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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 12: Living by the Spirit *
Introduction: No mature Christian believes that faith is the end of
the answer to "how should we live?" Thinking and acting are
connected. No serious Christian claims that walking with God is
easy. Most Christians I know say essentially, "I'm saved by grace
alone. Because of my love for God, I make the decision to walk with
Him and do His will." If I inquired further they would add, "And,
if a person does not walk with God, that shows that they do not have
faith." Certainly, those "Christians" who use faith as an excuse
for evil living do not understand the gospel. But, lately, I've been
giving some further thought to this issue about how a Christian
saved by grace should approach daily life. Let's dive into our
Bible and see what Paul teaches us about daily living!
- The Conflict
- We need context, so let's first read quickly Galatians
5:16-21. What does this tell us about grace and right
living? (If you live a selfish, evil, impure life you
will not go to heaven.)
- This is Paul writing! What does this do to our
thinking about grace? (It means that the end of
grace cannot be evil behavior.)
- Two weeks ago, we learned that Sarah's "engineering"
to accomplish God's goal (that Abraham would have
descendants) ended up in disaster. Is there nothing
that we can (or should) do to engage in right
living? Would that be a "Sarah scheme," a
"righteousness by works" error?
- Let's look at these verses in some more detail. Read
Galatians 5:16. What does it mean to "live by the
Spirit?" (Live according to the leading of the Holy
- Read Galatians 5:17. Does this living by the Spirit stuff
- If you say, "Yes," how do you explain Paul's
statement that "you do not do what you want?" (It
could mean that you want to do good, but you do evil
instead. It could also mean that you have an
natural desire to do evil, but because of the Holy
Spirit you do good instead. This second meaning is
in accord with what we just read in verse 16.)
- Read Romans 7:21-25.Is Paul just talking about
bad people? Or, is he talking about you and
me? (Paul is talking about himself. He is
speaking about the "good" Christians. We all
have a sinful nature. We all feel the draw to
live by it. We find we are doing the evil that
we do not want to do.)
- Read Galatians 5:18. What does this mean - I don't have
to worry about what the law says? (It cannot mean that,
for we just read that evildoers are not going to heaven.
The only reasonable conclusion I can reach is that we
have two choices. We can be lead by the Holy Spirit or
we can be lead by our sinful nature.)
- Does this suggest that the law is somehow associated
with our sinful nature? (Read Romans 7:8-10. Paul
says that the law triggers sinful behavior. This is
very odd, so we need to explore this further.)
- Living by the Law
- I don't know how to have a concrete discussion about this
without talking about a specific sin. So, let's talk
about a specific story about a specific sin. Read 2
Samuel 11:1-4. I've taught this story many times, I've
preached about it. If you were David, and you wanted to
avoid this sin, what practical steps would you take?
(What I've always said in the past is that David was
taking a series of steps towards sin. Some of the steps
might not be a sin in themselves, but still led him in
the direction of sin.)
- What would these wrong steps be? (a. Not going out
with his troops; b. Looking too long at Bathsheba;
c. Being fascinated with her; d. Sending for her
even though he knew she was married; and finally
reaching the sin destination, e. Committing
- If you (I mean you, personally) wanted to avoid
adultery, would you avoid taking these steps? (Yes.
This makes logical sense. But, I think that I have
been teaching the wrong approach. The focus of the
steps is the law. The focus of the steps is adultery
and how not to get too close to it. Focusing on the
sin and the law is the "righteousness by works"
approach. I'm looking at my sinful nature and
figuring out how to defeat it. Like Sarah, I'm the
engineer of what to do to accomplish God's goal.)
- What is Paul's practical warning about righteousness
by works? (It does not work. In Romans 7:5 Paul says
that the law arouses our sinful passions. Galatians
5:3 suggests that it is impossible to keep the law.
In Galatians 5:4 Paul explains that the works
approach fails because it ejects God from the
- Is there anything that we can do to promote behaving
ourselves? Let's explore that next.
- Living by the Spirit
- Read Galatians 5:22-23. How is living by the Holy Spirit
different than living by the law? (You are focused on the
positive, you are not focused on the negative. You are
not measuring your steps towards sin, you are measuring
your steps towards righteousness.)
- Let's get back to our concrete example with David.
If you decided to stop teaching future Davids to
watch their steps, to stop focusing on the moral
"red lights," then what would you be teaching them?
(What if we said instead, "Focus on your wife. Bring
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control into the
life of your wife. Don't focus on the 'red
- Let's revisit something we discussed last week. Read
Galatians 5:13-14. This is the goal of the Spirit led
life. What should David have been asking himself, instead
of asking "What steps towards sin (Bathsheba) should I
avoid?" (What can I do to please my wife? What can I do
to please my God? What can I do to serve my wife? Is
this activity pleasing to my God and my wife?)
- Does this help you to understand what Paul means
when he writes "if you are led by the Spirit, you
are not under law?" (The Spirit asks, "What can I do
to love God and my spouse?" The law says, "What
should I do to avoid adultery?" The goal is the same
- to be faithful to your spouse. Just as Sarah and
God had the same goal - descendants for Abraham. It
is the process, the means to the goal, that
separates those who believe in righteousness by
faith and those who believe in righteousness by
- When Galatians 5:13 calls us to "serve" others, and
Galatians 5:22 tells us that the first fruit of
living a Spirit-led life is "love," what does this
tell us about self-focus, selfishness, "navel-gazing?" (These things are wrong.)
- Is there a lesson in this for us on how we
should approach walking with God? (Friend, I
hope that you can see that focusing on the law,
focusing on the "red lights" is a focus on
self. How am I doing? Focusing on loving God
and our spouse and others asks, "How are they
doing? Am I pleasing them?)
- Read Galatians 5:24. What should be our approach to our
sinful nature? (We want it to die! Can you see again how
wrong it is to focus on our sinful nature and measure its
steps towards sin?)
- Read Galatians 5:25. If you wanted to keep in step with
another human, what would you do? (Focus on how that
- What does it mean to keep "in step" with the
Spirit?" (Focus on our God and what pleases Him.)
- Let's revisit Galatians 3:24-25. Is the law still
important? (Yes. As "immature" Christians the law
teaches us that we need a Savior. But, once we get
that message, we are no longer under the supervision
of the law. We are no longer looking at our self,
measuring our self against the law. Instead, we are
looking at God, being lead by God's Holy Spirit to
please God. What pours forth from our life then is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)
- If you find that you are not patient, should
you work on that? (No! You don't focus on the
sin. Don't focus on works, and generally act
like Sarah. By the power of God's Spirit, you
would focus instead on loving the person with
whom you are impatient. That is the grace
approach. That is the righteousness by faith
- Read Galatians 5:26. Why would we become conceited about
right living? (If the focus is on how we are defeating
sin, and we are not too alert, this might happen. If our
focus is on loving God and those around us, this can
- Friend, I hope that you can see by now that righteousness
by faith not only saves us by God's grace, but it informs
us about how we should live every day. Will you decide
right now to stop focusing on the "red lights" and start
focusing on loving and pleasing God?
- Next week: The Gospel and the Church.
* 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.