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Lesson 14: Boasting in the Cross *

Introduction: We come to the end of our 2017 study of Paul's letter to the Galatians. If you have been with us through the entire series, I hope that you have a better understanding of Paul's message of righteousness by faith, and his concern that through the power and leading of the Holy Spirit faith changes our attitude. That change causes us to want to live a life that brings glory to God and makes our journey here easier. Paul has a few important truths to share in his closing, so let's plunge into our final study of Galatians and see what we can learn!

  1. Large Letters

    1. Read Galatians 6:11. What does Paul's statement about writing with his own hand suggest about the rest of the letter to the Galatians? (Read Romans 16:22. Paul used a scribe to write his letters. He did not hold the pen himself - except for the part we are about to study.)

    2. Look again at Galatians 6:11. Why does Paul tell us that he is writing in "large letters?" (This is proof that Paul himself wrote these last few verses.)

      1. Why would Paul write in large letters? (Read Galatians 4:15. The most simple and obvious answer is that Paul has vision problems. It is nothing new for readers over forty years of age to understand that writing and reading in small print is a challenge. However, scholars suggest other reasons for the large letters. These are that Paul is not very skilled in writing Greek, or he has bad handwriting, or that the letter to the Galatians is long. The last suggestion turns on understanding "large letters" to mean "long letter." I think the eyesight issue is the most obvious answer.)

  2. Closing Remarks

    1. Read Galatians 6:12-13. Before we get into a discussion of the meaning of this, what impact does Paul's "large letters" comment have on the importance of this section of the document? (Paul did not just sign his letter to the Galatians, he actually wrote by hand the section we are studying this week. That suggests that this concluding section is very important to him, and thus should be important to us.)

      1. Let's focus on Galatians 6:12. What is the motivation of the pro-circumcision people? (They want to make a good impression and they want to avoid persecution.)

        1. What is wrong with that? If a young person asked me if first impressions are important, I would absolutely answer, "Yes." However, as we will see later in this study, Paul teaches us not to focus on externals.)

        2. What does Paul mean when he talks about the pro-circumcision group wanting to "avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ?" (Apparently the Jews from Jerusalem were persecuting Christians. We started our study of Paul's letter by reading Paul's (Saul's) role in the killing of Stephen because of his Christian testimony. See Acts 7:57-60. Thus, the pro-circumcision Galatians were motivated to stay out of trouble with the Jerusalem crowd.)

          1. What do you think about a motivation like that? (Paul argues that it is selfishness, rather than a principled understanding of God's will, that is behind their pro-circumcision position. They want to appear to go along with the Jerusalem authorities.)

          2. Do you compromise your religious beliefs to avoid being attacked by others?

    2. Read Galatians 6:13. What is Paul's point here? That those who argue for circumcision are hypocrites? (I don't think that is the main problem. If a person argues that keeping the law is key to salvation and that person cannot keep the law, then attempting to keep the law is not a practical solution to sin.)

      1. Notice his language about "boasting about the flesh." When you convince someone of your point of view, do you feel like boasting? (Yes, we all feel a sense of accomplishment when we are able to convince others of our point of view.)

        1. So, what is the problem here? (They have convinced someone of a worthless point of view.)

        2. How should this direct our evangelism efforts? (We need to focus our efforts on what matters most - faith in Jesus and His provision of righteousness by faith.)

    3. Read Galatians 6:14. What do you boast about? When someone asks you about yourself, what do you say first?

      1. When Paul writes that the "world" has been "crucified" to him, what do you think he means? (Crucifying something is to kill it. He seems to say that he is dead to the world and the world is dead to him.)

        1. Why would Paul use the term "crucified" if he just means "dead?" (The point is that Jesus overcame the world through His crucifixion. Jesus overcame the law of sin bringing death for those who place their faith in Jesus. That is why Paul says that his goal is to boast only in the cross.)

      2. When I was growing up, and even now, I hear people talk about standing apart from the world. That is consistent with what Paul writes here. What do you think that means?

    4. Read Galatians 6:15. Is this what Paul means by being dead to the world? (When I was growing up, standing apart from the world meant to be plain. To be a "peculiar people." You could spot a female church member in a crowd because she did not wear make-up, jewelry, or fancy clothes. This was true for other denominations at that time as well.)

      1. Isn't the idea that you can see the difference the modern equivalent of circumcision? The difference is external, we look different than the world? (Paul tells us that what makes us different from the world is that we are proud of the cross. The world is selfishness, and the cross is the symbol of ultimate unselfishness. That may well have an impact on what we wear, what we drive and how we live. But, the point is not the externals, it is the attitude. "What counts is a new creation.")

    5. Read Galatians 6:16. Paul mentions following "this rule." What rule does he mean? (The rule of a new creation. The rule of that externals are not important. The rule of unselfishness.)

      1. Will we have peace if we follow this new rule? (Paul says that the circumcision group is taking its position in part to avoid persecution.)

      2. Let me ask you a practical question. If your heart were converted to an attitude of unselfishness, would you have more or less peace in your life? If your heart were converted so that externals did not make a difference, would you have more or less peace?

      3. Would you experience more or less mercy if you focused less on externals?

    6. Read Romans 2:28-29. What does Paul write about externals here?

    7. Read Galatians 6:17. Why should people not cause trouble for Paul? He has a Jesus tattoo on him? (Read 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 and 2 Corinthians 11:24-25. Paul literally bore the marks of his suffering as a result of his witness for Jesus. He does not need any more beatings. And, he has physical proof of his commitment to Jesus.)

    8. Read Galatians 6:18. What is "your spirit?" (Paul has been encouraging us to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit. Thus, he ends by saying let your spirit listen to the Holy Spirit. Accept this message of grace given us by Jesus.)

    9. Friend, will you accept grace today? Will you constantly seek to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit? Will you focus on matters of the heart and not externals? Why not make that decision right now?

  3. Next week: We begin a new series of studies on Paul's letter to the Romans.
* 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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