Studies on Galatians

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Studies on Galatians
What are these studies? It’s our hope at Christians in Sport that these studies will either introduce to you for the first time, or help you to get to know better and better the person Jesus Christ. With that in mind there are two things that these studies will aim to do: firstly help you look around the Bible, understand what it’s saying and what it means for you; secondly train you up so that you can start to read the Bible for yourself. These studies will be a bit like a journey, and we want to be good guides for you. Part of the joy of the journey is in discovering things for yourself, so we’ll try and give enough input to keep you from getting lost, but also enough freedom to roam around a bit yourself. Happy travelling! Pete Nicholas Team leader - Adult department

Contents Page 3 Page 5 Page 6 Page 9 Page 12 Page 15 The Game Plan- making the most of these studies Galatians - a general introduction Study 1 Galatians 1:1-10 A return to slavery Study 2 Galatians 1:11-24 A slave’s story Study 3 Galatians 2:1-10 Labouring for freedom Other Christians in Sport study guides

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Studies in Galatians
The game plan - making the most of these studies
How do I use it?
Each study focuses on a particular section of the letter and has comments and questions to help you to find out what the section is saying and how it fits into the letter as a whole, ultimately to help you see how God intends it to affect you. These studies can either be done individually or as a group. Throughout the studies there are also two other sections to help you.

The Big Picture

A while back Vauxhall released their new car the Nova into the Spanish market. After a week or so their sales were at an all time low for the launch of a new vehicle. What had they done wrong? Well the problem was that Nova means ‘doesn’t go’ in Spanish! The context of words and ideas is absolutely crucial to understanding their meaning. The Bible is one book with one story line from beginning to end. The New Testament and what it says, is written with the context of the Old Testament critical to understanding it. That’s why there are so many references to things said and incidents that happened in the Old Testament. This section will take an idea in the passage and give a little bit of the context of the whole Bible. Hopefully as we do this, the words and ideas in the passage will have more meaning and significance and you’ll see how they fit into the whole story.

Coach’s Corner
Without God’s help we are totally unable to hear him speak to us ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts’, (Isaiah 55:8) so we are totally dependent on God to show us what he’s like. However, the Bible is also open for any of us to read and understand ourselves. We all read and understand things written for us every day, and most of the things we find difficult when reading the Bible occur because of different time and culture at the time of it being written. This section is here to help ‘bridge this gap’ so that we can correctly read the Bible and understand it for ourselves. It will give simple skills and tips to do this and will show you how they can be put into practice.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Studies in Galatians
The game plan - making the most of these studies
Studying Individually
• Pray as you start for the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of your heart to understand what the passage says and to want to do something about it. • • • • Read through the passage Work through the study and try to resist skipping bits out As you finish pray in the light of what the Holy Spirit has put on your heart As you get the opportunity, speak to others about what has excited you

Group Studies
Make sure as a leader of the group that you have read through and done the study yourself. Start by saying a prayer asking God to help you as you come to his word. Use the questions to stimulate discussion, remembering that people need time to think. Make sure that you leave time at the end to pray through the different things that God has said to you as you’ve studied and applied the passage.

In a group
• • • It will make a big difference if people have read through the passage before everybody meets You’ll need a group leader who will help everyone to work through the study Use the more open ended questions to stimulate a discussion in the group

Deliberately, there is no ‘answer guide’ – remember the answers are in the text!

Getting Started
Before you kick-off, try to set aside the time to read through the whole of Galatians in one sitting. It shouldn’t take too long. Write down what you think it is about. Try and do this again at the end of the studies to see how far your journey has taken you.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Galatians
General introduction
In the film Shawshank Redemption, where both Red and his friend Andy Dufresne are serving a life sentence in prison, they have the following conversation. Andy Dufresne: That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you... Haven't you ever felt that way about music? Red: I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn't make much sense in here Andy: Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget. Red: Forget? Andy: Forget that... there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone, and that there's something inside that they can't get to, and that they can't touch. It's yours. Red: What're you talking about? Andy: Hope. A lot of what the film is about is that sometimes the real prison and the chains that bind us are not those that we can see. It’s possible for a man to be locked inside the walls of a jail and still be free, just in the same way that men not confined by prison walls can still be enslaved. One day Andy Dufresne steals into the warden’s office and puts on Mozart over the prison’s loudspeakers: Red: I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free. Galatians exposes a reality of freedom and slavery that affects all of us, the freedom that the good news of Jesus Christ brings and its power to see the walls that confine us dissolve away. But what is the nature of this freedom and what is it that threatens to enslave us? These are crucial realities that stir up the apostle Paul’s passions as he writes this letter, and we’ll see that these are truths that significantly impact our lives as well.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

page 5

Study 1
A return to slavery
Pray for God’s help for his word to impact you deeply Read Galatians Chapter 1 verses 1-10

Galatians 1:1-10

Introduction
Galatia is an area in modern day Turkey. Early on in his ministry Paul, one of the Apostles of the early church, founded the church in Galatia. He has since had to move on to other areas but a particular issue arises that prompts him to urgently write this letter. In the first two verses Paul tells us that he’s sent by God as His messenger, and he seems especially concerned to make it clear that he’s not sent by man. In fact it’s not just Paul writing but he says that all the Christians with him also have their signatures at the bottom of the letter, so to speak.

Looking at verses 3-5
1. It was very common to have a greeting at the beginning of a letter, but what particular things stand out from this one?

2. According to verse 4 how is it possible that grace and peace are realities for Christians?

We’ll often hear it said that Jesus saves us from our sins, but we don’t so often hear about Jesus delivering us from ‘this present evil age’. But Paul is insistent that God’s gifts of grace and peace depend on us being rescued in this way. This raises a number of questions that we’ll need to hold on to and seek to answer as we read on: 3. What exactly does this evil age refer to?

4. When are we delivered?

5. Where are we delivered to?

Looking at verses 6-10
6. How are the Galatians undoing Jesus’ rescue?

7. These churches were established by Paul himself so this is a real shock, how has this happened?

8. What does Paul feel about the people who are perverting the gospel?

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 1
A return to slavery
9. How would you react if someone spoke like this in your church?

Galatians 1:1-10

10. Try and explain why Paul is not overreacting.

Straight from the off Paul is using strong words, and is clearly passionately concerned for the Galatians. But it seems that the stakes are just as high as Paul’s emotions – grace, peace and freedom are significant realities. Whatever is going on in the churches in Galatia seems to be threatening the work of Christ in the lives of the people there.

11. Try to summarise in one line what Paul is saying to the Galatians – answering the following questions may help you.

12. What is it that the Galatians are doing that is causing Paul to write this letter?

13. What does this mean for what Christ has done for them?

The Big Picture
‘This evil age’ It seems like a pretty strong phrase to use. We may not like some of the things that happen in the world, but to describe things as ‘this evil age’ is perhaps going a little too far, isn’t it? But this idea is not something new in the Bible. Ever since Adam and Eve first rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden and tried to put themselves as number one in God’s universe, the effects of their sin went deeper and further than just their own lives. We all know in our experience that our actions have effects on the people, culture and environment around us. Similarly the rebellion of mankind in the Garden, led to the whole world being cursed and under God’s judgement (Genesis 3:719). That’s why Paul calls it ‘this evil age’. As the story of the Bible unfolds it becomes clearer and clearer that what is needed is a rescue that doesn’t just deal with our rebellion, but also deals with the effects of our rebellion; we need to be delivered from this age that experiences the consequences of sin.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 1
A return to slavery
Apply
The letter’s just started so we’ll need to delve deeper to see the key things that God is saying to us but stop and think for a moment. 14. From these verses how would you explain what Christ’s death has achieved?

Galatians 1:1-10

15. Has this challenged your view of the cross? If so, how?

16. No one likes conflict in the church and ordinarily we should avoid it, but looking at this passage what should Christians make a stand on?

Pray through the things that God has said to you as you’ve looked at this passage.

Coach’s Corner
17. Dividing up the passage:

One of the things that we all do when reading is recognise when the flow of thought is moving on. Often this is shown to us today by paragraphs or chapter headings. However in the Bible the divisions that we have in our versions (chapters, verses, paragraphs) are put there by those that did the translation, so they may be correct and they may not be. When you come to the Bible try to work out how the thought flow is moving: 18. Where are the big changes in ideas and where are little changes?

19. Where would you put a new paragraph in and where do you think one section ends and another begins?

20. Breaking it up into segments also makes it easier for you to manage and get your teeth into.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 2
A slave’s story
Pray for God to teach you about Himself and yourself as you read Read Galatians Chapter 1 verses 11-24

Galatians 1:11-24

Introduction
Paul has launched straight into his letter and made it clear that there’s only one message (gospel) from God that rescues us from this world. Emotions are running high, and Paul is passionately concerned that the Galatians don’t desert this message. 1. But can Paul back his claims up? How can he prove that his message really is God’s gospel?

2. What are the things that Paul points to as evidence for this claim?

Evidence Exhibit A
Paul has certainly had a pretty radical change of direction in his life, let’s look at this and then try to work out why it happened. 3. Try and fill out the following table: What was Paul like before? (vs 13-14) What was Paul like after? (vs 23-24)

4. What reason does Paul give for this turnaround?

5. What was it specifically that changed him?

I find that I too easily forget that the message is really a person – Jesus Christ. It was God showing Paul what Jesus is really like that transformed Paul. Similarly we need to remember that ultimately we’re not taking to people arguments, philosophies, or ways to live, but a person – Jesus Christ.

Apply
6. Think for a moment about how you talk to people about the message of Christianity. Is what you present them with a person or something else?

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 2
A slave’s story Galatians 1:11-24

7. Why not pray for an opportunity even today to start to explain to someone what Jesus is really like?

Evidence Exhibit B
Wouldn’t you have loved to see the first meeting of Paul and Peter? Peter’s eyes must have been on stalks as the man that once did everything in his power to destroy the Christian church is there meeting him face to face.

8. What is the point that Paul is making from verses 16, 17, 19 and 22?

9. Do a bit of cross-examination of your witness… If Paul didn’t speak to any of the apostles then what does this say about the message that he’s preaching?

10. Why do you think Paul is so keen to emphasize this?

The Big Picture
The gospel is about the person Jesus Christ. When I first arrived at university I remember getting hopelessly lost trying to find the books for my reading list. Growing up I’d spent all my time playing sport, and I think it was the first time I’d ever stepped foot in a library. My problem, apart from being a bit of a thick rugby player, was that I didn’t know which section each of the books was to be found in. Similarly many people seem to expect the Bible to be in the wrong section of the library. It’s often treated as a science textbook, or perhaps a moral handbook, and whilst it may have important things to say about these areas, it is first and foremost an autobiography. It’s a book written by God about Himself. In fact the whole history related throughout the Bible is brought about by God’s will and power to show us what he’s really like. So first and foremost when coming to the Bible we should ask – what does it tell me about God? In the New Testament Jesus makes an astonishing claim. He says when talking about the whole Old Testament ‘These are the scriptures that testify about me’ (John 5:39). The Bible is clear that God perfectly reveals himself through his perfect servant Jesus Christ. So many problems in understanding the Bible come from treating a book about God as though it’s a book about something else. If we take God’s word on its own terms then we’ll be thrilled by it as he shows us what he’s really like, and what could be more amazing than finding out about the King of the Universe?

Apply
This issue of whether or not Paul’s message is from God or is merely his own invention is so important today. Many people still claim that Paul’s particular ‘version’ of Christianity is not what Jesus taught. 10. From what you’ve seen in this passage, how would you respond to them?

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 2
A slave’s story Galatians 1:11-24

In the Western World we live in an age when the only thing that isn’t tolerated is apparent ‘intolerance’ of others’ ideas. Paul certainly seems pretty insistent that there’s only one true message of Jesus Christ and this appears intolerant to those that say otherwise.

11. Why don’t you do the same in prayer now?

12. How does understanding that the gospel is really about a person help explain why there can’t be lots of different Christian messages?

13. How do the churches in Judea respond when they hear about Paul (vs 24)?

Coach’s Corner
The Bible is God’s word for us today. True, it was written by men to address particular issues at the time, but through this God speaks to us in the here and now. That’s why Paul can write in his first letter to the Corinthians when talking about an incident from Exodus “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warning for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11). He is saying that the incident in Exodus was written for us, today. Similarly the writer of Hebrews when he quotes the Old Testament (e.g. in chapters 1 and 2) writes ‘God says’ or ‘Jesus says’, implying that God is speaking to us in the here and now. So when reading the Bible it is important to try and work out what the passage is saying to me as I live today. There’s more to be said on this but a great place to start is just by asking the following three questions: What does it say? (Eyes down and look for what the passage is saying – not what we might want it to say!) What does it mean? (Do you understand all the words; can you put it in your own words?) What does it mean to me? I find it’s easy to change the last question into ‘what do I want it to mean to me?’ We’ll look at how to work out the meaning for us today in the next coach’s corner. 14. Why don’t you look back at the study you’ve just done and try the three questions above on it?

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

page

Study 3
Labouring for freedom
Pray for the Holy Spirit to make God’s word real to you as you look at it now Read Galatians Chapter 2 verses 1-10

Galatians 2:1-10

Introduction
So far we’ve seen that Galatians is a letter full of emotion. The Apostle Paul hasn’t wasted any time or spared any blushes as he’s got straight into what he’s going to say. Paul is crystal clear that there’s only one divine gospel that will deliver us from what he calls ‘this evil age’, which is why that he’s so concerned that the Galatians don’t desert this message. To back this up he’s just shown that the message he speaks is God’s gospel, by pointing to the amazing turnaround in his life and the fact that he didn’t speak to any of the other Apostles – so he couldn’t have heard it from them.

Coach’s Corner
Last time in Coach’s Corner we saw that God speaks to us today through the Bible. To help us understand what he’s saying we can ask three questions: What does it say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me? To help us get the answer to the final question though we need to be able to understand what is going on at the time that it was written – the context of the letter. Galatians is a letter, in which it is really important to understand the context, because so much of it is talking about things that are going on as Paul writes. Now it sometimes helps to have a bit of general knowledge about life in the first century, but reassuringly all that we need to know we can get from the Bible. So let’s try to work out what’s going on.

Context
1. Try to write out a brief timeline of Paul’s life from the information in the first two chapters of Galatians (the first bit is started for you), write down timeframes where possible.

Paul converted (Damascus)

Paul goes to Arabia

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 3
Labouring for freedom
Paul returns to Damascus

Galatians 2:1-10

(Large aspects of Paul’s life are also carefully recorded in Acts, so if you have the time you can study that alongside Galatians to work out what he did and when he did it (Acts 9 until the end of the book))

Fourteen years or so after Paul’s initial visit to Jerusalem, he returns ‘in response to a revelation’ (Gal 2:2). Look at Acts 11:22-10 to work out what this ‘revelation’ was about. So Paul is almost certainly taking money to Judea and specifically Jerusalem, from Antioch. But there’s another reason that he’s going… Paul has been preaching God’s gospel revealed to him through Jesus Christ for nearly twenty years but he seems unsure about the Apostles at the moment – though he knows that they are reputed to be ‘pillars of the church’. 2. What do you think his fear of ‘running in vain’ (vs 1-2) means?

3. What would be the effect on Paul’s work if the Apostles had been telling people something different?

4. So if things were a little bit cagey at first, how would you describe the result of Paul’s meeting with the Apostles? (vs 6-10) Something else happens whilst Paul is up in Jerusalem, and he clearly thinks that it’s important enough to be mentioned in this letter.

5. Try to explain the incident in verses 3-4 in your own words (the following questions may help)

Who’s involved?

What did these ‘false brothers’ want Titus to do?

Why do you think Paul calls them ‘false brothers’?

6. Titus is Greek by birth and so, though a Christian, wouldn’t have been circumcised as part of the Jewish religion. Why doesn’t Paul allow Titus to be circumcised, what would be the effect on the Galatians?

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Study 3
Labouring for freedom
Pulling the threads together
Paul says that he didn’t give in to the ‘false brothers’ because he wanted the truth of the gospel to remain with the Galatians… 7. What is the link between this and why Paul met with the Apostles in Jerusalem?

Galatians 2:1-10

To help you think this through, imagine the effect on Paul’s gospel had the Apostles’ message contradicted it. 8. So how would you describe Paul’s number one concern from these verses?

Apply
Paul’s single mindedness is quite incredible isn’t it? He’s absolutely dedicated to guarding the gospel message and making sure that nobody or nothing changes it. 9. The Bible challenges our attitudes and values. Stop and think through the priorities and concerns that you have. How would your life look different if you had the passions that Paul has?

10. Reflect and pray it through. How is the Holy Spirit prompting you to be different in the light of this?

Pray for strength and God’s help to become the person he wants you to be.

The Big Picture
Jews and Gentiles – God and his people It can often seem strange to a Western mindset, but most of the Bible story is really the history of God with his chosen people; the Israelites. He forms binding relationships with them (covenants), tells them how they are to live in all areas of their lives (principally the Law to Moses), speaks to them (prophets) and much, much more. Throughout this long history between God and the Israelites, he remains committed to them as his ‘special people’. But God’s intention was always bigger than just one small nation. In fact God intended that the Jews, living out their relationship with God, would have such attractive lives that all the surrounding nations would also come into a relationship with God. You see God also has a concern for all the non-Jewish nations (the Gentiles) (Acts 17:15-18). This sets up a real issue that caused a lot of problems in the early church. The Jews had always been ‘separate’ from the non-Jewish nations around them: Just for the Apostles to really get that the gospel was for Gentiles as well was tough enough! But how on earth are the two people groups going to get on? So many issues arise from this, but the biggest one seems to be what about the Law that God gave to Moses telling the Jews how to live. Surely any Gentile ‘believer’ must keep this as this is the bedrock for the Jewish way of life… Galatians has a lot to say on this issue.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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Other studies

Other studies available via the Christians in Sport website
How to lead a bible study Unsure how to understand the Bible? Eager to put its teaching into practice? Fed up with dry, unhelpful studies? This short brief is designed to help you better understand the Bible, and communicate its teaching, whether in a small group or one-to-one, or as you read it on your own. Evangelism training Do you feel ill-equipped to explain the good news of Jesus to your friends, or would like a refresher course? Maybe you think that your group could do with some further training? These notes look through giving your testimony, explaining the gospel, the Christian lifestyle, and are highly recommended as group activities. Answering tough questions These studies look at the most frequently asked questions about Christianity and the Bible - regarding sex before marriage, suffering, homosexuality, the resurrection, science and God, other religions, and more. These can be done as a series, or one-off addressing a specific issue; in a group or with a friend who has those questions. Daniel studies 1 & 2 These brief monthly studies are aimed to encourage and equip you to think through what it means to represent Christ in your sport and club. Taking just a few minutes to read, they should stimulate your thoughts, and hopefully affect your actions. 1 Thessalonians - gospel words, gospel work You have the excitement of a brand-new church, yet you're mocked and laughed at for being a Christian. How does a Christian live and flourish in an environment where sex, prestige and fun are the most important experiences? This series of nine study outlines looks at the commitment produced by the gospel in a variety of forms, and can be used in groups, pairs or on your own. 1 Peter A journey through Peter's first letter to a persecuted and scattered group of Christians. Ten studies for group use. These studies come with both meeting outlines and leaders' notes, and are especially useful for those not accustomed to leading small groups. 2 Timothy Good leadership is very important as we try to expand the gospel in the world of sport. But what does that look like? Are we to be extroverted or level headed, talented Bible teachers or dynamic in personalities? What does a godly leader look like? Whether you find yourself in a position of leadership or are pondering who to appoint, this short study in 2 Timothy lays out Paul's priorities in choosing and appointing godly gospel leaders.

Studies on Galatians (Pete Nicholas ©2006)

Christians in Sport, Frampton House, Victoria Road, Bicester, Oxon, OX26 6PB

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