New Hope UMC

Lesson 1 Galatians: No Other Gospel (1:1-10)

October 12, 2017.

Key verse:

“The Lord Jesus Christ ...  gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:3b-4, NIV)

"This is the first piece of Christian literature ever penned. The letter is a monumental statement against legalism. Paul answers every argument that the Judaizers used to persuade the Galatians into following the Law of Moses. Galatians is the Magna Carta of the Christian faith." Frank Viola, The Untold Story of the New Testament. 

The New Testament is a beautiful collection of inspiring literature, but it is not presented in chronological order. Paul's first letter is somewhere behind Romans and Corinthians, probably because of its size. It is important, however, to understand and grasp context when studying any scripture. This context includes the geographical setting, the status of the fledgling Christian community and the opposition it faced from within. The church was only about 20 years old when Paul wrote to the Galatians. They were having problems with the new faith, as were most of the churches who received letters from Paul. What was behind these problems and dissension? We shall see.

It is thus fitting to begin a study of the Apostle where he began with the first letter that he wrote. We will look at his motivation and the circumstances surrounding the writing. We will also look at Paul's life from the time of his conversion to his first journey to Galatia. This is critical to understanding his diligence in preparing himself to take up his appointed role as God's messenger to the Gentiles. 

Discussion questions:

 Discussion question 1.  (Galatians 1:4) According to verse 4, for what purpose did Jesus give himself? How does Jesus rescue people today? How does he keep people from falling back into their old ways?

Discussion question 2Paul called the Judaizers’ message as a “different gospel,” a perversion of the true gospel. How is this dangerous to the Galatian believers? How do twisted  gospels (or an unbalanced interpretation of the gospel) affect Christians in our day?

Lesson 2 Galatians: The Independence of Paul’s Gospel (1:11-2:10)

October 19, 2017.

Key verse:

“I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:11-12, NIV)

In this part of the letter, Paul establishes his credentials as a messenger sent from God to preach the gospel of Christ. He deems this necessary since there are those in Galatia who are claiming that he does not bring a true message of salvation. He asserts something that his opponents cannot: that Jesus had appeared to him personally, appointed him as an apostle, and given him a personal revelation. His gospel wasn’t derived primarily from the Old Testament, or from the teachings of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. He received it directly from Christ. He talks about his conversion and the years after that before he came to the position in which he now finds himself. It is important for us to understand where Paul is coming from as it brings out the essence of our Christian faith. But after his conversion, there was a long time lapse before he went on his first journey. He talks about this in these verses and we will get into some more detail about his activities in these intervening years. 

Paul' s authority is questioned by the Judaizers and he asserts that he his teaching is directly from the Lord Jesus Christ. He bases this on the revelation of the Old Testament, the revelation of Jesus Christ himself and his personal conversion. Paul make it clear that these insights are important to the Galatians and obviously they are important to modern Christians as well. The authority of the Lord is all we need.   


Discussion questions:

 Discussion question 1(Galatians 1:11-12) What is the source of Paul’s gospel? How do we know that it is a true revelation? How does it conform to our other foundational sources of Christian teaching? What is the danger of taking the teaching of contemporary leaders as our doctrinal basis without checking it with the Scripture?

Discussion question 2 (Galatians 1:13-16) What factors in Paul’s background made him an ideal apostle to the Gentiles? How did God use his being different from others? To ponder: How has your unique background fitted you for ministry? What uniqueness has God given you? What will it take to see that uniqueness as a God-given strength rather than as an embarrassment?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 2:1-3) Paul is arguing that the Jerusalem leaders support his position on circumcision, rather than that of the Judaizers. What is the significance of Paul’s mention that Titus was not required to be circumcised?

Discussion question 4 (Galatians 2:1-10) Why do you think Paul seems to distance himself from the leaders of the Jerusalem church (2:2, 6, 9)? Why does he at the same time write of their approval of his ministry? How does this further his argument to the Galatians in this letter? 


Lesson 3: Justified by Faith in Christ (2:11-21)

October 26, 2017.

Key verse:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

In this lesson, Brother Wilson asks us to consider, "what is the core gospel that we teach new believers – and how much of our own culture do we import into the target culture? Indeed, this is something we ask of new believers when they want to become a member of our congregation, but it is also something we should ask ourselves, if not every day, at least frequently. Paul is confronted by different circumstances, but the answers are the same as they were when he was counseling the Christians in Galatia. We are confronted by rules and regulations and if we're not careful the main principle of Christian faith can get lost or placed on the back burner. It was necessary for Paul to go through the process of dealing with the Jewish Christians in order to bring home this point. And that point is "Why did "Christ die for us?". “If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:21. This is the basic tenet of Christianity which we will discuss in this lesson. But before that takes place, it is useful to follow Paul's train of though in his letter. It helps to understand how he dealt with the authorities including Peter and James and the outcome of those deliberations. Paul was unyielding on this promise of Jesus, and thus it is fundamental to believers everywhere. We were lost, we are found. We are children of God and Jesus has taken us in to his loving arms. He has died for us and taken on the burden of sin for us. Praise the Lord.   

Discussion questions:

 Discussion question 1.(Galatians 2:11-14) Why do you think Peter first embraced the Gentile believers in Antioch and later withdrew from them to eat only with Jews? What does this tell us about his character? Why should he have known better? What does this tell us about Barnabas? What does it tell us about the political clout of the visitors from Jerusalem? Have you ever acted like a hypocrite to impress others? What should you do when you recover your senses?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 2:14) Why do you think Paul confronted Peter publicly rather than privately? Do you expect Paul had talked with Peter about this previously? How did a public discussion of this benefit the Jewish Christians? How did it benefit the Gentile Christians? What kind of pressure do you think this put on Paul?

Discussion question 3Why is it so hard to take the gospel to different peoples without wrapping it in our own cultural practices? Can you think of examples of this in Church history? What is the danger? How can we avoid such cultural faux pas in our church’s missionary enterprises?

Discussion question 4 (Galatians 2:15-21) What happens to the importance of Christ’s death if circumcision is deemed necessary to salvation? Why was this issue of the sufficiency of the Messiah’s death so important in Paul’s day? Why was this issue important to Luther and the reformers? Why is it so important in our own day? How does it affect the relative legalism of our congregations?

Discussion question 5. (Galatians 2:20) In what sense have we been “crucified with Christ”? What does that mean? In what sense do “I no longer live”? Whose life now motivates us? How does this verse relate to Paul’s closing comments about the “new creation” (Galatians 6:15)? What does Galatians 2:20 teach about Christ’s attitude toward us?

Lesson 4: Faith Is the Key, not Law (3:1-25)

November 2, 2017.

Key verse:

“Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5, NIV)

In this lesson, we consider arguments by Paul, given to the Galatians in support of his claims. We become apologists, who are people who defend the Christian faith theologically. Paul present five arguments in Chapter 3, as follows:

  1. Receiving the Spirit (3:2-5)

  2. Abraham’s justification by faith (3:6-9)

  3. The law bringing a curse (3:10-14)

  4. The unchangeable nature of a covenant (3:15-18) and 

  5. The purpose of the law (3:19-20)

We consider each of these positions (arguments) and liearn how the scripture supports them. Paul has encountered opposition from the Judaizers and others and needs to nip this in the bud. These are the fundamental truths of the gospel and become the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Christianity is not just another sect of Judaism like the Jewish believers would have the Galatians believe. Though it has its roots in the Old Testament, it is very different. Paul is adamant in these positions and eloquent in making the arguments for us.  


Discussion questions:

 Discussion question 1(Galatians 3:2-5) What argument for salvation by faith does Paul give from the presence of the Spirit? What does this tell us about the spiritual environment of the Galatian churches? How can we regain this dynamic environment in our own congregations?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 3:6-9) What is Paul’s argument for salvation by faith based on Abraham? In what sense are we “children of Abraham”?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 3:10-14) What is Paul’s argument for salvation by faith based on the conctept of the “curse of the law”? On what basis do the Gentiles receive “the promise of the Spirit” (3:14)?

Discussion question 4 (Galatians 3:19-25) What was the purpose of the law? Was it intended to justify a person? In what ways did it restrain sin? In what ways did it expose sin?


Lesson 5: By the Spirit We Cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (3:26-4:7)

November 16, 2017.

Key verse:

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 3:26-27, NIV)

Paul introduces the all important concept of family to the Galatians. We become "sons" of Jesus when we are baptized into the faith. Jesus becomes Lord, Abba, Father. By baptism, the Galatians have joined themselves to Christ, baptized into Christ. Baptism is associated with being united with Christ. Throughout his letters, Paul uses various metaphors to describe this new relationship to Christ. We are baptized into Christ, we are united with Christ, we are clothed with Christ. Now "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (3:28-29). This is a radical statement to the exclusively minded Jews in Galatia. We are all now one as we are joined by baptism. 

We are also bound to this concept in a sort of contractual arrangement which his likens to slavery. Before Christ came, “we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world” (4:3) Before Jesus, both Jews and Gentiles were in slavery, either to the law or to paganism. They both need freedom from this slavery. 

We look at the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies that the "time is coming".  We wonder why God selected the first century AD in Galilee and Judea to be “the fullness of time.” We explore the reasons for this. 

We explore the Spirit that comes to us with the conversion of baptism. As adopted sons we are not step-children who are afraid of our Father and always on our guard. We don’t have to address him with the formal word, “Father,” but can use the familiar expression, “Abba,” because, after all, we are full sons! Hallelujah. The Holy Spirit in our lives is the evidence of our sonship.


Discussion questions:

 Discussion question 1(Galatians 4:26-29) Do you think Jewish Christians regarded Gentile Christians as second-class citizens? What is the basis of our unity in Christ? In what way does this unity pull down barriers? Do any groups continue to be regarded as second-class citizens in our congregations? What should we do about this?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 4:4) Why do you think it took so long to send the Messiah? What about the first century world made it fertile ground for the revelation of the Messiah and the spread of the gospel?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 4:3-5) In what sense were both the Gentiles and the Jews enslaved? What does “redeem” mean in verse 5? What are the implications of adoption regarding a person’s legal and spiritual rights?

Discussion question 4  (Galatians 4:6-7) How does the Spirit’s filling demonstrate we are full sons? What is the special sense in which the Aramaic word abba is used to speak to one’s father? What is the significance of being heirs of God? Are we sons in the same sense that Jesus was God’s Son?


Lessons 6 and 7: Freedom from the Law by the Spirit (4:8-5:12)l The Spirit and the Flesh (5:13-21)

December 1, 2017

Key verses:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

“13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature (sarx); rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (5:13-14)

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” (5:18)

We are studying two lessons from Jesus Walks this week. In Lesson 6, the Galatians had received Christ, had experienced the Holy Spirit setting them free from sin and opening up a new life to them. Now they knew God on the basis of an introduction by the Son of God himself. But they were flirting with the idea of being circumcised so they could be saved! They didn’t get it. They didn’t appreciate what they had. So Paul tries to explain to them using a number of analogies how the law that demanded circumcision was inferior to the freedom of the Spirit.

In Lesson 7, Paul explains that we are not free to sin but freed from sin. Our freedom is not a license to do anything – licentiousness – but freedom to fulfill the law through the Spirit. And that fulfillment is found in love. Paul insists that people are unable to really keep the law because of the weakness of their corrupt sinful nature, the flesh. The law is inadequate. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can tame the flesh – and replace the law.


Discussion questions, Lesson 6:

 Discussion question 1(Galatians 4:10-11) Is celebrating different special worship days essentially wrong? Why did Paul grieve over the Galatians’ observances? What significance did these have in terms of their movement towards Judaism? How can we be blessed by observing special days in our era? How can observance of special days become legalistic for Christian believers?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 4:19-20) How is Paul’s grief over his spiritual children like that of a parent seeing children stray? What does it look like when Christ is formed in a person? What is the process involved in this spiritual formation?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 5:4) Exactly what does Paul mean by “fall from grace” here? What has occurred that has caused this fall? How can present-day Christian legalism cause such a “fall from grace”?

Discussion question 4  (Galatians 5:5-6) Circumcision had been the primary “mark of identity” for a believer in God. In what way has the Spirit become the new “mark of identity” for the believer? What is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a believer’s life according to verse 6?

Discussion question 5.  What is “the offense of the cross” that offended the Jews? How does the cross offend people in our day? Have you noticed Christians softening their proclamation of the cross? Does this help them communicate more clearly to our age or does it compromise the true message?

Discussion questions, Lesson 7:

 Discussion question 1.(Galatians 5:13-15) Have you ever seen Christians act as if they were lawless? How do Spirit-led Christians fulfill the spirit of the law? What does backbiting and rudeness in a congregation say about the spiritual climate of that congregation (5:15)?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 5:16-18) We are told that it’s impossible for a Christian to live a sinless life. What do these verses teach about that? In what way does yielding to the Spirit suppress the power of the old nature (the flesh)? If Spirit-led living is possible, why do people claim that it’s impossible not to sin?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 5:19-21) If you were to divide the works of the flesh into several groups, what would those groups be?

Discussion question 4  Why do some Christians resist accepting Paul’s warning in 5:21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11? What statement might these Christians desire to substitute for Paul’s warning if they could reword the Scripture?

Lessons 8 and 9: The Spirit and Character (5:22-26); Sowing to the Spirit (6:1-18)

 December 8, 2017

Key verses:

““But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (5:22-23)

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

In Lesson 8, Paul takes us through the fruits of the spirit, certainly one of the most quoted verses from the Apostle. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. So now the spirit is starting to bear fruit in us. Paul goes from freeing the Christians from the yoke of the Law in Lesson 6 to introducing them to the guardian nature of the spirit to fight temptations of the flesh in Lesson 7. Now he is ushering in the spirit in a positive manner in that it will bear fruit in us. Wilson takes us through each of the nine "fruits" that the spirit is producing with an explanation of each so that we fully understand this significant phase of our Christian journey. 

In Lesson 9, tells the Galatians what they can expect when the fruit of the spirit has taken hold. Rescuing each other from sin is presented as an example. This is to be done with gentleness, kindness and patience. When we or others sin, and we will, there is help in the spirit,. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (6:1a) 

We are to carry each others burdens. We are to work to restore each other to wholeness but must be wary of being caught up in the sin of the other. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) We are also to share the Word with each other. “Anyone who receives instruction[297] in the word must share all good things with his instructor.” (6:6) Other topics of practical Christianity are covered and finally there is the promise of a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Discussion questions, Lesson 8:

 Discussion question 1(Galatians 5:22a) Love is the first and primary fruit of the Holy Spirit, but joy and peace are inseparable from love. Why can’t joy and peace exist apart from love – love for God and love for our neighbors?

Discussion question 2.(Galatians 5:22) The fruit of patience should be understood as forbearance, that is, putting up with people around us without exploding. Why is this patient forbearance such an important personal character element? Why is it so important for peace in the family and in the Christian community?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 5:22-23) How does the Holy Spirit produce this fruit in our lives? What theological term would you use to identify this process? How can it be that a person who has been a “Christian” for years displays few or none of these fruits? Are they saved, but just immature? What does James 2:17-19 say about this? Is that too harsh?

Discussion question 4.  (Galatians 5:24-25) What does it mean to “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires”? Can a person be a Christian without “crucifying the flesh”? How have we produced such a crop of lukewarm Christians?

Discussion questions, Lesson 9:

 Discussion question 1.(Galatians 6:1-5) What does Paul mean, “caught in a sin”? What would restoration of a such brother or sister look like in his or her life? Who should restore this person? In what spirit should it be done? What is the result of trying to restore a person without humility?

Discussion question 2(Galatians 6:7-8) What does it mean to “sow to the flesh”? What does this look like? What synonyms does Paul use for “sow to the Spirit” in Galatians? (Hint: see 5:16, 18, 25). What does sowing to the Spirit look like in a congregation? What are the results in a congregation of sowing to the flesh?

Discussion question 3(Galatians 6:9-10) Why do we tend to become weary living out our faith? What promise does Paul give us in 6:9 to forestall this weariness? Why should our “doing good” begin with our spiritual family, not with the non-Christians?

Discussion question 4  (Galatians 6:15) What characterizes this “new creation” that Paul talks about? What does the “old creation” look like in contrast? What does the old creation lack that the new creation possesses? How does Jesus’ saying, “You must be born again” (John 3:3-8) relate to this concept of the new creation?

Discussion question 5 (Galatians 6:16) Who comprises “the Israel of God” today? Who is excluded from this group? How is Romans 11:17-25 designed to temper Gentile pride?