Galatians Sunday School Class

Since we haven’t met as a class for a month and we won’t be gathering in-person for the near future, I thought that posting a short discussion and providing a link to the closing chapter handout might allow us the opportunity to maintain some continuity in our study and discussion.
I have certainly been encouraged through the series to see the gospel afresh and to be more sober-minded, particularly as the gospel confronts me with the dual truths that I am more sinful than I like to believe and, at the same time, more loved and provided for than I could imagine.
“By the grace of God…”
This guards me against two poles of thinking that either “I’m a decent guy and God is fortunate to have me on His team” OR that God could never accept someone with my constant failings. In fact, I’m challenged by Paul’s self-assessment that “by the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10) because that takes the focus off me altogether.
Remember, we talked about the fact that irreligious people and hyper-religious people are both far from God. Think of the Prodigal Son and the brother who remained home. What’s amazing about God’s grace is that it softened the heart of the prodigal. While we don’t know what ultimately happened to the other son, the story ends with his bitter complaint that his father never even gave him a goat party!  
Here are a couple of other themes we’ve discussed that offer broad application. Let’s each be challenged to allow these truths to “take root and bear fruit.”
Free at last
1. Chapter five starts with the declaration, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Here we’re reminded that the gospel brings true freedom. We talked about getting off the treadmill of ceaseless striving to please God by our own effort. This freedom is closely tied to the idea of Sabbath rest — not just a day off or a Sunday nap or a fast from social media, but a deep, restorative, bondage-breaking rest anchored in the assurance that our deepest human need has been met by the finished work of Christ.
This actually makes our earthly moments of downtime more meaningful. We don’t need to grasp desperately to sustain them nor grieve their passing when the demands of a fallen world crowd their way in. We can enjoy moments of rest as a foretaste of heaven and its promised eternal rest. (See Hebrews 4).  We are free to rest and free to serve others, which is the subject of this week’s handout. 
No “Clubby Christians”

2. We observed that this is Paul’s harshest letter and we spent some time discussing the motives of the pesky Judaizers with their relentless pursuit of Paul and efforts to infiltrate local churches with their poisonous teaching that something (circumcision) needed to be added the gospel. We know the key issue was a matter of the soul and sin. The gospel is simply an affront to human pride. That’s why salvation is a supernatural work of God.

But we also saw strong hints that the Judaizers may have resented Gentile intrusion in their “comfy club” which may have been defined by Jewish culture, self-protection or simply their perceived legalistic superiority (See Galatians 4:17 and 6:12). This challenges me in the area of church participation and witness. I am convicted by the fact that I can treat church as a religious cushion that offers protection from the world and invites pleasant association with like-minded people. I can be like a Judaizer.

We talked a bit in our class about what we would do if an “outsider” with a messy background came in, grabbed a seat and asked some tough and even disturbing questions. If he or she came to Christ and sought to grow by continuing in our class or our church, would we resent the intrusion or extend grace? Would I, as a facilitator, be frustrated that my planned curriculum might need some adjustment?
It’s easy to see the Judaizers as enemies of the gospel, particularly as none of us demands that people who enter our fellowship follow Jewish law. But there’s a danger in our getting so comfortable in our routines and preferences that we subconsciously put up obstacles to the gospel and lay a different “yoke of slavery” on lost people whom God might be directing our way.
Rooted and Fruited
3.    We talked about the Fruit of the Spirit being the (super)natural outgrowth of being rooted in gospel soil. Just as an apple tree only bears apples – not pears, figs or pomegranates – a Christian whose identity is rooted in the truth of the gospel will display the character of Christ.
We also noted that the fruit is singular, not plural. It’s a package deal. We took some time to examine ourselves and recognize that if we feel that we’ve “nailed it” with one fruit, we may be deceiving ourselves.  More seriously, if we’re ranking our fruits against the behavior of others, we have forgotten the gospel and resorted again to keeping score — this time with other people.
Simply put, the Holy Spirit produces the whole fruit bowl! A peaceful person who does not have joy may simply have a quiet, passive personality. In the same way, someone who lives faithfully without goodness may be genetically inclined toward self-discipline. When we’re “in step with the Spirit,” all the fruit will be evident.
What’s lost when we forget
A final thought based on the stark and sobering language of the letter. Paul uses the phrases “severed from Christ” and “fallen from grace” to describe those who seek to be justified by the law. We noted that we can’t lose our salvation since it’s not something we earned BUT that we can lose some of the key blessings.
We turned to Hebrews and read warnings about what’s lost when we move away from salvation by faith alone. What we forsake is our confidence, our assurance, our hope, our rest and our endurance. These are supremely important. They steady us through life’s storms. They provide a powerful witness to a watching world. And they provide joy and courage for the journey.
In short, white-knuckling it though life, trying to save ourselves, ceaselessly striving to earn favor with God (and man), and building our identity on weak and crumbling foundations is neither pleasant nor God-honoring. So let’s recommit to getting off the treadmill and throwing away our scorecards. And let’s rest in the freedom that was secured on the cross so that we can serve with renewed passion.