Galatians, Lesson Two

Dale Sullivan

Acts 15

Acts 15 is a record of the first council of the church. It was held in Jerusalem. In the last lesson we saw that it is likely that Paul wrote the letter to the Galatians just prior to his going to Jerusalem for this council and that the contents of Galatians reflect the concerns he carried to the council.

Read Acts 15. What was the issue being discussed at the council? What is recorded about Paul's contribution to the discussion there? What did the council decide? Why is James' contribution important?

Read the letter drafted by the council (vs. 22 ff). What does it declare and what does it advise?

Comment: Because the council took up the same issue as the one Paul addresses in Galatians and comes to a decision consistent with his position in Galatians, we would expect him to cite the council's decision in the letter to the Galatians if he wrote the letter after the council. He does not cite the council in Galatians; therefore, it is more likely that he wrote Galatians before going to Jerusalem.

Galatians 3 and 4

Comment: Acts 15 is an abbreviated account of the council, so it is possible, even likely, that a great deal more was said than was recorded. Although we don't know what all Paul said there, we can surmise that it would have been similar to the things he said in Galatians, only adapted to a different audience: church elders instead of newly converted Christians. We can imagine how he might have recast some of the arguments we explore in Galatians for that audience.

According to the first 14 verses of Galatians 3, what are the differences between relying on observing the law for righteousness and relying on faith?

According to verses 15-18 in chapter 3, to whom was the promise given? To whom does it pertain? How, if at all, do we inherit the promise?

In 3:19-4:7:

  • Why did God give the law?
  • What function did it perform before Christ came?
  • How are we described, now that Christ has come?
  • How does our new status in Christ alter our relationship to the law?
  • How does our new status in Christ alter our relationship with God the Father?
In 4:8-20:
  • What worries does Paul express?
  • How does he try to assure the Galatians that they haven't gone too far to come back?
  • What motives does he attribute to the false teachers who have been influencing the Galatians?
In 4:21-31:
  • What incident from the Old Testament does Paul refer to?
  • In verse 24, he says that this OT story can be taken figuratively. Let's figure out the correlations. What do the two women represent?
  • What does Hagar represent?
  • Whom does the child of Hagar represent?
  • What does Sarah represent?
  • Whom does the child of Sarah represent?
  • What happened to the child of Hagar and the child of Sarah?
  • What parallel is there, then, between the OT story and the situation in which some are trying to be righteous by observing the law and others by relying on faith?
What lessons can we draw for our own faith walk from this discussion?
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