Friday, February 3, 2012

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday February 5, 2012

SEEKING SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN
(We are saved by believing in CHRIST)
(Galatians 2)

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Galatians for the benefit of the churches that he founded in the district of Galatia very early in his ministry (circa A.D. 49-50). He had established Christian churches at that time in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch, all located in southern Galatia. It was most likely written shortly after the famous (Acts 15) Jerusalem Council, which released Gentile Christian converts from any responsibility to keep the Jewish laws that GOD had given exclusively to them, such as, for example, circumcision.
This letter was written to rebuke the “faith/works” doctrine that the followers of Judaism, who trailed Paul from church to church, were trying to indoctrinate into the newly founded Christian churches (Galatians 1:6-10). They were also teaching that one must become a Jew first, by conforming to all Jewish laws, before one could be eligible to become a Christian. This seemed very logical to some new Christians since JESUS HIMSELF was a Jew, which meant that the roots of Christianity itself, was also Jewish. But Paul strongly objected to this kind of teaching and, here in this letter, he clearly explains why mixing works with faith actually robs the Gospel of CHRIST of its power to transform the lives of the new believers.
In Galatians chapter 2, fourteen years after Paul’s first visit with Peter in Jerusalem, he returned there, this time with Barnabas and Titus, after being led to do so by the LORD. He met privately with the leaders of the Church to tell them about what he had been preaching to the Gentiles over the years. He wanted to make sure that they did not disagree with his ministry, and of course, they did not. In fact, they didn’t even request that Titus, who was a Gentile, be circumcised, as some of the so-called Christians there were demanding (Vs 1-4). Instead, they welcomed Paul and Barnabas as co-workers, and had nothing further to add to what they had been teaching.
As pillars of the Church, Peter, James (JESUS’ brother), and John recognized GOD’s calling on Paul, and encouraged him to keep preaching to the Gentiles, while they themselves, kept preaching to the Jews. They only suggested to Paul, Barnabas, and young Titus, that they always remember to help the poor, something they were already more than willing to do (Vs. 6-10).
In those early days in the Christian Church, it became a custom of the congregation to gather together weekly for a common meal that they called “The Agape Feast”, or, “Love Feast”. This meal was made possible by a pooling together of various dishes that were provided by the church members who could afford it. For many of the poor members, this became the only descent meal that they would get all week. In a very special way, this meal represented a moment of togetherness and fellowshipping for Christians of all races, and on all social, and economic levels.
In Galatians 2:11-12, it was just such an occasion that Paul is speaking of, when he had to confront Peter and Barnabas about their hypocritical behavior and attitude toward Gentile Christians. Here Paul tells of a time when Peter, Barnabas, and some other Jewish Christians, even though they had dined with the Gentile Christians earlier, when their fellow Jewish Christian leaders arrived at the feast, they began to shun the Gentile Christians, for fear of what those fellow Jewish legalists might say about socializing with Gentiles.
This act by Peter, and by Barnabas, who were both leaders in the church, led other Jewish Christians to join them in their hypocrisy. Paul, seeing that Peter and the others were not following the truth of the Gospel of CHRIST, confronted Peter and rebuked him in front of all the others because he was the “ringleader”. In essence, Peter was guilty of rebuilding the old Jewish system of thinking (Judaism) that they had been trying desperately to move away from. They were becoming a light for those who were seeking something to believe in, and the new movement toward CHRIST JESUS was taking root all around the world as they knew it, at that time.
Paul understood early on, that a church will cease to be Christian if it contains class distinctions, or anything else, that was contrary to the actions and attitude of JESUS HIMSELF. In GOD’s presence, a man’s race is meaningless. He is neither regal, nor less-than, and he is neither rich nor poor, but rather, he is only a sinner for which CHRIST has died.
All but CHRIST has failed to reach the goal that GOD originally set for us when he made us in HIS OWN “spiritual image”, by giving us the attributes of HIS OWN nature. However, through HIS grace and mercy HE has since introduced us to a great and relatively easy way to get back into a relationship of friendship with HIM, whereby HE could adopt any man, woman, or child into the “Family of GOD”.
It is the blood of CHRIST that allows us to walk into the store of GOD and pick up a “free” bottle of “Faith”. And we can take it home and use it to spray some “Hope” on our unclean mirrors, and for the first time, begin to see ourselves as we really are. And with our newfound “Love”, we can turn ourselves around, and begin walking in the “newness of life” that can only be found, in CHRIST JESUS. And that is why Paul says that Faith, Hope, and Love are the three great enduring things, and of the three, Love is the greatest (1 cor. 13:13). And so, when we are seeking something to believe in, seek GOD, and GOD promises that if we do, we will certainly find HIM.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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