Introduction: If we have just one Jesus, why do we have all of these
different churches? In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul complains about divisions
among believers. It seems today that each church has its own
important distinctive. For example, the Baptists have baptism by
immersion. Although I’m not a Baptist, I think that is a very
important doctrine. How should those of us with distinctive doctrines
approach the world? Should Baptists lead with baptism by immersion?
Should each denomination lead with its distinctive (and true) belief?
In Paul’s closing message to the Galatians, he gives counsel on this
point. Let’s plunge into our final study of Galatians and see what we
can discover!

  1. Authentication

    1. Read Galatians 6:11 and 1 Corinthians 16:21. What does
      this suggest to us? (That Paul normally used a scribe to
      write his letters. However, he would personally write a
      portion of the letter to prove that he was the author.)

    2. Read Galatians 4:15. What does this suggest might be the
      reason for Paul’s large handwriting? (Commentators often
      suggest that this proves that Paul had poor eye sight.)

      1. What else might large letters suggest? (It was just
        the way he wrote. When I sign my name, my signature
        is large. When I write, I generally write in large
        letters even though my eyesight is normal. Indeed,
        for writing, my eyesight is superior to other people
        my age.)

      2. Was good quality paper plentiful? (We don’t know what
        Paul was using for writing stock. But, no doubt it
        was expensive and limited. A professional scribe
        probably wrote small to economize on the use of
        expensive writing stock.)

      3. Why do we care about this? What is the significance
        to us of Paul’s comment on his handwriting? (The
        first point we discussed is the important point –
        Galatians was written by Paul. We can have confidence
        in that.)

  2. Motives of the Works/Law Proponents

    1. Read Galatians 6:12. If I sold cloth for a living, I
      suppose I would always judge the value of the clothes of
      the person with whom I was speaking. Because I’m a lawyer,
      other unbidden things come to mind: “What is this person’s
      motive in saying this?” “Is this person telling the
      truth?” If a person has no motive to lie, most likely they
      are telling the truth. Paul is making a lawyer’s argument
      here about his opponents. Why does he argue that the
      proponents of works are lying? (They are people-pleasers.
      This is just part of their effort to avoid getting in
      trouble because they are Christians.)

      1. I think it is emotionally intelligent to get along
        with those around us. That doesn’t seem like much of
        an argument to me. What deeper argument can you find
        in Paul’s words? (The comment about the “cross”
        suggests that they would deny the gospel to please
        those around them. Circumcision is just part of the
        larger picture of denying the gospel.)

        1. Do you think these people-pleasers would plead
          “guilty” to this charge? Or, is it more likely
          they had not thought this through?

      2. This week I was listening to a sermon by someone who
        is a serious student of the Bible. He was speaking
        about prophecy and how members of another great
        religion would come to faith in Jesus, even though
        they might not have a correct understanding of the
        Trinity. He was unconcerned about this problem
        because he said, “None of us is perfect in our
        doctrine.” None of us are perfect in doctrine, but
        how important is this doctrine? (If you don’t believe
        Jesus is God, you don’t understand a critical part of
        the gospel!)

    2. Read Galatians 6:13. Through the ages we read of warriors
      who collect trophies from their victims: scalps, ears,
      etc. What is Paul suggesting that the circumcision group
      is collecting? (Foreskins!)

      1. Why is Paul being so graphic? (He must have wanted to
        make a strong impression on the Galatians that his
        opponents did not really care about them.)

  3. Proper Motives

    1. Read Galatians 6:14. How does Paul differ from the people-pleasers? (They avoid being persecuted for the cross, he
      boasts about the cross.)

      1. Let’s look deeper into this. Why are the people-pleasers boasting about circumcision and not the
        cross? (They boast about things that will make them
        look good in the eyes of others.)

      2. Has your church advertised? The Mormons have had
        some wonderful television ads about family. I’ve seen
        similar ads by either the Lutherans or Methodists.
        My own church brags about the health and longevity of
        its members. Are these ads run to make the church fit
        into society and avoid persecution?

        1. When a church runs these kinds of ads (I’m sure
          most all churches run ads like this) are we
          boasting in something other than the cross?

        2. Is Paul making a fair criticism? For example,
          is the Bible all about the cross?

        3. If I asked you about an organization named
          “Samaritan’s Purse,” how would you describe it?
          (Christmas boxes for children. Disaster relief.
          Last week Franklin Graham, the head of
          Samaritan’s Purse, visited the university where
          I teach. He said every thing they did was to
          advance the gospel. Boasting about the family,
          health, etc. is fine if the ultimate goal is to
          advance the gospel. The problem arises when our
          bragging denies the gospel.)

        4. Before we feel less guilty, what does Paul mean
          when he says that he has been crucified to the
          world? (He doesn’t care what the world thinks.)

          1. Should we care what the world thinks of
            our church?

    2. Read Galatians 6:15. Would it be appropriate to say
      “health and longevity” mean nothing, what counts is the
      new life in Jesus? (Health and longevity have more
      practical importance than circumcision, but our brief
      moment of life here means nothing compared to eternity.)

      1. When the people-pleasers were arguing in favor of
        circumcision, were they doing so for the purpose of
        improving day-to-day living? (No. They were arguing
        it for theological reasons. In Genesis 17 God told
        Abraham that circumcision was the sign that there was
        a relationship between God and Abraham’s descendants.
        That seems mighty important to me!)

      2. Is there something that your church argues is a
        special sign of a relationship between you and God
        that is more important than the cross?

    3. Let’s go back to our introduction. Is baptism by immersion
      more important than the cross? (No.)

      1. Are circumcision and baptism by immersion in the same
        classification? Hasn’t Paul been arguing that
        circumcision is wrong, whereas we know that baptism
        is right? (Circumcision is only wrong because it is
        part of the “obey and live” approach of works, rather
        than the “believe and live” approach of grace.)

    4. Let’s examine the last part of Galatians 6:15 again. What
      does Paul mean when he says, “What counts is the new
      creation?” (Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What counts is that
      we have, by faith in Jesus, become saved – a new person.)

    5. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 7:19. Does this undo everything
      we have just discussed? (No! Circumcision was the sign of
      a special relationship with God. The reality of a special
      relationship with God is obedience to His commandments.
      Circumcision was a sign. Obedience is the reality.)

    1. Can anyone summarize what we have learned? Or, have I
      gotten us all confused? Should Baptists lead with baptism
      by immersion? Should each church lead with its distinctive
      doctrine? (No. We should lead with the cross – the gospel
      of justification by grace alone. At the same time, the
      Baptists (and the rest of us) should continue to obey
      God’s commands – while realizing that we are not saved by
      keeping them.)

    2. Read Galatians 6:16. If we get the relationship between
      grace and works right, what follows? (Peace and mercy!)

      1. Are the two related? (God’s mercy gives me peace. It
        gives me confidence in my salvation.)

    3. Read Galatians 6:17. Why can we have confidence in Paul’s
      teaching? (He has suffered for it. He obviously believes

    4. Read Galatians 6:18. We end with the wonderful point of
      Galatians – grace! We are saved by grace alone.

    5. Friend, if you have not accepted salvation by grace alone
      prior to this, will you right now? Will you allow mercy
      and peace to enter your life?

  1. Next week: Next week we will study the Trinity as we begin a
    new series entitled “Glimpses of Our God.”