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Lesson 5: Old Testament Faith *

Introduction: Have you ever wrestled with the question of why God says "I the Lord do not change" ( Malachi 3:6), yet it seems that the God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New Testament? The talk of an "Old Covenant" and a "New Covenant" surely sounds like a change. God has changed the terms of our relationship! Paul argues that God has not changed His basic approach to humans - and that approach is righteousness by faith. Let's plunge into our study of Galatians 3 and find out more!

  1. The Bewitched!

    1. Read Galatians 3:1. Assume you are sitting at the sidelines listening to Paul saying this to the Galatians. Should they be insulted?

      1. If so, why? (Paul says they are acting like "fools" and like those under the influence of evil. "You stupid devils.")

      2. Is this how Paul would address those who today believe that they can be saved by their own actions?

    2. I'm reluctant to call fellow church members "stupid devils," so Paul must have had a very good reason for calling them fools. What reason does he give in Galatians 3:1? (They had seen him explain about Jesus being crucified.)

      1. Think about this. Why does the crucifixion of Jesus make the Galatians' position stupid? Or, demonic? (Why would God die a painful death at the hands of His creation? The thought is absurd on the face of it. Only when you see that we were crucified with Jesus( Galatians 2:20)to satisfy the requirements of the law, does it seem stupid and demonic to think that our efforts mean anything.)

      2. Let's use an extreme example. You carve an idol out of a block of wood, then you bring it offerings every morning to have it forgive your sins. Is that stupid? (Yes! You made it.)

        1. Is that demonic? (Satan wants us to ignore or disbelieve that Jesus died for our sins. So, yes, this is demonic - especially it has us claiming to be doing God's work.)

    3. Read Galatians 3:2-5. Okay, stupid people, Paul says, I have one question for you. We see now that Paul must be a lawyer, for his "just one thing" turns into several questions! Questions for which he would like smart answers!

      1. Does the Holy Spirit come by obeying the law or by believing in what Jesus said?

        1. Let me ask my own question here. Has the Holy Spirit come into your life? If not, could it be because you are taking the wrong approach?

      2. After having the Holy Spirit come into your life to lead you, do you think that you can do a better job of leading yourself?

      3. If you have been persecuted for your faith, do you want to throw it all away?

      4. Do you see miracles in your life because of obedience to the law, or because of the power of God working through faith?

        1. Let me ask a couple of questions here. Do you see miracles in your life? If not, could it be because you have the wrong approach?

        2. When you talk to your children, are you focused more on the law or on the Holy Spirit?

          1. If you have teen-aged children, try sitting down with them and asking them these questions and how they would answer and how they think that you would answer.

          2. If you are not seeing miracles in the lives of your children, is it because you have been hammering the law rather than the power and grace of God? (I know I used to say to my children all the time "obey!" My father used to say, "You are Don Cameron's sons, act like it!")

      5. The previous four questions I have paraphrased from Paul are rhetorical questions - which means they have an obvious answer. The person asking the rhetorical question is not looking for your answer, they are looking for you to see the obvious point. What is Paul's obvious point? (The power of God, and not observing the law, is the source of a powerful Christian life.)

    4. Let's stop and review Paul's arguments for righteousness by faith. His argument in chapter 1 is that Jesus directly gave him his message of righteousness by faith alone. His claim in chapter 2 is that the church leaders agreed with him, even though putting it into practice took a little time, and some, like Peter, would occasionally get off the right track. His argument at the beginning of chapter 3 is to consider how God operates in our own lives.

  2. The Abraham Example

    1. Read Genesis 12:1-3. What is Abram's role in the history of our planet? (He is the beginning of a special group of people through whom God was going to bless all the people of the earth.)

    2. Read Galatians 3:6. Why would Paul turn to Abraham as an example? (Paul is saying that from the very beginning of God's special relationship with a specific group of people (for the purpose of promoting God's will), righteousness by faith was the rule.)

    3. Let's look at this story just a minute. Read Genesis 15:1-6. Is this a story about Godliness? About righteousness? (God told Abram ( Genesis 12:3) that he would be the instrument through which all the earth would be blessed. Part of the mechanism for this was (Genesis 12:2) that Abram would have many descendants. If God told you that you would have the largest church in your neighborhood, and that large church would be the source of blessings for the neighborhood, what would you do? (Start a church!)

      1. Why does that not work for Abram? (Abram is probably working on having a child. But, the point is that Abram must first trust God to make it happen. He must realize that this is God's work and God's responsibility. Abram has no power on this own to do it. Indeed, when Abram and Sarai cook up a plot to do this on their own (Genesis 16) it is a disaster.)

      2. Does this story of Abram help us to better understand righteousness by faith? (God is not asking us to go to sleep in our Christian life. He is asking us to put our confidence in Him. It is His work. It is His Spirit. We cannot do it on our own.)

    4. Read Galatians 3:7-9. Is Abraham, the great father of the Jewish race, also our father? (This is Paul's merger argument. The God of the Old Testament has this unchanging approach to humans. The scope of His special people has broadened - praise God for merging the Gentiles with His special people - but the basic plan has not changed!)

  3. The Curse

    1. Read Galatians 3:10. I don't know about you, but I get worried when people start throwing around curses. Why are legalists not just wrong? Why are they cursed? (Read Deuteronomy 27:26. If keeping the Sabbath, refraining from stealing, killing, coveting and adultery are your key to salvation, then you are cursed. Why, because you cannot do these things. If you say that doing any of these things is necessary for salvation, then you have condemned yourself!)

    2. Read Galatians 3:11-12. Do the righteous live by obedience to the law? (No. They live righteously by faith.)

    3. All of this makes me squirm. I don't want to be cursed, but I do keep a close eye on the law. Deuteronomy 6:8 says "tie [the commandments] on your hands." I recently started wearing a bracelet on my wrist that has the Ten Commandments on it. Read Galatians 3:13. Why is it that we must not rely on obedience to the law to be saved? (Jesus already did it for us. Jesus was cursed so that we would not have to be cursed for our failure to obey the law. Not only that, Jesus paid the penalty for His curse - and therefore for our curse.)

  4. The Old and New Order

    1. Read Galatians 3:14. Do we have to worry about keeping the law (including the Ten Commandments)? (No. Instead, we must have the Holy Spirit live in our life!)

      1. If you are also squirming now, notice that the parallel is to Abraham. Did Abraham have to worry about having many descendants? Did he have to worry about Jesus being born of one of his descendants? (No! All God asked of Abraham was to trust Him. To believe Him.)

      2. Has anything changed in the relationship between humans and God? (Not since Abraham! Abraham believed in the promise - which included Jesus coming to take our place. We believe that the promise has been fulfilled and we accept the gift by faith.)

    2. Friend, will you step away from the curse, and rest alone in the righteousness that comes to you by faith in Jesus?

  5. Next week: The Priority of the Promise.
* 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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