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Lesson 4: Justification by Faith Alone *

Introduction: Let's review what we have learned so far in our study of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Paul has a special gospel message that he received directly from Jesus. The early church leaders believed this, but there was a pitched battle in the Galatian church, and among the early believers, over the message and requirements of the gospel. This week Paul explains his gospel message. As we study it, we need to ask if it is still in dispute among Christians? Is it still in dispute in our own minds? Let's dive into our study and examine again the heart of the gospel message!

  1. Paul's Gospel Message

    1. Read Galatians 2:15-16. What role does obeying the law play in our salvation? (None. "By observing the law no one will be justified.")

      1. Is this the message with which the top leaders of the church agreed? (Yes. It might have been hard to stay the course (see Peter's departure when the Jews from the home office arrived in Galatia), but that is the theology on which the leaders agreed.)

      2. What "law" is Paul writing about? The Ten Commandments? The ceremonial law? All of the writings of Moses? (It doesn't matter how the law is defined if keeping it does not save us. If salvation is a matter of faith alone, then whatever requirement you try to add is contrary to the gospel message.)

  2. The Obvious Problem with Paul's Gospel Message

    1. Read Galatians 2:17. This is the big question that is as relevant now as it was then - "Does righteousness by faith alone promote sin?" "How can you tell people that the law does not matter - they will go wild!" What answer does Paul give? (No, people should not go wild. The gospel of righteousness by faith alone does not promote sin.)

      1. What if the question in verse 17 were applied to you, how would you answer it? Is it evident to you that while you seek to be justified by faith that you are a sinner? (It is evident to me.)

    2. Have you run into Christians who say that they are pretty much free from sin?

      1. If so, were they strong righteousness by faith advocates? (I recall two people who told me that they thought they were doing pretty well on obedience to the law. One claimed to have been sin-free for two years. My judgment was that they believed obedience was necessary for salvation.)

      2. My observation that those who think that they are pretty good also believe in keeping the law to be saved is not scientific. But, if you have seen the same thing, why do you think that people who believe that they are obedient believe their obedience is necessary for salvation?

        1. And, if this is true, then it would seem that salvation by works promotes obedience, right?

    3. Read Galatians 2:18-19. Why does Paul argue that righteousness by faith alone does not promote the violation of the law (does not promote sin)? (When Jesus died in our place for our sins, we also died to the law. Therefore the law no longer condemns us. But, if we rebuild the law - by that Paul means that if we believe that obedience to the law is necessary for salvation, then our sins are held against us and we are violating the law.)

      1. Let's look at this again. Paul says that the charge against my theology is that it promotes the violation of the law. But, Paul claims the reverse is true. Those who say keeping the law is essential to salvation are making law breakers out of everyone - even the most devout Christians!

        1. Is this just too "slick?" Is Paul's argument like sleight of hand (magic)? If we nullified the speed limit, then none of us would be speeders. If we impose the speed limit, then all of us are speeders. Nullifying the speed limit makes us all law abiding citizens!

    4. Read Galatians 2:20-21. If my last question is creating trouble in your mind, explain how eliminating the law as the source of salvation produces more perfect people? (Paul tells us that just as we died with Jesus in His death, so we are to live with Jesus in His resurrected life. We "live for God" and "Christ lives in me.")

      1. This seems so abstract. Let's say that tomorrow I "died" to all of the traffic signs and laws. Someone who is dead doesn't know anything. So, I know nothing about the traffic laws. How is that going to make me a safer, more perfect driver? (Obviously, it is not going to do that.)

      2. What if I added the fact that the person who designed all of the traffic laws "lives in me." What kind of driver would I be? (If I was infused with the Spirit of the person who was the master designer of the highway design, the traffic laws and the traffic signs, I would have a perfect understanding of how to drive. I think that is what Paul is teaching us.)

    5. Let's go back to Galatians 2:19 and examine the phrase "die to the law" in more detail. What does it mean to "die to the law?" Does it mean that we are insensitive to it? That we live as though it does not exist?

        1. Galatians 2:20 says "I have been crucified with Christ." Why did Jesus die? (He died to pay the penalty for violating the law. This means that we, too, died with Jesus ("crucified with Christ") for violating the law.)

          1. In what way did I die to the law? (I died to the judgment of the law. I died to the penalty for violating the law.)

        2. Does that mean that we no longer pay any attention to the law? (No. God wrote the law. The law is good. However, it no longer carries the threat that if I do not obey it I will die. I already died to the law through Jesus.)

    6. Let's go back to my original traffic question. Recall that I asked that if all the traffic laws were nullified, would that mean that none of us would violate the speed laws? I think Paul is saying something a little different: Jesus paid the fines for all of our traffic law violations. Therefore, those laws don't make us law abiding. What makes us law abiding is to have the road designer and traffic law giver live in our mind!

    7. Read Romans 6:5-7. Paul again refers to us dying with Jesus when He died for our sins. However, he adds something more than the "fine being paid" for the violation of the law. What does he add? (He says that our "old self" died "so that the body of sin might be done away with.")

      1. What do you think it means to have our body of sin die? (This suggests that our old desire to sin dies.)

        1. What Paul writes here seems very clear, what makes it unclear is that I know my old desires are very much alive. What happened? Or, am I just a very poor Christian? (Scan Romans 7:14-24. Paul has the very same experience that I have.)

        2. How can your "old self die" and you still have the struggle that Paul describes? (Let's turn to that next.)

  3. Living By the Spirit of God

    1. Read Romans 7:4. If we have died to the law, what is the goal of our life? (To "belong" to Jesus to "bear fruit to God.")

    2. Read Romans 7:5-6. The law plus the old nature promotes sinful passions. How does the Holy Spirit change that?

    3. Read Romans 6:11-14. How does this suggest that the Holy Spirit can help us live? (Offering ourselves to God must mean that we tell God, "Here I am, help me to live a life pleasing to you!")

    4. Read Romans 8:5-9. How does this suggest that we should live? (Again, Paul tells us that we must make a choice to do what the Holy Spirit desires.)

    5. Our discussion seems so abstract. Let's look at a comment by Jesus that might help us out. Read Matthew 5:27-28. What would someone who believed in righteousness by works do to keep this commandment? (Not have sex outside marriage.)

      1. In one sense, Jesus makes the commandment much worse for law keepers - He says you also have to control your thoughts to avoid violating this command, right?

      2. What would Paul tell us that Jesus is teaching? (If you want to walk with God, don't concentrate on the anti-adultery commandment, instead, pay attention to the attitude of your mind. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you set your mind on what the Spirit of God desires for you.)

      3. Is this walking in the Holy Spirit an essential for salvation? (Read Romans 5:19. No. Only Jesus perfect life makes us righteous. However, living in the Spirit is the desire of those who are saved.)

    6. Now you know why Peter said (last week) that Paul is difficult to understand in places! Friend, will you repent of your sins and determine today to ask the Holy Spirit every morning to help you set your mind on living according to God's Spirit, and not set your mind on your sinful nature?

  4. Next week: Old Testament Faith.
* 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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