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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 41 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 10: The Two Covenants *
Introduction: In the last several weeks we learned that God's
promise to Abraham of righteousness by faith existed alongside
Abraham's knowledge of God's commandments. The reason the two
(grace and law) existed side by side, we found, was because they had
different purposes. This week Paul brings women and children into
the discussion. Will this give us a clearer insight into our choice
between relying on the law and relying on grace? Let's jump into
our study of Galatians and find out!
- The Law Speaks
- Read Galatians 4:21. This question is addressed to those
who believe that we must obey the law to be saved. Anyone
here believe that? Even if you do not, for purposes of
discussion let's say that we believe it. So, Paul asks,
what does the law say? (The law says a lot of things.
I've often heard it said that the law "is the transcript
of God's character." That has to be good!)
- Is Paul really asking for a response from his
readers as to what the law says? (No. He suggests
his readers are not aware of what the law says, and
he is going to tell us what it says.)
- Read Galatians 4:22-24. What does Paul suggest the law
says? (It says, "I am Hagar and her children.")
- Wait a minute! No where do I see that written in the
Ten Commandments. Where does Paul find this
written? (Paul says "these things may be taken
figuratively." The Greek word translated
"figuratively" is "allegoreo" - an allegory, a
parallel, an illustration. Paul tells us that the
story of Hagar is the story of the law.)
- Hagar's Story
- Let's turn to Hagar's story. Read Genesis 15:2-6. This is
the text that we keep coming back to: God promised
Abraham many descendants, Abraham believed God, and that
belief caused God to "credit" righteousness to Abraham.)
- Read Genesis 16:1-2. Did Sarai(Sarah)believe God? (She
believed in God - for she thought God had kept her from
- Was Sarah disobeying God? (I went back and looked at
the promises made to Abraham about having many
descendants. These are promises to Abraham, not to
Sarah. Sarah was just helping God along.)
- Let's discuss this a moment. Paul tells us that Hagar is
a parallel or story about the law. Hagar entered the
picture because of decisions made by Sarah and Abraham.
Let's see what we can learn about this parallel:
- Was it wrong for Sarah to have the goal of getting
children for Abraham? (No.)
- Was it wrong for Sarah to actually help Abraham get
children? Shouldn't a wife be helpful?
- Was there anything wrong with what Sarah did? (Sarah
decided to do God's work. I understand that the
custom of the time held that Hagar was Sarah's
property, much like she might own an automobile
today. Sarah might very well have considered God's
promise to Abraham to be a promise to her because in
God's eyes a married couple are one (two become one
- Genesis 2:24). Since she owned Hagar, she could
reason that she was not violating the "two become
one" marriage command since Hagar was her property.
Thus, she would work out God's will.)
- Is this a parallel, a picture of those who keep
the law? (Yes! This is exactly the situation.
Instead of believing God (as Abraham did) and
letting God fulfill His promise, Sarah was busy
doing what God had already promised that He
would do. If she had just believed God, that
would have been enough.)
- Do we have a bit of a logical problem here -
the Bible ( Galatians 4:24) says that the "women
represent two covenants." Hagar represents the
law, yet it is Sarah who did the wrong thing.
How should we understand this? (We need to look
at this from Abraham's point of view. God
promised children to him and it would be in
accord with the Bible if they came through
Sarah. Sarah changed this by bringing Hagar
into the picture. Thus, Hagar represents
salvation by human works.)
- Read Galatians 4:25. Why is Hagar compared to Mount Sinai
and Jerusalem? (Sinai is where the Ten Commandments were
given. Jerusalem is the source of those arguing that the
law must be kept to be saved. Hagar and her son are
slaves. Those under the law are slaves to a death
- Is there a huge, salvation by works religion,
connected with Arabia and Hagar?
- Despite the animosity between Islam and Judaism, is
there a parallel view between them on salvation?
(Every religion today, except Christianity, believes
in "salvation by works.")
- Read Galatians 4:26-27. Who was living in the Jerusalem
in heaven at that time? (Jesus! Jesus, having fulfilled
the requirements of the law for us, is now in heaven.
That is our true spiritual home, not the Jerusalem on
earth that rejected Jesus as the Messiah.)
- Notice that verse 27 is a quote from Isaiah 54:1.
Who is the "barren woman?" (Sarah!)
- Who is the woman "who has a husband?" (Remember
that Sarah gave Hagar to Abraham. It was Hagar
who now "has a husband." Paul is still talking
about the two women.)
- How is it accurate to say, "more are the
children of the desolate woman?" (Sarah would,
in the end, be the one to bear Isaac, and thus
become the mother of the Jewish nation and
ultimately, the Messiah.)
- Isaac's Story
- Read Galatians 4:28. How are we (those who believe in
righteousness by faith alone) like Isaac?
- Read Romans 4:18-21. What are the important points of
Abraham's faith? (That what was promised was humanly
impossible. Yet, Abraham believed God's promise and gave
glory to God.)
- Read Romans 4:22-25. Now answer my earlier question, "How
are we like Isaac?" (Isaac came as the result of the
faith of his father in God's promise. God our Father
promised us Jesus. We have life through Jesus. Just as
Abraham was credited with righteousness because he
believed in the promised Isaac, so we are credited with
righteousness if we believe in the life, death and
resurrection of Jesus on our behalf.)
- We have seen that Sarah's goals for Abraham were
essentially the same as God's goals for Abraham. What
does that teach us about those who believe that works are
necessary to earn salvation? (Good works are good! Doing
good is essentially God's plan for our life. The problem
is not the goal, but the method. If we follow Abraham's
method and believe and trust God, our method is sound. On
the other hand, if we are looking to our own deeds, then
our method is not only destined for failure, it is
- Read Galatians 4:29. Paul tells us that those who believe
in righteousness by faith are persecuted by those who
believe in righteousness by works. Why? (Do you like it
at work when you are the only one putting in an honest
day's work? No! You are jealous of those who are
worthless and lazy. If you believe your works will save
you, then you are jealous of those who claim they are
saved by grace. Our (or at least my) natural heart
believes in working hard because I am by nature a hard
worker. Accepting the free gift of salvation is contrary
to our natural heart.)
- Read Galatians 4:30-31. Recall that the workers naturally
look down on those saved by grace. What does Paul say we
should do with the righteousness by works people? (Get
rid of them!)
- Whoa! Wait a minute! I thought that we agreed with
the goals of the workers? That obeying the Ten
Commandments was a good thing? Why should we be
tossing "good" people out of our fellowship? (Read
Galatians 5:1-4. This is a very grave issue. Those
who deny righteousness by faith alone deny the work
of Jesus. They deny the most fundamental part of the
gospel. They are alienated from Jesus and they are
destined for eternal death because they must keep
the entire law.)
- Friend, do you see how serious a question this is? If you
rely on your works for your salvation, you are lost. You
have denied Jesus. Why not today confess your sins,
accept by faith Jesus work on your behalf, and then rest
in the glorious knowledge of your salvation by grace
- Next week: Freedom in Christ.
* 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.