International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 5, 2017
Purpose: To affirm that our new life in Christ transcends all other divisions
Bible Lesson: Galatians 3:26–4:7
Key Verse: There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Galatians 3:26–29 (CEB)
(26) You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.
Galatians 4:1-7 (CEB)
(1) I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. (2) However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. (3) In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. (4) But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. (5) This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. (6) Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” (7) Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This is the first of four lessons from the Book of Galatians. The area was first visited by Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey, it included the cities of Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and others. (See Acts 13-14) The people of Galatia were from a branch of the Gaul’s, originally from north of the Black Sea. Gaul was best known for being part of the nation we now call France. During Julius Caesar's reign, it was an adversary of Rome.
After Paul and Barnabas left the area and having taught the Gospel of Christ, a group had moved into the area teaching a different form of Christianity. They taught that to be a follower of Christ first required that Jewish traditions and laws be observed. They also did not recognize Paul as a real Apostle, since he was not part of the original twelve.
In addition to the Judaizers there had also been an infiltration of some Eastern religions. Paul probably writes this letter after the conclusion of the first Missionary Journey and his visit Jerusalem. Although others think it was later based on 4:11 “I’m afraid for you! Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing.” Which might indicate it was after several more visits. (Journeys 2 & 3) My thinking is since the council in Jerusalem wrote the letter saying circumcision was not necessary after the first visit, that should have settled the problem.
In this lesson, we will focus on the experience of salvation in Christ as the means to unity and deep community as God’s people.
Verses 26 & 27 focus on our new identity in Christ. In Galatians, Paul is writing to a mixed group of believers. Both Jews and Gentiles were in the church Paul established in the region of Galatia. A lot of the early believers of Christ were Jews, but as the word spread more and more Gentiles/Greeks became believers also. The Jews always traced their heritage back to Abraham, but of course the Gentiles/Greeks could not.
Hence the opening by Paul, and in verse 29 he makes a valid statement, reminding them Abraham was from a family of idol worshippers, and it was Abraham's faith just as it is our faith that sets us apart. In verse 29, Paul reminds his readers that this new reality in Christ is by faith. He points back to Abraham as the model (Galatians 3:6-9). Relationship with God in Christ is by faith. Abraham modeled the life of faith, and Abraham serves as the link to God’s blessing of all the nations (Genesis 12:3).
In chapter 4, Paul moves to illustrate his argument with a family metaphor. Paul’s argument is that in Christ all people (Jew/Gentile, slave/free, and male/female) are God’s children and part of one body. He now moves to clarify what heirs means. Paul means that all people in Christ are fully heirs and enjoy all of the rights and privileges of being sons and daughters of God through Christ. There are no second-class citizens or family members in the church. Now it is important that you understand this applies to the Church, (body of believers) and not to the world. The world remains slaves to sin and has no rights as heirs.
In Paul’s thinking those in the world that do not believe in Christ are as minor children that have an inheritance that can only be granted by a trustee. The inheritance is completed when we by faith accept the truth that Jesus was God and through His life, death and resurrection we can inherit the promises He made. Our salvation is not through our birth, our economic status, our religious affiliation, our family, our ethnicity, our educational level, or our culture.
For Paul, the only object worthy of our trust is a person––the Son of God and Messiah, Jesus. Jesus faithfully lived and then died on the cross for the sins, injustices, and hurts of the world. Therefore, salvation does not depend on anything other than embracing a new identity with God through trust in Jesus.
Paul brings his argument to a climax in verses 6-7. In Christ, all who believe are no longer slaves nor are they minor children with limited rights. They are fully mature sons and daughters who through the Holy Spirit can address God directly as “Abba, Father.” Abba in Aramaic is like saying “daddy” or “papa” a term of endearment by a child.
For my hymn this week I will choose one of the great oldies, “Trust and Obey” because that is all we need to become an heir, son or daughter.