Lesson for July 1-7, 2017

The first chapter in Galatians does a good job of establishing Paul’s authority and what gospel he had been called to preach. Evidently both of these areas had been called into question by some who were causing divisions and confusion among the Christians in the country of Galatia.

Paul first set out to warn them that there was another gospel, a perverted one, being promoted among them that ran contrary to what he had previously taught them.

He doesn’t immediately go into detail about what these teachings were, but it seems that these false teachers had also been trying to undermine Paul’s authority, in order to make their views more accepted and trustworthy.

So Paul first goes about reviewing for them his background and how he came to be this apostle to the Gentiles. They needed to hear again the story of his miraculous conversion, including his commission from the Lord Jesus Himself to help spread His gospel everywhere.

Memory Text: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 NKJV

This verse reminds us that we cannot represent Christ if we are attempting to please people. Saul of Tarsus was pleasing men, the Jewish leaders, when he was adamantly persecuting Christians. But Paul the Apostle was only concerned about pleasing God.

Paul wanted his readers to understand that he realized his message was going to be unpopular by some, that all men wouldn’t be pleased with it. But being unpopular doesn’t mean Paul’s gospel was wrong.

One has to determine the source of the message, and Paul tried to reassure them that he was following God’s instructions, not his own or someone else’s. He was only concerned about pleasing God.

Sunday: Paul, the Letter Writer

Paul’s writings gain an elevated position, thanks to Peter’s mention of them in his second epistle. In 2 Peter 3:15, 16, we find this shining endorsement of Paul:

“…and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things [Peter had been talking about the Day of the Lord], in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” NKJV

Here he asserts that wisdom was given to Paul to write his epistles. We assume he meant heavenly wisdom from the Holy Spirit. But he goes on to compare Paul’s letters with the Old Testament Scriptures, saying they are likewise liable to be misconstrued and misinterpreted.

In what ways were the writings we find now in the New Testament different from the Old? Well, most strikingly different is the format. Whereas most of the Old Testament reads as a narrative, a good portion of the New Testament is found to be in the form of a letter, a style that has remained the same for centuries now.

This letter format follows this basic style; we find in them these features:

  1. a salutation, introducing the author and greeting the recipient
  2. a word of thanksgiving, acknowledging the reader
  3. the main body, revealing the purpose of the letter
  4. a closing remark, giving a brief summary statement or instruction

Discussion Questions: Read 2 Peter 3:15, 16. Considering the backgrounds of Peter and Paul, why do you think Peter warned about the possibility of misunderstanding Paul’s message? Can and how might the same gospel be preached differently for different people? What is the importance of knowing your audience?

Read Colossians 4:16 and 1 Thessalonians 5:27. Why were Paul’s letters intended to be shared with other Christian churches? Why were some letters included in our New Testament and others were not? In what way did the Holy Spirit play a part in this?

What kind of medium, besides narratives, songs, and letters, do you think God would use to reach people today? Is it possible for us to utilize modern technology or music to spread the gospel? On the other hand, how are people being distracted by technology or music and drifting away from God? How can we get back on track?

Monday: Paul’s Calling

Paul goes into more detail as he introduces himself in the first verse of Galatians. This makes it unique from many of his other epistles, where a mere mention of “Paul, an apostle” is made. This extended greeting alerts us to the pressure Paul was feeling to re-connect with his beloved church members in Galatia and let them know, once again, who he really was.

The term apostle has come to mean someone who was divinely commissioned or sent to represent Christ. According to the Bible, this included those men who knew Jesus in person, who received directly from Him the commission to preach the gospel.

Receiving the call of God as Paul did, meeting the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus, is considered to be a direct, divine commission or calling. Although many receive a calling to preach and represent Christ, only a few have received a similar call from God Himself.

Paul’s vision and calling was confirmed by the other apostles in Jerusalem. His verifiable story about being struck down and blinded by the sight of Christ was considered authentic and genuine. After all, Peter and the other disciples also saw Jesus after His resurrection. Paul’s description of Jesus must have matched their own remembrance of Him.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 1:1, 2, Ephesians 1:1, Philippians 1:1, and 2 Thessalonians 1:1. What is similar and different about these introductions? And why the difference?

Read Galatians 18, 19 and 1 Corinthians 15:4-9. Why does Paul think of himself as an apostle, even though he never met Jesus when He was alive?

Read Acts 9:15-17. From this account in Acts, did Paul receive his commission from Ananias, who healed him, or from God directly?

Tuesday: Paul’s Gospel

Two words that Paul uses more than any other author of the New Testament are grace and peace. When you think about it, these words are Paul’s way of encapsulating the gospel message.

  1. Grace–similar to the word Greeks used for “greetings”–reminding the Gentiles of the grace of God that results in forgiveness, when we accept His will in our lives
  2. Peace–a typical Jewish greeting–reminding the Jews of the peace of God that is offered after receiving forgiveness, when we allow His love to motivate our obedience

These first five verses in Galatians include the true gospel message that Paul was so intent on protecting. His description of Jesus, as the one who gave Himself for our sins, but also delivered us from sin, covers well the concepts of justification and sanctification.

But he closes this description with a spontaneous expression of praise to God, one that will be heard “forever and ever”, for eternity, after we are exported to heaven. So Paul includes also the concept of our glorification, the final step in our salvation journey.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 1:3-5, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, and Colossians 1:2. Why does Paul mention “grace and peace” so often in these letters? What do they say to his readers?

Read Galatians 1:3-5 again and Revelation 5:13. To whom is Paul offering glory? Is it just the Father? How might this support the concept that the Father and the Son are one?

Read Galatians 1:6. By mentioning “grace”, who is Paul appealing to, who may have been influenced by “a different gospel”? What was that other gospel, and why did it differ from the one from Christ?

Wednesday: No Other Gospel

Often in his letters to various churches, Paul followed his introduction with a prayer of thanksgiving for those who would be receiving them. In the case of the Galatians, however, he omitted this nicety and immediately expressed his concern for their “turning away” from the true gospel.

Referring to a “different gospel” does not mean that Paul believed there actually was another gospel, but that certain Judaizers had perverted Paul’s true gospel, leaving confusion and division among the church members.

This reality was obviously very upsetting to Paul. It amounted to teaching that faith in Christ was not enough for our salvation. In order to be saved, the false teachers were asking that new Gentile believers be circumcised and follow many of the other Mosaic laws and customs. See Acts 15:1.

This turned out to be such a divisive topic that Paul and Barnabas found it necessary to go to Jerusalem and present it to a Council of the brethren there. Indeed, Paul shows his passion about it in Galatians 1:8 and 9, where he twice calls for condemnation of the false teachers.

Discussion Questions: Read Acts 15:1-5. What were these Judaizers actually teaching new converts? What may have motivated them to make their customs mandatory for all?

Read 1 Corinthians 1:4 and 5:1. Why was Paul seemingly so much more upset by the perverted doctrine of the Galatians than he was by the sexually perverted behavior of the Corinthians? How important is doctrine when it comes to our salvation?

Read Galatians 1:6 and compare it to Romans 1:8, Philippians 1:3, and 1 Thessalonians 1:2. What may have caused Paul to omit a word of thanksgiving for the Galatian believers?

Thursday: The Origin of Paul’s Gospel

Reading the rest of Galatians, chapter one, we sense that Paul does indeed have a true calling from God and therefore has been preaching the true gospel. He wants his fellow believers to remember where he came from and how God turned him around. He doesn’t take any credit himself, but totally praises God for the miraculous change in his life.

By reminding his Jewish readers that he also came from a Jewish background, a strict, law-abiding one, he showed that he understood their fervency in protecting their laws and traditions. But when Jesus revealed Himself on the road to Damascus, and pointed out that Paul had been wrong in his persecution of Christians, he listened to every word, and began to change his idea of how to be saved.

We find later on that it didn’t seem to matter to Paul whether the Gentiles were circumcised or not. His main concern was that the Judaizers were teaching that they had to do it, in order to be saved (Acts 15:1).

Paul was very distraught over this threat to the gospel. Salvation must remain a gift, something we can’t earn by doing this or that. Works did matter to Paul, but not as a means of salvation.

Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 1: 11-17. How did devout Judaism affect Paul’s behavior before he was converted? What was it that legitimized Paul’s newfound faith as coming from God alone?

Read Galatians 1:18-24. Why do you suppose Paul was wanting to see Peter in Jerusalem? Why was it important to mention that he only saw Peter and James while he was there?

Read Acts 26:20, Matthew 3:8, and Galatians 5:22, 23. What were the works of repentance that both Paul and Jesus recommended?


Paul’s passion and his defense are both evident in this first chapter of Galatians. His defense was given by reminding them of his miraculous conversion experience (v. 11-24). And his passion, by calling them away from the perverted doctrine of Judaizers (v. 6, 7), and twice calling for its condemnation (v. 8, 9).

  • On Sunday, we explored the letter style used by Paul and his contemporaries.
  • On Monday, we confirmed Paul’s authority as apostle.
  • On Tuesday, we saw the gospel message in the words “grace” and “peace”.
  • On Wednesday, we discovered a “different gospel” existed that must be stopped.
  • On Thursday, we established the divine source of Paul’s preaching.

 Final Thoughts

How has God shown you grace, or unmerited favor?

Can legalism be thought of as merited favor (earned by our own merits), and how does it affect our relationship with Christ?

  1. Galatians 2:21–“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” NKJV (In other words, if you can earn salvation on your own, you don’t need Christ.)
  2. Galatians 5:4–“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” NKJV (In other words, being justified by the law makes Christ a stranger to us.)

Is there another way to fall from God’s grace, however–by not allowing His grace to transform us after we are justified? Is it still important to do good by keeping the Ten Commandment law?

  1. Galatians 6:7–“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man sows, that he will also reap.” NKJV (In other words, there will be consequences for our behavior.)
  2. Galatians 6:9–“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” NKJV (In other words, we must not stop being good. There is a reward waiting for us in heaven.)

BOTH deceptions are to be avoided by God’s people!

Next Week: The Unity of the Gospel

To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/


All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/