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Sabbath School Lessons on Galatians
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About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 2: Paul's Authority and Gospel *
Introduction: 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!
- Paul's Authority
- Read Galatians 1:1-2. How did your religious leader come
to lead your congregation? (Normally, humans (hopefully
led by the Holy Spirit)work out the arrangements.)
- What does Paul say about his calling? (It did not
come from men.)
- Why does Paul say "not from men nor by man?" What
does the "by man" add? (Jack Sequeira's commentary
reveals that enemies of the gospel had come to the
Galatian church (a church founded by Paul) and told
the members that Paul was "self-appointed." He had
no real authority for his teachings. Thus, in his
language "by man" Paul is saying "I didn't appoint
- Who did authorize Paul's message? (He says both
"Jesus Christ and God the Father!")
- Let's skip ahead and read Galatians 1:11-12. What is
Paul's claim here? (That Jesus taught him personally.)
- Why should we believe Paul? Jesus had returned to
- If we eliminate the books written by Paul from
the Bible, we would probably have a different
view of salvation. Jesus often refers to
something a person needs to do to be saved.
(See, e.g., Matthew 5:17-20; Matthew 25:34-36;
Matthew 19:21.) I know that these statements
that seem counter to grace can be explained,
but I'm doubtful many would attempt the
explanation without Paul's writings on grace.
This means the question of where Paul got his
ideas is extremely important - even today.
- Read Galatians 1:15-20. How does this affect Paul's
credibility? (I'm generally not impressed when someone
has to deny that they are lying! "Honest, that is what
happened!" What gives Paul credibility is that he gives
the details of his instruction - he was three years in
Arabia receiving instruction from Jesus.)
- Do you think Jesus spent three years with Paul -
roughly the same amount of time Jesus spent with His
disciples? (We just do not know. Paul does not claim
Jesus was instructing him all of this time.)
- Read Acts 9:10-15. Who wrote the book of Acts? (We
believe Luke wrote it, not Paul. Thus, Luke is convinced,
based on a report from Ananias, that Paul was selected
specifically by God to share the gospel with the
- Read 2 Peter 3:15-16. What does the disciple Peter say
about Paul's writings (other than they are hard to
understand in some sections)? (That Paul's writings come
from the wisdom God gave Paul, that they are on the level
of "other Scriptures," and that ignoring or twisting them
means the loss of salvation.)
- What does this tell us about Paul's authority? (That
the early church leaders, Luke and Peter, accepted
Paul's statements about the source of his authority.
So should we.)
- Let's get back to our original question: why do you
think Paul's authority was undue such attack? (If
Satan wanted to stamp out the message of grace, Paul
would be his main target.)
- Is grace (righteousness by faith alone) important?
(Other than some of Christianity, all religions of
the world are works based. That should tell us
something important about the struggle between good
- Before we leave this section, let's read Acts 1:6. I've
always thought that this question, presented to Jesus
just as He was returning to heaven, must have been very
disappointing. His followers seem to still be confused
about Jesus' mission. Is it possible that in light of
this question, Jesus rethought the issue of using
primarily former fisherman to promote the gospel, and
decided that He would add an incredibly smart, highly
educated theologian to His core group?
- The Gospel
- Now that we have settled Paul's authority, let's go back
to Galatians 1:1. How does Paul describe Jesus? ("Raised
from the dead.")
- Why? (This is a central issue to salvation by grace.
Either we live or die by the law, or we live or die
by accepting the life, death and resurrection of
Jesus on our behalf. The most important part of this
(for Jesus and for us) is the resurrection part!)
- Read Galatians 1:3-5. Let's not skip quickly over words
we see all the time. What does it mean to have "grace and
peace," and why would Paul say these words instead of
"riches and beauty?" (Grace, again, is our ticket to
eternal life. This gives us peace with God. Jesus is
raised from the dead, thus we have grace and peace
available to us.)
- Read Galatians 1:6-7. Who is being deserted? (Paul seems
to be referring to himself. He is the one who called them
- What is the problem? (They are turning from the
- Think about this for a moment. When I think about
being lost, my concern is that Satan will draw me so
deeply into sin that I no longer care about my
relationship with God. Paul seems to be warning
about a different problem - a problem in which the
supposed followers of God draw us into a false
"pervert[ed]" gospel. What could that false gospel
- Read Acts 15:2-6. What does Acts record as the false
gospel problem? (That the Gentiles must be circumcised
and obey the law of Moses.)
- What is wrong with circumcision or the instructions
God gave Moses? Did God give bad advice in the
- Read Acts 15:7-11. Peter stands up and he argues for
Paul's view. One commentary that I read noted that (Acts
15:5) "the law of Moses" referred to the ceremonial law
instead of the Ten Commandments. Is resolving that
- Peter and Paul say that what is needed for salvation
is faith alone. The false gospel people say what is
needed for salvation is faith plus something else.
Reduced to a mathematical formula: Salvation = Faith
+ X. Is the issue what "X" stands for? Or, is the
issue whether salvation requires an "X" at all?
- If the issue is what "X" stands for, then we need to
decide whether "X" is the Ten Commandments or the
ceremonial law. But, if the issue is whether we need
an "X" at all, no matter what it might be, then
determining the identity of "X" is a waste of time.
- Read Galatians 1:8-9. How serious a matter is it to
preach the false gospel? (Eternal life is at stake.)
- After discussion of this issue, James stands up and
renders the decision of the early church. Read Acts
15:19-20. As I understand this, circumcision and the law
of Moses are out, refraining from eating certain foods
and sexual purity are in. Is this the new "X"? Is the
salvation formula now Faith + X, with X defined in verse
20? (Scan 1 Corinthians 8. There, Paul argues that only
those "whose conscience is weak" abstain from eating meat
offered to idols. Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 8,
and common sense, tell us that our eating practices and
sexual purity cannot be the new "X". Circumcision, the
law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, proper eating
practices and sexual purity are all good things. These
instructions came from God to bless our lives and help us
to walk in His ways. But, none of them are part of the
salvation formula. Making them part of the salvation
formula is a false gospel.)
- Friend, what about you? Do you accept that Paul's message
came from Jesus? Do you believe in salvation by faith
alone? Or, are you promoting a false gospel that
repentance and faith in Jesus needs to be supplemented by
an "X" factor - however we define it? I'm a guy who is a
competitor. I like to earn victory and hate defeat. But,
when it comes to salvation my competitive nature needs to
be thrown into the dirt. Nothing, absolutely nothing that
I do (including writing these lessons) makes any
difference to my salvation.
- Next week: The Unity of the Gospel.
* Copr. 2011, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.