Galatians: Justification



Scripture verse: “knowing that a man is not justified by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ…”


  1. Students should memorize the verse and understand its context.
  2. Students should be able, with God’s help, to combine this Scripture with the Scripture in James that says “Faith without works is dead” for a true picture of Orthodox salvation.
  3. Students should know an Orthodox response to the question, “Are you saved?”


Background on the book:

            St. Paul wrote this letter to believers in the region of Galatia from his home church in Antioch, just before the first ecumenical council in Jerusalem. (What did that council decide? The obligations of Gentile believers to the Jewish law) Paul had started the churches in Galatia during his first missionary journey around 48 AD. Even though the book comes after the letters to the Romans and the Corinthians, it was written before those epistles, probably just as he was starting his 3rd  missionary journey.


Possible Lesson Plan:

1.      Open with prayer.


                2.   Review the background of the book. Paul is about to go to Jerusalem to defend his theological position that Gentile believers do not have to obey all the Jewish law,                          when he hears of the problems in Galatia.  How does he respond?


3.   Scripture lesson: Again have each student read a single chapter, summarizing it for the class. Chapters 1 and 6 are easily done by the teacher if there are too few                  students.

·         Chapter 1: Warnings against false teachers – What problem was the church in Galatia facing? Review the conversion of Saul and his subsequent ministry                 as  St. Paul.

·         Chapter 2: The Council of Jerusalem – Who was there? What was decided? Who decided? Who went to spread the gospel to the Jews? To the Gentiles?

·         Chapter 3: The Law and Sonship – Who are the sons of Abraham? Who are his sons by faith? What was the purpose of the law of Moses? How do we            become sons of God? Sing the great hymn: “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” It comes from this chapter

·         Chapter 4: Sons of Ishmael and Sons of Isaac – Who freed us to become sons and not slaves? (Jesus) Who continues to help us to grow in sonship? (Holy Spirit) Paul compares sons of the promise with sons of slavery to two Old Testament sons. Who was the father of both? Who was the mother of Ishmael? Who was the mother of Isaac? Which was the son of the promise of faith?

·         Chapter 5: Works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit – What are listed as the works of the flesh? The fruit of the Spirit?

·         Chapter 6: Boasting in the Cross of Christ – What did Paul boast about? Do we boast also in the Cross, or are we ashamed of it? Do we wear our crosses proudly? Cross ourselves when we’re not in church?


4.   Scripture verse: Galatians 2:16


           5.    Review your Church history.  What was the Protestant Reformation? When did it occur? (around 1500 AD) Who were its leaders? To what excesses in the Roman Catholic                   Church in the West was Martin Luther responding? (e.g. the sale of indulgences to buy a place in heaven) How did the slogan “sola fides” (only faith) begin?

          6.      Legal acquittal or covenant relationship?  What is the concept of “justification by faith”? Is this a legal acquittal or a covenant relationship? Who initiates                         justification  – God in His mercy or us by our faith? Do Orthodox Christians believe we are justified by faith? By faith alone? Are we as Christians forced to obey the law                     and do good  works in order to get into heaven? Or are we empowered by the Holy Spirit as part of our salvation to do good works? What does James say proves that                         we  have faith?

Is salvation a decision, once in life, or a way of life? What is the meaning of “to be saved” to an Orthodox Christian? (The Orthodox Study Bible sees in this question 3 aspects: “I have been saved, being joined to Christ in baptism, I am being saved, growing in Christ through the sacramental life of the Church, and I will be saved, by the mercy of God at the Last Judgment.”) How would you answer your Evangelical Protestant friends who ask, “Are you saved?”


        7. Close with prayer.