Galatians Bible Study Week 2 {3-4}

Another great discussion!  Please feel free to answer the discussion questions in the comment section.


Paul’s Letter to the Galatians
Week 2 {chapters 3-4}

Galatians 3:1-14

Work vs. Spirit

Frustrated with the Galatians

  • 3:1 – Paul called the Galatians “irrational” and “foolish”
  • In previous chapters, Paul showed his frustrations towards the Jewish Christians who were coercing the Galatians, but here indicates that the Galatians are not without fault.

God’s law vs. man’s law

  • 3:3 – “Are you so irrational?  After you started with the Spirit, are you now finishing up with your own human effort?
  • Paul implies that the Galatians first came to Christ through the spirit and now they are abandoning the spirit for man-made laws and customs

We keep falling back on making rules

  • 3:4 – “Did you experience so much for nothing?
  • The people in this community experienced a powerful conversion – was it all for nothing now that they were adopting Jewish customs?
  • Depending on law vs. faith à Sue used the example of someone recovering from a leg/foot/ankle injury using a crutch.  At what point do you stop depending on your crutches or scooter and trust your body?
  • We need to trust God and not depend on something manufactured, like the law

Abraham: an example of righteousness

  • 3:6-9
  • Interesting that Paul uses the example of Abraham in his argument when speaking to Gentiles – as non-Jews, Abraham’s legacy shouldn’t mean much to them!  This comes up again.  We have to remember, however, that Paul did not have the New Testament to point to – all he could do was point to the Jewish scriptures


  • 3:10 – “All those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone is cursed who does not keep on doing all the things that have been written in the Law scroll.
  • Again, pointing to the Old Testament, but Paul eludes here that the Jewish law is a curse to those who follow it.
  • Other translations use the word “curse” to describe the law.

Law vs. Chaos

  • 3:10-14
  • Paul uses Old Testament references to describe the differences between righteousness of law vs. righteousness of faith.
  • Put yourselves in the shoes of the Galatians – without law, would there be chaos?  The law protects us from the unknown.

Galatians 3:15-25

Human experience

  • 3:18 – “If the inheritance were based upon the law, it would no longer be from the promise.  But God has given it graciously to Abraham through a promise.”
  • Abraham was not following Jewish Law (and was not circumcised) when God revealed himself to him.  God was not revealed to Abraham through the law, God was revealed to Abraham through the spirit.
  • The promise comes from God and not from the law.

The laws origin and purpose

  • 3:19-24
  • 3:19 – “So why was the Law given?
  • 3:21 – “So, is the Law against the promises of God?  Absolutely not!”
  • This brings up some sticky issues.  It would be easy for Jewish Christians to think, “Where we living a lie?  Where our ancestors living a lie?  What did we do all this work when now you are saying new converts do not have to do the same?”  Paul is not saying that the entire Jewish tradition was pointless.  He was just saying that the promises of faith give us more than the promises of the law.

No longer trapped

  • 3:25 – “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.”
  • It is not that the law is bad, but there is a freedom that comes with faith that we never had access to before.

Galatians 3:26-4:7

All one in Christ Jesus

  • 3:28-29 – “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”
  • This could have been written in direct response to claims from Jewish Christians that the Gentiles needed to adhere to Law in order to be in relationship with Christ.  Paul is saying that now there are multiple ways to get to Christ – it is not just about the law.

Law vs. slavery

  • 4:1 – “I’m saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no difference from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything.
  • Paul compares being under the law to being a slave.
  • 4:1-7 – we are no longer slaves, now we are children of God, just like Jesus

Galatians 4:8-20

We didn’t know better then – now we do

  • 4:8-10
  • It was one thing to follow the law when we did not know any better – but we know better now because of Jesus!  Do we want to – willingly – be slaves again to the law?

Was Paul’s hard work for nothing?

  • 4:11 – “I’m afraid for you!  Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing.”
  • Paul spent a lot of time with the Galatians when “The Mission” first started.  Was that hard work for nothing?  Was there hope for this community?

Paul’s first experience with the Galatians

  • 4:12-16
  • We find out in this section that the first time Paul was in Galatian, he was there for an extended period of time because of an illness.  Paul implies that he was very well-cared for at this point and that the community was extremely positive during his time there.  Is he feeling betrayed or upset that their attitude seems to have changed?

The enemy

  • 4:17 – “They are so concerned about you, though not with good intentions.  Rather, they want to shut you out so that you would run after them.”
  • A direct reference to Jewish Christians trying to coerce the community to follow the law.  Paul implies that they want to guilt the Galatians into following them.

How much Paul cares for the Galatians

  • 4:19-20 – “My little children, I’m going through labor pains again until Christ is formed in you.  But I wish I could be with you now and change how I sound, because I’m at a loss about you.
  • This is personal for Paul.
  • Other translations for “at a loss about you” say “stand in doubt” and “perplexed” – all strong statements.

Galatians 4:21-31

The problem of Islam vs. Christianity

  • 4:21-31
  • This has the potential to be troublesome – Paul talks about Abraham again and the son of Hagar vs. the son of Sarah, Ishmael vs. Isaac.  Christians could now point to this and make a scriptural argument against Islam.  BUT it is important to remember that Paul wrote these words before Islam existed.  His point was more to say that we are all descendants of Abraham and that we are free in faith, like Sarah was free (and not trapped in slavery with the law, like Hagar was trapped in slavery).

We are free

  • 4:21-5:1 – “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we aren’t the slave woman’s children, but we are the free woman’s children.  Christ has set us free for freedom.  Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.”
  • Paul does not want us to be trapped in slavery – he wants us to be free within our own faith.

Discussion Questions

  • Are we free in our own faith today?
  • How has the institutionalization of denominations and churches “trapped” us against the things Paul talks about?
  • Is there room for both law AND faith within the Body of Christ?
  • Why do we fall back on the law?

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