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When we meet in person, we take some time to share our joys and concerns. Consider your last week. If you have any prayer requests, please add them to the comments below. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
Thank you for giving us your Spirit, not through works of law but through faith in our hearts. Even Abraham was saved by faith, for he believed you, and you counted it to him as righteousness.
Thank you that Christ actually became the curse so that he could redeem us from its power, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon all nations, Jews and non-Jews, and that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Make us ever aware of the responsibilities as well as the rights which this relationship affords us.
In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
This week's lesson is on Galatians 3:1-14.
This week, we are again looking at Paul's letter to the Galatians. Galatia would have been in what is now the country of Turkey. Paul's letter was written because of the false teaching that it was necessary to keep the Jewish law to be saved.
In Paul's time, the Jews considered the law differently than we do today. There was an element of civil rules and regulations that govern conduct. However, the system was primarily meant to maintain a right relationship with God. These laws consisted of not only regulations concerning relationships but also ceremonial regulations covering such matters as worship and diet. Moral and ethical living was only a part of what the Jews thought of when they used the word law.
After the Law (verses 1-5)
Paul calls the Galatians foolish. This does not mean they were uninformed or ignorant. Quite the contrary! It means they knew the truth, but were not acting on it. Paul had presented the crucified Christ so vividly that it was as if the cross was displayed directly before his audience. The Galatians did not misunderstand the truth. They abandoned it.
Paul then asks a series of rhetorical questions. Paul is getting to the point that the Old Testament laws do not promise anything like the Spirit. In fact, the actual phrase Holy Spirit occurs only three times in the Old Testament. Only in Psalm 51:11 is there a sense of the Holy Spirit indwelling a believer (in that case, King David).
The Holy Spirit as we think of it is part of the new covenant. It was only discussed prophetically in the Old Testament. Now that the Galatians have the indwelling Spirit, they are still trying to achieve salvation by following the law.
Before the Law (verses 6-9)
In the Old Testament, Abraham lived centuries before Moses, who gave the Israelites the law. But Abraham was counted as righteous because of his faith. It had nothing to do with following the law.
Paul asserts that anyone who has faith is a child of Abraham. When the Old Testament says that, "All nations will be blessed through you," it means all nations. This includes the Gentiles. Justification through faith opened the door to any person regardless of association with Israel.
Cursed Under the Law (verses 10-14)
In Deuteronomy, it says that everyone who broke the law under any count was under a curse. If you live by the law, you are condemned by the law. The law is not based on faith.
But we were redeemed by Christ. Our sinless Savior was made a curse for us through his death. To be killed by crucifixion was reserved for the vilest of criminals. The law teaches that this manner of death is used to shame the one being executed. Jesus was born under the law and endured the curse that falls on lawbreakers. But Jesus was no criminal. Because he was sinless, he was able to do what no one else could do: he perfectly satisfied the justice of God by absorbing the curse in accordance with God's purpose and foreknowledge.
Sometimes our wrong thinking causes us to rely on the law or works to please God. But this is not where salvation is found. We cannot gain salvation, forgiveness, or right standing before God by our works. These things are accomplished only through the work of Jesus and the grace of God. We receive the Spirit because of Jesus' gift following our faith response, not because we cleaned up our lives or obeyed all the right rules. As we reflect on this passage, we do well to ask whether our lives betray a continued striving salvation rather than a joyful acceptance of it. Do we live and act based on the truth that Christ's work on our behalf is enough?
Father, forgive us for the times when we have fallen back to our old ways of trying to earn what you have freely given. Help us instead to live our faith in action as a loving response to Christ's work for us. In his name we pray. Amen.
Questions for Discussion
This week's benediction is from the New Living Translation.
Next week's lesson will be on Galatians 3:23-4:7.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.