Faith vs Law

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Freedom in Christ
Study 3 - Faith vs Law - Galatians 2.15-21

Welcome

Do you have any family rules or mottos that you live by? They may be wise or funny!

Share your stories in the whole group, or in pairs if that is more comfortable.(eg. MdQ: “if all else fails, read the instructions”)

Worship

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46.10

Take 5-10 minutes to be still with God, no need to sing or chat, but be relaxed in God’s presence. If it helps to have quiet music in the background, have music without words. If people wish to share their thoughts later, lead that very gently.

Use a CD player or mp3 player

Word – Lighter Bite – Study 3 – Faith vs. Law

Have available more than one modern translation of the Bible. All cross references to Galatians are given as chapter.verse, for example Chapter 2 verse 4 is written 2.4. Notes for the leader are below in italics.

You may like to ask for any comments or feedback from the first couple of studies – key ideas and discoveries

Freedom from – Freedom to

  1. Read Galatians 2.15-21

These verses are a summary of the whole letter.

The gospel makes it imperative that a new community is formed in which there is no division between Jew and Gentile. The situation has arisen because of an argument about Christians of different backgrounds eating together.

Verses 15-16. What is the law that Paul is writing about?

Suggested thoughts: the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) Torah, the books of the Law, given to Moses, describing the way God’s people should live.

Note that there were no rules about not eating with Gentiles, but rules about what to eat and how to prepare food.

  1. Verse 16 is key to the letter.

Can you explain what it means in your own words? See the meaning of justify below.

Other places in the New Testament that express the same principle, look them up for comparison. Do they help clarify the meaning?

Romans 3.24,28 + Philippians 3.9

Suggested thoughts: No-one is made right with God and acceptable to God by observing the law (religious requirements). BUT the law is not bad, it is good, holy and helpful in showing us God’s ways. However, the means by which we are made in right relationship with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. We receive that right relationship because of what God has done through Jesus. We simply cannot earn it by working at religious obedience. Our ‘good work’ is done as a thankful, grateful response to God’s initiative and God’s redeeming.

Justified: a simple way of understanding is ‘just as if I’d never sinned’

Justify is not only about a declaration of ‘not guilty’; of acquittal from guilt.

Justify is also pointing to God’s action in putting right what has gone wrong

the Latin root of the word 'justify' is 'justus' and 'facio' giving a meaning of 'make just'

  1. Read Galatians 2.19-21

What does it mean to Paul “to live” now that he believes in Jesus Christ?

List the key statements he uses to describe his new life as a Christian.

Use a different version of the Bible to help unpack the meaning.

For some of the group these ideas may seem out of their experience or thinking. Take time to reflect, mull over the ideas, and don’t rush. You might wish to return to them at a later date.

  1. How can each of us “live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”?

We need to think about the ways in which we still live fearfully, trying to keep some rules, or feeling guilty. Which ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ are unchangeable for you. Are they helps or hindrances?

In pairs, chat about your understanding of how this might work out in your own life.

Witness

Be joyful – what have you discovered about the freedom God offers in Christ?

Is there anyone you can share this Good News with?

Think in pairs, and pray for each other.
Sing at the end? (And can it be?... or other suggestion)

Word – Main Meal – Study 3 – Faith vs. Law

  1. Read the story in Galatians 2.11-14.

The setting for today’s study in Galatians is an experience that Paul had with the apostle Peter. Discuss your understanding of what happened.

Acts 10.9-23, 35. You may like to remind yourself of the Apostle Peter’s experience of understanding the freedom from Jewish food laws, and the inclusion of Gentiles into the Church.

Why did Peter go backwards in his understanding of the freedom Christ has given to Christians?

What was the circumcision party? Read Acts 10.45, 11.1-2.

  1. Galatians 2.15-16.

These verses are a summary of the whole letter.

The gospel makes it imperative that a new community is formed in which there is no division between Jew and Gentile. The situation has arisen because of an argument about Christians of different backgrounds eating together.

Discuss the meaning of these two verses – the law that the Jewish background believers have been brought up to obey. See notes for Lighter Bite.

  1. Verse 16 is key to the whole letter. What does it mean to you all?

Can you explain what it means in your own words? See the meaning of justify below.

Other places in the New Testament that express the same principle, look them up for comparison. Do they help clarify the meaning?

Romans 3.24,28 + Philippians 3.9

Suggested thoughts: No-one is made right with God and acceptable to God by observing the law (religious requirements). BUT the law is not bad, it is good, holy and helpful in showing us God’s ways. However, the means by which we are made in right relationship with God is through faith in Jesus Christ. We receive that right relationship because of what God has done through Jesus. We simply cannot earn it by working at religious obedience. Our ‘good work’ is offered as a thankful, grateful response to God’s initiative and God’s redeeming.

Justified: a simple way of understanding is ‘just as if I’d never sinned’

Justify is not only about a declaration of ‘not guilty’; of acquittal from guilt.

Justify is also pointing to God’s action in putting right what has gone wrong

the Latin root of the word 'justify' is 'justus' and 'facio' giving a meaning of 'make just'

  1. Read Galatians 2.17-18.

Discuss the meaning. Paul answers the question about a person who continues to do activities that would not please God (sin), explaining that this does not cancel the work that Jesus has done.

Note that this is a reasonable point because by being made right with God through faith alone does remove two reasons for obeying God: fear of punishment or separation from God, and reward for doing good works.

Be aware that some group members may have a sensitive conscience and feel guilty all the time. These studies may help to re-frame their thinking to see Christ and his life, death and resurrection, as a true way of being rescued from what might be termed ‘false guilt’. You may need to allow time for pastoral care outside the group.

It is also possible that some members of the group may be challenged about their lifestyle and wish to make changes. Be confidential and supportive. Please do chat to Marion if you wish to follow up.

  1. Read Galatians 2.19-21
  • What does it mean to Paul “to live” now that he believes in Jesus Christ?
  • List the key statements he uses to describe his new life as a Christian.
  • What has happened to a Christian’s old life?

Use a different version of the Bible to help unpack the meaning.

How do our lives match up to this inspiring vision of the Christian life?

  1. How can each of us “live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”?

We need to think about the ways in which we still live fearfully, trying to keep some rules, or feeling guilty. Which ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ are unchangeable for you. Are they helps or hindrances?

In pairs, chat about your understanding of how this might work out in your own life.

  1. Application for long-term Christians!

Do you look down on any other group of Christians because they live differently from yourself (as the Jewish Christians looked down on Gentile Christians and avoided eating with them)? See Galatians 2.11-14.

This might be a personal challenge to take away and pray about.
There is more to come in later chapters of Galations

Marion de Quidt, May 2016