International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday February 12, 2012
Purpose: To grasp the biblical distinction between law and grace
Scripture Text: Galatians 3:1-14
Galatians 3: 1-14 (NRSV)
(1)You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! (2)The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (3)Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? (4)Did you experience so much for nothing? —if it really was for nothing; (5)Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
(6)Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” (7) so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. (8)And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” (9)For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.
(10)For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” (11)Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” (12)But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” (13)Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— (14)in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Paul's passion and heart are readily visible as we read these words that sometimes seem harsh. Paul seems to have reached a point of exasperation with this group of people that he had originally shared the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. He had also shared his story of what had happened to him on the road to Damascus.
Because some Judaizers had visited the area and preached that they must first become followers of the Jewish/Mosaic laws before they could be considered followers of Christ, they started the practice of circumcision as well as celebrating the Jewish Festival Days; trying to appease those that came into their community.
Paul's encounter with Christ was far different than what Paul was proclaiming to the Galatians. Christ revealed Himself to Paul, while Paul is preaching, because of my revelation, you should believe by faith that Jesus Christ was crucified. When Paul encountered Christ on the road to Damascus he not only saw Jesus, he was also filled with a new Spirit. Paul ceased from a persecuting spirit, to a believing Spirit.
While telling his story to the Galatians he also performs many miracles because of his Spirit filled life. Now he can not understand how they could accept the word of someone without the miracles. What did the Judaizers do that compared to Paul's story of conversion, vision, and miracles? While the Judaizers believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, they did not understand that His coming was the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”
Paul's conversion was unique in that the vision and encounter were enough for Paul to be considered an Apostle, which is one that actually saw and witnessed Jesus Christ. There is no doubt in Paul's mind, however, when Paul left Galatia, to proclaim the Good News to others, they were open to a more structured religion, maybe requiring less faith, and preferred obedience to a set of rules easier than the faith required by Paul's teaching.
Paul and the rest of the Apostles had a different kind of faith from the rest of the world, both then and now. The Galatians, and us encounter Jesus Christ in a different way; our sight and vision comes from believing what the Apostles and Paul said was true. Then we also need an understanding of God that frees us from a law that must always be followed, to a God of grace that assures us that we have, by faith, achieved a new relationship with God, because of what Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross, and through the resurrection. The promise made to Abraham has become reality.
Even today it seems easier to follow a set of rules that are provided for us, than to enjoy the freedom that was gained for us at the cross. I think the story of adoption of older children can help us understand the difference. A child living in a foster home might be obedient because of the chance for adoption. While one that has been adopted might be obedient out of gratitude for a loving father and mother. In much the same way our relationship with our Heavenly Father works that way. By faith, we become joint heirs with Jesus. We are God's heirs because of God's grace, not because we were good enough.