All one in Christ Jesus

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Freedom in Christ
Study 4 - All one in Christ Jesus - Galatians 3.23-29

Welcome

Describe a time when you have been in a mixed group of people, different ages/ backgrounds/ nationalities, and had a wonderful time. Any funny stories?

Worship

Make a collage of pictures of different people who are one in Christ & give thanks!

Pre-preparation: ask members to bring a photo of themselves & create a collage
OR gather magazines with pictures of people that can be cut out
Have a large sheet of paper, scissors and glue!

Word – Study 4 – Lighter Bite & Main Meal

For the Lighter Bite – use only Questions 1, 2, 3, 4

For Main Meal – use Questions 1 to 4, and add in Questions 5, 6, 7, 8

  1. Recap the studies so far, so that people can follow Paul’s line of thinking.

You may like to read this to the group, or better, to discuss the story so far using open questions.

1.1 People have become Christians from all backgrounds. Some have a Jewish upbringing, such as Paul himself. They will have followed the Jewish law (Torah), if male will have been circumcised as a mark of being Hebrew people, have honoured Abraham and Moses, and been careful to follow the law, eg. around food and eating.

1.2 Some have a Gentile background, which could be Greek, and heathen or pagan, with the worship of other gods, such as Zeus or Hermes (Acts 14.11-13), or statues made of gold, silver, stone (Acts 17.16, 22-24, 29).

1.3 Paul came from being a Jewish Rabbi, a Pharisee, who knew and obeyed Torah carefully, and put believers in Jesus of Nazareth (members of ‘the Way’) into prison. His life was turned around when his journey to Damascus was interrupted by Jesus.

1.4 Paul writes to the Galatian churches because he is anxious that they have been side-tracked from their Christian understanding of the gospel. Instead of living confidently in their understanding of ‘justification by faith in Jesus’, they are under pressure to observe religious laws and go backwards, to try to ‘earn’ God’s love.

Remind each other of the key themes – justification, freedom from / freedom to

Today’s study emphasises that all Christians are on a level place before Jesus and his Cross. We are equal, whatever our background, ability or talents.

  1. Under the Law – explore Paul’s argument.

Read Galatians 3.23

Paul speaks very strongly about life before having faith in Jesus. What does he say? What does he mean? If you look up the Old Testament law, you may see where the idea of prison comes from. Read Deuteronomy 27.26

The reason for this is that no-one is able to keep all the law perfectly. Law both reveals our sin, and may provoke us to sin: Read Galatians 4.3, Romans 7.7-8

Read Galatians 3.24

So what, therefore, was the point of the Jewish Law?

Paul explains that it was a guardian, ‘baby-sitter’, or supervisor, taking care of God’s people until the people could be led to Jesus Christ. If it helps, read out William Barclay’s commentary:

‘In the Greek world there was a household servant called the paidagogos. He was not the schoolmaster. He was usually an old and trusted slave who had been in the family for a long time and who was well respected. He was in charge of the children’s moral welfare, and it was his duty to see that they acquired the qualities essential to mature adulthood. He had one particular duty: every day he had to take the children to and from school. He had nothing to do with the actual teaching of the children, but it was his duty to take them in safety to the school and deliver them to the teacher. That – said Paul – was like the function of the law. It was there to lead people to Christ. It could not take them into Christ’s presence, but it could take them into a position where they might enter for themselves. It was the function of the law to bring men and women to Christ by showing them that by themselves they were quite unable to keep it. But, once people had come to Christ, they no longer needed the law, for now they were dependent not on law but on grace.’

From William Barclay ‘The Letters to Galatians and Ephesians’ © 2002 page 37-8

Read Galatians 3.25

What has ended the dire imprisonment? How could you explain this to a friend?

Some definitions of faith (can you offer your own?)

  • putting your trust in something you cannot see or handle but which is true
  • forsaking all I trust him
  • taking God at his word and living by it
  • your group definition or explanation?
  1. Sons and daughters of God

Read Galatians 3.26

As a group, gather all the ideas that you can muster around the theme of sons and daughters of God – being children of God – means? eg. legal heirs, family life,  

Use post-it notes, or lining paper, whatever enables the group to think freely.

Please be aware that some members of the group may have had poor experiences of childhood or of parenting, which may colour their perceptions. Be sensitive. It is still a good idea to gather the best thinking we can, it is an encouragement.

Please have a word with Marion if you have any concerns.

  1. All one in Christ Jesus

Finally, read Galatians 3.28

‘The ground is even at the foot of the Cross’

We are not all the same – our human identity is important – but we are all equal.

This whole letter is about the Gentile Christians remaining with their Gentile culture, and not adopting a Jewish culture. Paul elsewhere also speaks of the differences between male and female (Ephesians 5.21-23), master and slave (Ephesians 6.5-9). Please note that this can be interpreted in a modern day workplace, boss and employee.

The reason we are equal is because of what Christ has done for us. None of us can earn our relationship with God, it is all of grace. We are on a level playing field.

God is seeking our response!

How does this challenge us? Discuss the impact, and move into the Witness section.

Witness

We find it easier to talk about unity than live unity! That is why Jesus prayed for this in his final days (see John 17.20-23).

Seek one opportunity to get to know a Christian of another style or persuasion.

Listen carefully to them, pray for them, and enjoy the shared faith.

Read John 13.34-35 aloud

Say the grace together.

Word – Study 4 – Main Meal – supplementary questions for a longer study

Please end with Witness (see above)

  1. To discuss with Question 2 above, the difference between the Promise & law

Promise to Abraham – Read Genesis 12.1-3; 15.1-6

This was one-sided, a covenant, God gives & Abraham receives by faith

The Law to Moses – Read Exodus 20

This was two-sided, God set commands and the people were to obey

  1. Discussion about sons and daughters of God with Question 3 above

Jesus taught his disciples to be intimate with God, whom he prayed to as ‘Abba’ (Aramaic for father).  Read Luke 11.1-13; Mark 14.32-38. How do these descriptions of our relationship with God make a difference, and how can we share this?

  1. Baptised into Christ - Read Galatians 3.27

What does this mean to you? How does the baptismal imagery demonstrate the difference about being made new as a Christian. You may like to refer also to Romans 6.3, Colossians 2.12.

  1. All one in Christ Jesus, with Question 4 above – Read Galatians 3.28

In our human frailty, we do have a tendency to look down on other cultures. If you have time, and it seems useful for your group, remind yourself of the Gospel accounts of the pride of the religious person.

Luke 7.36-50 & Luke 18.9-14 & Matthew 7.1-5

There was a prayer that Jews would say ‘thank you God that you have not made me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.’ Does this make sense of the Gospel stories above?

You may like to consider this topic as a focus for repentance, that many Christians get stuck in a self-righteous rut, are judgemental of others, and do not demonstrate a freedom in Christ!  Why is this? You might easily follow this up in the next study. 

Finally, a quote from Marcus Barth (not Karl Barth):

‘Justification in Christ is thus not an individual miracle happening to this or that person, which each may seek or possess for himself. Rather, justification by grace is a joining together of this person, or that person, of the near and the far, of the good and the bad, of the high and the low. It is a social event. No one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbour. According to Paul, for the Jew the primary neighbour is the Gentile; for the Gentile it is the Jew.’

cited in Cousar, the Letters of Paul © 1996.Page 84

Marion de Quidt, May 2016