Galatians Chapter Five

Galatians Chapter 5

Use two or three translations of 5:1-12 to help you answer the following questions.
(You can use thisthis, or this, or pick your own translation!)

Focus on v. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

So is faith just passive?

God will act to set things right in the world and to conform the favorable judgment on his people, but it will happen in his own good time.

Those who have received theSpirit and who wait do so by sharing in the travail of a world looking for liberty  and fulfillment. … The same Spirit who enables them to wait patiently also creates in them a restlessness with things as they are, a longing for the ‘not yet’ of God’s plan for the world. In these words of the beatitude, they ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness.’ Matthew 5:6

“To speak of hope then, is to speak of the thin line, as one has put it, between presumptuousness that cannot wait and despair that can only wait.” -Biblical Commentator Charles Cousar

Focus on v. 6  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.

So is love a prerequisite for faith??

No! Paul has just written 2.5 chapters arguing that righteousness is a result of grace. And it is unlikely that he meant that God’s righteousness is available only to folks who had previously exhibited love. It may refer to love as the expression of faith, or God’s love as the inspiration for faith.

Commentator Victor Furnish: The xn is summoned to love in a double sense: to be loved and to be loving.

Focus on v.11 But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

What is the offense of the cross?

TEXT NOTE: offense-scandal-stumbling block (greek “skandalon” = stumbling block)

Final questions: What choice do the Galatians have to make? What hard choices does the cross illuminate for our time?

Galatians Bible Study, Chapter Four

Galatians 4 brings the reader to the apex of Galatians – for freedom Christ has set us free. Paul means this both theologically and practically. Theologically that we are set free from the bonds of the Law and the sin that is made known through it, but also practically for the Galatian community. Paul’s pastoral concern is highlighted in chapter 4 as he recounts their shared ministry. His concern for the Galatians is that they will be enslaved not only to the “elemental spirits,” but specifically to these outside agitators who “make much of them[selves],” isolating the Galatians from the broader Christian community, and from Christ himself.

That Paul’s focus is pastoral is a helpful reminder as we read through this letter, which at times feels rushed and haphazard. In vv. 1-7, Paul jumps between two metaphors, first inheritance, then adoption, then back to inheritance without completing his second thought. Although it may be frustrating to track, it underscores the urgency with which Paul writes, as if hurriedly composing an email at the last minute that can’t wait to be proofread. It’s important to read Galatians not as a formal theological treatise, but as an urgent plea from a friend and teacher not to fall into a burdensome religious system that he knows the Galatian people cannot bear.

What the “elemental spirits” Paul refers to are is a topic up for debate, particularly because he doesn’t expound upon this idea. Probably he’s referring to an idea prevalent in the Galatian’s Hellenistic culture which believed there were spiritual forces, good and evil, that animated all things. Paul’s injunction to turn away from “enslavement” to these spirits is a call to turn toward the freedom of Christ, to whom we are obedient as a gracious choice. Our freedom is the freedom to choose Christ.

In order to appeal to the Galatians to return to their newfound-but-waning freedom, Paul allegorizes the story of Sarah and Hagar found in Genesis 21. His allegory is complicated, and strays from the traditional interpretation markedly. Traditionally, Sarah’s son Issac passes on the promises given to Abraham, while Hagar’s son Ishmael is father of the Gentiles. Paul, on the other hand, connects Hagar to the “present Jerusalem” and Sarah to the “Jerusalam above.” His interpretation is a near inversion of the traditional interpretation. Layering on to this allegory is Paul’s idea that we are living in a new age of sorts in which we live according to God’s Spirit rather than the Law (see Joel 2:28-29). Nonetheless, Paul’s point is clear – Gentiles, through Christ, are heirs to the promises given to Abraham, and should stand confident in these promises, not turning to religious systems in an attempt to acquire them.

Martin Luther, in his seminal book Christian Liberty, says this: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” This intersection of freedom and obligation, empowered by the pouring out of the Spirit, is where a follower of Jesus lives. It is no longer according to human customs, but according to God’s own Spirit given to us. How, then, shall we live? That’s the next chapter.

Galatians Bible Study, Chapter Three

From Disciple Curriculum

Galatians has two powerful meanings for us. First, without Paul’s teachings in Galatians, the Christian church either might have remained a Jewish sect, holding onto Christ and Jewish law at the same time, or it might have spun off into a new religion without roots in Judaism and the Hebrew scriptures. It did neither. Second, Galatians helps us to become free from a religion of rules without becoming morally reckless. We avoid being “legalistic” on the one hand or “libertine” on the other.

Circumcision for Paul was not just a ritual. It was a sign of placing oneself under Jewish law.

Either you are saved by God through the cross of Jesus Christ or you are not, declared Paul. You cannot have it half way or both ways.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace . . . Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system . . . Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. . .

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

We have been freed by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What have we been freed from?

What have we been freed for?

  1. Flesh vs. Spirit
  2. Example of Abraham asks the question: Who is the true Israel? Who are the people of God?
  3. How do we relate to the law? How does God?
  4. Who are we now? Christ is our marker, not the law.
  5. What do we do? What have we been freed from? What have we been freed for?

Follow along with Paul’s Old Testament argument in Galatians 3 with these helpful quotes:

Galatians 3:6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,”
Genesis 15:6 And he believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Galatians 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”
Genesis 12:3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Galatians 3:10  For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”
Deuteronomy 27:26 “Cursed be anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by observing them.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
Habakuk 2:4 Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.

Galatians 3:12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law[c] will live by them.”
Leviticus 18:5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord.

Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”
Deuteronomy 21:23 His corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.

Galatians 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring;[f] it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ.
Genesis 12:7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

Galatians Bible Study, Chapter Two

If Chapter One’s controversy centered on circumcision, then this week focused on table fellowship. Paul makes the compelling argument for one table for all. He calls out Peter for having changed practices – once dining with Gentiles but now trying to avoid them all together. Peter has been pressured by those “false brothers” we met in chapter one. Barnabas falls victim to the same pressures. Paul wants the Galatians to know that the church leaders in Jerusalem know of his preaching and his ministry to the Gentiles and they have no issue with it. They haven’t corrected this theology and they have offered him the “right hand of fellowship.” Paul’s language becomes quite militant and we realize that Paul very much believers there is a war at hand. The battle is over the freedom from the law. Paul believes the false preachers are enslaving people to the law. Thereby “nullifying the grace” given to us in Christ’s act on the cross.

It is the cross, which cuts away all systems used to divide us from others. So those who are separating themselves from others because of what they were eating were not appreciating the full love and grace given in the act on the cross.

Doctrine of Justification
We have made new in Jesus Christ. Justified before God because of our Savior. Luther called this doctrine “the article on which the church stands or falls.” Calvin called it, “the hinge on which religion turns.” Paul said it this way, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” We cannot justify ourselves to God by our close adherence to the law. Jesus only can justify us; this is a liberating truth for those who know we fall short.

Modern Uses of the Law
Think about how we experience the dos and don’ts of religion – are they bringing us closer to God or given us an illusion of self-righteousness? When it came to the law, Jesus always found a way to help the disciples see the big picture and understand the spirit of the law. In this way, Christ reminds us we have been liberated from the law, justified before God, and free to serve joyfully.

Prayer after the study
Heavenly Lord, forgive us for putting contrived limitations on one another and ourselves. Forgive us for trivializing the work of the cross by not living into your grace and mercy. Help us Lord to understand the spirit of unity and community you have envisioned for us. May we grow in our own understanding of the radical impact you had on our world and live into that mystery each and every day. Amen.

The Orlando Shootings—A Challenge and a Prayer

To our GPC community:

Together, we are horrified and profoundly saddened by the evil that came to Orlando early Sunday morning. As we struggle to respond, please know that GPC is a place where all are welcomed, loved, and heard. Our arms and ears are open to you and those you love at any time for counseling, prayer, or simply a place to sit in stillness of God’s presence.

This tragedy is complex, and touches on important issues like homophobia, religious extremism, Islamophobia, gun violence, race, and more. While we know that some would employ that complexity to drive us apart, we know that in Christ we can do better. Instead of reacting with hatred, we go out of our way to love one another, as Christ commanded.  Fear causes us to cling to the power of things we can see and control, rather than to the powerful vision of the Kingdom of God. And so let us challenge ourselves to reach for the unfailing love and mercy of Christ. When you’re ready, turn to your neighbors, and start a conversation. Not an argument to win, but an opportunity to listen, and even be changed. Know that “perfect love casts out fear,” (1Jn 4:18) and that the most profound action we can take in response to an attack on our fellow citizens is to love, listen, and in spite of the odds, hope.

Hear the words of the Apostle Paul to the saints in Rome:

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”  … May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
-Romans 15

God in your mercy, hear our prayers:

For the families and friends who grieve unthinkable loss,

For the LGBTQ individuals and communities who live in fear of discrimination and hatred,

For Muslim communities fearing retaliation,

For those lost in an ideology of hate, who seek out justification of their violence through religious extremism,

For the city of Orlando and its first responders,

For our country and its leaders, including Governor Scott and President Obama,

For the church, the body of Christ in the world, that we may be known through our love,

For dark valleys of danger, suffering, and death, where others are in need, and to which you call us,

For when we have no words or tears left, and when our trust is shaken,

In your mercy, hear our prayers. Amen.

May God’s peace, which surpasses all understanding, guide you this week by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Camille Cook Murray
Rev. Rachel Landers Vaagenes
Rev. Chris Chatelaine-Samsen

Galatians Bible Study, Chapter One

Hi! Welcome to the first post on our Galatians Bible study. This is a place to catch up on a study if you missed one. You can also skip around to different teachers. A full schedule is below.


Who is Paul? (See Acts 7-9)
Paul is the assumed author of Galatians, and a number of other “epistles” or letters to fledgling churches in the mid-first century CE Roman Empire. Paul was a Jew who had originally persecuted Christians, but after a dramatic conversion experience had become a Christian himself. He had never met Jesus pre-crucifixion, but Jesus appeared to him and sent him on a mission to the “gentiles,” that is, the non-Jewish pagans of the land. Paul’s missionary journeys were very successful and led to the birth of many churches throughout the Mediterranean.

Who are the Galatians?
The “Churches in Galatia” probably refers to a group of churches in a wide region encompassing modern-day Turkey. The churches were most likely gentile converts.

Why write the letter?
The letter addresses the issue of whether or not these gentile Christians needed to first convert to Judaism (and thus to submit to the Law), or if they were free in Christ to be Christians without this step. These converts had been influenced by a group (either internal or external), who had convinced them that they did need to submit to the Law, and specifically the ritual of circumcision as a sign of inclusion in the covenant with God. Paul writes against this and argues for freedom from the Law and freedom in the faith of Christ.

Before Reading
Compare the benefits and pitfalls of adhering to Jewish laws and traditions or setting those aside and claiming Christ as all-sufficient. Which would you choose? 

Galatians 1-Summary
After a brief greeting citing his credentials as an apostle, Paul launches into a critique of “the churches of Galatia,” citing their desertion of the grace of Christ and the adoption of Jewish law. We don’t know if the confusion comes from an outside faction promoting conversion to Judaism as a precursor to becoming full Christians, or whether the confusion has grown up from the group itself, but Paul is adamant that the believers abandon this error and return to the original gospel that Paul proclaimed.

The chapter ends with Paul’s autobiography, including his time persecuting Christians; his conversion; and his first missionary journeys. He mentions Cephas, which is Aramaic for “Peter,” one of the original twelve disciples, who was head of the church in Jerusalem. The debate between the (primarily Jewish) Jerusalem Church and Paul’s (primarily gentile) churches is a major theme in this letter.

After reading
Compare the opening 6 verses of Galatians to the first three verses of Philippians. What is the same? What is different? You can take a look at Paul’s opening verses of each of his letters, to get an idea of how important his introductions were to the tone/content of each letter. 

Prayer after Study
Holy God, by your grace we were saved. In Christ we are called to be your faithful servants. Help us to always be grateful for the freedom that you gave us through your Son. Help us to be empowered by the power of your Spirit, that we might be free from sin and free to live for our neighbors and for you. Amen. 

Wednesday, 7-9:30pm Rev. Chatelaine Samsen
June 1 Galatians 1
June 8 Galatians 2 (Rev. Murray subs)
June 15 Galatians 3
June 22 Galatians 4
June 29 Galatians 5
July 6 Galatians 6

Wednesday, 3-4:30pm, Rev. Murray
June 8 Galatians 1
June 15 Galatians 2
June 22 Galatians 3
June 29 Galatians 4
July 6 Galatians 5
July 13 Galatians 6 (possibly rescheduled for earlier)

Sunday, 11:15-12:30, Rev. Vaagenes
June 5 Galatians 1
June 12 Galatians 2
June 19 Galatians 3
June 26 Galatians 4
July 3 Galatians 5
July 10 Galatians 6