Paul’s brief sketch of Israel’s history was designed to counter the arguments made by his opponents who claimed that they were the true descendants of Abraham and that Jerusalem—the center of Jewish Christianity and the law—was their mother. The Gentiles, they charged, were illegitimate; if they wanted to become true followers of Christ, they must first become a son of Abraham by submitting to the law of circumcision. 1
The truth, Paul says, is the opposite. These legalists are not the [...]
What type of covenant relationship did God want to establish with His people at Sinai? What similarities does it share with God’s promise to Abraham? Exod. 6:2–8, 19:3–6, Deut. 32:10–12. 1
God desired to share the same covenant relationship with the children of Israel at Sinai that He shared with Abraham. In fact, similarities exist between God’s words to Abraham inGenesis 12:1–3 and His words to Moses in Exodus 19. In both cases, God emphasizes what He will do for His people. He does not ask the [...]
Why does Paul have such a disparaging view of the incident with Hagar? Gal. 4:21–31, Genesis 16. What crucial point about salvation is Paul making through his use of this Old Testament story? 1
Hagar’s place in the Genesis story is directly related to Abram’s failure to believe God’s promise. As an Egyptian slave in Abram’s household, Hagar likely came into Abram’s possession as one of the many gifts Pharaoh gave to him in exchange for Sarai, an event associated with Abram’s first act of [...]
What covenant promises did God make to Abram in Genesis 12:1–5? What was Abram’s response? 1
God’s initial promises to Abram make up one of the more powerful passages in the Old Testament. These verses all are about God’s grace. It is God, not Abram, who makes the promises. Abram had done nothing to earn or merit God’s favor, neither is there any indication that suggests that God and Abram had somehow worked together to come up with this agreement. God does all [...]
Many regard Paul’s interpretation of the history of Israel in Galatians 4:21–31 as the most difficult passage in his letter. That’s because it is a highly complex argument that requires a broad knowledge of Old Testament persons and events. The first step in making sense of this passage is to have a basic understanding of an Old Testament concept central to Paul’s argument: the concept of the covenant. 1
The Hebrew word translated “covenant” is berit. It occurs nearly three hundred times in the [...]
Read for This Week’s Study:
Gal. 4:21–31; Gen. 1:28; 2:2, 3; 3:15; 15:1–6; Exod. 6:2–8; 19:3–6.
“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:26)
Christians who reject the authority of the Old Testament often see the giving of the law on Sinai as inconsistent with the gospel. They conclude that the covenant given on Sinai represents an era, a dispensation, from a time in human history when salvation was based on obedience to the law. But because the people failed to live [...]
“In the Galatian churches, open, unmasked error was supplanting the gospel message. Christ, the true foundation of the faith, was virtually renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism. The apostle saw that if the believers in Galatia were saved from the dangerous influences which threatened them, the most decisive measures must be taken, the sharpest warnings given.
“An important lesson for every minister of Christ to learn is that of adapting his labors to the condition of those whom he seeks [...]
I was a religious and political leader in my village in western India. The people in the village looked up to me. I had a good-paying job selling alcohol, and I tasted plenty of alcohol myself. But in spite of my standing in the village, I felt spiritually unfulfilled.
Then one day an Adventist pastor visited the village. I’d never heard of Adventists before, but this pastor went from home to home sharing God’s love with us. I listened with [...]
Read Galatians 4:16. What powerful point is Paul making there? In what ways might you yourself have experienced something similar? (See also John 3:19; Matt. 26:64, 65; Jer. 36:17–23.)
The expression “speaking the truth” often has negative connotations, especially in our day and age, when it can be viewed as a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred, spare-no-enemies tactic of telling someone the facts, no matter how unpleasant or unwanted they may be. If it were not for Paul’s comments in Galatians 4:12–20 and [...]
Paul’s relationship with the Galatian believers was not always as difficult and frigid as it has now become. In fact, as Paul reflects on the time when he first preached the gospel in Galatia, he speaks in glowing terms of how well they treated him. What happened? 1
What event seems to have led to Paul’s decision to preach the gospel in Galatia? Gal. 4:13.
Apparently it had not been Paul’s original intention to preach the gospel in Galatia. Some sort [...]