Reconciled - Genesis 33:1-15

1.      What comes to your mind when you think if the word “reconcile?” (In accounting it is making sure two sets of figures agree. To make or show to be compatible. In relationships it is restoring friendly relations between two people or groups of people. Cause to coexist in harmony.)

Most of us think of reconcile in terms of people who aren’t getting along with each other—there is more of that in the world than we would like to admit from nations down to individuals.

2.      What obstacles get in the way of reconciling a broken relationship? (Pride. Stubbornness. Hatred.)

3.      How can reconciling with others help a person’s spiritual growth? (The first broken relationship for each one of us is our relationship with God. When we humble ourselves and turn to God we are well on our way to mending relationships. When we find ourselves in a broken relationship with someone it calls for us to examine our heart and ask God to “peel back” the curtain of our heart and reveal any sin that is there. Then repent and reconcile that relationship.)

God can use those moments to focus our attention on Him and remind us that He alone is God. He alone has the power to transform us, but we have to be willing to let Him work in our lives.

4.      What is the relationship between reconciliation and forgiveness? (There must be forgiveness and humility for reconciliation to be genuine.)

5.      Can there be reconciliation without humility and forgiveness?

 

Regardless of how grievous the offense and upset the offended, we can make things right. By resolving his difference with Esau, Jacob depicts both the necessity and method of how we can live in harmony with others today.

1.      Unrestrained fear can make God’s children do unhealthy things. How can believers overcome the fears we face? (Placing our faith in God and giving everything over to Him in faith.)

Put Aside Your Pride! Read Genesis 33:1-4

 

After a momentary lapse of trust, Jacob rebounded, acting as a man who had just met with God. He faced Esau alone, demonstrating His trust in God.

2.      How did Jacob demonstrate humility towards Esau? (Jacob first had to humble himself before the Lord by being willing to go home when the Lord told him to go. Jacob bowed before Esau to establish his intent to seek forgiveness. Jacob had to admit that what he did was wrong and humble himself before his brother in hopes that his brother would offer forgiveness rather than destroy him and his family.)

When we humble ourselves before the Lord and seek God’s forgiveness, then we are able to humble ourselves before those we have wronged and seek their forgiveness as well. True transformation is evident when we approach others with humility.

3.      Knowing pride hurts and humility helps in building good relationships, what steps of preparation should a person take before seeking reconciliation?

4.      How is Esau’s reaction in the story surprising? (Not only did Esau offer forgiveness, but he also ran to meet Jacob, signifying he was glad to see Jacob. Jesus shared a similar story of a father’s forgiving reaction to his son’s reckless behavior in Luke 15:20.)

Notice that in both Esau’s reaction and the father’s reaction, there is no mention of the wrong that had been done by Jacob or the son. God had not only been working on Jacob but evidently He had been working on Esau’s heart also. We aren’t told how God worked on Esau but it is obvious that he had been transformed too.

Believers can choose to forgive whether an offender seeks forgiveness or not. They can also ask for forgiveness whether or not the offended person accepts their apology. However, both parties have to be willing to participate for genuine reconciliation to occur.

 

Be Genuine! Read Genesis 33:5-11

 

1.      What evidence do you see here that both Jacob and Esau demonstrated a genuine desire to be reconciled?

2.      What attitude do you think Esau used when asking about those traveling with Jacob? (Like a relative you haven’t seen in a long time would ask, “Well who are these little ones with you?” All the while knowing they had to be your wives and children.)

3.      Why did Jacob insist on giving Esau the gift of livestock? (God had blessed Jacob abundantly, and Jacob wanted to share those blessings, especially in the wake of having stolen his brother’s birthright.)

When we choose to share what God has given us, we can bless others because God has blessed us. Jacob demonstrated contentment with what God had given him. Rather than showing greed for more as he had done earlier in his life. Jacob exhibited satisfaction with what God had provided for him.

Jacob had matured quite a bit in twenty years. He showed gratitude toward the Lord and recognition that all his blessings came from God!

4.      How can Christians show godly contentment in their lives—in relationships, finances, health struggles, and so forth? (True contentment comes from trusting God to provide for your needs and being generous to share God’s blessings with others.)

5.      What are some ways to demonstrate a genuine desire for reconciliation in a broken relationship?

 

Jacob took the first step with God’s help and Esau reciprocated. To have meaningful relationships, we must seek God’s guidance and then step out in faith as He leads.

Agree On Limits! Read Genesis 33:12-15

 

1.      How would you characterize the exchange here between Jacob and Esau? (Congenial; friendly; humbly spoken by both.)

Notice that Esau offered two gifts to Jacob: one being his company and the second being protection provided by his 400 men.

2.      Why did Jacob refuse Esau’s assistance? (Though Jacob sought Esau’s forgiveness, he chose to part ways on good terms rather than work together.)

Upon reconciling difficult relationships, wise safeguards may be necessary to avoid further conflicts. It is wise to place boundaries on relationships, especially when there have been problems.

3.      Identify any potential problems you may face. What are some safeguards you can create in order to minimize any conflict?

Sensing their differences, Jacob makes sure he established boundaries so there would be no unnecessary conflicts between them.

4.      How important is it for people to agree on boundaries within their relationships?

5.      How long did it take for Jacob to be ready to reconcile? (20 years!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Why is forgiveness so challenging, whether we’re seeking forgiveness or choosing to offer it?

2.      How can you offer forgiveness when you’ve been deeply hurt?

Jacob’s successful encounter with Esau was the result of meeting with God at Bethel, Mahanaim and Peniel. Only after being reconciled with God could Jacob be reconciled with Esau.

Reconciled relationships are a blessing from God, with the greatest blessing being a restored relationship with Him.

3.      Is there someone you need to seek forgiveness from or to forgive?

Pray and ask God to help you with this! If God has laid this on your heart, your relationship with God will be strained until you resolve this issue with the other person!

 

Challenge: If possible, get in touch with that person this week, whether by phone, text, or email.

 

(Give personal testimony!)

Transformed - Genesis 32:24-32

1.      When you think of the word “transformed” what comes to your mind?

2.      What is perhaps the most graphic illustration of transformation we find in nature? (The caterpillar to the butterfly. Others may be suggested as well.)

 

Caterpillars must go through a process of great struggle before turning into a butterfly, but the end result is a beautiful creature.

We have graphic examples of individuals who have gone through a spiritual transformation that was not easy for them but the end result is a beautiful life lived out for God.

One of the best I know is the life of Sterling Eggleston. When he and his wife, Bennie Faye married he was not a Christian but she was a committed Christian and faithfully attended church each week. He testifies that each Sunday the last thing he said as she went out the door to church was, “Don’t you give that preacher any of my money.”

He finally gave in and went to church with her and, through the life she lived before him and the message of God’s Word to him, he was saved. The transformation that God did in Sterling’s life is truly beautiful. But while salvation happens at one point in time, transformation (sanctification) is a life-long process molding us into the image of Christ! Transformation requires ongoing, steady, and sometimes difficult steps. In today’s study, we will see how God transformed Jacob.

 

God used a variety of circumstances to soften Jacob’s heart. Listen to the prayer he prays in Gen. 32:9-12.

We pick up the narrative when Jacob is spending the night alone, consumed with thoughts of fear, not only for his life, but for the lives of all those he loved.

 

The Match! Read Genesis 32:24-26

 

1.      How does this passage characterize Jacob’s life?

Think for a moment about Jacob’s relationship with Esau, Isaac, Laban, Leah, and Rachel. With each of these Jacob had encounters that were challenging to say the least!

Because Jacob spent most of his life wrestling with people, God came that lonely night in the form of a wrestler. Note: Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out the identity of the person God sent to wrestle with Jacob, it isn’t important who it was but what this individual’s message delivered from God is important. This “man” was clearly the Lord or one of His angels.

Jacob was absolutely determined to receive a blessing, even if it meant deceiving his father and wrestling with God.

Recall Jacob’s experience at Bethel, then God promised Jacob His blessings. The promise was fulfilled from a material perspective because Jacob was wealthy with flocks, herds, and servants. After wrestling with the Lord all night, Jacob discovered he needed more than material wealth. He needed God and His transforming work in his life!

2.      How do we know Jacob was determined to receive God’s blessing on his life? (Even though his hip was dislocated, he refused to let go. Jacob asked for a blessing. True transformation leads believers to value and seek God’s blessing above all else.)

3.      What keeps people from being desperate for God’s blessing?

4.      How does an encounter with God foster a desire for His blessing?

Evidence of true transformation occurs in our lives as we continue to follow the Lord and seek Him, even in the midst of difficult situations.

I read the following excerpt from a prayer voiced by David Brainerd: “When I really enjoy God I feel my desire for Him more insatiable, and my thirsting after holiness the more unquenchable…”

The more we get the more we desire. But we will never plumb the depth of God’s love for us.

Before Jacob’s transformation could continue, a painful but key element was required: honesty.

5.      When have you wrestled with God? (Most likely it was a spiritual wrestling match.)

 

The Title! Read Genesis 32:27-29

 

Throughout the Bible a person’s name often identified his character and the giving of a new name meant either a change in nature or a change in relationship.

1.      Why do you think the man asked Jacob what his name was? (The man already knew Jacob’s name. He wanted Jacob to own up to who he really was. Jacob’s name meant “he cheats” or “he supplants.” The reality of who Jacob really was came into focus in his eyes now. Jacob’s problem was his sinful character!)

2.      What was significant about the name change to Israel? (The name means “he struggled with God.” And it can mean “God rules.”)

3.      What does the fact that the man changed Jacob’s name mean? (The man had power or authority over Jacob.)

Notice that when Jacob asked the man his name he wasn’t told his name. Jacob had no power or authority over this man.

4.      Jacob would no longer be identified as the “deceiver” but rather the “one who wrestled God.” What comes to a person’s mind when they hear your name mentioned?

5.      How can difficult circumstances help believers mature? (Jacob learned the value of working hard for something, as he had to do to maintain the flocks with Laban. He couldn’t take shortcuts to accumulate his wealth in animals.)

Jacob learned the necessity of facing struggles rather than running away from them. He essentially ran away from Esau after stealing Esau’s blessing, yet many years late, Jacob prepared to face Esau upon returning home!

 

While transformation is a lifelong process, Jacob successfully completed the two major steps. He desperately sought God’s blessings, and then he submitted himself before the Lord in humility.

1.      What does a surrendered life look like from God’s perspective?

2.      What does a surrendered life look like from a human perspective?

The Venue! Read Genesis 32:30-32

 

Not eating the meat from the thigh muscle is not a commandment; it is more like a tradition among the Jews.

 

Notice that before wrestling with God, Jacob’s world was dark—both literally and figuratively. In these verses “The sun shone on him.” Jacob experienced a new day, and a new beginning by God’s design.

Peniel or Penuel is Jacob’s third spiritual landmark and means “face of God.” Jacob’s first spiritual landmark was Bethel and his second was Mahanaim or “This is God’s camp.”—Gen. 32:1-2.

With each heavenly visitation, Jacob renamed the meeting place, acknowledging God’s presence and transformation in his life.

 

3.      What are some life markers for believers?

4.      How can a person’s spiritual lessons be memorialized so the insight gained will not be forgotten?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

I will admit that it is difficult to see a quick transformation in Jacob. But from now on the Bible uses the phrase “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” about a dozen times. To me, this says that spiritual transformation is slow in some of us, but God can and does use us for His glory and purposes.

1.      How has God transformed your life?

2.      Who would share with us at least one way in which God has brought about visible change through your journey?

 

This week, reflect on where God has led you in the last few years. Record any markers or turning points in your relationship with God. Thank God for His amazing work of transformation.

Home - Genesis 31:2-16

(Draw a large outline of a house on the board, or obtain a picture of a house that looks warm and loving. Tell the class we are going to play a form of the game “Family Feud.” Have the class raise their hand when they have a word or phrase that completes the following sentence: Home is where ___________. Call on several members for response. [Possible responses: “the heart is.” “I’m loved and accepted.” “I live.” “ever my loved ones are.” Etc] Then go on with the following questions.)

1.      What makes a place feel like home?

2.      What makes the longing for home such a strong emotion?

Jacob longed for home after working twenty years for his father-in-law, Laban, and fulfillment of God’s promise to give him a bright and secure future in Canaan. (Read Gen. 28:13-15 to remind the class of God’s promise.)

 

Before Jacob could put his plan into motion, he needed the support of his family. Today’s text describes how Jacob gathered his family together and poured out his heart by sharing God’s vision for their lives.

 

Obedience Required! Read Genesis 31:2-3

 

When hostility developed between Jacob and Laban, the Lord demonstrated His faithfulness by instructing Jacob to return to the land of his father.

1.      What was the source of jealousy and hostility between Jacob and Laban? (God had blessed Jacob in such a dramatic way that almost all of Laban’s flocks of sheep now belonged to Jacob. Whatever wages Laban promised Jacob in terms of the color and pattern of the newborn lambs, God made sure virtually all of the lambs were that color and/or pattern. See Gen. 30:43.)

Following God’s command wasn’t as simple as it might sound. Jacob left many broken bridges when he left home. Read Gen. 27:33 and Gen 27:41.

2.      How was Jacob’s decision to leave different from other decisions he had made? (Jacob’s decision to leave Haran was based on God’s direction rather than scheming or trying to manipulate his own course. God told Jacob to leave and go back home.)

Whenever God calls, staying put may seem like the safe choice, but answering God’s call is the right decision. Even when faced with uncertainties, the best place to live is in the center of God’s will!

3.      What hindrances might keep believers from knowing and following God’s will for their lives?

4.      What reactions are common after making a life-altering decision, even when we know the decision is what God has asked us to do? (We can be fearful of other people’s reaction. We are uncertain what the future holds, even though we know God is leading.)

5.      How has God demonstrated His faithfulness in your life?

 

Obedience Declared! Read Genesis 31:4-13

 

1.      In what ways did Jacob give God credit for all that He had provided? (Jacob led his family to recognize God’s provision in their lives. He outlined for Leah and Rachel how God had taken care of them.)

When we face difficult decisions, reminding ourselves of how God has taken care of us in the past will build confidence for God’s future provision.

2.      Why was God’s identification of Himself in Jacob’s dream significant? (God reminded Jacob of that defining moment at Bethel in which Jacob vowed to follow the Lord.)

Taking time to remember those significant moments in our spiritual journey can help increase our faith when new challenges arise!

Like He had done before, God divinely let Jacob know that He would bless him regardless of what deceitful actions Laban took. Notice again how God remembered Jacob’s commitment.

3.      How do the ways Jacob honored God in these verses compare to how a person might honor God today?

4.      When has “but God” been true of your life’s circumstances?

What Laban did to Jacob was wrong, just like what Jacob did to Isaac and Esau was wrong. But God is always at work to accomplish His plans. The ultimate example of this biblical principle is the resurrection of Jesus from the grave on the third day!

 

The key to God’s blessings was Jacob’s response: he immediately answered when God called. The presence and power of God falls on believers when they declare their complete obedience to Him and Him alone!

Notice how Leah and Rachel described their relationship with their father.

 

Obedience Affirmed! Read Genesis 31:14-16

 

Unlike all their previous disagreements, this time Rachel and Leah reached the same decision. Together, they made four conclusions: First, they had no inheritance; Second, No longer part of that family; Third, Recognized God’s divine plan; and Fourth, Committed to Jacob’s God.

 

1.      How do you think God’s past faithfulness influenced the decision made by Rachel and Leah? (They could easily see how God had blessed Jacob. He came to Haran with virtually nothing and now has a greater flock and more wealth than their father in just 6 short years! (The first fourteen years his wages was his two wives, the last 6 years was part of Laban’s flock.)How did Leah and Rachel express faith in God? (They accepted Jacob’s leadership to follow God by encouraging Jacob to do whatever God told him to do.)

Leah and Rachel were not raised in a home that worshiped Yahweh, the one true God. However, they saw evidence of God’s hand at work in Jacob’s life. They chose to place their faith in God to direct their paths.

 

God will lead us, but we have to accept His plan and be willing to follow in obedience.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         We can be thankful for God’s promises when facing jealousy and hostility.

·         We know God has our best interest in mind, so we can honor God and His directions.

·         Based on God’s past faithfulness, we can take steps of faith!

 

How can you trust God to direct you in your home, workplace, and virtually every area of your life this week?

 

There is one area of my life that I am certain God wants me to improve on and perhaps the same is true for you.

I’m accepting God’s challenge to set aside more time to meet with Him through the Scripture and prayer!

 

Prayer: Father help me to meet with you on a more regular basis and read more of your Word every day! Amen.

 

Promise Kept - Luke 1:2-38

(Note: I am seriously considering having my class read the “Christmas Story” from each of the Gospels and discussing pertinent points and allowing class members to ask questions they may have and make appropriate comments along the way. I would use the following passages—

John 1:1-18 Starts at the beginning with the Word. Key verse

John 1:14.

Matthew 1:18-2:12 Tells of Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s view point. Key verse Matt. 1:23.

Luke 1:5-38; 2:1-20 Luke’s gospel tells of Jesus’ birth primarily from Mary’s view point.

The Gospel of Mark was written in Greek for a Greek speaking audience. He does not actually cover a record of Jesus’ birth.)

 

Promise Kept (lesson plan)!

 

1.      When have you had to wait for something that was a long time coming?

Until God sent the angel Gabriel to speak to Zechariah in Luke 1:11 God had been silent 400 years. The prophet Malachi had brought the last message from God in the Old Testament. That doesn’t mean God wasn’t moving and working. Galatians 4:4 “But when the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

 

In today’s passage, the angel Gabriel brings Mary the most unexpected, life-changing news. Imagine some of the emotions Mary might have felt as she heard Gabriel’s message and began to understand the role she would play in God’s plan for a Savior.

Have a good reader read the three paragraphs “Understand the context” from the Leader’s Guide, pages 44-45.

As is evident here God used heavenly messengers, like Gabriel, to share the news of His plan with the world. Notice the angel’s description of Jesus in Luke 1:32-33.

2.      What does this teach about Jesus’ relationship with believers?

As we turn our attention to Luke 1 in today’s study, we see the promise God kept in sending His Son! God calls us to trust Him as we wait for answers to prayer, and He also calls us to believe Him when the answers we receive are unexpected!

 

The Greeting! Read Luke 1:28-29

 

1.      What’s the significance of God’s choice of Mary and Joseph as Jesus’ earthly parents? (As prophesied—Isa. 9:7—Jesus’ earthly parents were from the lineage of David.)

Ask someone to read the paragraph that begins, “Twice in verse 27 Mary is called…” (PSG p. 39).

2.      Mary was deeply troubled. How might Mary have viewed herself at that moment?

3.      How do you think God saw Mary?

4.      Would you consider Gabriel’s message more troubling or confusing? (Many young Jewish girls desired to be the mother of the Messiah. Mary was an ordinary village girl from a small town in Galilee—300ish population with no public buildings.)

5.      Because of God’s love for us, He took the initiative to provide redemption. What is the relationship between God’s grace and His promised presence?

6.      Why is it important for people to understand that God takes the initiative to relate to humanity and provide salvation?

God can intervene in our life circumstances in unexpected ways if we are open to see Him work!

 

We see from the encounter between Gabriel and Mary that God took the first steps in His plan of salvation. Now let’s see how God’s promise of a Savior would be fulfilled.

1.      How do you feel when someone keeps a promise?

These next few verses remind us that God is the ultimate Promise-Keeper!

The Promise! Read Luke 1:30-33

2.      How would Mary’s baby fulfill Old Testament prophecies?

The phrase “Do not be afraid,” is found throughout Scripture. Almost always when a supernatural event occurs it is to give us assurance that what is about to happen is God working. God wants to replace our fears with strong faith.

3.      Why is knowing the promises of God important to believers?

4.      How does God’s keeping of His past promises give people hope for today?

5.      How did the Jewish people know they should be looking for a Messiah? (God foretold the coming of the Messiah throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis. All of the prophecies foretold about Jesus came to pass through His life, death, and resurrection. The Jews expected an earthly king and, in general, did not accept Him when He came to them.)

Gabriel identified the coming Child to Mary as being Deity. Though He came to earth through normal means, Jesus was not just an ordinary boy being born into an ordinary family in an ordinary town. Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, who came to save those who choose to follow Him. God always fulfills His promises, though often in ways that we do not anticipate.

 

The Explanation! Read Luke 1:34-37

 

Note that Mary did not seem to doubt the miracle Gabriel described, but she questioned how it could happen.

1.      How did Gabriel answer Mary’s questions?

Affirm that there can be times in our lives when we wrestle with honest questions about how God’s plan will unfold.

Here we understand how Jesus is fully God and fully human at the same time! This is the miracle of the incarnation (Emmanuel, God with us)!   

2.      How was the motivation behind Mary’s question in verse 34 different from Zechariah’s question in verse 18? (Mary’s question stemmed from uncertainty of how pregnancy could be possible for her, while Zechariah’s question revealed his disbelief that God could give him a son.)

3.      Why is it important for people to know that Jesus was the Son of God?

4.      How does His identity give us clues about why Jesus came to earth?

5.      What confirmation does God give us that He can do the impossible in our lives? (Confirmation is evident throughout Scripture that God can and does accomplish the impossible and will fulfill His promises to us as well.

Like God provided Elizabeth for Mary, God gives us fellow believers to encourage us in our faith!

 

We see how Gabriel responded to Mary’s hard questions with honest answers that secured her confidence in God’s plan. Now let’s listen for Mary’s commitment to following God’s plan.

 

The Commitment! Read Luke 1:38

 

1.      How would you describe Mary’s response to what God’s plan was for her life?

2.      What rights did a slave have? (None. The slave was completely committed to the will of their owner.)

3.      What difficulties would Mary have to deal with in the coming days? (A young virgin pregnant! Her engagement to Joseph! The disgrace she would bring upon her family.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      How will we respond to God’s will for our lives, especially when His plan is different than we imagined?

2.      What are some ways in which you can take God at His word and believe Him this week?

God keeps His promises, but we have to step out in obedience and faith.

3.      What can you do this Christmas to keep the focus on Christ?

4.      How can you express your appreciation to God for His incredible salvation through the way you celebrate Jesus’ birth?

5.      What are some practical ways to keep the Christmas focus on Christ, as individuals and as families gather?

Let’s try to turn away from the holiday distractions and focus on the celebration of the Savior in these coming days!

 

As the year is ending and the new year approaches, pray and ask God in what areas of your life you need to step out in faith this next year.

 

Family? - Genesis 28:13-30

(List the following “sins” on the board: lying; adultery; worshiping other gods; murder; denying knowing Jesus; cursing; etc.)

1.      Which of the sins listed on the board disqualifies a person from being used in God’s kingdom?

2.      What are some excuses people use for not taking an active role in Christian service?  What are some excuses people use for excusing others from Christian service?

3.      How might these excuses point to a faulty understanding of God? In what way?

Does a person who has committed a grievous sin and has been confronted with their sin, acknowledged it, confessed and repented have a deeper understanding of God’s grace and mercy than I do! Who are we to stand and say to a person, “You can’t serve because of something in your past!” The role a person serves in may change, but God can and does use sinners…like us!

 

The point is—God uses imperfect people! Actually when we stop to think about it, that’s all He has to work with!

 

Today’s session will reveal that God uses imperfect people with imperfect lives to advance His plans.

Read Genesis 29:13-15

Jacob, sent to Haran by his parents in hope he would find a future wife, found more than a wife. He learned the value of putting those he loved above himself, along with the value of working for what he wanted instead of using deception.

 

Jacob’s Proposal! Read Genesis 29:16-20

 

During the first month Jacob was working for Laban his work ethic impressed Laban. He wanted to agree on wages!

The customs of that day were that the father of the groom or the groom himself would reimburse the father of the bride for taking her in marriage. So for Jacob to offer to work for Rachel was all he could do because he had nothing else!

1.      What of great importance did Jacob find in his work now? (Purpose!)

A lack of purpose can fill one’s life with a sense of hopelessness, making it difficult to get out of bed and face the day. Meaningful work, no matter how mundane, can make time pass swiftly, and most of all, make life worth living.

2.      What kind of work gives you pure joy (e.g. a career, hobby, skill, or volunteer work)?

When we follow God’s plan, we can find joy in the work He gives us to do. God gave Adam and Eve work to do in tending the Garden of Eden. Only after the fall did difficult labor become part of the curse on humanity brought on by our sin.

Purposeful work is a good part of God’s plan for us. Good, honest, purposeful work brings satisfaction!

3.      Why did these seven years seem like only a few days to Jacob? (Jacob was so in love with Rachel his labor had purpose and he worked hard to earn his prize!)

4.      What can be learned from Jacob’s example of purposeful work?

5.      How can we find purpose in our work regardless of the nature of that work? (Col. 3:23-24. Eccl. 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”)

 

Laban’s Deception! Read Genesis 29:21-24

 

The bride in this culture wore a veil covering her head and face! The bride was also silent, it seems!

In Session 1, Jacob deceived his father into receiving the blessing reserved for the firstborn. Jacob was on the other end of the deception, reaping what he had sown. We should take seriously that in God’s economy, people reap the actions and attitudes they have sown. I had a boss once who was always seeking to get revenge on those who had wronged her or anyone who worked for her. Her favorite quote was: “What goes around comes around!”…and she saw that it did! (Not a Christian attitude. Let God do the payback.)

1.      In what ways was Laban’s deception similar to Jacob’s deception of Isaac? (Laban deceived Jacob, just as Jacob had deceived his father in obtaining Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob reaped what he sowed and suffered the consequences of having to struggle between two wives and work an additional seven years for Rachel.)

Ultimately, our choices will reap the consequences we sow, whether positive or negative!

 

Read Gal. 6:7 and Num. 32:23

2.      How could the principle of reaping and sowing cause one to reconsider his or her actions?

3.      How might Leah have felt about her role in the situation? (Leah cooperated with her father’s deception, but she would have been expected to obey what her father told her to do. She was given a husband, but she was not the wife Jacob had intended to marry. She, ultimately, secured for herself the protection of a husband but not the love she desired.)

 

Seven More Years! Read Genesis 29:25-30

 

1.      What kind of emotional state do you think Jacob was in now? (Disbelief, anger, and resignation or acceptance of the situation.)

2.      What do you think about the way Laban behaved?

Believers can thank God for His faithfulness to His promises even when our plans are contrary to His wise design. Little did Laban know, God used Laban to fulfill His promise of making Jacob’s offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth.

From Jacob’s two wives and their handmaidens would come twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, fulfilling the promised covenant God made with Abraham. God had compassion on Leah, giving her the privilege of bearing Jacob his first four sons who would love her, reminding us God hears the cries of our broken hearts.

 

It is important to note here that God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman, evidenced by Adam and Eve and reinforced by the teachings of New Testament writers. Never confuse man’s plans with God’s purpose, and never confuse His permissiveness with His approval.

3.      Why is maintaining a godly perspective in challenging times important for believers?

4.      How can believers maintain a godly perspective?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      How did today’s study help you understand how God uses imperfect people with imperfect lives to advance His plans?

2.      How can we use work to demonstrate Christ to others?

3.      What steps do we need to take to get involved in a work project that benefits our community?

4.      How do your attitudes impact your actions?

5.      What attitude changes need to happen in your life?

God’s plans are often far beyond anything we can plan for ourselves. Sometimes we don’t see how His plans are going to work out for the best, yet we must trust that His ways are higher than ours. Even when we choose our own way, God can ultimately work through our imperfections to advance His plans!

 

Pray that God would give us wisdom to recognize and follow His plans this week!

 

Not Alone - Genesis 28:10-22

(Draw a stick figure on the board and write the word “alone” beside it.”

1.      What are some situations or experiences that may make a person feel alone?

2.      Does a person have to be alone physically to feel alone?

3.      If you were to make a video about loneliness, what setting would you use?

4.      When have you felt alone?

In our study last week we dealt with Jacob’s deception of his father, Isaac, to secure the blessing reserved for the firstborn, Esau. As a result Esau decided to murder Jacob as soon as their father died. Therefore, Rebecca tells Jacob that she was sick of the Canaanite women and wanted to send Jacob off to her brother to get a wife there, among their relatives. Isaac agrees and so they send Jacob off on this long journey, some 600 miles. Jacob had learned about Esau’s plan to murder him so he left in fear of his life by the hand of Esau! On the run, Jacob’s life took an unexpected turn before reaching Haran—he met God!

God has the unique ability to use even our bad choices to bring about His will—Rom. 8:28.

 

Purpose Revealed! Read Genesis 28:10-15

 

In this solitary place, sleep overtook Jacob and he started dreaming, not in the usual way, but divinely.

God used dreams many times to convey His message to individuals: Abimelech, Jacob here, Laban, Joseph, Pharaoh’s cupbearer, his baker and on and on.

God can use any means He decides to communicate His message to His people, or even those who are not His people.

 

1.      What was the significance of the dream Jacob had on his journey? (First, Jacob realizes God is with him, even in this desolate place where he felt all alone. Then God outlined His plan to Jacob and renewed His covenant promise to Jacob’s descendants.  He realized God could speak to him anywhere.)

2.      What was so important about God’s promises to Jacob in verse 15? (God promised that He would be with Jacob and fulfill the plans God had for him.)

When God calls us to follow Him, He promises to be with us through whatever plans He may have for us. We do not step out in faith and obedience alone.  God is with us every step of the way. He also promises that He will fulfill His purposes through us!

3.      What is the connection between God’s presence and His promises?

4.      How does His promised presence give hope and strength?

God’s approaching Jacob was symbolic of God’s coming to be with His people as seen in the Messiah, Jesus.

Here at Christmas time we hear many songs pleading for the coming of Messiah or giving glory that He has come. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” translated to English from Latin by John Mason Neale, is one such song. Can you name others?

 

In a place that was no longer lonely, Jacob was about to do some big things as a result of his encounter with God.

Presence Realized! Read Genesis 28:16-19

 

This event was at least the start of Jacob’s total conversion. He dedicated this place to God, realizing that it was holy because God was there.

1.      How did Jacob know God had spoken to Him? (His dream was so clear and vivid in detail that He felt confident the Lord had spoken to Him.)

Note: God can and does speak to His people in many ways but the primary ways are through His Word—the Bible, and His Holy Spirit. You will never receive a message from God that is in conflict with His Word!

2.      What was Jacob’s response to the realization that He had been in the presence of God? (Jacob responded with awe and worship. He created a marker to remember His encounter with God.)  Recognition of God’s presence should call believers to awe and worship.

3.      Why is it important to commemorate God’s past blessings?

4.      What happens when believers fail to remember His blessings?

5.      What are some appropriate ways we might celebrate God’s working in our lives? (Creating spiritual markers can provide a tangible commemoration of God’s working in our lives.)

When Jacob stole the blessing from Esau, the consequences were that he had to be on the run because his brother wanted to kill him. God freely gave Jacob this blessing, and the result was that Jacob did not have to live in fear this time. Instead, Jacob could worship the Lord freely in faith.

Like “selfies” people take today, Jacob pictured the spot he met God, as should we when we experience God’s work in our lives.

 

Commitment Made! Read Genesis 28:20-22

 

1.      What was your initial reaction when reading these verses?

My initial reaction was that Jacob was trying to bargain with God. Jacob was not bargaining with God, as if buying His favor; rather he offered God his vow as confidence in God’s promise. Jacob’s vow was an expression of faith, not in deceptive plans, but in God alone.

This encounter with God is at least the beginning of Jacob’s total transformation, which may have happened 20 years later in chapter 32.

2.      What do our spiritual commitments reveal about our understanding of God?

3.      What is the relationship between being and doing in reference to our spiritual lives?

4.      Why did Jacob declare that he would give God a tenth of all that had been given to Him? (He placed his faith in God to provide for him. It is also an act showing gratitude for what God has done.)

5.      How does what we do demonstrate who we are and what we believe?

Like Jacob, we are to take steps of faith in response to God’s speaking to us. Does anyone have a testimony you’d like to share with the class concerning tithing and God’s providing faithfully?

Our choices to follow God today will affect future generations who come after us!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What spiritual markers are important to your journey?

2.      Would anyone like to share about a time when you encountered the Lord that became a turning point in your life?

3.      How can we encourage each other to take steps of faith? (Pray together. Pray specific prayers as we know about each other’s struggles. Share our testimonies with each other.)

 

Make a list of important spiritual markers in your life. Spend some time this week in praising and giving thanks for all that the Lord has done in your life.

The Deceiver - Genesis 27:18-29

1.      How many different ways are there to repair a wall that has had water damage due to a flood?

A year or so ago Linda and I got to go on a “mission” trip to southeast Texas to help repair a church that had experienced water damage during one of the hurricanes that had come through that area.   We went with Bill Jobe, a builder with a lifetime of experience. There were times when I was left alone to accomplish a small job with clear instructions as to what to do. It is a good thing I had specific instructions because I thought I had a better idea once or twice. My ideas would have led to disaster, as discovered, as the project came closer to completion. I realized that, had I done it my way, I would have had to tear out what I had done and started all over because a circuital step had been left out! With Bill’s experience we were able to complete the project in the time projected in the most efficient way!

2.      How many of you remember a song from several years back by Frank Sinatra titled “I Did It My Way”? How good does that song make you feel about doing things “your” way?

3.      In relationship to God, what is the outcome when we do things “our way”? (Adam and Eve, Abraham, Jacob and a host of people down through the ages have discovered what a mess we create when we try to do it our way!)

Major teachings of Genesis include: Sin is rebellion against God. Salvation comes from God alone. Covenants are key in both the Old and New Testaments; we learn that man often doesn’t keep his end of a covenant but that God always upholds His promises.

The events in today’s study occurred nearly 4,000 years ago and yet the truths of Scripture we can learn are as relevant today as they were the day they happened!

(Briefly tell about Abraham and Sarah, the births of Ishmael and Isaac, the birth of Esau and Jacob as well as the promise that the older would serve the younger. In each event the people took things in their own hands and made a real mess—that still has impact today!)

4.      Today’s main theme is about deception. What may cause a person to intentionally deceive others?

5.      How do you typically respond after you discover you were deceived?

 

(Talk about how Esau and Jacob were born and raised highlighting the favoritism in Isaac’s family. Point out that Esau was the oldest, and as a result, was first in line for his father’s patriarchal blessing! Point out that Rebekah overheard Isaac tell Esau to hunt and prepare a meal and he would give Esau his blessing. Etc.)

 

The old saying, “The end justifies the means” is not true with God.

A Deceitful Son! Read Genesis 27:18-23

 

Isaac sensed something was wrong and questioned Jacob four times. With each question Jacob could have revealed his true identity, but each time he answered with a lie.

1.      How does one lie open the door for another lie?

Jacob’s four lies were about his identity, the meal, God’s help, and his appearance.

The importance of the blessing cannot be overstated. Isaac was passing down the blessing that was passed on to him by his father, Abraham. (Give the class item 9 from Leader Packet, “Birthright and Blessing”.)

So often we want our Bible heroes to be perfect. But we must remember that no one has been or is perfect, except Christ. Read Hebrews 4:15.

2.      When dealing with people who don’t always act with integrity and transparency, what can believers gain by setting the example?

3.      How many times can you be caught in a lie before people lose their trust in you?

To look at this deception and think it was God’s will for it to happen this way is to limit God and think that God needs our help to bring about a desired outcome! God never uses lies and deception to accomplish His will!

 

 

A Deceived Father! Read Genesis 27:24-27

 

1.      What ways did Jacob use his father’s senses to deceive him? (Isaac heard, tasted, touched, and smelled what he was looking for—Esau. Because of his unrelenting favoritism, he believed because he wanted to believe.)

The human senses are not always reliable. The only trustworthy confirmation is God’s Word and the prompting of His Spirit. Read   2 Timothy 3:16-17 and John 14:25-26.

2.      How did Isaac’s and Rebekah’s favoritism of their sons affect their family? (It caused deep division with each other and their sons.)

3.      What are some ways favoritism is seen in the church?

4.      What are some of the consequences that result from favoritism?

5.      How can we prevent it?

God doesn’t show favoritism. Read Acts 10:34.

 

Unaware that he had been deceived, Isaac continued the blessing he had started in verse 23. However, he blessed the wrong son. Unhealthy favoritism set Isaac up for failure and can do the same in our lives.

 

A Stolen Blessing! Read Genesis 27:28-29

 

1.      What are the characteristics of Isaac’s blessing? (Prosperity, Power, Prominence and Protection.)

Isaac blessed Jacob, making him master over his relatives and repeating part of the covenant issued by God to Abraham.

Read Gen. 12:1-3.

2.      What are the consequences of getting ahead of God?

3.      How could Jacob have handled the situation in a more God honoring way? (He could have resisted his mother’s encouragement to deceive his father.)

God desires that we resist temptation, and He provides a way of escape to avoid sin. Rather than trying to force what he wanted to happen, Jacob could have trusted the Lord to provide a blessing for him!

God would have worked out His plan if they had just trusted Him.

But God worked out His plan despite Jacob’s sinful actions, however Jacob and Rebekah suffered painful consequences as a result of their actions.  The right outcome may be realized but there will always be much more pain when we don’t do it God’s way!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

In what areas of your life can you show integrity and trust in the Lord this week?

 

In what areas of your life are you trying to get ahead of God’s plan in your life?

Are you impatient with working out God’s plan?

Have you even asked God to reveal to you His plan or have you just taken off on your own course?

 

What one area of your life is God asking you to trust Him through your words, thoughts, and actions over the next few days or months?

Just remember realizing the desired outcome does not justify the means!

With Anticipation - James 5:1-20

1.      What are you looking forward to the most?

2.      What are you dreading the most?

3.      What role, good and bad, can anticipation play in a person’s life?

Anticipation can wear a person down if what they are anticipating is bad. But a person without something to look forward to lacks hope.

However, there is one future event believers can be absolutely certain of—Jesus’ return. Today, we will study what James said about living our lives in anticipation of that glorious day.

 

To set the stage for our first passage we need to read James 5:1-6.

(Give a short lecture on the content of these verses.)

 

Patience! Read James 5:7-9

 

1.      What reasons do believers have to be patient? (God is with us! Jesus is coming for us! We’ve read the back of the Book and we win! Suffering will be a thing of the past!)

2.      What does it look like to live our lives as though the Lord is near? (Constant expectation, but working all the while because the time is short. We talk about the “signs of the times” for Jesus to return and it seems each generation can point to some events in their lifetime that point to Jesus’ imminent return. Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 2 Peter 3:8. Because 2000 years has passed should not cause us to lose heart.)

3.      What keeps believers from living as though the Lord’s coming is near?

4.      On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the greatest, how does the return of Christ impact your daily life? (To be honest, my own number would be low. My anticipation of going to meet Him in death is higher.)

5.      What impact should the promised return of Jesus have on a believer? (We should live holy lives, trying to share the gospel.)

6.      What impact should the promised return of Jesus have on an unbeliever? (Very little, unless they have had the gospel shared with them and know about Jesus’ expected return.)

 

(Write “Suffering,” “Cheerful,” “Sick,” and “Sinful” on the board or a large sheet of paper.)

Before we read the next passage about prayer, in which of these situations are you most likely to pray? Which is the least?

 

Prayer! Read James 5:13-18

 

James presented three scenarios in verses 13-14. For all three of them, the response is the same: “He should pray.” Whether someone is suffering, cheerful, or sick, he should pray.

 

1.      Why should prayer be our first course of action, rather than our last?

2.      Why might a person fail to start with prayer?

3.      What does who a person turns to first reveal about that person’s beliefs?

 

The emphasis for at least two out of four of these categories is not individual, private prayer, but inviting other people to pray for you. This can be hard in our culture, with our emphasis on independence. We tend to think of a personal relationship with Jesus as private. But all through the Book of James, the emphasis has been on obedience. In 108 verses, James gave 52 imperatives. So we have to take the imperative to have other people pray for us and with us seriously.

 

4.      Why might a group place little emphasis upon confession of sin to one another? (Public confession of sin should be of sin that was committed in public, or has been brought to the public’s attention. We need to have an “accountability partner” who we trust deeply. Our confession to that person is to help hold us accountable in that area of our life.)

5.       How are sin and sickness related? (Sickness may be discipline for a specific sin. However, not all sickness is related to a person’s specific sins. All sickness is a result of the original sin. Sickness and death are part of living in a fallen world.)

6.      When have you seen God glorified through someone’s healing?

7.      What about when a sickness wasn’t healed? (We live in a fallen world, and our bodies are dying. God will sometimes choose to give us a foretaste of the healing that all believers will experience in heaven.)

Ultimately, the prayer of a righteous person will be a prayer for God to be glorified. The most important healing a person can experience is spiritual healing.

8.      What encouragement can we find in verses 17-18? (In 1 Kings 17-18, Elijah prayed successfully for fire to come down from heaven, for drought, and for rain. However, 1 Kings 19 records how, right after Elijah successfully called down fire from heaven, he was so scared of King Ahab that he ran for his life and then “prayed that he might die.” James reminded his readers that Elijah was human, just like us. In remembering both Elijah’s humanity and the power of Elijah’s prayer life, we are encouraged in our own ability to cause change through prayer. However, if we aren’t fully utilizing this power, we should be convicted to pray like we mean it.)

 

Isn’t it fitting that James ended his imperative-filled letter with instructions on how believers can help one another obey all these commands.

 

Protecting! Read James 5:19-20

 

1.      What are two results of being used to turn a straying brother or sister back to God? (“save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” In this verse “death” is physical death not spiritual death.)

2.      What role does prayer play in this situation?

3.      How is it impacted by an anticipation of Christ’s return? (A consideration of Christ’s imminent return adds urgency!)

Read Prov. 10:12 and 1 Pet. 4:8.

While Jesus is the only one who can atone for sins, God uses the loving confrontation of faithful believers to turn the unfaithful to Himself.

4.      What is the connection between loving a brother or sister in Christ and turning them from sin?

5.      How might the return of a straying believer cover a multitude of sins?

6.      What fears might hold us back from pursuing someone who is wandering from the truth? (James reminded believers they have the same power as Elijah. Verse 20 refers to the straying believer described in verse 19. This verse does not mean Christians can lose their salvation. “Death” in verse 20 means physical death.)

7.      How can we overcome these? (Read 1 Pet. 4:7-11.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

The passages we studied in today’s session dealt with both Christ coming in His glory and our ultimate glorification as redeemed, sanctified, forgiven children of God.

 

1.      What are some ways we can strengthen our group’s ministry to others through prayer?

2.      How can we more effectively pray for others in our group?

3.      How can our class involve others in prayer and ministry to those who voice a prayer need?

 

Call for prayer request, write them down and provide the class with a written copy, either by email, message, or mail.

 

Pray for the needs mentioned.

With Submission - James 4:4-17

(I realize our focal passage doesn’t start until verse 6 but I felt like we need to start back at verse 4.)

 

Write the word SUBMISSION on the board or a large sheet of paper. Ask the class the following questions.

1.      What words or phrases do you associate with “submission?” (Give up; Yield; Surrender; acceptance; consent; compliance; etc.)

(Write the responses on the board. There may be both negative and positive words and phrases.)

2.      Why do you think “submission” is such an emotionally-charged word?

3.      Is submission a good thing or a bad thing? (I just read this week a statement by President Reagan. “Peace is America’s highest aspiration. We will fight for it, we will sacrifice for it, but we will never surrender for it.”)

4.      How can submission in the right circumstances be advantageous to the one submitting? (In a sense we all submit under some circumstances: to our mate; our boss; and ultimately to our Lord.)

Draw a slash between the first two syllables of the word SUBMISSION, so it reads SUB/MISSION.

Explain: When you break the word down, you see that “submission” simply means placing one goal or purpose (mission) underneath (sub) another.

Submission to God means placing our own desires beneath God’s desires. James 4 shows us why that is so difficult as well as how to do it!

 

Through Desire! Read James 4:4-5

 

1.      In what sense were the Christians James was writing to “adulteresses?” (They were “two-timing” God! They were trying to hold on to the world and God at the same time.)

2.      How did James describe what “friendship with the world” is in relationship to God?

The Christian who wants to hang on to the worldly lifestyle is, in fact the enemy of God!

3.      How would you describe the lifestyle of a Christian who wants to hold on to the world and God at the same time? (No matter how hard one tries you can’t live in both worlds! See Matt. 6:24)

4.      In what sense does the Holy Spirit, Who lives in us, “yearn jealously”? (See Deut. 6:15 and Ex. 34:14.)

 

Our passions and selfish desires are always at odds with God’s will and desire, which is why verse 6 is so important.

Class, count the number of direct commands as we read these verses.

Through Humility! Read James 4:6-10

 

1.      Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is recorded in Matt. 4:1-11. How did Jesus resist the devil when He was tempted?

2.      How have you resisted the devil’s temptations with the Word of God?

3.      What is the relationship between being humble and being able to resist the devil?

4.      Can a person do one without the other? (“Pride goes before a great fall!” It is only as we humbly yield our will to God that we can defeat Satan’s temptations!)

5.      How do attitudes of pride and humility impact spiritual disciplines, like prayer, quiet time and Bible study? (Pride says we can do things on our own and prevents us from depending on prayer, quiet time, and Bible study for growth. Humility recognizes that we have responsibilities to protect ourselves from sin and to seek God’s help.)

In verses 9-10, James was not suggesting that Christians must go around being miserable all the time. That would contradict what he taught in James 1:2 about trials producing joy. The key to understanding these verses is realizing that James was addressing sinners. Our misery, mourning, and weeping are related to our grieving over our sin the way God does. When we humbly deal with our sin, God will exalt us!

 

Through Grace! Read James 4:11-12

 

1.      How does the gospel make us humble? (We remember that, as believers, our sins were severe enough to warrant death. We are unable to overcome sin on our own and unable to save ourselves from our deserved punishment. When we mourn over our own sinful state, we more likely will be slow to judge others who struggle with obedience.)

2.      Read Gal. 6:1. How does this verse help us understand these two verses in James? (We are not to turn a blind eye to a fellow believer’s sin, but don’t use their struggle as an opportunity to be prideful and slander them.)

We don’t talk about people whose lives are better than ours. We always want to pick someone who, in our opinion is worse than us!

3.      Who is the only One able to judge?

 

Now James talks about God and why we are to surrender to His sovereign plan.

 

Through Submission! Read James 4:13-16

 

Have class members read: Prov. 3:5-6; 16:1-4; 19:20-21; 21:5.

 

1.      Was James telling us not to make plans? (No)

2.      If not, how are we to make plans? (Submit to God by asking Him what plans I should make, and then follow His direction.)

3.      How does a posture of submission help us balance thoughtful planning with uncertainty in the future? (We are to be good stewards of our resources, while maintaining a humble attitude that acknowledges God is in control.)

As believers, we must submit our own will to His. God’s plans are the best plans. He knows the future!

4.      What do these verses say about leaving a legacy? (We likely won’t be remembered for long here on earth, no matter the legacy we work to build up. However, as unknown and fleeting as our time on earth is, we know our eternal future and, therefore, focus on storing eternal treasures. See Matt. 6)

 

Through Obedience! Read James 4:17

 

Living life outside of the will of God is the ultimate expression of arrogance. It turns the believer into a judge and purveyor of truth to others, when that is really God’s role. It plans a life that is not promised to be there tomorrow. Obedience is a key attitude that believers must embrace.

1.      Do you believe what I just read is true?

2.      Which of the attitudes mentioned in today’s lesson is the most difficult to sustain?

3.      How have you found pride to be an obstacle to doing the good you know you ought to do?

God reveals His will to us, and when we respond with delayed obedience, we are actually responding in disobedience. We arrogantly think we can find the right time to obey, but we need to humbly submit to God’s direction and His timing.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

What has God been calling you to give up or to take up?

Is there an area where you have been delaying in obedience?

 

We are called to humbly submit to God’s will. This includes resisting sin and submitting to God’s plans and direction.

 

What is the first step you need to take to obey God today?

Write that down, and plan to follow through this week.

Be encouraged that when you come near to God, “he will draw near to you”!

With Control - James 3:1-12

1.      On a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 the most; how powerful are words?

2.      When you think about words that have made a difference in the world around us what comes to mind?

We just finished a mid-term election. I heard words that were hateful, vindictive and borderline downright criminal.

3.      Consider the last time you were hurt by someone’s words. How did the impact of this compare to the impact of a compliment?

We all have opportunities to speak words that are healing rather than words that tear down and humiliate.

4.      When was the last time you chose to use negative words when you could have used positive words that would help bring healing?

Our words influence others. They can teach and encourage others, but they are also dangerous and able to quickly tear others down. James warned believers to guard their speech!

James skillfully packed over six analogies into just twelve verses. All of them deal with one subject—the difficulty of controlling the tongue.

5.      In your opinion, why is controlling the tongue such an important issue for Christians?

Today we will discuss “Genuine Maturity,” especially as it relates to our speech!

 

When Teaching the Truth! Read James 3:1-2

 

Many, if not most, of the Christians at this point were Jewish converts. The Jews had a high regard for their teachers or rabbis. The indication here is that there may have been many desiring to be teachers for the wrong reasons.

1.      What does it mean that teachers will be judged strictly?

2.      What danger is there for a teacher who really is not ready to teach but insists on teaching? (They may not be teaching the truth, and thus leading people astray!)

If one claiming to be a teacher leads someone astray, that person may leave the church having lost faith in the leaders.

3.      If teachers are held to a high standard, why would someone want to assume that role? (Our speech has an unusually strong power to influence others. Teachers have a special place in this, and must be careful that their teachings are biblically accurate.)

Teachers need to be given positive comments from time to time. Of course, no two people will teach the same, so we must realize God uses different personalities in His kingdom.

The phrase “does not stumble” is interpreted “perfect” in some translations. Of course, this does not mean without sin. It is translated “mature” in some translations.

4.      How does mastery over the tongue prove one fit to teach?

 

Teachers need to be careful about both their teaching and their speech in general, since they occupy a place of influence. Watch out for false teaching, gossip, hateful speech, and hypocrisy.

 

When Influencing Others! Read James 3:3-6

 

James uses three metaphors here: the bit in the horse’s mouth, the rudder of a large ship and a small fire. In each illustration, something very small is controlling something very large. While the bit and rudder can have both positive and negative uses the fire is all negative. While James didn’t say anything positive about the tongue in verse 6, we know that the tongue can be used for good. But James spoke in absolutes.

His point is very clear: Human beings, in their own strength, cannot tame the tongue!

 

1.      How does the skill required to ride a horse or to navigate a ship compare to skillful use of words?

2.      When you think about a small fire burning a large forest, how can words have an equally devastating effect?

3.      What are some strategies we can use to control our speech? (James warned us of the potentially destructive nature of the tongue. Some suggestions for controlling our tongues can include pausing before speaking, prayer, and Scripture memorization.)

4.      When is harsh language acceptable? (Jesus and even Peter and Paul were not always tame in their speech. We should always be thoughtful and controlled in our speech, especially in difficult situations.)

 

Words are Important

 

Words are powerful.                                    Prov. 12:6, 18; 15:4; 18:21

Eph. 4:29

 

Words are a window into                Matt. 12:34; James 1:26;

the heart.                                            James 3:11-12

 

Controlling the tongue is key           Proverbs 13:3; 21:23

to a successful life.

 

God will hold us accountable for    Matthew 12:36-37

every careless word spoken.

 

We need God’s help to control        Psalm 19:14

the tongue.

 

(Read some of these passages as time permits!)

 

When Offering Praise! Read James 3:7-12

 

According to verses 9-10, even our praise of God is corrupted by our uncontrollable tongue.

1.      Why does the praise of God demand a tongue that is under His control?

2.      Why do you think people have this double standard in the way we speak to God and the way we speak to those created in His image?

No human being can control his or her own tongue, but that doesn’t mean it is uncontrollable. In order for a horse’s bit or a ship’s rudder to be effective, what is required?—Someone who takes the reins or has a hand on the ship’s wheel. If a human being can’t do it, who can? See James 3:15-17.

 

The ability to control the tongue must come from outside ourselves, since it cannot come from within. We must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to take control of our speech, since we are not capable of controlling it on our own. The good news is the Holy Spirit can and will help us control our speech if we ask Him to.

 

3.      How can we use our speech to measure the consistency of our walk with God?

4.      How is a person’s speech a mirror of a person’s character?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Ask the class to keep you in their prayers as you try to teach the Word accurately.

 

What are some areas where you need to repent of poisonous speech?  The tongue is disproportionately powerful!

 

What are some practical ways you can use your words this week to help others?

 

A true believer’s speech will reflect a heart changed by the gospel.

 

We all need the transformation process to continue in us.

 

Try to see the image of God in everyone you encounter this week, whether in person or through the media. Speak accordingly!

With Works - James 2:14-26

1.      What defines a hypocrite? (Hypocrisy is claiming to believe one thing but then acting in a way that is not consistent with those beliefs.)

2.      When have you seen hypocritical behavior?

Christians are often called hypocrites by society. While we are unable to live perfectly, true Christians should strive to live humbly and consistently with their beliefs.

The second chapter of James deals with the relationship between faith and works. As we study this passage, we need to continually ask, “What is the difference between saving faith and tangible evidence of our faith?”

 

Dead Faith! Read James 2:14-17

 

1.      What were James’ questions?

2.      How might people try to answer these questions?

3.      Why might a person claim to have faith without any resulting works?

4.      What’s the significance of the phrase “claims to have faith” in verse 14?

At first glance, it may appear that James said faith alone is not enough, and we also need works or deeds for salvation. A closer reading, though, reveals that James was actually speaking out against a claim of faith that’s not demonstrated by works.

Last month, in the book of Galatians, we studied how strongly Paul taught against those who would say, “Faith plus works” saves a person. James is saying “our actions provide proof of a true faith.”

Works are not required for our salvation; they are the proof of our salvation. A transformed life produces fruit!

5.      What is the relationship between what a person claims to believe, what a person truly believes, and how a person acts? (You can claim to believe something but not truly believe it. You can claim to believe something but not act on those beliefs. However, when people truly believe something, their actions will reflect those beliefs –though not always perfectly.)

 

Most of us have been to a funeral. We often say that the person in the casket “looks so natural,” or that they look like they are just sleeping. But we know that there is not life in that body. No matter how good a job the mortician did, no one can deny the person is dead!

6.      If we were looking for evidence that the person described in verses 15-16 truly desired that the brother or sister be taken care of, then what would we expect to find?

7.      What evidence might a person point to as proof that his or her faith is alive?

8.      How do the works of a person reveal the genuineness of his or her faith?

James seemed to anticipate people would want to argue with him on this point. So in the next section, he dealt with the objections people would have.

 

Working Faith! Read James 2:18-19 and Deut. 6:4-5

 

James reminded his readers of the most important faith statement in the Old Testament—Deuteronomy 6:4-5. Notice that in the Old Testament Moses didn’t just tell the Israelites to listen to the truth that the Lord our God is one but also to love God. Recall that last week, we studied James’s command that we not merely listen to the Word but that we do what it says!

 

1.      How does it impact you to know that demons believe the same thing about God that you do? (Intellectual ascent to a fact does not mean you place your faith in that fact.)

2.      Why did James point out that they both believe and shudder? (The demons’ belief in God didn’t bring them peace with God but only multiplied their fear of Him.)

3.      How should our belief in God be different from the demon’s belief?

4.      How should our fear of God be different from the demon’s fear of God?

5.      Why might someone recognize the truth of God’s existence but not follow Him? (The demons exemplify how head knowledge of God does not guarantee a heart that trusts God.)

The demons not only believe that God exists, but they understand His power and “shudder” in response. Nonetheless, they do not respond in faithful trust of God.

 

Saving Faith! Read James 2:20-26

 

1.      How do Abraham and Rahab illustrate the relationship between faith and works? (Abraham was a well-respected Jewish male patriarch while Rahab was a poor Gentile female prostitute. Both believed in God and put their faith in Him. This was seen in their actions.)

2.      Read Romans 3:28 and James 2:24. How do these verses give us a full view of salvation? (Paul was adamant that we are saved only by faith in Christ, not by works or good deeds. James appears to have said that faith is not enough and that we need works, too. However, as we have seen, James was actually saying that a faith that does not produce good works is not a true faith.)

Once again, we do not perform good deeds to be saved; we perform good deeds because we are saved! Good deeds have nothing to do with our salvation but they have everything to do with demonstrating to the world that our faith is genuine. Our faith is truly what it is said to be, or authenticated by our good deeds!

3.      How does understanding that we are saved by faith alone spur us to good works? (A grateful heart will be devoted to following Christ in action.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

True faith is more than intellectual adherence!

How do we explain that salvation is truly by faith alone in Christ alone but that the evidence for saving faith is action?

Pray, asking God to help us know how to put our faith in action!

With Obedience - James 1:19-2:4

Yesterday Linda and I were talking about the rest of the day and what we needed to do. I asked her what time the Storm Chaser presentation would start this evening. Her response was, “I just told you not more than 10 minutes ago that it was 7 PM!”

1.      How can you tell if someone is really listening to you? (A good listener is quiet and focused, not distracted by surroundings or their own thoughts.)

James encouraged believers to listen carefully to God and respond by acting on what God has revealed.

In the day James wrote his letter it took literally months sometime for it to reach its destination.

2.      What is the time frame today we expect a communication to arrive at its intended destination? (Seconds, or perhaps minutes!)

3.      How do we respond if correspondence isn’t answered within minutes?

4.      How does the source of the message impact your response speed?

 

Today’s discussion from James will cover Genuine Faith!

As we have already seen in our study of James, this short letter is full of commands. And the first command we will study in this session is very practical but also very difficult.

 

Heeding! Read James 1:19-21

 

1.      What three qualities will increase our ability to hear? (Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.)

I’m sure you have heard the saying “God gave us two ears and one mouth, and we should use them in proportions.” But so often, the angrier we get, the less we listen. James warned us that human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. If someone thinks we are ignorant, don’t open your mouth and prove it!

Read Proverbs 29:22 and Eph. 4:26.

James did not say never get angry but be “slow to anger.” The anger Paul talked about in Ephesians would not stir up conflict or increase rebellion, since that would be sinful. (Even Jesus got angry!)

2.      Which is easier—being quick to listen, slow to speak, or slow to anger?

3.      Which is the most difficult? (Difficult, stressful times often make us anxious and more likely to lash out in anger. We may seek immediate answers without truly taking time to listen.)

There is a difference between quickly losing our temper and the slow and righteous anger of God, which is directed toward sin.

4.      What commands did James give in verses 20-21? (“Rid yourself of all moral filth and evil. Humbly receive the implanted word.”)

The idea here is that the seed is planted and we must allow it to grow in us and produce righteous fruit!

5.      How do we help that seed to grow in us? (“Water” it daily with the “Living Water” from the Word of God!)

 

James instructed his audience to be quick to listen. But that doesn’t mean we should only listen. In the next passage, he will emphasize the importance of acting on what we hear.

 

Doing! Read James 1:22-25

 

1.      What command do we hear James give in these verses? (Be doers of the Word!)

Someone who only listens to the Word without doing anything about it is like a college student who audits a course but doesn’t receive any credit for it. But even worse, according to verse 22, they are deceiving themselves, which would be like a college student who expected to get credit for a course she didn’t do any work for.

2.      Can anyone think of another analogy that illustrates James’s point?

James gave another vivid word picture for this same concept in verses 23-24.

3.      What are you looking for when you look at yourself in the mirror?

4.      What might be some of the reasons people would give for not doing anything about what they saw in a mirror? (That’s what happens when you get old—I’m only human!)

5.      How does looking in a mirror parallel the reasons why we look into the Word of God? (Similarly, Scripture reveals our flaws, but it can also encourage us in knowing that we are growing to look more like Christ.)

6.      Why do we sometimes fail to act on the convictions we receive from studying God’s Word? (When this happens, we deceive ourselves. We may think no action is necessary or at least not from us. Maybe we don’t believe we can make a difference or don’t have the power to change.)

In verse 25, James wasn’t just speaking of future blessings in heaven. He said we will be blessed in what we do in response to God’s Word if we are following Him.

 

Once James established the importance of being doers of the word, he then gave his readers a specific example of how to be a doer.

 

Loving! Read James 1:26-2:4

 

1.      If you have a different translation of the Bible with you, what different words are used for “useless”?

2.      Why would failing to control his tongue make someone’s religious acts useless? (Loose tongues—gossip, angry speech, filthy talk, criticism and such—indicate a heart that has not been changed by the Holy Spirit.)

3.      Why do you think the care for orphans and widows is such a clear indicator of whether someone has truly responded to the gospel? (Compassionate care of those in need and a desire to keep from being polluted by the world indicates a heart that is following God, because God cares for these less fortunate!)

4.      How do we keep from being prejudiced because of race, ethnic origin, social standing, economic status—any dividing factor? Keep our eyes on Jesus and follow His example. It is particularly difficult to visit with guests who come into our worship setting or Bible Study class because we want to visit with our friends. But we must go out of our way to make them feel welcome!)

5.      How does expressing love to others regardless of social standing or life situation demonstrate the gospel?

6.      How does a person’s failure to show compassion to others demonstrate his or her need for the gospel?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      Which of the commands we read about today—be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, rid ourselves of moral filth and evil, receive the implanted word, do the word, see yourself and what needs to be changed in God’s Word, look after orphans and widows, don’t be prejudiced—do you find most difficult to keep?

2.      What did this passage teach us about responding to Jesus’ work in our lives? (We need to let the Holy Spirit have the freedom to transform our hearts!)

3.      What are some ways we can demonstrate care and concern for either orphans or widows or the poor?

Without listening, we will not know what truly pleases God. However, if we listen but then don’t follow through in action, we haven’t truly heard.

4.      What are some strategies that have helped you improve in listening or action?

 

Pray asking God to strengthen our resolve not to merely listen to the Word but to do what it says!

 

With Perseverance - James 1:1-15

(Write “Joy,” “Trials,” “Testing,” and “Temptation” on the board.)

 

One of these is not like the other. Which one seems to be different, at least on the surface?

 

Very few people would consider going through a test, a trial or enduring a strong temptation to do wrong to be a positive experience, much less a great joy. Yet, that is exactly what James, the writer of this letter, tells his readers to do!

Read the opening paragraph on page 73 of the PSG.

 

1.      In what situations have you found yourself forced to decide whether to persevere?

2.      What motivated you to keep going?

In 2 Cor. 5:14 Paul says, “For the love of Christ constrains us…” In the context Paul is talking about sharing the gospel, but I think we could use that same phrase to say, “For the love of Christ constrains us…” to keep on keeping on for the sake of Christ’s love for us and the debt we owe but can never repay!

 

James wasn’t writing to a group of people who might someday face a trial. He was writing to people who were in the midst of trials—in this case, persecution—just as he was himself.

Read James 1:1. He was writing to the Christians dispersed throughout the known world. This letter was most likely written in the 40s after the persecution of the Christians started in earnest!

 

Joy Over Progress! Read James 1:2-4

 

1.      Why do you think James wasn’t specific when he wrote about “various trials”?

2.      What might someone’s response be if James had named a specific trial?

What James commanded them, and us, to do is not easy. James said “whenever” you face trials, not “if.”

3.      How many people do you know who would naturally consider facing hardships to be joyful?

This is a battle of the mind. This joy is not optional, and it originates in the mind rather than the emotions.

4.      Why is it important to win the battle in the mind when facing trials?

5.      How can trials strengthen a person’s character?

6.      In what ways do trials move a person toward maturity? (Someone training to run a marathon would not start running the entire 26.2 mile. You start with shorter distances and build up your endurance to your ultimate goal. The same is true in our spiritual walk. We will undergo trials and testing to help us grow spiritually to be more like Jesus.)

Notice the trials and testing is not the same for every person. God knows exactly what each one needs and is there with them through it all!

7.      What signals a mature faith? (As Christians, we strive for sanctification, to become more like Christ—producing the fruit of the Spirit!)

Some of the most mature Christians I know have been through many trials and tests! They are generally soft spoken and wise!

Read Romans 5:3-4!

 

Confidence in Him! Read James 1:5-8

 

1.      What promise do we find in these verses? (We will receive wisdom if we ask God for it.)

2.      What condition do we find here as well? (We must ask in faith, without doubting.)

Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. God may not give us the knowledge of why we are enduring a trial, but He will give us wisdom for enduring it.

3.      Look closely at verse 5. To whom does God give wisdom?

4.      How does He give it?

5.      Which part of the promise is most encouraging to you?

Has anyone been out on the sea during a strong storm? I’m sure we have all seen movies depicting a ship or fishing boat is caught in a strong storm. The boat is at the mercy of the sea. It is tossed about at the mercy of the waves. The Perfect Storm is a movie that gives a great example of such a situation.

6.      What life problems can spiritual doubt cause?

7.      What deceptions can lead to doubts during trials? (James warns us not to be double-minded doubters when we ask for wisdom.)

8.      Why do you think people often question the goodness of God when facing trials?

I don’t pretend to know why we undergo such horrific trials and testing! But, when we ask God for guidance, we need to be willing to follow through in obedience, trusting His goodness however He responds. I can’t help but think of Job when we talk about trials and testing. When God was silent His faith remained strong!

 

Remember, James is writing to believers who had been scattered because of persecution.

Focus on the Crown! Read James 1:9-12

 

1.      How does the gospel give those in humble situations a reason to find contentment? (No matter how humble your current situation, you are an heir of God the Father, a co-heir with Christ for eternity.)

2.      How does the gospel remind those in rich situations to be humble? (No matter how high or low your current position, Christians remember that their true standing with God is one of total dependence on Christ and His grace.)

3.      How do these verses encourage believers to persevere through trials? (The things of this world are temporary, whether good or bad. The crown of eternal life with our loving Father is all that matters.)

4.      How do trials cause us to refocus and redefine his or her goals?

5.      How does the promise of eternal life give hope when facing trials? (No matter how difficult or long our trials are in this life, they are only temporary!)

 

Guard Against Sin! Read James 1:13-15

Notice the life cycle of sin—conception to birth to fully grown to death.

1.      Where is sin conceived? (It is in our mind.)

2.      How do we stop sin at its very beginning in our mind? (Phil. 4:6-9.)

3.      What temptations might we face in the middle of trials? (Giving in to our own evil desires is not inevitable. There is always another choice.)

4.      Compare the life cycle in verses 3-4 with that in 13-15. How are the two similar? How are they different?

5.      Why do people often try to blame God for their sin?

6.      What does the birth process James described say to us about the way we should respond to evil desires in our lives?

7.      Why is it important to recognize the true source of sin in our life? (Humanity has been blaming others and God for sin since the Garden of Eden. We may blame God for the way He made us, our genetics, our upbringing, or our surroundings. In order to break free from sin, we must recognize that it is our own evil desires enticing us to sin. We cannot overcome temptation if we are too busy pointing our finger at other people or God!)

We must take responsibility for our thoughts and actions and see God’s help to escape temptation.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

·         God uses the trials of life to mature our faith.

·         Believers can confidently ask God to provide them with His wisdom.

·         Believers can endure the trials of this life, knowing that eternal life with our loving Father awaits them.

·         Believers must guard against allowing life’s trials to entice them into sin.

How have trials pressed you toward spiritual maturity in your life?

Identify some tests you are facing. Think of potential ways these tests can move you toward maturity.

Pray, thanking God for the crown He has promised to those who persevere.

True Compassion - Galatians 6:1-18

Who would like to share a way you have shown concern to someone this week who was not a family member or friend? You will not be bragging, we’ve asked a question and you can honestly answer by sharing a way you’ve helped someone!

 

This is our last study in Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches. The bulk of this letter addresses the issue of the Judaizers false gospel of grace plus works of the Law. Of course, Paul proclaimed the truth that salvation comes only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross.

 

In this closing passage today we’ll discover, even though we don’t know the outcome when we choose to take action, we are called as believers to be just as concerned with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we are about ourselves!

When you need help, where do you look first? (Most likely to family, then close friends then to Christian brothers!)

Paul reminded his readers that being followers of Christ means loving your neighbor as yourself. This includes helping others overcome sin, providing financial help, and not turning away from those who are struggling under a burden. Ultimately, loving others means we must share the truth of the cross with them!

 

Guards! Read Galatians 6:1-5

 

1.      What actions are believers to take in this passage?

2.      How are the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit to be applied in this passage? (Almost everyone comes into play here.)

3.      How was Paul treating the person mentioned in verse 1 differently from people who live according to the flesh? (This is a person who slips up, but does not have a lifestyle of sin.)

4.      Those who are walking in the power of the Holy Spirit have a responsibility to restore those who are caught in sin! How strongly do you agree with this statement on a scale of 1-5?

5.      How can spiritually minded Christians restore those who have succumbed to sin?

6.      Did anyone share anything in the group today that impacted how you would respond to that question now?

The Holy Spirit cultivates Christian character, comforts believers, and bestows the spiritual gifts by which they serve God through His church.

7.      How would you describe the difference between being used by the Holy Spirit and trying to act as the Holy Spirit for someone?

8.      Paul addressed the two mistakes that those who seek to restore others can experience if they are not guarded: conceit and boastfulness. How can a believer help others who are caught in sin without looking down upon them? (We should view them as a dearly beloved brother or sister and respond as we would want someone to help us be restored if we slip up.)

9.      Look at verse 1 and 5. Paul encouraged the Galatians to carry their own weight as much as possible, but when that weight became too heavy, he admonished brothers and sisters to help carry their weight. How do we find a balance between the two?

We must remember that it is only by the grace of God that we are not in that same situation ourselves!

 

The work of helping other Christians is not an easy process. It can be taxing with not many visible results. Paul continued by encouraging the church in its work and responsibility.

Stewards! Read Galatians 6:6-10

 

1.      How are those who walk in the Spirit to support their church leaders?

One of the ways God provides help during restoration is through the teaching of the Word of God by His called pastoral leaders. Paul reminded the church of the purpose of their work in bringing about a harvest for God. Those who help Christian brothers and sisters will reap a harvest from God, but those who refuse to help will have nothing to reap when the harvest comes. The final way that God provides help to the church is through the encouragement we receive by the Spirit and one another!

2.      Without mentioning a name, think about a person who actively restores and pastors people in the congregation. What characteristics or actions do you see this person doing on a regular basis that gives evidence of a concern for other believers?

3.      How can a local congregation fulfill the directive given by Paul in verse 6? (Take care of the church pastors’ financial needs.)

4.      What good things and opportunities have you been given stewardship over that you can share with others? (We are all in different situations and have different blessings and struggles. Just as we must each carry our own loads, we must also be generous with the blessings the Lord has given us. We are reminded in Luke 21:1-4 that our generosity is not a question of who gives the most money, the most time, or who does the most good deeds. We must give from generous and willing hearts.)

5.      How is tithing to support the work of our church different than paying a membership fee? (Rather than just giving money to consume something, we are called to “share” our good things with those leaders who share their instructions with us.)

6.      How do verses 8-9 encourage you?

7.      What specific situations in your life do these verses speak to right now?

We may see people who appear to be flourishing even though they are not following God. It can feel like their lives are mocking God. We should not be discouraged by this. God is aware of exactly what is going on. Reaping does not necessarily happen immediately after sowing.

At the same time, our good works may not always show immediate results. God reminds us that all the good we do to glorify Him will result in a good harvest.

What we do for God will not go unnoticed by Him!

8.      What other factors might discourage a person from continuing to sow in God’s kingdom?

9.      What factors might serve as motivators for continuing to sow?

10.  How can a believer keep from losing heart in doing good?

Paul finished the letter by encouraging the Galatians to remain focused on Christ!

Proclaims! Read Galatians 6:14-15

 

1.      What do the things we boast about reveal about our priorities? (We boast about those things we think make us worthy, whether it be worthy of acceptance by our peers or by God.)

2.      Why shouldn’t we boast in anything except the cross? (In the gospel we understand that nothing we have done make us worthy. It is only Jesus’ work on the cross that has made a real difference in who we are or what we can accomplish!)

3.      How might a person boast in the cross? (I am a new creation because of what Christ did on the cross!)

We do not need to be intimidated by those who may appear to be more religious than us. Nor should we consider ourselves superior to those who are struggling. What God is doing through us as His new creation is all that matters!

 

Paul delivered his final words to the root of problems in the church, stressing that neither circumcision nor keeping the law made a person right with God. What made people right with God was becoming a new creation—born again!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

Ponder silently these questions as we close:

1.      Examine your life, paying particular attention to the seed you are sowing in your life. Based on what you are sowing, what should be expected in your life in the next five years?

2.      What changes do you need to make in light of your study of Galatians?

 

Close in prayer, that all group members would be good stewards of their God-given opportunities, using them to point others to Jesus!

 

True Fruit - Galatians 5:13-26

 

(Display a Christmas ornament and a piece of fruit—orange or apple.)

We put Christmas ornaments on a tree and call it a Christmas tree, but it does not actually grow Christmas ornaments. It is still just a pine tree. An orange tree, on the other hand, produces oranges.

1.      How can we tell what kind of tree a particular tree is? (By the fruit it produces.)

2.      What are some characteristics of an orange?

When all of these characteristics are present together you know you have an orange, and therefore you know you have an orange tree. The fruit of the Spirit is similar. The list Paul gave in Galatians 5:22-23 does not represent several different types of Christians but characteristics that all Christians should embody at once—as a result of being connected to the Spirit!

As we study this passage today look for ways that the freedom given in salvation moves us to display the different characteristics of godly character.

 

Freed! Read Galatians 5:13-15

 

1.      What are some ways believers should not use their freedom? (We should not use our freedom as a license to sin! When we sin intentionally, thinking God will always forgive, we place ourselves in a very precarious situation. Sin isn’t forgiven when there is no confession and repentance. See Heb. 10:26. All Christians sin but this passage is talking about a lifestyle of sin!)

Paul emphasized how freedom in Christ does not mean that we get to do whatever we want and abuse the grace that God has richly bestowed upon us as believers. The flesh and the Spirit-filled life are opposites in Scripture (see Rom. 8:5-9). According to Paul, to live by the Sprit can be seen by the love evident in our life!

 

2.      What are we to use our freedom to do? (“Serve one another in love.” There is no law against loving each other and that love produces a servant’s heart toward our fellow believers!)

3.      Legalism is a work-based salvation. How does legalism breed selfishness and freedom breed love?

4.      There are two churches portrayed here—one lovingly serving each other and the second devouring one another. What are some ways church members can express love toward one another versus devouring one another? (Loving other as we love ourselves involves practicing loving-kindness, respectfulness, and forgiveness—treating others the way we want to be treated!)

5.      What stops you from loving others in the church?

6.      How does freedom from the law open the door for a person to love others genuinely? (The gospel reminds us of our complete acceptance by God. We do not need to compete with others to find our place in God’s love. We can rest, completely assured of His love for us. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19.)

 

Paul continued by explaining how the work of the Spirit in our lives is freeing and has an expression in our lives.

Controlled! Read Galatians 5:16-18

 

1.      What is the difference between the desire of the flesh and the desire of the Spirit? (Our fleshly nature desires sin and to glorify self. The Spirit desires God and seeks to bring glory to Him!)

2.      Notice the word “Spirit” is capitalized. What does that mean? (The Spirit we are talking about is the Holy Spirit who indwells every Christian!)

3.      How can we overcome the desires of the flesh? (To be victorious over sin we must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and gives us the strength to overcome temptation. This is a continual process until we are called to our Heavenly Home!)

 

Paul continued to emphasize the Spirit’s work in relational terms!

 

Abandoned! Read Galatians 5:19-21

 

Every word Paul uses here has a picture behind it! William Barclay says in relationship to the first three “works of the flesh”: “it has been said, and said truly, that the one completely new virtue Christianity brought in to the world was chastity.” In fact, during the time Paul was writing these words sex outside marriage was not only accepted as normal it was almost as if it was expected!

 

Every characteristic of the works of the flesh listed here is a perversion of God’s good gifts to mankind. Each sin that he lists, is a characteristic of someone concerned only about the flesh.

Read Gal. 5:19-21 again, but this time slowly!

1.      What stands out to you about this list? (This is not a comprehensive list of all sins, but it shows various types of sins, including sexual sins, religious sins, relational sins, and addictive behaviors.)

2.      How are the actions of the flesh the opposite of God’s design for His creation?

3.      How do these characteristics reflect humanity’s rebellion against God?

4.      What does the word “practice” seem to imply about these sins? (A life-style of sin. A true believer may sin but desires the things of the Spirit and wants to turn away from sin. Someone who is not repentant of sin and is not being renewed by the Holy Spirit is not a part of God’s kingdom!)

 

Paul then described the ingredients of a Spirit-filled life!

Produced! Read Galatians 5:22-26

 

Notice that works is plural while fruit is singular. A person operating in the flesh may not exhibit all of the works of the flesh, but the Spirit will begin to produce all of His fruit or characteristics in the life of a believer.

 

1.      How do the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit manifest themselves in Christians differently than in non-believers? (The fruit of the Spirit comes through following Christ. Personality traits can come from our genetics, our upbringings, and our experiences. Even before we became Christians we may have had tendencies toward some of these traits. Once we follow Christ, the power of the Spirit works to make us more like Christ, who perfectly displayed all of these characteristics.)

2.      We add fertilizer to our trees to help them grow to maturity. What “fertilizer” can we apply to our lives to help in the Spirit’s production of fruit in our lives? (Feed upon the Word of God daily to add “fertilizer” so the “fruit” will become evident more quickly in our lives.)

3.      In what sense have we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? (When we trusted Christ in faith we died to our old self to walk in the Spirit. We want the things of God not this old sinful nature!)

4.      Why would Paul add this final warning in verse 26? (The ruler of this world—Satan, will do everything he can to trip us up. The old sinful nature delights in seeing us get conceited and provoking one another and envying each other. This is a big caution sign Paul gives them!)

5.      How does keeping in step with the Spirit improve our relationships with each other? (If we are all being led by the Holy Spirit we will be in perfect unity and harmony because we are all following the same Leader!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      In what area of your life are you relying on yourself and not the Holy Spirit?

2.      What needs to happen for you to rely upon the Holy Spirit to live a Christ-honoring life in those areas?

3.      How can we encourage others when we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives?

Read Heb. 10:25

Followers of Christ will desire to be more like Him. Sanctification is not an instant change, but a gradual growth.

Prayer!

True Freedom - Galatians 4:8-20

There have been numerous opportunities for people to act heroically in recent days, and some have done so. During floods, fires, and storms heroic acts have been witnessed and recorded.

1.      In what sense could we say, “Paul is acting heroically” in our study of Galatians? (Paul knew the Galatians were in danger, and he wasn’t afraid to act. He spoke up and pleaded with them to turn back to the freedom of Christ.)

In a sense Paul was acting as a coach who had prepared his team to go out and play the game well. Although the issue at hand was no game, to Paul, it seemed like he had prepared them and now someone else is coming in and taking away the truths Paul had taught them.

2.      Which impacts an outcome more, talent or passion?

3.      When is ambition good and godly and when is it wrong and selfish? (When self is promoted above the good of the whole it is both wrong and selfish!)

Today look for how Paul transitioned from explaining the gospel to the Galatians to seeking to direct their passion toward the best goal of all—Christlikeness.

 

The Problem! Read Galatians 4:8-11

 

1.      What had the Galatian believers turned back to doing?

Paul recognized the Galatians as believers by stating their condition before Christ and their new position in Christ.

2.      Why was Paul so upset with the Galatians? (They were choosing to go back into the “jail” of legalism. They were putting their faith in their actions rather than Christ!)

3.      How would you describe the difference between slavery and freedom?

4.      How was the Galatians’ pagan past similar to the legalism that bound them?

5.      How might a person’s past religious views continue to be an issue after accepting Christ?

Paul feared that the Galatians were trusting in religious observances to establish a relationship with God, meaning that they were trying to achieve their salvation by working for it rather than trusting in what Jesus did on the cross.

6.      What was the point of Paul qualifying his statement in verse 9 with the phrase “or rather have become known by God”? (Just as He had with everyone else, God had taken the initiative to bring them into relationship with Him.)

It isn’t just head knowledge about God it is “to know by experience”!

7.      What religious practices might people today falsely trust to achieve salvation? (Tithing, church attendance, helping the poor, reading the Bible, etc)

8.      How do the practices of today compare to the practices addressed by Paul?

We don’t just say we place our faith in Jesus to be sure we’ve covered all the bases, so to speak! When we come to “know” God we place our trust in Jesus alone and relinquish all other so called paths to God. God is a jealous God and will share His glory with nothing or no one else! See Exodus 20:5.

 

The Plea! Read Galatians 4:12-14

 

The request to be like him served as a common refrain for Paul (see 1 Cor. 4:14-16, 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:6).

 

1.      How did Paul become like the Galatians? (In his mission work, Paul tried to relate to the people he was reaching in whatever situation they were in. This included Jews and Gentiles. Paul was a student of culture.)

2.      In what way does he want them to become like him? (Paul reminded the Galatians to treat salvation and the law as he did—not depending on the law for salvation. When Paul first went to the Galatians, they were not under the law because they were Gentiles!)

3.      We don’t know what Paul’s physical ailment was, but regardless of what it was, how could the Galatians have chosen to treat him? (Sometimes physical ailments were seen as God’s curse on a person.)

4.      What attitude or tone do you see expressed by Paul as he confronted the Galatians?

5.      How does the attitude and tone used to approach people impact their willingness to listen?

Paul wanted them to remember how they felt when they originally heard the gospel and put their faith in Christ!

 

The Passion! Galatians 4:15-20

 

1.      What kind of relationship did Paul have with them while he was there according to these verses? (They cared for him so much that they would have taken on the infirmity themselves so that Paul would be freed from it if it were possible!)

2.      How does concern and serving others grow out of a love of Christ in someone?

3.      What does Paul’s statement in verse 19 about his suffering express to them?

4.      According to verse 19, what was Paul’s deep desire for them? (To become more and more like Christ!)

5.      What heartfelt emotion does Paul’s last statement in verse 20 express?

6.      How can we follow Paul’s model when we see other believers struggling in their faith? (Paul did not shy away from calling out the fallacy in the Galatians’ new thinking. However, he did not shun them, but pleaded with them to turn back to Christ alone.)

Paul reminded them of the abundant freedom they had already experienced in Christ. It isn’t always easy to speak the truth—Paul compared his distress to the pains of childbirth—but it is necessary!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

1.      What are some ways our class can serve as a safeguard against a gospel that becomes less than faith in Christ alone for salvation?

2.      What adjustments need to be made to strengthen this safeguard?

There are believers in our lives who may look like they are enslaved more than they are free. What the Lord calls us to do as a body of believers is to go to them with pure hearts and motives and seek to restore them gently to the fellowship of believers.

 

Pray for an opportunity this week to speak the truth in love to someone and help that person grow in Christ.

 

True Heirs - Galatians 3:23-4:7

(If possible have a family who has adopted a child come give a short testimony about the experience.)

1.      What factors make an adoption hearing so joyful?

2.      How does the status of the child change with legal adoption, and why is that important?

As we will learn today we are all adopted into the family of God if we have trusted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. He is not only our Lord, Savior and Creator of all that exists, but He is our elder Brother! No one is above another; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ! By the blood of Christ we are children of God who share in the blessings promised to Abraham and the salvation Jesus provides. God’s plan includes the promise given to Abraham, then the law given to Moses, and then the inheritance through Christ. The law did not abolish the promise of a Savior, and Christ’s coming did not abolish the law but fulfilled it.

 

As we study, look for different ways God describes a believer and the benefits tied to those descriptions!

 

An Old Guardian! Read Galatians 3:23-25

 

Paul used two metaphors in these verses to describe the law: a prison guard and a guardian. Both take away freedom. Both put us in position where we are trying to earn favor.  The prison guard keeps us detained, while the guardian instructs and disciplines, pointing us toward freedom. Sometimes a person is put in protective custody for the good of the individual. So there are some benefits to both.

 

1.      What do we learn from the law as a tutor? (The law shows us our need for a savior. When we compare ourselves to Christ, we see our need for Him!)

2.      How can we tell when we are ready to “graduate”? (Those who are not studying the law often don’t see a need for a savior. They think they are doing alright on their own. We never truly graduate. We always need the law to show us how wretched we are, how perfect Christ is, and how desperately we need to place our faith in Him!)

3.      What use is the law after we have recognized our need for Christ and have been saved? (As we grow in our understanding of the law, we grow in our understanding of our sins and Christ’s perfection. As we continue to study the law, we see more clearly where our hearts fail and where Christ triumphs. This should lead to a deeper love for Christ and His sacrifice!)

Paul then explained how faith in Christ defines our position in Christ.

 

A New Community! Read Galatians 3:26-28

 

1.      Read Romans 6:3-4! What is the purpose of baptism? (It is the outward symbol of a radical inward transformation! Paul did not show baptism to be necessary for salvation. Instead, he spoke of how baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change and that it unifies believers. See Eph. 4:4-6)

This picture of putting “on Christ like a garment” may be difficult for us to understand. Paul’s illustration of taking off old garments and putting on new garments reflects a spiritual reality. “In Roman culture, when a minor child became an adult he removed the child’s clothing and put on a style typically worn by adult males. He stripped off the old and replaced it with the new. Believers had stripped off the old clothing of the law and put on Jesus’ robes of righteousness!” Leaders Guide pg. 46

2.      Reflect on your salvation experience. Why were you baptized?

3.      What distinctions have been removed by the gospel? (All racial distinctions have been abolished. There are no social distinctions in Christ. There are no gender distinctions.)

To say there are no gender distinctions held potential for division in the family of God but there are distinctions as to what roles are assigned within the Body of Christ!

4.      What are some reasons some Christians might exclude certain people from their circle, including the church?

5.      How would you address that issue based on this passage?

We may wonder about what happens when the walls are broken down and we receive the grace and mercy of our Lord. Paul addresses this in the next few verses.

A New Position! Read Galatians 3:29-4:7

 

1.      What is the believer’s new status in verse 29?

2.      According to these verses what words or phrases might be used to describe a person’s life without Jesus? (Orphans, lost, and without any purpose.)

3.      How is our identity different after we have placed our faith in Christ? (List differences next to each word listed, i.e., slave to heir.)

In these verses Paul was describing how before Christ the Jews were children underneath the law, even though they shared in the same faith as Abraham. But when Christ came, He redeemed the children from slavery and adopted them as children of God.

4.      What are the implications of God being our “Abba”? (Paul says the Spirit in us cries out “Abba,” which is Aramaic for “Daddy.” Picture a young child who cries out “Daddy.” Paul wrote in Greek but used the Aramaic word for “Daddy.” Paul was pointing us to when Christ prayed in Gethsemane, “Abba, father”—Mark 14:36)

As His children, we can approach God with the same confidence as Christ does.

5.      How can you use the illustration of adoption in sharing the gospel with someone?

6.      Based upon Paul’s writing, he is describing the work of the Trinity in salvation. What roles do the Father, Son, and Spirit each play in salvation?

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

What excites you most about being a cherished child of God? (I was chosen specifically by God Himself to be His child!)

We are co-heirs with Christ and free from the chains that previously enslaved us under the law!

How might you be living like a slave and not an heir? Choose to live in the freedom and security found in Christ!

 

True Life - Galatians 3:1-14

I love to watch “The Little Rascals”. It is not uncommon to see a scene where Spanky or Buckwheat or Alfalfa would do something and one of the other children would be blamed for it and even receive the punishment. Generally the real perpetrator would not confess but relish in the other person being punished.

1.      But what would make watching someone receive a severe punishment because of your mistake so difficult?

2.      How can knowing that someone else will be impacted by your actions serve as motivation?

In our passage today Paul is still talking to the Galatians about their stupidity of turning away from salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone. Here Paul uses the same tool the Judaizers used—Old Testament Scripture! Again Paul uses contrasts—the deficiency of the law and the sufficiency of faith! The Judaizers were practicing insanity, that is, doing the same thing again and again but expecting different results.

Paul uses three main points today: 1) The Holy Spirit confirms our salvation; 2) Abraham believed it; 3) The curse demands it.

 

(Divide the class into three groups. Assign each group one of the main points of the lesson. Ask them to search their portion of the Scripture text and answer the questions you provide them. Give them approximately 10 minutes to complete their work then call them back together to give their report.)

 

Group 1—The Spirit Confirms it! Galatians 3:1-5

 

Paul was using rhetorical questions to highlight the Galatians’ foolishness in returning to the law for righteousness apart from Christ. He was making them aware of how their faith was becoming legalism.

Having a part in one’s own salvation by works was, and is, appealing to new believers. We all have a tendency to want to achieve for ourselves. Until the Judaizers came they had never heard of the law.

1.      Search Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. What do these two verses have to say about the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the Christian? (They were “sealed by Him until the day of redemption.”  “In the early Church converts nearly always received the Holy Spirit in a visible way.… That experience (receiving the Holy Spirit) had happened to the Galatians and had happened, said Paul, not because they had obeyed the regulations of the law, because at that time they had never heard of the law.”—The Letter to the Galatians by Dr. William Barclay. The Scripture does not say these Christians had received the Spirit in a visible way but they certainly knew they had received the Holy Spirit.)

2.      Create one-sentence summaries of each verse in this section. (Summaries could include: Verse 1: Paul was correcting the Galatians on believing in the insufficiency of Christ’s death. Verse 2: Paul showed how the Spirit came by faith and not by the works of the law. Verse 3: Paul spoke of how the people were reverting to the law, which Jesus had saved them from.   4: Paul spoke of how their suffering for Christ was not to be in vain. Verse 5: Paul shared how the means for God’s work is not based in the law but in the Spirit.)

3.      What are the dangers of trusting in our own efforts for sanctification?

4.      If people are saved by faith, what pressures might cause them to start trusting in works after their salvation? (If they are new Christians a smooth talker might come in and tell them he wanted to help them grow deeper in their Christian walk by convincing them they had to follow a set of rules.)

Through these series of questions, Paul challenged the Galatians to look to their initial salvation experience and their continuing walk of sanctification.

5.      To what evidence could a person point as proof that he or she had received God’s forgiveness?

6.      What makes this assurance so important?

 

Group 2—Abraham Believed it! Galatians 3:6-9

 

1.      Read Gen. 12:1-3. What promise was given to Abraham in these verses?

2.      Read Gen. 15:2-5. What promise did God give Abraham in these verses that seemed impossible?

3.      Read Gen. 15:6. What was Abraham’s response to all that God had promised him in spite of how impossible it seemed? (All of this happened before the law was given and before he was circumcised. By faith alone Abraham was declared righteous!)

4.      Who was thought of as being sons of Abraham until this time by most people? (Only the Jews!)

5.      Who are the sons of Abraham according to these verses?

Justification by faith knows no prejudice!

6.      Why do some people consider themselves Christians because they are born into a Christian family?

7.      How do Paul’s words here instruct them?

8.      How does faith in Christ push us toward righteous living? (All who express genuine faith in Christ Jesus should therefore strive to be like Christ. This process is called sanctification, and is a lifelong endeavor!)

9.      Verse 9 points out how as believers we share the same faith as Abraham. What does that tell you about how God views the faith we express in Jesus Christ?

10.  Why is Jesus, not Abraham, the central figure in all of history?

 

Group 3—The Curse Demands it! Galatians 3:10-14

 

1.      Last week we talked about the purpose of the law. What did we discover? (To show us what sin is!)

2.      What does the law bring to us if we rely on it for salvation? (Curse.)

The purpose of the law was to show people their need of faith!

3.      How does the law itself point to the inadequacy to save? (Those who tried to keep the law were condemned by the very law they tried to keep because they could not keep it all.)

This necessitated a work of grace for salvation rather than human effort or achievement.

4.      Read v.13 then read 2 Cor. 5:21. What comparisons do you see in these verses?

There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ our Lord! When we can admit our inability to follow the law completely, we can admit our need for a savior!

5.      What does trusting in Jesus produce in a person’s life? (“That the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles by Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promised Spirit through faith.”)

6.      Why was it important for Paul to remind his readers that Christ took on the curse? (Christ received the curse that we had earned. Our sins were imputed to Him. Our sins were taken away, but we also received Christ’s righteousness. It was imputed to us by God’s marvelous, matchless, amazing Grace!)

 

When we begin to learn and fully comprehend how our faith is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, we find a reason to live for Him every day!

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

When we begin to think of specific ways we can make a choice to live by faith and not by legalism, we are moving forward in our efforts to express love because of God’s grace not to earn grace!

When we look to good deeds or rule following for our sense of security, then we are not looking to the finished work of Christ!

Consider: How can we engage people who are trusting in things other than the grace of God and teach them about justification by faith?

 

Prayer.

Group 1—The Spirit Confirms it! Galatians 3:1-5

 

Paul was using rhetorical questions to highlight the Galatians’ foolishness in returning to the law for righteousness apart from Christ. He was making them aware of how their faith was becoming legalism.

Having a part in one’s own salvation by works was, and is, appealing to new believers. We all have a tendency to want to achieve for ourselves. Until the Judaizers came they had never heard of the law.

1.      Search Ephesians 1:13 and 4:30. What do these two verses have to say about the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the Christian?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.      Create one-sentence summaries of each verse in this section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.      What are the dangers of trusting in our own efforts for sanctification?

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.      If people are saved by faith, what pressures might cause them to start trusting in works after their salvation?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through these series of questions, Paul challenged the Galatians to look to their initial salvation experience and their continuing walk of sanctification.

5.      To what evidence could a person point as proof that he or she had received God’s forgiveness?

 

 

 

 

6.      What makes this assurance so important?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group 2—Abraham Believed it! Galatians 3:6-9

 

1.      Read Gen. 12:1-3. What promise was given to Abraham in these verses?

 

 

 

 

2.      Read Gen. 15:2-5. What promise did God give Abraham in these verses that seemed impossible?

 

 

 

 

3.      Read Gen. 15:6. What was Abraham’s response to all that God had promised him in spite of how impossible it seemed?

 

 

 

 

4.      Who was thought of as being sons of Abraham until this time by most people?

 

 

 

 

5.      Who are the sons of Abraham according to these verses?

Justification by faith knows no prejudice!

 

 

 

 

6.      Why do some people consider themselves Christians because they are born into a Christian family?

 

 

 

7.      How do Paul’s words here instruct them?

 

 

 

8.      How does faith in Christ push us toward righteous living?

 

 

 

 

9.      Verse 9 points out how as believers we share the same faith as Abraham. What does that tell you about how God views the faith we express in Jesus Christ?

 

 

 

 

10.  Why is Jesus, not Abraham, the central figure in all of history?

 

 

Group 3—The Curse Demands it! Galatians 3:10-14

 

1.      Last week we talked about the purpose of the law. What did we discover?

 

 

 

 

 

2.      What does the law bring to us if we rely on it for salvation?

The purpose of the law was to show people their need of faith!

 

 

 

 

 

3.      How does the law itself point to the inadequacy to save?

This necessitated a work of grace for salvation rather than human effort or achievement.

 

 

 

 

 

4.      Read v.13 then read 2 Cor. 5:21. What comparisons do you see in these verses?

There is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ our Lord! When we can admit our inability to follow the law completely, we can admit our need for a savior!

 

 

 

 

 

5.      What does trusting in Jesus produce in a person’s life?

 

 

 

 

 

6.      Why was it important for Paul to remind his readers that Christ took on the curse?

 

When we begin to learn and fully comprehend how our faith is based on the finished work of Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection, we find a reason to live for Him every day!

 

 

 

True Grace - Galatians 2:11-21

The focus of our study today is not only defining what grace means but understanding how it applies in our lives.

“Various requirements exist for inclusion into some groups. The military sets age requirements for recruits, along with physical restrictions. Lawyers must pass an exam to be admitted to the bar. Nurses and doctors must pass an exam to be able to practice medicine. Many organizations charge fees for membership. Inclusion into God’s family operates differently. The gospel of grace means God welcomes all people into His family. He excludes no person who responds to Him in faith.”—PSG pg 19

            Today’s study will cover “The Gospel Revealed.” From the end of our focal passage last week to our passage for today, Paul clarified his authority to speak as an apostle. He explained the origin of his apostolic commission in response to questions and accusations about the validity of his apostleship.

Read Gal. 2:1-10.

 

Have you ever been called out publicly for doing something you knew was wrong and yet for some reason you did it anyway? Let’s see what happened in our focal passage today.

 

Confronted by Truth! Read Galatians 2:11-14

 

It is evident that Paul and Peter shared the same mission, that is to go and share the gospel—Peter to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. Paul stated, though, how there arose a disagreement between Paul and Peter. The issue at hand was that Peter associated with the Gentiles in Antioch; that is, until some Christian Jews came from Jerusalem to visit Peter. He then immediately disassociated with the Gentiles at a fellowship meal, evidently held at a church gathering. Paul basically revealed the hypocrisy that Peter demonstrated!

1.      What compelled Peter to separate from the Gentiles and eat at another table with only Jews?

2.      What in this passage leads us to believe that these Jews from Jerusalem were Judaizers? (Verse 12, “…from the circumcision party.” Although not stated, they thought they were more acceptable to God because they were Jews than the Gentiles who did not keep the law.)

3.      What factors might have made confronting Peter a difficult decision for Paul? (Peter was perhaps considered the main leader among the Jewish Christians. He had actually walked and talked with Jesus.)

4.      What had happened to Peter that should have been a lesson learned concerning accepting Gentiles just as Jews? (Peter’s experience in Acts 10 that records the conversion of Cornelius.)

5.      Why did Paul need to confront the situation with Peter, and do so publicly, rather than just ignore it? (Sin needs to be addressed at the same level it is committed. If it was public then address it publicly. There are no different classes of Christians. All people—Jews and Gentiles—are sinners in need of God’s saving grace!)

This issue was serious enough to gather the church and make sure that the truth of the gospel had a proper defense.

6.      What do you do when opposition arises among believers?

7.      How should we express boldness and love to address issues with confrontation rather than allowing them to slip by? (We speak the truth in love. We speak respecting the other person while speaking the truth about the falseness of their position.)

8.      What might have led some of the other Jews to join Peter and the Jews from Jerusalem? (Without thinking about how it looked they just wanted to visit with these fellow Jews. But, we must quickly say that does not seem to be the case based on what Paul says about the issue.)

9.      Are we ever guilty of this same sin without thinking? (When we walk into a room and our friends are in one area of the room and a new person or someone “different” is sitting alone in another part of the room, where do we sit?)

10.  How can a bias get in the way of us sharing the gospel?

Paul had a purpose in showing the people of Galatia the details of the confrontation with Peter. Let’s see where Paul goes with this!

Justified By Grace! Read Galatians 2:15-18

 

As we read these verses we might wonder, “What was the purpose of the law in the first place?” Read Romans 7:7 for that answer.

(Lecture briefly on Gal. 2:15-18.)

The Law is God’s standard. No one can meet it! See Psalm 143:2.

1.      How would you define “justification”? (“The action of declaring or making righteous in the sight of God.”)

2.      How would you define justification by faith?

3.      What makes this so important to understand? (We can never achieve a right standing with God apart from faith in what Jesus did for me at Calvary. No amount of human effort can make us right with God!)

Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Jesus.

4.      How is this statement seen in Galatians 2?

5.      Why are people often resistant to the message of salvation by grace?

6.      What are some things people today attempt to add to Jesus for salvation? (Church attendance. Tithing. Serving—teaching, being a deacon, etc. Not doing some things like drinking, swearing, gambling, etc.)

7.      How do some people respond to knowing they are unable to earn salvation? (Freedom comes once we rest in the truth of Christ’s ultimate work on our behalf. This in unlike anything else we will experience in our lives, and it may seem difficult at times to accept this gift as entirely free with no strings attached.)

When we try to earn our salvation, even just a small part, we will find that all our efforts fall short. Recognizing this can lead to complete faith in and dependence on Christ. Faith is the opposite of independence. Faith accepts that we cannot do it, and we trust Christ to do it for us.

Can you imagine the freedom Paul must have felt when he finally realized his standing with God did not depend on his effort!

We do not receive grace because we obey; we obey because we have received grace. And there is a world of difference in the two!

 

Crucified with Christ! Read Galatians 2:19-21

Paul’s argument was for the gospel to be expressed by death to the law and living by faith in Christ!

Paul uses a lot of pairs in Galatians:

·         The gospel vs. false gospels

·         Law vs. freedom

·         Law vs. faith

·         Sons and heirs

·         Works vs. grace

·         Slave vs. free

·         Spirit vs. flesh

1.      What are some opposites if following the law versus faith? (Bondage and freedom. Condemned and justified.)

2.      What would be the point in Jesus’ death if people could be justified by their own efforts?

3.      How does “dying to the law” help you to “live for Christ”? (We die to trusting the law to save us or attempting to earn our salvation by following the law! We are free to be obedient to the leadership of the Holy Spirit with great joy!)

4.      In what sense were we crucified with Christ?

Later in his letter Paul will clarify the purpose of the law. Paul’s statement in verse 21 is used to explain the love and power of Christ’s death on the cross.

5.      Why does the gospel demand absolute trust in Jesus’ death on the cross? (That was the price paid for our freedom!)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

1.      How does the truth of the gospel impact how we treat others who are lost? Even our very faith is a gracious gift from God. Once we recognize this, we are free from the condemnation of the Law in our own lives, but we must also embrace this truth with regard to others!

2.      How does the truth of the gospel impact how we treat others who are already saved?

Spend some time in prayer this week, asking God to search your heart and open your eyes to areas where you are harboring biases toward others. Ask God to remove them from your heart.

The True Gospel - Galatians 1:1-10

Today we begin a study of the book of Galatians. This book was written to a group of churches in the province of Galatia. Paul had gone through southern part of this province on his first missionary journey. He established churches in Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.

The purpose of this letter was to remind the churches about the one true gospel. There was a group of people who came after Paul called the Judaizers. They brought doubt on Paul’s authority as an Apostle and his message about the gospel. They were teaching that what Paul said was true but not the whole truth. They were teaching that an individual who accepted Christ as his Savior also had to follow the Jewish Law to be a true Christian. Paul wrote this letter to expose the untruths of the gospel of grace plus law and to defend his apostleship as a calling and appointment from God Himself.

Reading the letters in the New Testament is much like listening to one side of a phone conversation. You don’t know what the person on the other end of the call is saying or the questions they may be asking, you only hear the answers being given. The letter was written most likely in the mid AD 40s. Most likely before the Jerusalem Council, out of which came a clarification of the true Gospel, that salvation came only by faith in Christ, period!  

The focus of our study today is defining the true gospel. As we approach the letter to churches in Galatia and understand its context, we can begin to recognize how diligent Paul was going to be to defend and apply the meaning of the true gospel to the people in these churches.

We find the following Major Themes in Galatians:

·         Paul defended his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

·         Paul argued that salvation is solely by God’s grace through His Son Jesus Christ, received by faith.

·         The Christian life is one of freedom, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Appointed by God, Himself! Read Galatians 1:1-2

 

Based on how Paul opened this letter, the Judiazers had brought into question Paul’s authority as an apostle. An apostle was generally defined as “one who had walked with Jesus while He was here on earth and was a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.

1.      When might a person need to set forth his or her credentials to speak authoritatively on a subject? (When it’s brought into question.)

2.      How might a believer introduce himself or herself to establish credibility as one who knows the truth about Jesus?

Not only did Paul speak about his credibility, but he also discussed how he was not alone in what he believed and affirmed. But, noticeably missing is any thanksgiving for or about the churches in Galatia, which was a part of several of Paul’s letters to other churches and individuals.

3.      How important is it for you and our church as a whole, to know what the Bible says about Jesus? (It is absolutely essential! I am shocked by the lack of knowledge of some church members concerning Jesus and the Bible in general. This shows they either don’t attend Bible study or they don’t pay attention when they do come.)

4.      What do you do as a body of believers to express these truths? (These truths are the power of God unto salvation! The world must hear these truths and we must be the messengers!)

5.       How was Paul’s calling different from the calling ministers receive today?

6.      How does this impact the authority of Paul’s teaching? (Paul, along with the other selected apostles, had the authority to write Scripture. Those who are called today have authority to proclaim what is already in Scripture!)

7.      In a sense all Christians are called. For what purposes does God call all believers? (We are first called to salvation by God’s grace. Secondly, we are called to follow a path of good works which God has prepared for us—Eph. 2:10. All believers are called to deliver the gospel to others!)

 

Paul continued his introduction to the church and began to make an exhortation to the people.

Through His Grace! Read Galatians 1:3-5

 

1.      What attributes of Jesus do we see here relative to the gospel? (“Gave Himself for our sin”; “rescue us from this present evil age”; “according to the will of our God and Father”.)

2.      What is the relationship of grace and peace to the gospel? (It is only by God’s mercy that He showered His grace upon us that by accepting His free gift we might have peace with God the Father!)

3.      How would you define the word “grace”? (God’s abundant, underserved favor. God’s Riches At Christ Expense! Mercy is not getting the punishment we deserve for our sin and grace is getting what we do not deserve—God’s forgiveness!)

4.      What are the dangers of embracing a religion, like the Galatians did, that is centered on legalism?

5.      How do we avoid falling into the same trap the Galatians succumbed to? (We realize and understand that our salvation is by grace alone through faith in Jesus. Certainly, we are to be obedient to God after accepting Jesus but it isn’t to earn our salvation, it is an act of obedience through our love for Jesus.)

6.       How do the statements in verse 4 reflect Jesus’ power and authority to save?

7.      What does it tell us about any message that focuses on man’s achievement versus the power of Jesus?

8.      How does verse 5 come into importance? (Our forever and ever God is permanent. Unlike the gods of this world, He is no temporary savior. God and His salvation endure throughout all time. We receive eternal benefit!)

 

As Paul demonstrated the grace, peace, and power of Jesus Christ, he began to condemn the people for their desire to embrace legalism in the application of the gospel. It is difficult for us to believe there is nothing we can do to earn what we receive from God!

 

Distorted by Some! Read Galatians 1:6-10

1.      How would you describe Paul’s tone here?

2.      Verse 7 speaks about the influences that were affecting the people of Galatia as they wanted to try to change the good news of Jesus. What might cause a person to turn away from following Jesus today? (A well polished speaker who can make the false gospel sound so very true. That is why it is so important for us to know what we believe and why we believe it.)

3.      Why did Paul emphasize that the gospel is grace through faith-based salvation and not works-based? (The Galatians were being presented a false gospel and if this false gospel was not immediately exposed and cast aside the spreading of the true gospel would be halted and the truth may have not ever reached us.)

Paul warned that if you change the gospel at all it is not gospel at all! The gospel is entirely grace. We either believe in a works-based salvation or a grace-based salvation.

4.      Verses 8-9 refer to a curse that is upon any person who tries to preach and cause others to embrace a message that distorts or denies the power of Jesus Christ. How does spending time in God’s Word as a group of believers help to protect the integrity and truth of the gospel in the church?

5.      How do we test teaching to make sure it is true? (We measure what is being taught by Scripture and Scripture alone!)

The message is more important than the messenger or delivery method!

6.      What impact should culture shifts have on the church’s teaching? (Scripture is the authority and should not bend. Our methods of delivery may change but the message is the same!)

7.      What truths can we learn from Paul about being bold when sharing the gospel? (We confront false teachings with courtesy and respect and do not waver from the truth!)

Just as Paul was concerned with safeguarding the faith for the churches in Galatia, we have the call as believers to guard the integrity of the gospel that is being shared.

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

·         God appoints all believers to deliver His gospel message.

·         True peace comes only by the grace of God through faith in the sacrificial death of His Son.

·         Believers must safeguard their faith, resisting those who teach a salvation that comes through any means other than faith in Jesus!

 

1.      To whom has God appointed you to be a messenger of the gospel?

2.      How can you encourage class members to distinguish between the true gospel and the works-based gospel embraced by the Galatians?

3.      What similarities do you see between the perversions of the gospel in Paul’s day and in our day?

 

Pray.