Adult Sabbath School Lesson Study Outlines

Skip Navigation
Get these Sabbath School lessons by e-mail! Subscribe to the Bible Study of the Week mailing list:

 Subscribe in a reader

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 conflict!

  1. The Conflict

    1. Read Galatians 3:21. Is there a conflict between the law and righteousness by faith? (Paul says not just "no," but "absolutely not.")

      1. 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 his argument?

      2. 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?

      3. 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.)

      4. 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 purpose.)

  2. The Purpose

    1. Read Galatians 3:22-23. Paul says we are all prisoners. What do prisoners want? (Freedom. Honor.)

      1. Why do we not want to give prisoners freedom? (Because they do not deserve it.)

      2. Why do we deserve incarceration? (Because of sin.)

      3. You look like a pretty good group to me! Who is a prisoner of sin? (Everyone here. "The whole world.")

      4. 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!

        1. If we look at the "purpose" question, isn't the purpose of both law and grace to determine whether we should stay incarcerated?

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

  3. The Long View

    1. 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?

      1. 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!)

      2. 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)?

      3. 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 that?

        1. 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 separate purpose.)

  4. The Crusher

    1. 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?

      1. As a practical matter, what is the purpose of a child going to school, being raised by a nanny, or being tutored?

      2. 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 was.)

        1. 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.)

        2. 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.)

    2. 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 grace.)

  5. The Freedom

    1. 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?

      1. 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.)

        1. What kind of behavior would you expect? (Educated behavior! That is why we send them to school.)

      2. 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 practical consequences.)

      3. 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:

        1. It has always been God's purpose for us to understand His standard, which crushes our prideful thoughts that we can reach His standard; and,

        2. 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.)

    2. 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?

  6. 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.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Back to Top | Home