Living by the Gospel

Usually when I post a bible study lesson, it’s all formatted nice and neat. The new bible class is an interactive format, and I thought that preparing a full lesson might inhibit discussion. So instead, I’m just posting my outline and thoughts; this week’s lesson explores the balance between legalism and freedom.

Story: Cockayne’s Syndrome

Ralph Dury was all smiles when he celebrated his first birthday with a very special party yesterday. The youngster suffers from Cockayne Syndrome, but his parents, Melanie and David, are determined he should enjoy his life to the full.

Thanks to the generosity of Wearsiders, Ralph has been celebrating after receiving the £4,000 needed to turn his Seaburn bedroom into a specialised sensory room.

Melanie, 38, said: “Everyone has been so generous, we are absolutely delighted. It is amazing and the room will be a huge benefit to Ralph.” Ralph’s condition means he will probably never walk or talk, but Melanie and David, 40, who are also parents to Annie, 11, say their son is a beautiful, happy youngster who is always smiling.

Ralph is one of just a handful of children – about 15 in the UK – who have the congenital type of the disorder, which is so rare it took doctors months to give the family, of Alston Crescent, a diagnosis.

When Ralph was 24-hours old doctors noticed he had cataracts on both eyes and started to find the underlying problems. The youngster soon became ill with a viral infection and hospital staff
discovered his feed was going into his lungs, leading to him now being tube fed.

Doctors carried out exhaustive tests on the baby, but it was only when Melanie mentioned to the family geneticist that Ralph had become sunburnt, despite being in the shade, that a skin biopsy was sent to a specialist and the diagnosis of Cockayne Syndrome was confirmed.

Cockayne Syndrome is a rare disorder characterised by failure to grow, impaired development of the nervous system, abnormal sensitivity to sunlight and premature aging.

The condition can cause hearing loss, eye abnormalities, severe tooth decay and problems with internal organs.

Knowing her son’s time will be limited, Melanie has quit her job as a college lecturer to care for him and is looking forward to playing with him in his new sensory room, which should be ready in a couple of months.

I’m not going to diminish the tragic medical problems that this family is facing. But spiritually, many also fail to grow. And while we recognize a physical growth problem is cause for serious concern, we have come to accept a lack of spiritual growth as normal.

• What are some signs that let us know there is something physically wrong with a child’s development?
• What are some signs of healthy spiritual growth and development?
• Does spiritual growth “just happen,” or must we do something to promote it?
• Which is more important to spiritual growth: learning God’s Word, or applying God’s Word?
Galatians 3:26-29

Aside: Galatians 3:26. NIV uses “sons”, TNIV uses “children.” KJV uses “children”.

Who are the children of God? Does it include non-Christians? Does it *exclude* non-Christians? Paul is talking to Jews here, so it’s important to realize that both Jews and Gentiles enter God’s family the same way, by faith in Christ.

Last week, Debra taught us that we are no longer under the law, but the law was necessary as part of the old covenant. Now, as believers, we are no longer under the law’s supervision.

Verse 27, is baptism required? Is it fulfillment of law? Does it save?

What do you think it means by “put on Christ?” The Greek word is ????? (endy?) and means to put on clothes, but it also means “to sink into.” What image does this give you of baptism? What image does this give God of us?

Verse 28. Proud Jewish men thanked God that they were not Gentiles, slaves or women. Gentiles thanked God for not making them animals, barbarians or slaves. Are some of God’s children “better” than other children? What’s a word for this attitude? (Pride or prejudice). How does this manifest itself today?

The distinctions between God’s children are evil distortions. In reality, we have nothing of our own to offer Christ that Christ did not already give us. Our self-righteousness appear in heaven as filthy rags unless we put on Christ. There is a phrase attributed to Martin Luther that we are “snow covered dung heaps.” Should we be proud of the dung, or of the snow given to us by Christ?

Galatians 4:1-7
Verse 1. Heirs are underage; the Old Testament was our guardian. When we grow up, we will inherit Salvation when we accept Christ.

Verse 3, “elemental Spiritual forces” or “basic principles.” Like ABC’s, elementary school.

Verse 7. Slaves to what? The Old Testament law. Does this abolish the law?

So then does legalism, a strict adherence to the law, show spiritual growth or spiritual bondage?

Paul’s admonition to the Galatians was to stop behaving like slaves to the law, but as sons of the law.

Are we completely free of the law? How, then do we interpret John 14:15, where Jesus says, “If you love me, keep my commands.”

Here are some differences between slaves and sons:
Sons Slaves
Same nature as the Father Does not
Has a father Has a master
Obeys out of love Obeys out of fear
Rich Poor
Has a future Does not

What are we?

Galatians 4:8-11

Free from our old ways.
What are some ways we place ourselves back in bondage?

Verse 9: Why does Paul add “or rather known by God” to his message? As believers, do we find God? Or does God reach out and draw us? If we credit to ourselves that we find God, is it a sin?

Verse 10: Is it wrong, then, to celebrate Christmas or Easter?
If we observe special days in order to gain some spiritual favor, then we are sinning. We are relying on our own works, we are relying on the law, but we are free from the law. But if we observe special days as worship, as service, as an expression of our liberty and freedom in Christ, it can be a blessing.

Romans 14:4-13 says we are not to mandate religious observances. Romans 4:5-6a, “Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. Those who regard one day as special do so to the Lord.” In other words, we do not praise people for celebration, nor condemn people for not celebrating. But if a man believes he is saving his soul or growing in grace because of his religious observances, then he is guilty of legalism.

How can we apply this information to observances at Second? What about how we feel about other churches, such as the Catholic church or Joel Olsteen or pentacostal or Church of Christ?

Galatians 4:12-16
Verse 12: Become like me, for I became like you. Paul adjusted to the culture of the Galatians without compromising his Christian convictions. How can we adjust our behavior to influence our culture and society for Christ? At work, at play? What is the risk? (We risk compromising our convictions).

Verse 15: “Torn out your eyes” lead some scholars to believe that Paul has a vision problem, his thorn.

Verse 16: Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth? This is difficult for me. Why should we tell people the truth? Should we tell people what Jesus says, or what we think He means? How can we know whether what we’re saying is the truth? The Judaizers believed they were telling the truth by preaching adherence to the law.

I recently saw a quote I liked that went something like, “This is a witness: live your life in the Spirit. People will want what you have. When they ask, don’t tell them what they have to do; tell them what happened to you.”

I think the urge is to tell people what they have to do. We tell new believers, we tell old believers. We talk about believers. Speaking the truth, I think, involves trying to understand scripture for ourselves, but too often we try to understand it for somebody else.

Galatians 4:17-20

Is enthusiasm always good? Enthusiasm, by itself, is neutral. On the other hand, to be enthusiastic about good is always good.

We are enthusiastic about new believers. We also discussed the importance of baptism and a recognition to be free of the law, yet to obey it out of love, not fear.

Knowing this, what advice do we give new Christians? What changes are necessary to become a Christian? What changes are necessary to grow as a Christian? Are these changes mandatory?

The Galatians had embraced a false doctrine of works, and verse 20 shows Paul had become perplexed about what to do. Paul’s letter to the Galatians implores us to put on the clothes of Christ, to become more and more like Him, not out of fear, but out of love. That’s why we have bible study – it essential for spiritual grown, not stagnation. It helps us take on His character.

What steps can we take to make sure we are not misled by false doctrine?

Growth in Christ implies life in Christ. If we do not grow, we do not live. What steps can we take to become more spiritually mature?

What holds us back:
• Spiritual warfare
• Ways of the world
• Pride, war against self
• Lack of knowledge
• Lack of understanding
• Drifting away
• Rebellion
• Distraction

What grows us:
• Prayer
• Quiet time
• Attending church
• Attending bible study
• Fellowship with other believers
• Reading the bible on our own
• Serving – evangelizing, donating, hosting. Practice makes perfect.

In the story of David and Goliath, we focus as children on the fact that David slew Goliath with a mere stone. As spiritually young, we learn that we can do all things through Christ. But David did not slay Goliath on the spur of a moment. There was a lifetime of preparation, of training, prayer, and obedience. At the moment David was challenged, he was ready. Paul reminds the Galatians – and us – that we are to continue to grow in the freedom Christ has given us so that we may fully recognize the inheritance given to us as children of the Living God.

Galatians 4:21-28

We are children of the free, not children of slaves

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7 thoughts on “Living by the Gospel”

  1. How can we apply this information to observances at Second? What about how we feel about other churches, such as the Catholic church or Joel Olsteen or pentacostal or Church of Christ? Galatians 4:12-16 View post:Chasing the Wind » Living by the GospelShare and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. Digg Reddit StumbleUpon


  2. Perhaps by postiing the lesson as a spring board such as an outline rather then posting the lesson as a lecture would then facilitate further discussion as folks would have the time to contemplate each point (should they choose).


  3. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say
    that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. Any way
    I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon!


  4. Perhaps by postiing the lesson as a spring board such as an outline rather then posting the lesson as a lecture would then facilitate further discussion as folks would have the time to contemplate each point (should they choose).


  5. Thanks, Maria! Though I suspect you're a spammer since your followed up post wanted me to make money by posting links on Google. Still, encouragement from a spammer is appreciated, too. 🙂


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