

Lesson 1: Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9 & 22)
There is an old saying that we need to put our self in the place of another person before we can truly understand that person's situation. When I was a young man, I spent my summers building homes and apartments with my brother. One morning on the long ride to work, my brother's car broke down and he decided that we should just walk and see if someone would give us a ride. We were not dressed very well, and we were carrying tools. It was not an inviting picture for someone considering giving us a ride. Normally when I was driving, I did not pick up those trying to get a ride - that would be dangerous! But now, I was desperately hoping that someone would show sympathy to us! To better understand the letter to the Galatians, we are going to try to put ourselves in the place of its author, Paul. (For those who do not know, "Saul" later was called "Paul." I'll just call him "Paul" in this lesson.) Let's plunge into our Bible study and see what the Bible has to teach us about his life. Let's see what it would be like to be Paul!

Lesson 2: Paul's Authority and Gospel (Galatians 1, Acts 15)
Last week we learned that Paul depended upon his sterling education and past legal authority to defend himself against the law-breaking charges brought against him. This week we will see that Paul is again defending himself - and making some very astonishing claims. What does this kind of defense tell us? It tells us that Paul believes that serious challenges have been raised to his credibility. How do you feel when someone attacks your credibility or your self worth? It is difficult, right? Why do you think Paul is under such serious attack? Let's plunge into our study of Galatians and see whether these attacks are justified!

Lesson 3: The Unity of the Gospel (Galatians 2:1-14)
Last week we learned that Paul made some amazing claims for the source of his message. He claimed that Jesus personally taught him, and that no person was responsible for the message that he was proclaiming. When we investigated this, we learned that both Luke and Peter believed Paul's claims and thought that Paul was sharing a message that he learned directly from God. This week we continue the discussion about whether Paul has a message that differs from that of the rest of the leaders of the early church. Is unity important? Is disagreement in the church healthy? Should we have "Christians" and "Paulites?" Or, is the gospel of righteousness by faith the unified message of God's church? Let's dive into our study of Galatians and learn more!

Lesson 4: Justification by Faith Alone (Galatians 2:15-21)
Let's review what we have learned so far in our study of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Paul has a special gospel message that he received directly from Jesus. The early church leaders believed this, but there was a pitched battle in the Galatian church, and among the early believers, over the message and requirements of the gospel. This week Paul explains his gospel message. As we study it, we need to ask if it is still in dispute among Christians? Is it still in dispute in our own minds? Let's dive into our study and examine again the heart of the gospel message!

Lesson 5: Old Testament Faith (Galatians 3:1-14)
Have you ever wrestled with the question of why God says "I the Lord do not change" (Malachi 3:6), yet it seems that the God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New Testament? The talk of an "Old Covenant" and a "New Covenant" surely sounds like a change. God has changed the terms of our relationship! Paul argues that God has not changed His basic approach to humans - and that approach is righteousness by faith. Let's plunge into our study of Galatians 3 and find out more!

Lesson 6: The Priority of the Promise (Galatians 3:15-20)
Have you ever been in a situation in which your belief is challenged by someone who you think might be right? At first you feel annoyed. Than you begin to feel bad that you have been wrong. Then you look at the whole situation again to be sure that you have the right view. Our Bible study this week reminds me of this. Paul tells us boldly that Abraham was saved by grace, not works. But, then Paul's opponents raise a fierce argument: if the plan of salvation was faith alone, why would God later give us the Ten Commandments? How does that make any sense if the Ten Commandments are not God's current plan? Let's jump right into our study of the Bible and see if we can figure out who is right!

Lesson 7: The Road to Faith (Galatians 3:21-25)
Last week we faced the legalists' challenge: "If righteousness by faith is the right approach, why did God introduce the law at Sinai 430 years after His righteousness by faith contract with Abraham?" As we tried to decipher what the legalists were arguing, we decided that one possible argument is well-known to American lawyers. When you have two conflicting laws, the newer law controls over the older law. Sinai came after Abraham! However, to win this argument, the legalists needed more than just timing, they needed a conflict between Sinai and righteousness by faith. Let's dive into our Bibles to examine Paul's continuing argument about conflict!

Lesson 8: From Slaves to Heirs (Galatians 3:26-4:20)
Last week, Paul explained that the law was just like going to school. When we discussed our days in school, we remembered that school not only taught us important lessons about how to succeed in life, it also taught us that we were not the smartest student in the class. (And the smartest student was taught that lesson the next level up in school!) Now that we have learned those lessons, Paul concludes that "we are no longer under the supervision of the law." (Galatians 3:25). What does it mean to be unsupervised? How should we live? Let's plunge again into our continuing study of Galatians and find out what God says!

Lesson 9: Paul's Pastoral Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20, Philippians 3:17-21)
Have you ever had someone say that you should be more like someone else? For example, did your parents say, "Why can't you be more like your brother [or sister]?" "Why can't you be more like the child next door?" "Why can't you be more like me?" How did you react to those suggestions? My guess is that you did not reply, "Right, I'll be more like [the other person] and less like me!" This week our lesson starts out with Paul inviting the Galatians to be more like him. Let's dive into our Bibles and try to better understand Paul's invitation!

Lesson 10: The Two Covenants (Galatians 4:21-31, Romans 4)
In the last several weeks we learned that God's promise to Abraham of righteousness by faith existed alongside Abraham's knowledge of God's commandments. The reason the two (grace and law) existed side by side, we found, was because they had different purposes. This week Paul brings women and children into the discussion. Will this give us a clearer insight into our choice between relying on the law and relying on grace? Let's jump into our study of Galatians and find out!

Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1-15)
Freedom is such a sweet thing! We all know that we want to be free. We know when we are not free. But, what, exactly, does freedom mean? I might have the freedom to punch my neighbor in the nose. But, he would not think that he was free if he was regularly getting punched by me! What does Paul mean when he tells us to "stand firm" in our freedom? Let's dive into our study of Galatians and see what we can learn!

Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25)
No mature Christian believes that faith is the end of the answer to "how should we live?" Thinking and acting are connected. No serious Christian claims that walking with God is easy. Most Christians I know say essentially, "I'm saved by grace alone. Because of my love for God, I make the decision to walk with Him and do His will." If I inquired further they would add, "And, if a person does not walk with God, that shows that they do not have faith." Certainly, those "Christians" who use faith as an excuse for evil living do not understand the gospel. But, lately, I've been giving some further thought to this issue about how a Christian saved by grace should approach daily life. Let's dive into our Bible and see what Paul teaches us about daily living!

Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church (Galatians 6:1-10)
How should the church deal with sin? How successful have the efforts of your church been in the past? Mostly, I see two things happening. First, critical people criticize the sins (or supposed sins) of others. Second, sinners feel that their sin is "their own business" and want church leaders to "mind their own business" - meaning, "please pay no attention to me." The victims of critical people are outraged, and serious sinners retreat into their sinful shell. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what it has to teach us on this topic!

Lesson 14: Boasting in the Cross (Galatians 6:11-18)
If we have just one Jesus, why do we have all of these different churches? In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul complains about divisions among believers. It seems today that each church has its own important distinctive. For example, the Baptists have baptism by immersion. Although I'm not a Baptist, I think that is a very important doctrine. How should those of us with distinctive doctrines approach the world? Should Baptists lead with baptism by immersion? Should each denomination lead with its distinctive (and true) belief? In Paul's closing message to the Galatians, he gives counsel on this point. Let's plunge into our final study of Galatians and see what we can discover!

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