July, August, September 2017

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 6,7,9,11,15 & 22)
We begin a new study of one of the most important books of the New Testament! While the books of the Bible are all important, Galatians is critical to a correct understanding of our salvation. However, before we dig into the actual text of the book of Galatians, let's first look at the background of the man who wrote it. Understanding this context, helps us to better understand Galatians!

Lesson 2: Paul's Authority and Gospel (Galatians 1)
When you want to persuade someone to your point of view, how do you go about it? Do you tell them that you are from the government? Do you tell them that you have a lot of education? Do you tell them that you are smart? Do you tell them that you have special insight into the problem? Do you tell them about your experience? Paul faces this very issue. The Christians in the Galatian church are getting off track in their understanding of the gospel. Paul needs to persuade them to get back on track. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see how Paul does it! While we are at it, let's pay close attention to what Paul has to say about salvation.

Lesson 3: The Unity of the Gospel (Galatians 2)
What kind of unity does Paul represent? So far, he seems most interested in saying that his gospel comes straight from God, and not from church leaders. That seems an odd approach to unity! Perhaps we are not as sly as Paul. Perhaps Paul knew that he should continue on his own path teaching the Gentiles as God instructed him. Only when he had established his work would he come to church leadership for its approval. Let's read what Paul writes and see if that is his approach!

Lesson 4: Justification by Faith Alone (Galatians 2:15-21, Romans 7)
This week we begin our discussion of the heart of the gospel - how a Christian is saved from his or her sins. It is very important to get this right. Do you recall that in Galatians 1:8 Paul says that those who teach a false gospel should be "eternally condemned." I'll try to get this right! More important than what I write, consider carefully what Paul writes so that you will correctly understand God's will. Let's plunge into this critically important study!

Lesson 5: Old Testament Faith (Galatians 3:1-14)
When I was young, there was a program on television called "Bewitched." In our study this week, Paul tells the Galatians that they have been "bewitched." We know the Galatians could not have been watching too much television! Is Paul talking about demon possession? I looked up Strong's definition for the underlying Greek word and it means "to fascinate (by false representations)." We don't want to be mislead about the gospel, so let's plunge into our study of the letter to the Galatians to find the truth!

Lesson 6: The Priority of the Promise (Galatians 3:15-20)
In Genesis 15:6 it says that "Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Paul tells us that this is the model God has in mind for us. We need to believe and trust God. If we do, that is sufficient for us to be in a right relationship with Him. That is our ticket to heaven. But, is this correct? What about the fact that God gave the Ten Commandments to His people through Moses? What about the fact that Jesus made obedience even more difficult by saying that looking "lustfully" was "heart" adultery and just getting angry subjected you to judgment just like murder subjects you to judgment(Matthew 5)? Talk about making the standards more rigorous! Paul discusses the impact of the law in our study this week. Let's dive into the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 7: The Road to Faith (Galatians 3:21-25)
Let's review for just a minute. Last week we learned that the original contract between God and Abraham was that Abraham would believe God (trust God) and God would credit righteousness to Abraham. These were the promises between Abraham and God. This contract was operative even though Abraham was a sinful man. We also learned that we inherited Abraham's side of this contractual agreement between God and Abraham. After the original contract, God gave humans the Ten Commandments (and other laws), and after that, Jesus came to make good on the contract between Abraham and God. So, where does this leave the law? Is it a relic of the past? If so, why was it given after the original contract? If it is not a relic, what role does it play in our day to day lives? Let's wade into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 8: From Slaves to Heirs (Galatians 3:26-4:20)
Do you recall a time when you were on vacation and you saw some beautiful mountain or scenic canyon? Did you travel around it so that you could see it from different angles? That is how our lessons feel recently. We have been asking this question: "If we were saved by trusting in God from the very beginning, why did God give us the Ten Commandments later?" We have looked at this question several times now, and we look at it again in this lesson. Paul apparently wants us to consider the question from all angles, so let's plunge into our study of the Bible and view a different angle!

Lesson 9: Paul's Pastoral Appeal (Galatians 4:12-20)
Have you had friends who suddenly no longer are your friend? In the days of Facebook, that happens to all of us! Perhaps the most painful friend experience for me arose because of theological reasons. My wife tells me that it was my fault. She might be right, but I'm not sure because I did not want to end the relationship with my friend. Paul's discussion this week is about the Galatians "unfriending" him due to theological differences. He wants them to remain friends, but he wants them to do it on his (God's) terms. Does that sound familiar? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 10: The Two Covenants (Galatians 4:21-31)
What started our Galatians discussion about the extent to which Gentiles should have to adopt Jewish theology in order to become Christians? Wasn't it circumcision? See Acts 15:1. This causes many Christians to say that the "law" to which Paul constantly refers in Galatians is the "ceremonial law," and not the Ten Commandments. Of course, a logical problem with that argument is that circumcision was not given as part of the ceremonial law. It was a command given long before to Abraham. Genesis 17:9-10. Our study this week is the clearest statement that when Paul refers to the "law" he includes the Ten Commandments (as well as the ceremonial law and circumcision). Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more about this clear statement!

Lesson 11: Freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1-15)
One of my greatest blessings is to have lived all my life in a place where we have both political and economic freedom. During my lifetime, a greater proportion of the world has become free, both economically and politically. That slashed the rate poverty and hunger worldwide. I recently read an article reporting that absolute poverty dropped by more than 80% from 1970 to 2006 and it continues to drop. There is no doubt in my mind that political and economic freedom are linked to the abolition of poverty. What other freedoms are linked to enjoying a better life? Surely there is a link with religious freedom. In our study today, Paul asks us to consider carefully theological freedom. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 12: Living by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25; Romans 8)
Many years ago, I was speaking to someone who had recently come to understand grace. We were talking about the law of God and he told me that it had no application. We agreed to disagree on that subject. It was a year or two later that I ran into him again. Remembering our conversation, I asked him about his views now. He had significantly changed his mind. He still believed in grace, but he also realized the importance of obedience. Our study this week is about obedience. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. We died (in Jesus) for our sins when we were baptized. But, being released from the death penalty does not mean that we disregard obedience. Just how does this work? Where and how are the lines drawn? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 13: The Gospel and the Church (Galatians 6:1-10)
Most of our study of Galatians has focused on how we live by the Spirit and by grace. Paul now turns his attention to how we should relate with other members of the church. What should we do about sin in the church? Does the nature of the sin matter? Does the prominence of the member matter? On a recent church weekend retreat, one member wanted to discuss this issue with me. We agreed that everyone in the church is a sinner. We all need grace. A distinction arises, however, when a member becomes a proponent of sin. They not only sin, but they argue that sin should be accepted. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!

Lesson 14: Boasting in the Cross (Galatians 6:11-18)
We come to the end of our 2017 study of Paul's letter to the Galatians. If you have been with us through the entire series, I hope that you have a better understanding of Paul's message of righteousness by faith, and his concern that through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit faith changes our attitude. That change causes us to want to live a life that brings glory to God and makes our journey here easier. Paul has a few important truths to share in his closing, so let's plunge into our final study of Galatians and see what we can learn!

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