The Gospel in Galatians
The Protestant world is getting ready to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther— guided by the Holy Spirit—brought to millions crucial biblical truths that were long hidden under centuries of superstition and tradition. One could argue that out of the pages of Galatians (along with Romans) Protestantism itself was born half a millennium ago! It was while reading Galatians that Luther first was touched with the glorious good news of righteousness by faith, the great truth that spawned the Protestant Reformation, which in turn freed millions from centuries of theological and ecclesiastical error. What he read in this book changed Luther, and the world has never been the same again.
Seventh-day Adventists, many centuries after Luther, also are indebted to Galatians. Through the study of Galatians, E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones helped the Adventist Church in the 1880s and 1890s to rediscover the truth of righteousness by faith.
What is it about Galatians that has made it such a backbone of the Protestant Reformation? Why has it been able to touch the hearts of so many, such as Luther? In a manner unlike any other book in the Bible, Galatians addresses a number of themes crucial to the Christian soul. It is in Galatians that Paul tackles issues such as freedom, the role of the law in salvation, our condition in Christ, and the nature of the Spirit-led life, as well as the age-old question: How can sinful humans be made right before a holy and just God? It was this question, perhaps more than any other, that spurred Luther on the track he started and from which he never turned back. Of course, other books, such as Romans, address some of these same questions, but Galatians is different. Not only is it more succinct, but its rich themes are written in a powerfully personal and impassioned pastoral tone, that even today, can’t help but touch hearts open to the Spirit of God.
Although Paul’s letter speaks to us personally, our understanding can be strengthened if we are aware of the original historical situation that Paul, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was addressing. Many scholars believe that Galatians may be the earliest of Paul’s letters, written in a.d. 49, after the famous Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). The book, therefore, may be the oldest Christian document known. As Acts and Galatians make clear, the early church found itself in a fierce battle over the nature of salvation, especially in the case of Gentiles.
According to a group of Jewish believers known as Judaizers, belief in Jesus alone was not good enough for Gentiles. Gentiles also must be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses (Acts 15:1). It is no surprise, then, that when Paul founded a church of Gentiles in Galatia, some of these Judaizers traveled there to “straighten things out.”
When word of this problem reached Paul, he reacted fervently. Recognizing that this false gospel of salvation by faith and works threatened to undermine the work of Christ, Paul wrote the Galatians an impassioned defense of the gospel. In the strongest of words, he identified this false teaching for what it really was—legalism, pure and simple.
This quarter’s Bible study guide invites us to journey with the apostle Paul as he pleads with the Galatians to remain true to Jesus. At the same time, it gives us a chance to reflect on our own understanding of the truths that opened the way for Luther’s inevitable break wih Rome and the restoration of the biblical gospel.
Carl Cosaert, PhD, is an associate professor of New Testament and early Christianity. He teaches at Walla Walla University, College Place, Washington.
1 Paul: Apostle to the Gentiles—June 24–30 5
2 Paul’s Authority and Gospel—July 1–7 18
3 The Unity of the Gospel—July 8–14 31
4 Justification by Faith Alone—July 15–21 44
5 Old Testament Faith—July 22–28 57
6 The Priority of the Promise—July 29–August 4 72
7 The Road to Faith—August 5–11 85
8 From Slaves to Heirs—August 12–18 98
9 Paul’s Pastoral Appeal—August 19–25 111
10 The Two Covenants—August 26–September 1 124
11 Freedom in Christ—September 2–8 137
12 Living by the Spirit—September 9–15 150
13 The Gospel and the Church—September 16–22 163
14 Boasting in the Cross—September 23–29 176
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The teachers edition components were written by the following: The Learning Cycle, Lessons 1, 2, and 3:
Alan Hecht, librarian, Rebok Memorial Library, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.
The Lesson in Brief and The Learning Cycle, Lesson 4:
Cheryl Des Jarlais, freelance writer, Ringgold, Georgia, U.S.A.
The Learning Cycle, Lessons 5 and 6:
Jennifer Schmidt, freelance writer, Stevensville, Maryland, U.S.A.
The Learning Cycle, Lessons 7, 8, and 9:
Dwain Esmond, associate director, Ellen G. White Estate, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.
The Learning Cycle, Lessons 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14:
Dan Solis, associate pastor, Village Seventh-day Adventist Church, College Place, Washington, U.S.A. © 2017 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. All rights reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition) may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. The division offices of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® are authorized to arrange for translation of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition) under specific guidelines. Copyright of such translations and their publication shall remain with the General Conference. “Seventh-day Adventist,” “Adventist,” and the flame logo are registered trademarks of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® and may not be used without prior authorization from the General Conference.
Get Motivated to Explore, Apply, and Create
We hope that this format of the teachers edition will encourage adult Sabbath School class members to do just that—explore, apply, and create. Each weekly teachers lesson takes your class through the following learning process, based on the Natural Learning Cycle:
1. Why is this lesson important to me? (Motivate);
2. What do I need to know from God’s Word? (Explore);
3. How can I practice what I’ve learned from God’s Word? (Apply); and
4. What can I do with what I’ve learned from God’s Word? (Create).
And for teachers who haven’t had time to prepare during the week for class, there is a one-page outline of easy-to-digest material in “The Lesson in Brief” section.
Here’s a closer look at the four steps of the Natural Learning Cycle and suggestions for how you, the teacher, can approach each one:
Step 1—Motivate: Link the learners’ experiences to the central concept of the lesson to show why the lesson is relevant to their lives. Help them answer the question, Why is this week’s lesson important to me?
Step 2—Explore: Present learners with the biblical information they need to understand the central concept of the lesson. (Such information could include facts about the people; the setting; cultural, historical, and/or geographical details; the plot or what’s happening; and conflicts or tension of the texts you are studying.) Help learners answer the question, What do I need to know from God’s Word?
Step 3—Apply: Provide learners with opportunities to practice the information given in Step 2. This is a crucial step; information alone is not enough to help a person grow in Christ. Assist the learners in answering the question, How can I apply to my life what I’ve learned?
Step 4—Create: Finally, encourage learners to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). Invite them to make a life response to the lesson. This step provides individuals and groups with opportunities for creative self-expression and exploration. All such activities should help learners answer the question, With God’s help, what can I do with what I’ve learned from this week’s lesson?
When teachers use material from each of these four steps, they will appeal to most every student in their class: those who enjoy talking about what’s happening in their lives, those who want more information about the texts being studied, those who want to know how it all fits in with real life, and those who want to get out and apply what they’ve learned.