Sunday, February 12, 2012

On 2-19-12 Galatians 3:15-18, 4:1-7 will be our International Sunday School Lesson/Adult Sunday School Lesson herein is my commentary. This lesson is known by some as Heirs to the Promise aka Inheriting Abraham's Promise

Heirs to the Promise
Inheriting Abraham’s Promise
Galatians 3:15-18, 4:1-7
International Sunday School Lesson
February 19, 2012

Jed Greenough

As we begin we see that this week’s scripture is a fragment of a continuing argument Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians and for those who missed that and don’t have the time, it might be hard to otherwise see today’s scripture in context. 
Last week Paul had called the Galatians foolish because they were being led astray by others who were teaching them that they needed to follow certain aspects of the law.  In that scripture Paul had reminded these Galatians that they had become Christians when they came to faith after they had heard the gospel and not by observing the law.  He went on in part by telling them about Abraham who likewise was credited because he had faith after what he had heard from God.
In our concluding verses from last week Paul reminded them of the promise, the covenant that God had made with Abraham that all nations including these Galatians would be blessed through him.
And that is where we find ourselves today as Paul continues to explain to them that the promise was being fulfilled now and that the law which came in between did not break or take the place of God’s promise to Abraham centuries before.  The law we read elsewhere in Galatians led to Christ.  In other words the law convicted the world of sin, it pointed out what sin was and the necessity for Christ.  And for those who believe they were now free from sin and most important in the argument to the Galatians free from the law.  Now they are sons of God through faith in Christ and heirs of the promise given to Abraham.
This then catches us up to the remaining verses for today found in 4:1-7.  At just the right time, God’s time, He sent his son.  Before then the world was as slaves and not heirs, slaves to the law.  Paul knew that the Galatians would have understood that slaves do not inherit from the master or the other example Paul used of a child who though an heir could not inherit either until he came of age.  That age arrived when Christ came and freed them from slavery to the law.
Have you given much thought to these Galatians?  I have and I have come to the conclusion that they were not bad certainly but misguided.  And they were misguided due to their exuberance.  It is really an easy conclusion to arrive at because if they were lacking in exuberance to do all that they could to please God they wouldn’t have cared to listen for even a bit when those who were leading them astray told them they needed to do more.
Think about it by looking within your own church.  Who are the ones that are there every week for class, who are those that are there for every chance to worship, for Bible Study and prayer groups?  It is not someone who lacks desire for God.  The ones with an exuberant desire are making comments to the teacher after the class and after the sermon.  These are the ones that are showing up first for every opportunity to study. 
Those who are just going through the motions don’t generally go through much more than they have to and you know who these folks are as well.  They aren’t going to be fretting that they aren’t doing enough nor that they should be doing something different.
If we think about the Galatians like this I think we can empathize with them and Paul.  There was only one of him and there were only new churches back in the day as he went from town to town converting people as he shared the gospel.
What did these people have but each other?  They were all of the same maturity level with regard to their faith and other than the letters of Paul they didn’t have much else.
Today as we read of these events that concerned Paul we too should be concerned.  When Paul heard these reports he did what he could in firing off a passionate letter, but how about us?
Last week I concentrated on the false aspects of the teaching that the Galatians were falling prey to.  I wrote of the need for us today to be on vigilant lookout for teachers who perhaps shouldn’t be teaching and for classes that aren’t sound.  Most importantly I spoke of our need to return to the basics of the gospel.
This week lets concentrate on the fact that these Galatians were probably new to their faith and very little was in place for an infrastructure to make sure that the seed they received would be nurtured in fertile ground.  Let’s apply this to us.
Your church might be just the example that some need and if so I say, “Praise God”.  But many churches despite their resources of complete Bibles, 2000 years of examples and all the other advantages we have now fall short.
The new Christian as excited and exuberant as they are has just about the same chance of going off track as the Galatians did.  We need to make sure that there is a literal plan in place for those new to their faith to be nurtured and not leave it to chance.  I will bet most of your churches require a certain amount of counseling before marriages are performed.  It seems that we should similarly require that there be creative avenues to channel that enthusiastic new Christian into.
Let us not be like a company who works hard for their sales but then neglects that new customer as they focus on getting the next new one.  Let’s be like company who tries just as hard to keep their existing clients happy as they did when they first tried to land them.

For Discussion:

1.     Discuss this great example that Paul uses to very effectively argue that the law which came after the promise to Abraham does not cancel God’s promise and does not make us heirs nor justify us but faith in Christ both justifies and makes us heirs.
2.     Read Romans 8:1-17
3.     Today’s scripture touching on covenants makes me think that we in the church should make a covenant with those new to the faith that we will do all we can to help them mature into the Christians they should be.
4.     Discuss how individuals in your group believe Jews today think that the Abrahamic covenant will be fulfilled.
5.     4:4 says in part, “But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son.”  Discuss why people think the time that Jesus came was when it was instead of 2000 years earlier or later.
6.     If time permits, I would suggest a mailing to the participants in your class and if not hand out this question at the very beginning of class to discuss later, “What does 4:6 mean to you personally?”

Upcoming Adult Sunday School Class Commentaries

2-26-12:  Fruits of Redemption Galatians 5:22-6:10
3-4-12:    Wisdom’s Part in Creation (Wisdom’s Origin) Proverbs 8:22-35
3-11-12:  The Word Became Flesh John 1:1-14
3-18-12:  The Wedding at Cana (Water Turned to Wine) John 2:1-12

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved

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