Reach Gather Grow
in Galatians

Lesson Two • Gather

Pastor Ben Kirkman

1. When you think of gathering together with other followers of Christ, what comes to mind?

As I reflect on my 39 years of gathering with other followers of Christ, it brings up so many (mostly good) memories. I think of the wonderful people, families, and lifelong friends. I have stories of laughing, crying, and doing life alongside other people who love Jesus. It is so neat to consider that God designed us to be in a community with other people and how those relationships can help us face whatever comes our way.  

2. Share a positive story of a family from your church (present or past).

I mentioned that my churchy memories were "mostly good.” I would imagine that we would all have some stories of hurt within our church family experience. Any time you get a group of people together that tends to happen. It may have something to do with the fact that even though a person loves and follows Jesus, they still sometimes make bad or selfish decisions. I have heard stories of hurt from people that are almost unbelievable. It is so sad that hurt from believer to believer happens as often as it does. Of course, the reality is we all have the ability to be the ones causing the hurt. So, we need to be careful and aware of the way we treat others.  

The churches in Galatia were going through a difficult time dealing with the Judaizers that were infiltrating their congregations. There were non-biblical religious standards being imposed and enforced by this group of religious “elite,” and it was bringing confusion and friction to these followers of Jesus. The Judaizers were adding works to the Gospel, which created a culture of the self-righteous judgment of others. The Gospel is by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

If you throw self-righteous "judginess" into any group of people, there is going to be a lot of hurt taking place, and hurt people often respond by taking their pain out on others. Paul strongly calls out the people bringing this unsettling false gospel into town and lets us know how he feels about them in Galatians 5:12, “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (I will let you study and figure out what he is saying there.) You can clearly see Paul's frustration with these false teachers. They were bringing confusion, and the confusion was bringing dissension. With that thought and context in mind, look at Galatians 5:13-15, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

3. Do you have any stories to share where you were hurting and you took it out on other people? What were the results of your actions?

After Paul tells the Galatians how he really feels about the false gospel pot-stirrers, he graciously reminds the believers that they are free in Christ. Christ has given freedom the Law never could. Through Christ, they had freedom from the bondage and penalty of sin, knowing they were declared righteous by Jesus and did not have to try and earn God's favor. They had freedom knowing that through Jesus they were at peace with God! Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He follows up his encouraging reminder with a warning to not misuse this freedom. Just because you are free in Christ, that does not give you license to act like you did before He freed you. Use that freedom, not for selfish purposes, but to love and serve other people. The example of love and service Christ showed to us should be a powerful motivator for us to treat others the same way.

4. What is so wonderful about the freedom that is found in Jesus?

5. How can looking at the example of Christ loving and serving help us to love and serve also?

The next warning Paul gives to these believers seems pretty extreme, but sadly we see it playing out all too often among believers even today. Galatians 5:15 points out, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” One of the big problems creeping into these churches was a biting and devouring among the people, meaning they would tear each other apart with their words and actions. Their focus was turning from the sufficiency of Christ to the wrongly added religious deeds. This shifted mentality led them to think more highly of themselves than they should have and to look down on others who maybe did not keep the man-made religious duties as well as they did. This mentality is so destructive to relationships and churches. Can you not see it playing out? You get a person that thinks they have it all figured out who then begins to look down on and talk bad about other people. This turns into groups that are against each other, which leads to biting and devouring, which then leads to hurt and destruction of relationships. Before you know it, you have a group of people that at one time loved and served each other and now they cannot stand to even look at one another. Paul is warning these believers, “Watch out, pay attention! Keep your focus on Jesus! The only reason you have peace with God is because of Him. Keep your pride in check, without Jesus you are hopeless - dead in your trespasses and sins! You have no right to bite and devour, you have the right and responsibility to be loving and serving.”

I know as we fast forward a couple of thousand years from the time of this letter, the challenges we face may look a little different from those of churches in Galatia. However, the warning is still very real and applicable. As we gather together and serve alongside one another, it is a very real possibility that we can begin to bite and devour each other.  If we bite and devour each other we are not going to be united in loving and serving Jesus!

6. Why do people feel the right or need to beat each other up with their words or actions?

7. Is there a situation where you have been biting and devouring that you need to address?