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Lesson 5: Old Testament Faith *

Introduction: When I was young, there was a program on television called "Bewitched." In our study this week, Paul tells the Galatians that they have been "bewitched." We know the Galatians could not have been watching too much television! Is Paul talking about demon possession? I looked up Strong's definition for the underlying Greek word and it means "to fascinate (by false representations)." We don't want to be mislead about the gospel, so let's plunge into our study of the letter to the Galatians to find the truth!

  1. Bewitched

    1. Read Galatians 3:1. Why is knowledge of Jesus' crucifixion important to not being "bewitched?" (Read Galatians 2:21. We finished last week's study on this note - if we think that we can be saved by our works, we scorn the death of Jesus on our behalf. To scorn what Jesus has done for us is a serious error.)

    2. Read Galatians 3:2. How important is it to "receive the Spirit?" (The way Paul writes this, it is the most important proof that your Christian life is on the right track. Paul reminds them that the Holy Spirit did not come upon them through their observance of the law.)

      1. Have you noticed the very thing that Paul is talking about? Churches that seem centered on keeping the law are dry as bones. They lack the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, churches that are filled with those rejoicing over their acceptance by faith seem filled with the Spirit. Is this your observation?

    3. Read Galatians 3:3-4. What have the Galatians suffered for nothing? What is the suffering and what is the nothing?(Changing your religious beliefs will bring conflict with friends and family. Since every religion except Christianity is based on works of some type, Paul says that after suffering for your decision to change, you now return to works. Thus, your change was for nothing.)

    4. Read Galatians 3:5. What does Paul associate with having the Holy Spirit in the church? (Miracles.)

      1. If we lack miracles, and in my area of the world my sense is that we lack "no one can dispute them" miracles, does that mean that we lack the Holy Spirit? (I believe my one granddaughter was miraculously healed after she was born. But, I can imagine how some could dispute that. My guess is that you, too, have experience miracles, but that they are not like the Matthew 12:22-23 variety - everyone is astonished by them. The lack of this kind of miracle in my area today troubles me.)

      2. Would miracles result from keeping the law? (No! My concern is that the reason for a lack of miracles is that we are more focused on the law than on grace and the Holy Spirit. There may be other reasons, for example that we do not control God's work, but this is something to consider.)

  2. Abraham

    1. Read Galatians 3:6. Is righteousness by faith an Old Testament teaching? (Yes! Consider the sanctuary system. You killed an animal and its blood atoned for your sins. That is not salvation by works, that is salvation by the death of an animal. Of course, we know that this pointed forward to the death of Jesus.)

    2. Let's read the background for Paul's statement about Abraham. Read Genesis 15:4-6. What is Abraham believing? (That he will have a son and numerous descendants.)

      1. Why does that belief bring "righteousness?" Why not say it brings "children?" (This shows that the real issue is trusting God. Do we trust what God says and what God has done and is going to do for us?)

    3. Read Galatians 3:7-9. Why say that the gospel was announced "in advance" to Abraham? Was not the gospel (righteousness by faith) given from that time forward? (This was in advance of the giving of the Ten Commandments and the other laws proclaimed by Moses. The idea is that whatever followed, the foundational teaching was righteousness by faith.)

  3. The Curse

    1. Read Galatians 3:10. Recently, I was considering how I might share the gospel with someone who is dying, and is somewhat hostile to religion. I'm sure this individual thinks "I'm a pretty good person, I have no need of anything else." Is this an attitude that brings a curse? (Yes. When a person says, "I'm good, and better than a lot of others that I know," they think their salvation turns on their works. The problem with that approach is that being better than most others is not good enough. You have to be perfect, you have to "continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.")

    2. Read Galatians 3:11-12. Do you have a hard time coming to grips with the idea that a person who is trying very hard to keep the law could be cursed? This is a "good person." (Being in obedience to God's will is a great thing. The problem is relying on it for your salvation.)

      1. How many people rely on their works for salvation and are not really aware of it? (Notice that Paul says about those keeping the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." This paints the picture of a person who is obedient, and who believes this brings an entitlement to God's acceptance.)

    3. Read Galatians 3:13. On Who did the penalty, the curse of the law, rest? (On Jesus. He paid the penalty for our sin. He became cursed to redeem us from the curse.)

      1. If we rely on our works for our salvation, do we take back the curse? (Yes!)

    4. Lately, I've been struggling with a specific sin. There is no doubt in my mind that God desires obedience in us, both for our benefit and for His glory. The problem is that when I fail, I think this adversely affects God's relationship with me. At the same time I believe this violates Paul's instruction that we must not "rely" on observing the law. What do you think?

      1. Would it be correct to believe that wherever we are (you and I) in our walk towards righteousness, any failure simply affects our life here, it does not affect our relationship with God?

      2. Read Romans 7:4-6. Here Paul tells us that we should be living by the direction of the Holy Spirit. This suggests that if we are "controlled" by the sinful nature, we do, in fact, have a relationship problem with the Holy Spirit. How would you summarize the truth about struggles with sin? (Here is what I think: the Holy Spirit living in us stands in the place of the law in directing our actions. When we struggle with sin, it is the Holy Spirit that is working with us. What we cannot do is ignore the Holy Spirit. During this struggle, we are still saved by grace. The Holy Spirit's work is to bring our lives more into harmony with God's will.)

    5. Read Galatians 3:14. What is the "blessing given to Abraham?" Many children? (Re-read Galatians 3:6. The blessing spoken of here is being considered righteous. This opportunity now extends to those of us who are not Jewish.)

      1. What is it that we receive by faith? (The promise of the Holy Spirit.)

        1. This puts an additional emphasis on the Holy Spirit. I thought the goal was righteousness by faith, rather than the gift of the Holy Spirit. Why does Paul mention the gift of the Holy Spirit as the result of our faith? (This brings us back to Romans 7:6. The alternative to keeping the Ten Commandments is not living in whatever way you choose. The alternative is "that we serve in the new way of the Spirit.")

    6. Friend, if you believe (as I did at one time), that keeping the Ten Commandments is critical to salvation, can you see how that sets you up to be cursed? Since you will surely fail in your efforts to keep all of the law, you will fall short of perfection, and thus fall short of salvation. Jesus offers us something else. He offers us the opportunity, through baptism, to participate both in His death on our behalf for our sins, and His resurrection to eternal life. He offers us the choice to live a life led by the Holy Spirit. Will you accept, right now, Jesus' offer?

  4. Next week: The Priority of the Promise.
* Copr. 2017, 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.
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