The Setting

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Freedom in Christ
Study 1 - The Setting - Galatians 1.1-12

Welcome

 

Have you ever received a letter, card or email which has encouraged you? Any letter or card or message that has spurred you on to do something differently? Share your stories in the whole group, or in pairs if that is more comfortable

Worship

Either - One person in advance to choose a favourite hymn or song, explain why, and if possible the group to sing or listen.

Or – sing or listen to: ‘In Christ alone, my hope is found.’ Ancient and Modern # 678

Use a CD player or mp3 player, or hymn books!

Word – Background for all

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.

1. Background to the letter

This is important to understand if we want to follow Paul’s argument. Paul had experienced a dramatic experience of freedom at his own conversion to Christ (we look at this next study). He reflected on the significance of the Good News of Christ to both Jew and Gentile. He found that the newly formed church in Galatia have lost their understanding of this and reverted to a confusing distortion. He argues with characteristic zeal. He begins with a local problem in a local church, but this letter explores topics that are relevant for us all.

Galatian churches are a group (1.2), whose members are called Galatians (3.1). One theory is that they were in the southern part of Asia Minor known as the Roman province of Galatia. In Acts 14.1-21, Paul and Barnabas had visited the cities of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe and founded churches. Later Paul visits the area including Phrygia again, Acts 18.23.  Paul recalls his first visit in 4.13-14 when he had some form of physical weakness.

The letter’s date is uncertain: possibly early because the troubles began early (1.6), or later because it has a similarity of theme to the letter to the Romans. Several dates proposed. Before the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). 48-49 CE. After second missionary journey. 53-57 CE. Or 51-53 from Syrian Antioch or Corinth. See the timeline suggested by David Cooke (See Introduction and overview of these notes)

Word – Lighter Bite – Study 1 – The Setting

Why not gather the ideas on some rolls of lining paper or a flipchart or batch of papers in different colours.

  1. What was the background of the Galatian Christians, from which they had become believers in Christ?  See 2.8; 14; 3.8;14; 4.8-9.
    [from a non-Jewish, non-Christian, Gentile, or so-called ‘pagan’ background]
  2. What sorts of things did the Galatian Christians believe and do before they became Christians? See 4.8-11. Possibly also 5.19-21.
    [worship of gods (not God); observing special days, months; idolatry, witchcraft]
    What do you think this meant in practice?
  3. Questions for the group to consider about the passage we study today,
    Galatians 1.1-11
    • What does Paul say about God in these verses?
    • What does Paul say about Christ?
    • About himself?
    • About the Gospel?

This letter was a favourite of Martin Luther, and a rediscovery of this letter was significant in the European Reformation.
In the ‘Main meal’ there are a range of key verses to look up: do this if you have time
You may like to ask what the group thinks, or read out the summary below or both!

Freedom from: judgement; humanity is made right with God, not by legalistic keeping of religious laws, but by faith in all Christ has done for us through grace.

Freedom to: live thankfully, obediently and confidently, with the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit.

  1. The main message of the whole letter.

Discuss your reactions to these messages.

Witness

Focus on the main theme of Paul’s letter: “Freedom in Christ”. Take a look around you before the next study. Do you see any lack of freedom in the lives of people in the community here, in the UK, in the wider human world? Lack of Freedom from? Lack of Freedom to? Make a few notes to bring to next study.

Final Prayer

Galatians 6.18 reads: ‘the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.’

Pray for each other using these words or the full grace 2 Corinthians 13.14.

Word – Main Meal – Study 1 – The Setting

A person is justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law. 2.16.
I have been crucified with Christ. 2.20.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. 3.13
All one in Christ Jesus. 3.28
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 5.1.
The entire law is summed up in a single command. 5.14.
Live by the Spirit … 5.16
The fruit of the Spirit… 5.22-23
A person reaps what they sow. 6.7.

  1. Spend time as a group looking at the Galatians key verses in context in your Bibles. Where can you find connections with the words of Jesus? If you have a cross-reference Bible, use this now.

Why not gather the ideas on some rolls of lining paper or a flipchart or batch of papers in different colours.

  1. Questions for the group to consider about Galatians 1.1-11
    • What does Paul say about God in these verses?
    • What does Paul say about Christ?
    • About himself?
    • About the Gospel?

Keep for reference in later weeks.

How will this make a difference to you in the week ahead?

  1. Together write out what you think is the group summary of the Gospel – the Good News of Christ.
  1. The main message of the whole letter.

    This letter was a favourite of Martin Luther, and a rediscovery of this letter was significant in the European Reformation.
    You may like to ask what the group thinks, or read out the summary below or both!

    Freedom from: judgement; humanity is made right with God, not by legalistic keeping of religious laws, but by faith in all Christ has done for us through grace.

    Freedom to: live thankfully, obediently and confidently, with the empowering of God’s Holy Spirit.

    Discuss your reactions to these messages.

Allow space to support each other. If you can then pray following this, so that each person is affirmed.

  1. Share the impact of the study, in pairs or with the whole group.

Marion de Quidt, May 2016