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5. The Letter to the Galatians

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So far, we have learned about Christ from Romans, 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. Remember these truths about who Jesus Christ is and what He does for you.

  • In Romans, Christ is our righteousness. Every believer is equally right with God and has equal righteousness from God.
  • In 1 Corinthians: Christ is the wisdom of God, greater than any human wisdom or strength.
  • In 2 Corinthians: Christ is our comforter when we hurt.

In this lesson, we will look at Galatians.

“My brothers and sisters, you were chosen to be free. But don't use your freedom as an excuse to live in sin. Instead, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIRV)

The Key Question

Have you ever taken an art class or even thought about taking an art class? Let’s say you have an art teacher who says art begins with a blank sheet of paper and lots of different colors. Then, you can paint whatever your heart desires on the paper. That art teacher moves away. You get a new art teacher who says art should be done on a paper with a big square on it. Men can have 3 paint colors, and women can only have 2 colors. And, you have to keep whatever you paint inside the lines of the square. Would you like that? Which type of painting gives you more freedom and is more enjoyable?

The key word for our lesson today is freedom. The question to ask is, “Freedom to do what?” Some of Paul’s friends needed to know the answer to that question.

The People and Their Need

On his first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas visited four towns in an area called Galatia. It is in the center of modern Turkey. The people who lived there were called Galatians and were mostly Greeks and Romans who didn’t know God. Some Jews lived there as well. Whenever Paul visited a town, he’d go to the local synagogue, which was a small church building. Jews met there to worship God every Saturday like we do at churches in our towns. Greeks and Romans who wanted to worship God joined them there. As a traveling teacher, Paul was invited to speak to everyone at the synagogue meeting. So, he gave them the good news about Jesus.

In each town, a few Jews believed Paul’s message about Jesus, but it was mostly the Greeks and Romans who listened to Paul and trusted in Jesus to take away their sins. The new Christians started meeting together with Paul who taught them about Jesus and their new freedom to love and serve God because their sins were totally forgiven. This made the Jewish synagogue leaders jealous because the Greeks and Romans were becoming Christians instead of becoming Jews! So the Jewish leaders chased Paul out of every town. In one town, they tried to kill him by throwing large rocks at him. He was badly hurt, but thankfully he didn’t die. Bravely, Paul went back to each town, appointing leaders for the new churches. Then, he and Barnabas headed back to Antioch to report back to the church there and praise God together.

Back in Antioch, Paul heard that another teacher had gone to those Galatian towns and told the new Christians that God’s gift of Jesus was not enough to get rid of sin! The bad teacher said they also had to follow “the Law” of Moses in addition to believing in Jesus. Only by following the Law every day could anyone be truly forgiven by God for their sin. For example, you had to eat Jewish food. No ham or shrimp. You had to wash your dishes by the rules. Following that Law is like having to paint inside the square instead of all over the page. The people had become confused. So, Paul wrote them a letter and explained to them the freedom they had in Christ and how not to give up on it.

We have that letter called Galatians. It is a gift from God to us. Paul says to them and to us that in Christ, there is freedom. What kind of freedom? Let’s find out.

The Answer: Christ Is Our Freedom from the Law

1. Read Galatians 2:16. How do we become right with God and have our sins forgiven—by following a lot of special rules or by faith in Jesus only?

During the time of Moses (as described in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus), God gave the Jewish people many laws for their nation. These laws fit into three categories—religious (mostly for having sins forgiven), civil (how to run the government), and moral (how people should treat one another).

God gave those laws so people would realize how sinful we all are and that we all needed God’s mercy and help because no one could ever follow all of them all of the time. On God’s “test,” anything less than 100% is failing, and only Jesus has ever gotten 100!

God’s laws also taught His people what holiness is and how they could live their lives God’s way, just like the way a parent or guardian trains a child to become a responsible adult. The Law was just in charge until Christ came, but we are no longer under its control.

“So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” (Galatians 3:24-25)

2. Suppose someone said to you, “You know, in order for you to have all your sins forgiven, you must attend church every week” or “In order to have all your sins forgiven, you have to take communion every week.” How would you answer?

Neither of those activities are bad for you. The point Paul was trying to make to the Galatians. If you’ve already been given eternal life there’s nothing more you need to do, no other rules you must follow just to be saved or to stay saved. And, Paul even says it is “foolish” to believe anything else!

3. Should you obey others if they tell you to do something that is different from what the Bible says?

In Galatians, Christ is our freedom from the law, freedom from having to follow extra rules just to maintain our salvation.

4. Read Galatians 5:1. What words did Paul use to describe what the bad teachers had done to the Galatians?

A yoke of slavery refers to chains and bondage. Paul told the Galatian Christians (5:1) that the bad teachers had put chains on them to make them slaves to the Jewish Law. Broken chains would make a good symbol for this freedom that Christ gives all believers.

5. When the Galatians got this letter, do you think they felt like those chains were now broken so they could be free again?

6. Read Galatians 5:13-15. Christ is our freedom from the law. Freedom is the key word.

  • What does verse 13 tell us about our freedom?
  • In verses 14-15, what should govern our freedom?

Thinking about artwork again. Even if you are given a blank piece of paper and lots of paint colors, you are still not free to do some things. You aren’t free to paint the floor or someone else’s paper. Those things would affect someone else negatively. In the same way, we are not free to do anything we want with our lives.

God still wants us to love one another, not kill anyone, not lie, not steal, not cheat, and not be hateful. Those rules about how to live are still good for us to follow.

7. Read Galatians 3:14. Once we are made right with God who comes to live inside us?

8. Read Galatians 5:16-21. What freedom does the Spirit give to us?

The term "flesh" (or "sinful nature") refers to that portion of ourselves through which sin assaults us. We don’t know what it is, but we know how it works—sending messages to the mind that are in conflict with the Spirit. The flesh does not improve or change its nature over time as long as we are in our bodies. At the moment of salvation, we are born again of the Spirit. Our bodies are not born again, and our souls (mind, emotions, and will) are not instantly transformed. While the flesh doesn’t improve, our choices can change over time as we learn to live by the Spirit.

There is a story about a little boy who was standing in his chair. His mother told him to sit down. The little boy sat down, but he told his mother that while he was sitting on the outside he was still standing up on the inside. Have you ever felt that way when someone made you do something you didn’t want to do, even if it was something good?

9. Do you think God wants you to be loving and kind to someone because you have to or because you want to do so?

God is more interested in your heart behavior. He wants you to choose to do the right things because your heart wants to do so, especially to love one another.

10. When is it hard to love someone or be kind to someone?

11. Who gives us the power to love someone or be kind to someone when it is hard?

The Holy Spirit works from the inside out. He gives us love that comes from our hearts not just because we are told to do so.

We can ask God’s Holy Spirit to help us love others, especially when it is hard. The Bible calls that bearing fruit. Let’s see what Paul says a person with the Holy Spirit living inside should be like—the kind of spiritual fruit you will bear.

12. Read Galatians 5:22-23. What kinds of “fruit” does the Holy Spirit produce?

These are not the only fruit the Holy Spirit produces. But, this fruit in our lives makes our lives more like Jesus’ life. Christ is our freedom from the law to have our sins forgiven. In Christ, we have freedom to love others and bear spiritual fruit from our hearts.

In Galatians, Christ is our freedom from the law of works to earn God’s acceptance. Salvation is based on faith in Christ alone not by works. Paul’s emphasis on freedom expressed in this letter fueled the Protestant Reformation, which helped to bring God’s grace and a love for God’s Word to millions around the world.

Living Dependently on Christ

1) Bible verse to learn:

“My brothers and sisters, you were chosen to be free. But don't use your freedom as an excuse to live in sin. Instead, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NIRV)

2) Response in prayer & praise:

What is your heart response to this gift of freedom God has given to you in Christ? Thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit to lead your heart to do the right things. Ask Jesus to help you be more intentional to love someone or be kind to someone this week when it is hard to do so.

3) Getting to know Him more:

Spend a few minutes each day reading this wonderful letter and reflecting on how God’s marvelous grace offers you a life of freedom and joy.

  • Read Galatians chapter 1. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Galatians chapter 2. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Galatians chapter 3. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Galatians chapter 4. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Galatians chapter 5. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Galatians chapter 6. Reflect on what you read.

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