Sabbath School Lesson for August 12-18, 2017

There have been many people released from long prison terms in the United States, who were found to be innocent of the crimes charged against them–thanks to new DNA evidence capabilities. Imagine the joy and surprise this brings to innocent people, especially those who have been imprisoned for years and years and lost all hope of freedom.

A possible comparison of being freed from sin by Christ works fine, until you remember that we are indeed guilty of crimes, and totally undeserving of the new freedom we’ve been given. Can we still feel joy in this unusual transaction?

This week we explore the realm of this newly-acquired freedom, learning that it comes with not just freedom, but an exalted status of being heirs of the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe! How can we not feel insurmountable devotion and loyalty to this Benefactor, who took our place and paid the penalty we deserve?

Memory Text: “So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Galatians 4:7 ESV

Yes, our new status as heir is indisputable. Understanding the ramifications of this tremendous prisoner exchange is the theme of this week’s study. We will attempt to answer these questions…

  • Does our relationship to the law change after we’ve been redeemed, or set free by God? (Sun.)
  • What “elementary principles” were we in bondage to, according to Paul? (Mon.)
  • How did Christ fulfill the law’s demands? (Tue.)
  • What do we inherit as heirs of Christ? (Wed.)
  • How can false worship lead us back into slavery? (Thu.)

Sunday: Our Condition in Christ

These passages we’ve been studying in Galatians, coupled with ones about baptism in the book of Romans, reveal the seriousness of our new position as joint-heirs with Christ.

As princes and princesses of the King, it is our duty, desire, and privilege to obey the commandments of our Lord with even more enthusiasm than before. Our example of loving obedience is crucial to the survival of the kingdom. Besides, after our thrilling rescue mission, performed by God’s Son dying for us on the cross, our desire to serve the King and represent Him faithfully is almost guaranteed.

Baptism is described as our uniting with Christ, but also being clothed with Him. When we join the royal family and begin wearing the robes that accompany that position, we are driven with desire to faithfully represent our loving King and to work tirelessly in serving and obeying His every demand.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 3:25, 26 and John 1:12. What is required from us to become adopted into God’s family?

Read Hosea 11:1, 1 Corinthians 12:13, and Galatians 3:27, 28. How inclusive is the term “sons of God”? Who does it refer to?

Read Romans 6:1-11. What part does sin and the law play in the life of someone who is baptized with Christ?

Monday: Enslaved to Elementary Principles

A phrase in Galatians 4:3, “the elements of the world”, describing what we were in bondage to before Christ came, has been the cause of some confusion in translation. The Greek word used, stoicheia, literally means “elements”.

But scholars have questioned whether Paul meant…

  1. the basic elements that compose the universe (like in 2 Peter 3:10, 12, which describes the “elements” of the earth and heavens melting with heat)
  2. the demonic powers that presently control our planet (Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against…”)
  3. the very basics of salvation, as taught through the Old Testament laws and sacrifices, but were only shadows of things to come (Hebrews 5:12 calls those first teachings milk as needed by babies, not solid food of an adult)

When taken in context, Paul’s reference to the elements of the world in Galatians 4:3 may be seen to represent the third option here. Those elementary principles are those rudimentary lessons, as portrayed in the sacrificial system of Moses’ time.

After all, the whole tenor of the book of Galatians is Paul’s attempt to draw his fellow believers away from those who were teaching that full compliance with all the Jewish laws and customs is necessary for our salvation.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 4:1-3 and Colossians 2:8, 20. What do you think are those “elementary principles” Paul talks about?

Read Galatians 4:3 and Matthew 18:3. How do you reconcile our growing up spiritually with needing to have a childlike faith?

Read Hebrews 5:12. How did Jewish life before Christ represent a time of childhood, as opposed to the time after Christ making them spiritual adults?

Tuesday: “God Sent Forth His Son”

The timing of Jesus’ First Coming into our world was not only prophesied, but it proved to be the best time for it to happen. Historically, it was during Pax Romano (the Roman Peace), a period when there was relative peace and stability throughout the Roman Empire. The Romans had established a common language and culture and advanced means of travel that made the spreading of the gospel easier, following Christ’s death.

Galatians 4:4, 5 is thought to be one of the most succinct accounts of the gospel message in Scripture. Saying that “God sent forth His Son” tells us that God took the initiative in our salvation. It didn’t happen by accident. And the Substitute, God’s Son, was both human and divine.

Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). “Under the law” indicates His Jewish roots (the Jews having been given the law) and the fact that He was born under law’s condemnation (death), as all of humanity since Adam.

Christ’s life of obedience met the law’s demands of love, and His death met the law’s justice. Our Substitute is fully equipped and ready to save any who choose His kingdom over Satan’s.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 4:4, 5. Why are these two verses seen as complete explanations of what our salvation is all about? What motivated God to not only free sinners, but to make them His heirs?

Read Romans 5:17-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. Why is the death of this one Man sufficient to release us from the condemnation of sin? How and why was Jesus’ sinless life as important as His death on the cross?

Why do you think the timing was given so precisely for Christ’s First Coming (Daniel 9:24-27), but Mark 13:32 tells us that no one knows when His Second Coming will be?

Wednesday: The Privileges of Adoption

Paul is the only New Testament author who uses the word huiothesia. This unique Greek word for “adoption” refers to the legal procedure in the Greco-Roman world that allowed emperors to choose their own successor, when there was no legal heir.

The verb for “redeem” means to “buy back”. This redemption, as it was called in that culture, was the price commonly used to buy the freedom of a slave or a hostage. Both images, adoption and redemption, were easily understood by Paul’s audience.

Adoption of children is still practiced in our world. Most of the time there is real value in an adoption situation. An adopted child is loved and cherished by a family (not necessarily a royal family, but at least a real one), and the family is also enriched by the desired addition of a child in the home.

There is earthly and heavenly joy in adoption, as well as acts of hostage redemption. But, what a rich inheritance is ours by being adopted by God, our loving Creator. We were His in the beginning, and we are His again through the death of His Son–true hostages to sin, rescued from our kidnapper Satan.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 4:5-7. How are adoption and redemption both seen in the salvation process? What responsibilities might this bring to the one who is both saved and adopted by God?

Read Ephesians 1:5 and Romans 8:15, 16, 23. Why did Paul regularly remind his Gentile converts about their new identity with Christ? Why is this adoption concept so important to believers of any place or time?

Read Hebrews 2:14, 15, 1 Corinthians 15:56, 57, Romans 6:22, and Romans 3:20. What are the things we are freed from by God’s grace?

Thursday: Why Turn Back to Slavery?

As a true shepherd tending his flock, Paul outlines his fears for the church in Galatians 4:8-20. He reminds them of their false worship of pagan gods before they knew Christ. But then cautions them about a similar false worship, that looks like Christianity, but is still based on performing good works in order to merit favor with God.

In other words, they were being warned that it is possible to return to slavery, even though they’ve been declared free and made heirs with Christ.

Paul hated to see his precious church turn away from the true teaching of righteousness by faith alone, and enter once again into a false pagan-style worship service. After all, Paul knew better than anyone the distinct change that comes in a life that’s been released from following all the customs and traditions that Jewish religious leaders imposed on their followers.

 Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 4:8, 9 and Acts 15:1, 5. How were the Galatians in danger of being misled by some of their Jewish brethren? Why were these Jewish influences unhealthy for the church?

Read Galatians 4:10, 11, Romans 14:4, 5, and Colossians 2:16. Is Paul going against his own advice in whether to observe feast days or not? We understand that we shouldn’t judge people by what day they keep, so why was Paul alarmed that the Galatians were observing “days and months and seasons and years”? How do we know these verses aren’t meant to dismiss our true observance of the seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11 and Matthew 5:18)?

Read Galatians 4:17 and Romans 10:2-4. How does one “establish their own righteousness” instead of submitting “to the righteousness of God”?


We did find some answers that were posed at the beginning of this lesson…

  1. Redemption makes us “dead to sin” (Romans 6:1, 2), so we still need the law to know what sin is. (Sun.)
  2. “Elementary principles” (in Galatians 4:3, 9) were most likely those basic lessons of salvation taught in the Jewish sacrificial system. (Mon.)
  3. God’s Son lived a perfectly obedient life, and was therefore also able to take the penalty of sin by dying on the cross in our place. Thus, He fulfilled the full mercy and justice contained in the law. (Tue.)
  4. As joint-heirs with Christ, we can call God, Abba, or Father (Galatians 4:6), and have a close relationship with our Creator. (Wed.)
  5. Evidently it is possible to return to slavery, or Paul wouldn’t have been so concerned with it happening with the Galatian believers. (Thu.)

Final Thoughts

Like Jesus, our new status as sons and daughters of God allows us to call God, Abba, or Father. This endearing term for our Benefactor indicates an especially close relationship. But how many times do we not take full advantage of the intimacy we have the privilege of experiencing through God’s free gift of salvation?

We understand that knowing and loving God is important, and the first four of the Ten Commandments shows us specifically what we can do to please God and make Him our Father.

  1. (no other gods before Him) God must be our number one priority in life.
  2. (idol worship) Nothing we can manufacture on our own (our self-righteous acts) can match the beauty of what God gives us.
  3. (taking the Lord’s name in vain) We must stop misrepresenting God to other people.
  4. (the Sabbath day) Keeping this special time separate and holy with God allows our relationship to blossom.

Make sure you are doing all you can to stay connected with Abba/Father God!

Next Week: Paul’s Pastoral Appeal

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