Keeping within the lines 1
Darcy and Danielle laid out the pictures on the table next to the box of crayons. Darcy’s picture was of a giraffe surrounded by trees with a monkey peering around the giraffe’s neck. Danielle’s was of a picnic table in a forest, loaded with pineapples, bananas, and other tropical fruit with a big bird posed on one end of the table.
Before Dad left them to their coloring, he said, “Keep within the lines, do you understand?”
The girls nodded. “We understand.”
“The lines are there to help you build a beautiful picture. Don’t go outside the lines.”
“Okay, Daddy.” “Sure, Daddy.”
When Dad came back much later his daughters were past being eager to show him what they had done. They insisted that he carefully view each picture and each girl pushed hers on top so he would see it first.
Both girls had kept within the lines. In Darcy’s picture the colors were drawn inside and very close to the lines but never across them. The page was neat and orderly. Danielle’s picture was different. She had scribbled all the crayon marks—never outside the line but not in a neat and orderly way. In short, the page was a mess.
Dad cleared his throat. “I see you both listened to me,” he said. “You both kept your crayons within the line. But Danielle,” he continued, “what were you trying to do?”
With a slight smirk, Danielle tossed her blonde curls and said, “I wanted to show you that staying within the lines doesn’t always make a pretty picture.” Then she grinned at him. “Does it, Daddy?”
[Discussion for The Road to Faith November 9, 2011]
1. The letter of the law. How do you think we should regard God’s moral law in our Christian life? Should we comply with the law in every possible way? Should we not worry very much about the law and think instead about what gives us happiness? As long as we do not openly disobey the law, is our behavior acceptable to God? Does breaking God’s law have the same short-term and long-term effect on Christians as on non-Christians? Do we have more freedom within the law than without it? Explain.
2. Law and promise. Why was Paul so emphatic in denying opposition between the law and the promises of God? (Gal 3:21). Isn’t the law negative and the promises positive? Doesn’t the law bring death and the promises life? How can these two aspects of salvation be perceived as being in perfect harmony? What is the role of the law in your life as a Christian? How do the promises of God affect your willingness to obey the law? How is your friendship with Jesus affected by your attitude towards His commands?
3. Under the law. Your lesson guide points out that Paul uses the phrase “under the law” twelve times in his New Testament writings. What does the phrase mean to you? That you are judged by how you regard and keep the law? That the law will guide you to salvation? Explain. Can you keep the law of God without God living within you? Can you have salvation without the law? Does the law belong in your heart, along with your acceptance of God’s salvation? How does that work?
4. Adding the law. Paul says the law was added because of transgressions. Whose transgressions? Hasn’t the law of love always existed? In what sense was it added? How is Galatians 3:19-24 interpreted by people who do not accept the seventh day of the week as Sabbath? Can you accept alternate meanings for the word “kept,” such as “guarded” as well as “protected” and “enclosed?” Is Paul talking about the Ten Commandments or the ceremonial laws in Galatians 3? Or both? How were the ceremonial laws predictive of the Savior? Did the Jewish people of Old Testament days understand the promise of a coming Messiah?
5. Guarded by the law. When I was a missionary in Zambia I often visited Victoria Falls. Although the falls were foreboding—and gorgeous—at that time there were no fences or guard rails on the Zambian side of the falls. One slip and you could be headed hundreds of feet down the falls. Is the moral law something like that? Keep it or die? Or is the law like a fence that keeps us from taking that one step? Does God step in and show us how to keep His law for our own protection? How does He do that? Does He ever give up showing us bit by bit the way we should live? Do you appreciate the guardianship of God expressed in His law of love and mercy?
6. Paul and the law. How can some read Galatians 3 and get the idea that Paul was a “free Christian” who did not accept the moral law? What impression do you receive about Paul’s view of the law in Romans 8? Did Paul accept the concept that he was free, enjoying ultimate freedom through the grace of God? What is the relationship between God’s grace and our sins? Are you bound by sin? Can God’s grace release you? Does the law of God assist in the process of obtaining salvation? How? Would Paul agree?