Sabbath School Lesson for September 23-29, 2017

Paul begins and ends his letter to the Galatians by extending to them the grace of Jesus. His greeting and salutation contain the greatest blessing we will ever know: God’s grace which shone most brightly at the cross of Jesus.

For Paul, Christ is the beginning, the end, and everything in between. His passionate pleas to return to the Lord are similar in urgency to some of the Old Testament prophets, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Hosea. Paul’s idea of what worshiping God meant sounded like Jeremiah’s, when he said…

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, not let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these I delight,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 9:23, 24 NKJV

This statement is summarized by Paul in our Memory Text this week:

Memory Text: “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14 ESV

Paul repeatedly reminded his flock where their eyes should be focused. Not on circumcision, or on any other behavior, no matter how noble or good, but on Christ, who alone justifies us by His sacrifice on the cross. They were in danger of drifting away, if they continued on their course of behavior modification, listening more to their false teachers than to the simple gospel message Paul brought them in the beginning of his ministry.

John the Baptist declared boldly, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Paul joins every great man and woman of God who have counted everything a loss, except our Savior’s death on the cross.

Sunday: Paul’s Own Hand

After comparing Paul’s closing with that of some of his other letters, we find that they follow this pattern:

  • Specific individuals are mentioned and greeted by name.
  • a final exhortation
  • Paul’s personal signature
  • a closing benediction

However, the closing for the book of Galatians (thought to be written early in his ministry) has two differences from this pattern…

  1. No personal names are mentioned.
  2. His exhortations are more extensive than usual.

There is also an absence of personal friends mentioned at the beginning of Galatians. Scholars believe that this polite, but more formal tone used by Paul in this letter indicates the strained relationship that existed between him and the believers there. Paul was definitely worried about their spiritual condition and couldn’t help expressing it.

Possible theories also exist that explain why Paul wrote in such large letters himself, without a scribe, at the end of his letters. There was a particularly long ending with large letters in the letter to the Galatians.

  1. His hands were crippled with arthritis, making it difficult to write anything but large letters, when he didn’t use a scribe.
  2. His poor eyesight (suspected possibly as a result of his blinding encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus) may have made it easier to write larger, as others with poor vision might do.
  3. The large letters were a means of emphasizing his message (as we might use capitals or underline important points today).

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 6:11 and 2 Thessalonians 3:17. Why was Paul careful about making sure that some of his letter contained his own handwriting?

Read Romans 16:22 and 1 Corinthians 16:21. Does the work of a scribe (or today we might call him an editor) make Paul’s letters any less authentic? Why?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Although we aren’t sure what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, why did he suffer with it?

Monday: Boasting in the Flesh

The words Paul used in chapter 6:12, 13 really identified explicitly the motives of the Judaizers among them. They were using circumcised Galatian Gentiles to make themselves look better in front of their Jewish friends, to lessen somewhat their own persecution. This amounted to “boasting in your flesh”.

Paul hinted at their motives in Galatians 1:7 (“they want to pervert the gospel of Christ”) and 4:17 (“they zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you”). But in his closing, Paul puts it to them plainly. These are not true friends, but imposters, using them for their own benefit.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 6:12, 13, 1:7, and 4:17. What is your perception of the intentions of these false teachers? Why were the Gentiles following their recommendations?

Read Galatians 6:12 and 5:11. How did circumcising Gentiles lessen their persecution? Why didn’t circumcision reduce the persecution that Paul experienced then? What point was Paul making here?

Read 2 Corinthians 11:26. How did Paul suffer at the hands of false brethren? Would this have included those causing trouble in Galatia?

Tuesday: Boasting in the Cross

Rather than boasting or rejoicing in our education, power, or wealth (those things mentioned by Jeremiah that still constitute what we value most today), Paul sets forth a different perspective. Our greatest joy must not even come from our own spiritual and religious attainments, but rather, we should find our joy through the despised cross of Christ.

This sounded especially strange in a culture that thought so little of that type of crucifixion. But only in Christ’s sacrifice can we know our true worth. By His death, Jesus has proclaimed to the universe that His creatures on earth are precious to Him.

Yes, Christ dying for our sins makes all the difference. The world no longer has its enslaving hold on us. We can be truly free only as we accept this awesome gift of grace. This is surely something to boast and be happy about.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 6:14, Philippians 3:8, and Jeremiah 9:23. What part of the world is lost to the Christian? Why are these things considered “rubbish”, compared to the cross?

Read Romans 6:12 and Psalm 19:13. How are we kept from having sin reign or have dominion in our life?

Read 1 John 2:15-17. Why is it useless to love the world?

Wednesday: A New Creation

After sharing the love behind Jesus’ death on the cross, Paul’s second point in telling the gospel story was about justification by faith. Just as important as what Jesus did was what it accomplished. Justification by faith, often termed a new creation or a new birth experience, must be understood before any real change in lives would be seen.

This important doctrine was in danger of being lost as Galatian Christians fell prey to the idea that their human behavior made a difference in their salvation. Human effort is never enough to secure one’s place in heaven. Circumcision or uncircumcision made no difference in our standing with God, Paul boldly declared.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision now uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Galatians 6:14 NKJV

Christ alone does the creating–making us whole, molding us like Him, changing our character from within. Man can do nothing but accept the gift through faith in Him. Our righteousness must therefore be Christ’s righteousness, not our own. The change will come from within us, and shine out for others to see. Not the other way around.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 6:15, 5:6, 3:28. What sentiment are these texts expressing? What really counts with God?

Read 1 Corinthians 7:19. Why do keeping the commandments matter to God?

Read 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24. What activates this new creation? In what way does it affect our behavior?

Thursday: Final Remarks

“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. From now one let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” Galatians 6:16-18 NKJV

What an impassioned plea is held in the last few verses of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Many hidden and overt messages are there for his readers:

  • Some have determined that “this rule” must include the 27 books of the New Testament that eventually became the belief and practice of God’s church.
  • His desire for them is “peace and mercy”, found only in those who walk in Christ.
  • Stating that no one should bother him about his walk implies that false teachers have been bothering them to follow something else.
  • Pointing out the marks on his body clearly does not refer to his circumcision, but to the scars and marks incurred from persecution in the cause of God.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 6:15-16. What “rule” do you think Paul was talking about?

Read Galatians 6:17, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 11:24-27. How are these marks of persecution better identification than circumcision for the Christian believer? How had circumcision at that time become merely a sign of submission to Judaism?

Read Galatians 6:18 and 1:3. What made grace so significant in Paul’s ministry to the Galatians?


Paul highlights a few essentials this week. We explore…

  • the reason for Paul’s thorn in the flesh, and what it might have been (Sunday)
  • Paul’s scars of persecution, as opposed to the scars he received from circumcision (Monday)
  • why our real rejoicing or boasting must be in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Tuesday)
  • what Christ’s sacrifice did for us–making us a new creation (Wednesday)
  • what our faith has cost us (Thursday)

Final Thoughts

The song Have Thine Own Way, Lord expressed the same sentiments as Paul in the closing of his letter to the Galatians.

The words of the hymn were inspired by a woman hymn writer, Adelaide A. Pollard, who was discouraged because she couldn’t find the funds to go to Africa and be a missionary. She overheard an elderly lady at a prayer service say, “It really doesn’t matter what you do with us, Lord, just have your own way with our lives.” Adelaide went home and wrote these four stanzas before retiring that night…

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will;
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit ’till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me.

While the process of justification and sanctification requires our cooperation, let us remember that the work is totally in God’s hands. The statue can’t transform itself. It really doesn’t matter what God does, so long as He’s doing the doing.

Next Week: The Apostle Paul in Rome (new quarter)

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