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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 37 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 3: The Unity of the Gospel *
Introduction: 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!
- Return Trip
- Read Galatians 2:1-2. Recall that in chapter one of
Galatians Paul says that he went to Jerusalem to visit
Peter and James. Paul now returns. Why? (God told him to
return. He says it was "in response to a vision.")
- What do you think was God's purpose in having Paul
to return to the "home office?" (Notice that Paul
says that he "set before them the gospel that I
preach among the Gentiles." God must have been
concerned about a uniform gospel being taught to
both the Jews and Gentiles.)
- Paul says that he has some fears, and for that he
reason spoke privately to the leadership. What fear
is Paul likely speaking about?
- Is it Paul's fear that he is wrong in his
- Is it a fear that the leaders in Jerusalem will
not agree with him? (The whole tone of
Galatians so far has been that Paul received
his message from Jesus. He is not indebted for
his message to any of the leaders back at the
home office. Thus, it hardly seems that he
fears that he is wrong. He doesn't seem too
concerned about the leadership at the home
office either. It must be that he is mostly
concerned about the unity of the church.)
- How could Paul fear that he has been running a
fourteen year race in vain? (Recall that Paul is
fighting against a false gospel in the Galatian
church. If he does not have the backing of the home
office, how can he expect to convince the Galatians
that he is right? Unless there is unity in the
message, his detractors will claim he is wrong.)
- Why would Paul request a private meeting? (He
obviously had opponents in Jerusalem and Galatia.
Large meetings are often swayed by appeals to
passion, rather than reason. By meeting with the
top leaders, he could explain exactly what he was
doing and teaching, and the reasons why.)
- What does this teach us about democracy in the
- Read Galatians 2:3. Was Paul successful? (Recall that one
of the main issues was circumcision. The leadership did
not suggest that one of Paul's primary assistants should
- Read Galatians 2:4-5. Explain how you think this "spy"
thing worked? (Paul was not working in a day of phones,
e-mails and television. How could the leaders of the
church in Jerusalem know what Paul was teaching unless he
(or some others) reported on what he was doing? The
suggestion is that Paul's theological enemies were
bringing back false reports to the leaders in Jerusalem.
God revealed to Paul that he should make a trip to the
home office to get the truth before them.)
- Who is Paul speaking to when he says "We did not
give in to them for a moment?" (Paul is speaking to
the members of the Galatian church and he is
referring to his theological opponents.)
- What is Paul's motive for saying this? Put
yourself in the place of a Galatian church
member when you answer this. (Just as the
leaders in the home office did not know what
Paul was teaching the Gentiles, so the Galatian
church members did not know what Paul was
saying in his report to the home office. He
could be saying to each group just what they
want to hear. Paul assures the Galatians that
he is doing no such thing. He has a consistent
message whether his audience is the Jewish home
office, or the Gentile churches.)
- Read Galatians 2:6-9. Who are the important leaders?
(Paul names them: James, Peter and John.)
- Does Paul sound like a rebel here? (Yes. Have you
ever noticed that someone will "overcompensate"
because of a background of certain problems? I've
seen this - a church focused on some problem goes
overboard in that area. Paul does not need to cast
doubt on the importance of James, Peter and John to
enhance his own authority. Yet, that is how I read
his statements which seem to reduce the importance
of the leadership in the home office.)
- Does it seem odd that Paul would have some
personality defects? (Time, culture, context and
translation make my conclusions about Paul's
attitude uncertain. But, if I'm right it simply
raises the importance of grace!)
- I asked you earlier about democracy in the church. Paul
says that he received his message directly from Jesus
( Galatians 1:11), and that he shared it with the top
leaders first. It seems clear that Paul is not looking
for a majority vote among the people to confirm his
views. He seems to be looking for confirmation of his
views from the leaders at home office, rather than being
willing to receive direction from the leaders. What kind
of church organization would result from these kinds of
attitudes? (The only way to reconcile Paul's statements
and conduct here with church organization is to believe
that Paul was certain that his message was from God, and
that God would make His will plain to the leadership.)
- The Poor
- Read Galatians 2:10 and Acts 2:44-47. Is the poverty
mentioned in Galatians the result of the economic
decisions of the early church? (Historically, when you
remove the incentive to work for profit, poverty follows.
(See Proverbs 16:26 & Proverbs 14:23.) However, Acts
11:27-29 suggests a famine might be part of the problem.
Note that this famine hit the entire Roman empire.)
- Of all the theological requirements the church
leaders could have put on Paul, this is the only
one. What does that suggest about the importance of
helping the poor? Or, does this teach that helping
the poor is just a suggestion?
- Notice that the Gentiles were not asked to model
themselves after Acts 2:44-47. Why is that? (Wait.
Acts 2:45 says that believers were given what they
needed. The suggestion to the Gentiles in Galatians
2:10 is to help the poor - those in need.)
- Peter Versus Paul
- Read Galatians 2:11-14. Let's discuss this in some
detail. Paul publically confronts Peter, a prominent
church leader. Should we publically confront our church
leaders when we think they are wrong?
- If the answer is, "yes," then who should do this?
Anyone, or just other leaders like Paul?
- What is the nature of the problem created by Peter?
(The problem is public. Not only is Peter
compromising on an important, current theological
issue, but the Gentiles are being shamed into
thinking they are second-class Christians. I do not
think leaders should be publically confronted about
private problems, only public problems.)
- What about the question of who is entitled to
confront a leader? (Paul received his message
from Jesus. His message was confirmed by the
leaders of the church. Those two facts are
very important on the issue of confronting
- Look closely at the text and notice the difference
between what Paul is thinking and what he actually
says. What kind of difference is there between the
two? (His thoughts are harsh, but what he says is
mostly a statement of uncontested fact followed by a
- What is the reason why Paul would use a
question to confront Peter? (He wanted Peter to
answer the question in a way that convicted
Peter of his error. Compare 2 Samuel 12:1-10
where Nathan seeks King David's advice. The
question is presented as a story, and David's
answer convicts him of sin.)
- Is this a lesson on how we (or church leaders)
should confront church leadership? (This seems
to be a great example. Only make public
confrontations for public issues. The
confrontation should not be harsh, but rather
should seek to convict the leader of the sin
problem. It is best for leaders to confront
other leaders. Confrontation should not take
place without the backing of the church
leadership on the subject and the direction of
the Holy Spirit.)
- Friend, God is concerned about the unity of His church.
Will you pray and work for a unified church?
- Next week: Justification by Faith Alone.
* 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.