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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 can discover!

  1. Authentication


    1. 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.)


    2. 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.)


      1. 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 my age.)


      2. 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.)


      3. 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 in that.)


  2. Motives of the Works/Law Proponents


    1. 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.)


      1. 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.)


        1. Do you think these people-pleasers would plead "guilty" to this charge? Or, is it more likely they had not thought this through?


      2. 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 the gospel!)


    2. 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!)


      1. 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.)


  3. Proper Motives


    1. Read Galatians 6:14. How does Paul differ from the people-pleasers? (They avoid being persecuted for the cross, he boasts about the cross.)


      1. 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.)


      2. 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?


        1. 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?


        2. Is Paul making a fair criticism? For example, is the Bible all about the cross?


        3. 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.)


        4. 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.)


          1. Should we care what the world thinks of our church?


    2. 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.)


      1. 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!)


      2. 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?


    3. Let's go back to our introduction. Is baptism by immersion more important than the cross? (No.)


      1. 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.)


    4. 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.)


    5. 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.)


    1. 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 keeping them.)


    2. Read Galatians 6:16. If we get the relationship between grace and works right, what follows? (Peace and mercy!)


      1. Are the two related? (God's mercy gives me peace. It gives me confidence in my salvation.)


    3. Read Galatians 6:17. Why can we have confidence in Paul's teaching? (He has suffered for it. He obviously believes it.)


    4. Read Galatians 6:18. We end with the wonderful point of Galatians - grace! We are saved by grace alone.


    5. 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?


  1. 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.

© 2014 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
Website by Blake Cameron, M.D.
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