Works-righteousness, Luther said, is the default mode of the human heart.
Instead of resting in God’s love and approval of me,
I am constantly building my own righteousness.
I want to have
(are my children behaving well in front of others?)
(are my books selling well?)
(is my home impressively clean and beautiful?)
(Are others raising their hands in worship?
Perhaps I should too, though it is not how I usually worship.)
Who will deliver me?
In Galatians 4, Paul presents the dicey story of
Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham.
He uses it as an allegory to help us understand
the difference between religion and the gospel,
or, to put it another way,
the difference between being an orphan or a true son.
It is a bit of a brain-twister, but the late John Stott, one of my great heroes,
is going to help us get it.
Stott has been credited by Keller as the founder of evangelicalism,
and by Christianity Today as the leading teacher of evangelicals.
He has a wonderful guide on Galatians:
turns the light on.
Three religions claim Abraham as their father:
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
But Stott says, “The real question is: who is your mother?”
Once you get this allegory,
it can truly help free you of all kinds of chains
and to live,
not for the praise of man,
but to glorify the God who loves and saves you.
This can restore the joy you once had.
Paul asks, in this chapter:
“What happened to all your joy?”
For the Galatians had reverted,
as we all do, to works-righteousness.
(We won’t get to this important passage until Wednesday,
for we must look at two extremely important truths first.)
1.What stands out to you from the above?
2. What kinds of righteousness are you vulnerable to rather than trusting Christ’s righteousness? (See my various forms of “works-righteousness.”)
Monday: In Christ There is No Male Nor Female
Before we dive into the very meaty Galatians 4, I don’t want to jump over this important verse for those who are often treated as lesser by cultures.
Having come to Christ as an adult, I was a bit shocked at the way women seemed to be viewed in my church, which is not, I know, how Christ viewed women, but how that Christian culture viewed women. It wasn’t true of everyone, but it was true of many in leadership and many of the women themselves. They felt women should not be in leadership except with women and children. They couldn’t be the treasurer, a worship leader, or hold any leadership role over men. I’m not going to try to tackle some of the thorny passages, but to say it is obviously complicated, for God did call women to be leaders in biblical days, including teaching men — yet, there are passages that make you think they shouldn’t teach or be in authority. So this is a paradox that I will address another time.
What I want to do today is to have you see that the Lord doesn’t see us as lesser, and to show you how Jesus consistently treated women in a culture that consistently thought of them as lesser. This is all part of helping the penny drop to our hearts on how deeply loved we are as His children.
3. In the following passages, Jesus consistently stood against that culture’s treatment of women. See if you can discover how:
A. The needs of men were given priority over the needs of women. See Luke 8:40-56 to see how Jesus saw this.
B. Women were told not to sit at the feet of a Rabbi. See Luke 11:38-42 to see what Jesus did.
C. Women were considered unable to understand deep theological truths. See John 11:21-27.
D. A rabbi did not usually speak to a woman directly. See John 4:27
4. Our culture has its own prejudices against women. But do you truly believe that Jesus values you as much as He values men? Why or why not?
Tuesday: What Happened To All Your Joy?
I believe there are two ways to lose your joy: legalism (which Paul addresses here) and antinomianism (meaning against the law) which is addressed in other passages. Tertullion, an early church father, used this graphic picture: The gospel is continually being crucified between two thieves: legalism and antinomianism. I know I can, as David did (see Psalm 51:12) lose my joy by going against the moral law, but that when I truly repent, God will restore my joy. But if I believe that God has stopped loving me because of my sin, I have fallen off on the side of legalsim. I did nothing to earn God’s love and I can do nothing to lose it.
5. Read Galatians 4:8-20
A. What two questions does Paul ask in verse 9?
B. How does legalism or works-righteousness enslave you?
C. According to verse 14, how did the Galatians first treat Paul and why?
D. What two questions does he ask in verses 15 and 16?
6. How would you assess your joy? If you have lost it, why do you think you have? (Important to ponder!)
Wednesday: We Are Sons of Abraham!
I am assuming you know the story of Sarah and Hagar, but if you do not, read Genesis 16 and Genesis 18:1-15.
7. For context, read John 8:31-41.
A. What does Jesus tell the Jews in verse 32? And how do they respond in verse 33?
B. Why does Jesus call them Abraham’s descendants rather than Abraham’s sons?
8. Now, turn to Galatians 4:21-23
A. How many sons did Abraham have and who were their mothers?
B. What was the difference between the sons of these two mothers?
Thursday: Who Is Your Mother?
John Stott asks this penetrating question in his Galatian’s guide: Who is your mother? Sarah or Hagar?
9. Read Galatians 4:24-26 (The brain-twister!)
A. What covenant does Hagar’s son represent and why?
B. What covenant does Sarah’s son represent and why?
10. Go back to Galatians 3:2-3. Here Paul expresses this same truth plainly. What does he say?
11. John Stott said the real question is not who our father is (for 3 major religions claim Abraham as their father: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity), but rather, who is your mother? What does he mean?
12. Who is your mother and why do you say that?
Friday: Rejoice Oh Barren Woman
In biblical culture, a barren woman carried shame, for child-bearing was how a woman found value. In the world’s culture today, beauty, youth, and power give a woman value. But we have our own artificial standards in the Christian culture as well. There may be pressure to be a “Proverbs 31 woman.” Are we amazing homemakers who are sewing our clothes, baking our bread, and working late into the night? (This is another whole study in itself, but I’ve seen how that chapter has been used to bind women in various ways, when instead, it is a picture of a beautiful composite woman — perhaps a picture of the bride of Christ.) There are other forms of legalism for Christian women that have crept insidiously into our culture: a rejection of any kind of schooling other than homeschooling, a rejection of any kind of medicine other than herbs and homeopathic remedies, and a rejection of any secular books or music. These are burdens that the culture, not Jesus, puts on us — stealing our freedom.
13. Have you experienced the slavery of artificial “Christian” standards put on you? If so, share. If not, share how you have been kept free.
14. Read Galatians 4:27. What does it say and what does it mean? Translate it to our culture.
The next passage is very interesting. John Stott explains that often our persecution comes not from the world, but from the church, because we are not living up to their self-imposed standards. It could be anything from immunizing our children to raising our hands in worship.
15. Read Galatians 4:28-31
A. How did the son of the slave woman (Ishmael) persecute the son of the free woman (Isaac). What parallel is Paul making?
B. Have you ever judged a sister in Christ unfairly for not living as you feel is best, but is not prescribed by Scripture?
C. If you have felt judged by others on a non-scriptural choice, how should you respond according to Romans 14:22?
16. What is your take-a-way and why?