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Sabbath School Lessons on Galatians
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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 7: The Road to Faith *
Introduction: Last week we faced the legalists' challenge: "If
righteousness by faith is the right approach, why did God introduce
the law at Sinai 430 years after His righteousness by faith contract
with Abraham?" As we tried to decipher what the legalists were
arguing, we decided that one possible argument is well-known to
American lawyers. When you have two conflicting laws, the newer law
controls over the older law. Sinai came after Abraham! However, to
win this argument, the legalists needed more than just timing, they
needed a conflict between Sinai and righteousness by faith. Let's
dive into our Bibles to examine Paul's continuing argument about
- The Conflict
- Read Galatians 3:21. Is there a conflict between the law
and righteousness by faith? (Paul says not just "no," but
- Have you ever noticed that people sometimes shout to
cover up being wrong? Is being emphatic with his
"absolutely not" an attempt to hide a weakness in
- Sometimes we miss the forest because we are looking
too closely at a single tree. How can Paul say there
is no conflict? Isn't he writing this letter to the
Galatians because of the conflict? Didn't he have
to rebuke Peter because of the conflict? (See,
Galatians 2:11-14.) Aren't we discussing this right
now because of the conflict?
- I can think of ways in which the law and grace are
opposed. The law says "obey or die." Grace says
"believe and live." In what way does Paul say they
"absolutely" are not opposed? (The law cannot give
us life. Paul says the law is useless to give us
righteousness. Giving us righteousness is not its
purpose. If the law could save us, then the
legalists would be right about the conflict and the
priority of the newer law.)
- Let's slow down just a moment and consider this.
Don't the legalists think the purpose of the law is
to save us? If you think the promise and the law
have the same purpose, then you should go with the
law, right? (This makes us examine the underlying
issue - do the law and the promise have the same
- The Purpose
- Read Galatians 3:22-23. Paul says we are all prisoners.
What do prisoners want? (Freedom. Honor.)
- Why do we not want to give prisoners freedom?
(Because they do not deserve it.)
- Why do we deserve incarceration? (Because of sin.)
- You look like a pretty good group to me! Who is a
prisoner of sin? (Everyone here. "The whole world.")
- Haven't we just discovered that Paul's "absolutely
no conflict" argument is absolutely wrong? If the
law makes us prisoners, and grace sets us free, that
seems like a huge conflict to me!
- If we look at the "purpose" question, isn't the
purpose of both law and grace to determine
whether we should stay incarcerated?
- Let's look at a practical example. Let's say Law A tells
us that if we are delinquent in our taxes, we can avoid
any penalty if we either pay our taxes or join a church.
Law B says that for those who do not pay their taxes the
penalty is that they have to go to jail. Are those two
laws in conflict? Lawyers, would a court strike down the
earlier law? (No, you would not strike down the earlier
law. Instead, would say that the two could be harmonized
by declaring that the earlier law created exceptions to
the general rule.)
- Look again at Galatians 3:23. We are prisoners in the
lockup. Faith comes to visit us. What does "this faith
came" mean? That you developed some faith? (Galatians
3:22 refers to "faith in Jesus Christ," but here it seems
the reference is to Jesus. When Jesus ("this faith")
came, then a jailbreak was possible.)
- The Long View
- Recall that last week we examined the factual accuracy of
the legalists' timing argument: that the law came after
the promise to Abraham. We discovered that this was not
true for the Ten Commandments. The Sabbath commandment
and the murder commandment were clearly known from the
time of Adam and Eve. Was it just the law about
sacrifices (the "ceremonial" law) that came later?
- Read Genesis 4:3-5. What does this suggest about the
ceremonial? (It existed. Last week we looked at this
story to learn that the moral law was already in
place. Now we see that this story involves both the
moral and ceremonial laws!)
- Read Genesis 7:1-3 and Genesis 7:7-9. Why would we
see a reference to clean and unclean animals long
before Leviticus 11 and its reference to animals
which are "ceremonially unclean" ( Leviticus 11:4)?
- Is it possible that the legalists are wrong, and
that the moral law and the ceremonial law existed
from the very beginning? If so, why would God do
- Paul says that God has a different purpose for
the law than He does for grace. Does that fit
into the idea of the moral and ceremonial law
co-existing from the beginning? ("Absolutely!"
This shows that God thought the two had a
- The Crusher
- Read Galatians 3:24. Let's look closely at the phrase
"the law was put in charge." Some translations say the
law was a "schoolmaster." I read a couple of
commentaries which said the Greek refers to a slave who
is in charge of the master's sons. Sort of like a
"nanny" today. Notice that Paul calls us several names
here. He has already called us prisoners. Now he adds
"ignorant children," "small children needing adult
supervision." Is that you?
- As a practical matter, what is the purpose of a
child going to school, being raised by a nanny, or
- What did you learn in school? What did you learn
from your "nanny" (assuming you had one) or your
parents (assuming you did not have a nanny)?(I
learned two things in school. First, I learned
positive lessons that I would need when I got older.
Second, I learned negative lessons about myself. The
longer I went to school, the dumber I learned I
- If, as we have discovered, God had the promise
of grace and the requirements of the law
sitting side by side during the history of
humans, what is the school teacher, nanny,
prison-master goal of the law? (Not simply to
teach us God's perfect standard, but to crush
our pride. To teach us that we are not the
smartest, most obedient people. To teach us
that humanity in general, and you in
particular, cannot keep God's law.)
- Read Matthew 5:27-28. Are Jesus and Paul on the
same track? (Jesus gives us a view of the law's
true obligation that takes away our pride.)
- Notice that Galatians 3:24 says that the law "leads us to
Christ." (The very fact that we are imprisoned by sin
causes us to seek a way out. The fact that our pride is
gone, that we realize that we need grace, causes us to
seek grace. Jesus is the way out of sin. Thus, the role
of the law is to lead us to Jesus and His promise of
- The Freedom
- Read Galatians 3:25. "faith has come" - meaning that
Jesus came to the earth, lived and died in our place, and
rose to everlasting life so that we could be saved. The
law lead you, a crushed prisoner of sin, to this great
source of freedom which you accept by faith. Are we
together so far?
- Let's follow Paul's next line of logic. When the
children grow up, are they no longer under the
supervision of their elementary teachers, their
nanny or their tutor? (No.)
- What kind of behavior would you expect?
(Educated behavior! That is why we send them to
- What happens if the grown-up child violates the
rules of the school, the nanny or the tutor?
(Nothing - in terms of discipline by the school,
nanny or tutor. But, unless these teachers were
useless, violating the rule would likely have some
- Are we under any supervision now? (If we are right
that God always held the law and grace before the
eyes of humans, that means a couple of things:
- It has always been God's purpose for us to
understand His standard, which crushes our
prideful thoughts that we can reach His
- Drives us to His (now fulfilled) promise of
grace. Knowing the full picture is our current
"supervision." We both understand God's
standard for our life, and want to do anything
for Him because of His gift of grace.)
- Friend, are you filled with the pride that you can earn
your salvation? That something you can do will earn
God's eternal reward? Why not confess your pride today,
and enter into a life-changing relationship with God?
- Next week: From Slaves to Heirs.
* 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.