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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 40 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 14: Boasting in the Cross *
Introduction: If we have just one Jesus, why do we have all of these
different churches? In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul complains about divisions
among believers. It seems today that each church has its own
important distinctive. For example, the Baptists have baptism by
immersion. Although I'm not a Baptist, I think that is a very
important doctrine. How should those of us with distinctive doctrines
approach the world? Should Baptists lead with baptism by immersion?
Should each denomination lead with its distinctive (and true) belief?
In Paul's closing message to the Galatians, he gives counsel on this
point. Let's plunge into our final study of Galatians and see what we
- Read Galatians 6:11 and 1 Corinthians 16:21. What does
this suggest to us? (That Paul normally used a scribe to
write his letters. However, he would personally write a
portion of the letter to prove that he was the author.)
- Read Galatians 4:15. What does this suggest might be the
reason for Paul's large handwriting? (Commentators often
suggest that this proves that Paul had poor eye sight.)
- What else might large letters suggest? (It was just
the way he wrote. When I sign my name, my signature
is large. When I write, I generally write in large
letters even though my eyesight is normal. Indeed,
for writing, my eyesight is superior to other people
- Was good quality paper plentiful? (We don't know what
Paul was using for writing stock. But, no doubt it
was expensive and limited. A professional scribe
probably wrote small to economize on the use of
expensive writing stock.)
- Why do we care about this? What is the significance
to us of Paul's comment on his handwriting? (The
first point we discussed is the important point -
Galatians was written by Paul. We can have confidence
- Motives of the Works/Law Proponents
- Read Galatians 6:12. If I sold cloth for a living, I
suppose I would always judge the value of the clothes of
the person with whom I was speaking. Because I'm a lawyer,
other unbidden things come to mind: "What is this person's
motive in saying this?" "Is this person telling the
truth?" If a person has no motive to lie, most likely they
are telling the truth. Paul is making a lawyer's argument
here about his opponents. Why does he argue that the
proponents of works are lying? (They are people-pleasers.
This is just part of their effort to avoid getting in
trouble because they are Christians.)
- I think it is emotionally intelligent to get along
with those around us. That doesn't seem like much of
an argument to me. What deeper argument can you find
in Paul's words? (The comment about the "cross"
suggests that they would deny the gospel to please
those around them. Circumcision is just part of the
larger picture of denying the gospel.)
- Do you think these people-pleasers would plead
"guilty" to this charge? Or, is it more likely
they had not thought this through?
- This week I was listening to a sermon by someone who
is a serious student of the Bible. He was speaking
about prophecy and how members of another great
religion would come to faith in Jesus, even though
they might not have a correct understanding of the
Trinity. He was unconcerned about this problem
because he said, "None of us is perfect in our
doctrine." None of us are perfect in doctrine, but
how important is this doctrine? (If you don't believe
Jesus is God, you don't understand a critical part of
- Read Galatians 6:13. Through the ages we read of warriors
who collect trophies from their victims: scalps, ears,
etc. What is Paul suggesting that the circumcision group
is collecting? (Foreskins!)
- Why is Paul being so graphic? (He must have wanted to
make a strong impression on the Galatians that his
opponents did not really care about them.)
- Proper Motives
- Read Galatians 6:14. How does Paul differ from the people-pleasers? (They avoid being persecuted for the cross, he
boasts about the cross.)
- Let's look deeper into this. Why are the people-pleasers boasting about circumcision and not the
cross? (They boast about things that will make them
look good in the eyes of others.)
- Has your church advertised? The Mormons have had
some wonderful television ads about family. I've seen
similar ads by either the Lutherans or Methodists.
My own church brags about the health and longevity of
its members. Are these ads run to make the church fit
into society and avoid persecution?
- When a church runs these kinds of ads (I'm sure
most all churches run ads like this) are we
boasting in something other than the cross?
- Is Paul making a fair criticism? For example,
is the Bible all about the cross?
- If I asked you about an organization named
"Samaritan's Purse," how would you describe it?
(Christmas boxes for children. Disaster relief.
Last week Franklin Graham, the head of
Samaritan's Purse, visited the university where
I teach. He said every thing they did was to
advance the gospel. Boasting about the family,
health, etc. is fine if the ultimate goal is to
advance the gospel. The problem arises when our
bragging denies the gospel.)
- Before we feel less guilty, what does Paul mean
when he says that he has been crucified to the
world? (He doesn't care what the world thinks.)
- Should we care what the world thinks of
- Read Galatians 6:15. Would it be appropriate to say
"health and longevity" mean nothing, what counts is the
new life in Jesus? (Health and longevity have more
practical importance than circumcision, but our brief
moment of life here means nothing compared to eternity.)
- When the people-pleasers were arguing in favor of
circumcision, were they doing so for the purpose of
improving day-to-day living? (No. They were arguing
it for theological reasons. In Genesis 17 God told
Abraham that circumcision was the sign that there was
a relationship between God and Abraham's descendants.
That seems mighty important to me!)
- Is there something that your church argues is a
special sign of a relationship between you and God
that is more important than the cross?
- Let's go back to our introduction. Is baptism by immersion
more important than the cross? (No.)
- Are circumcision and baptism by immersion in the same
classification? Hasn't Paul been arguing that
circumcision is wrong, whereas we know that baptism
is right? (Circumcision is only wrong because it is
part of the "obey and live" approach of works, rather
than the "believe and live" approach of grace.)
- Let's examine the last part of Galatians 6:15 again. What
does Paul mean when he says, "What counts is the new
creation?" (Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What counts is that
we have, by faith in Jesus, become saved - a new person.)
- Let's read 1 Corinthians 7:19. Does this undo everything
we have just discussed? (No! Circumcision was the sign of
a special relationship with God. The reality of a special
relationship with God is obedience to His commandments.
Circumcision was a sign. Obedience is the reality.)
- Can anyone summarize what we have learned? Or, have I
gotten us all confused? Should Baptists lead with baptism
by immersion? Should each church lead with its distinctive
doctrine? (No. We should lead with the cross - the gospel
of justification by grace alone. At the same time, the
Baptists (and the rest of us) should continue to obey
God's commands - while realizing that we are not saved by
- Read Galatians 6:16. If we get the relationship between
grace and works right, what follows? (Peace and mercy!)
- Are the two related? (God's mercy gives me peace. It
gives me confidence in my salvation.)
- Read Galatians 6:17. Why can we have confidence in Paul's
teaching? (He has suffered for it. He obviously believes
- Read Galatians 6:18. We end with the wonderful point of
Galatians - grace! We are saved by grace alone.
- Friend, if you have not accepted salvation by grace alone
prior to this, will you right now? Will you allow mercy
and peace to enter your life?
- Next week: Next week we will study the Trinity as we begin a
new series entitled "Glimpses of Our God."
* 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.