Acts 18-20, Galatians
Apollos and Paul - partial versus fullness of the Gospel
The work of preaching to both Jew and Gentile continued across the eastern section of the Roman Empire, primarily in Macedonia, Greece and in what now is modern Turkey. Paul and Barnabas were not the only missionaries actively preaching the gospel of Christ. Aquila and Priscilla were also engaged in sharing the gospel. In their travels, they found a young man named Apollos who was trying to preach the gospel from what he learned from John the Baptist or John’s followers. Aquila and Priscilla spent time teaching him the correct understanding of the scriptures regarding Jesus and the atonement. Once ready, Apollos was sent out with a letter of recommendation to preach the gospel.
Paul found himself traveling through Ephesus, a place where Apollos had previously preached the gospel according to John the Baptist. When Paul asked if they had received the Holy Ghost, the disciples noted they had never even heard concerning the Holy Ghost. When asked what baptism they had received, they answered: “unto John’s baptism”. They had received Apollos’ preaching of John the Baptist, but not the fullness of Christ’s gospel. Paul taught them, and then baptized them anew “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). He then laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.
Paul continued preaching and performing miracles by the power of the apostolic priesthood he held. Others, particularly Jews, sought to use this same power to do exorcisms, saying “we adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth” (19:13). What they did not realize is it takes more than words to perform true miracles in God’s name. It requires faith, and often also requires the power of priesthood. In this instance, the demon inside the man responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (19:15). The demon then trounced them exorcists, sending them fleeing into the street.
So amazed were the people that they took all of their pagan religious books and symbols and burnt them in the street, recognizing that Paul held the true priesthood.
This is a challenge that has occurred many times in scripture. Satan challenged Christ’s authority in the pre-mortal Divine Council (Moses 4:1-4). Abraham and Moses were challenged by Pharaoh. Elijah competed with the priests of Baal to show which God was real. In mortality, Jesus was challenged by both Pharisee and again by Satan. For Paul, he would be challenged by Jewish-Christian seeking to live the Law of Moses as well as pagans worshiping the Roman/Greek gods.
We can see from this example that a partial baptism is just that. Not only must a person be baptized, but they must be baptized in Christ’s name, be taught about the atonement of Christ, and all of it done by one with proper authority from God. Finally, the authorized priest must lay hands on the person’s head so the person may receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost.
In Ephesus, the craftsmen who built idols of the Roman goddess Diana (Greek: Artemis) were jealous of Paul’s missionary success. He was killing their craft and trade, and so they caused an uproar against him, saying he had blasphemed Diana’s name. Diana was the virgin goddess of the hunt, sister of the god Apollo and daughter of Jupiter (Zeus). Diana means “heavenly” or “divine” and was called the Queen of Heaven by her followers.
Paul soon left and preached in Macedonia and elsewhere.
Paul bores a man to death with his preaching....
A few years ago, BYU professor Daniel C Peterson was involved in developing the Church curriculum for this chapter of the New Testament. In coming across the story of Paul preaching until midnight, and poor Eutychus falling asleep in the rafters, falling down dead, until Paul can restore him to life; Doctor Peterson decided to place in his comments a few funny questions. Basically he asked, “have you ever killed anyone with a talk you gave in Sacrament?” “If so, how did it make you feel?”
The questions actually went all the way through correlation, and he voluntarily pulled them out before publication.
However, the questions do have value. While I’d imagine most of us have not killed anyone with our Sacrament monologues, perhaps we have put many to sleep. Worse, maybe we’ve left many leaving uninspired or with nothing memorable to think about or to remember the talk.
Elder Jeffrey Holland spoke in General Conference a few years back on such an issue, saying,
“Now, at a time when our prophet is calling for more faith through hearing the word of God, we must revitalize and reenthrone superior teaching in the Church—at home, from the pulpit, in our administrative meetings, and surely in the classroom. Inspired teaching must never become a lost art in the Church, and we must make certain our quest for it does not become a lost tradition....
No eternal learning can take place without that quickening of the Spirit from heaven. So, parents, teachers, and leaders, we must face our tasks the way Moses faced the promised land. Knowing he could not succeed any other way, Moses said to Jehovah, “If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.”
I am just simple enough to think that if we continue to teach them—with the same Christlike spirit, conviction, doctrine, and personal interest the missionaries have shown them—new converts will not only stay with us but, quite literally, could not be kept away. “ (Elder Jeffrey Holland, “A Teacher Come From God”, May 1998 Ensign).
A few years ago at a stake conference I attended, Elder Holland noted that we need to “set our pulpits on fire” with the Spirit of God as the early prophets and apostles did.
While our uninspired and boring talks may not kill anyone in the congregation, it may be the thing that causes a weak member, convert or visitor to walk away disinterested, because we offered nothing heavenly and inspiring to them.
The Epistle to the Galatians
Paul made a bold statement to protect the gospel in his day from apostates’ false claims. Today, this is often misquoted by some Christians to show that other Christian faiths (such as Mormons) are evil:
“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Some modern Christians use this to claim that Mormons preach another gospel, and that the angel mentioned is Moroni. This claim may be useful to them, if it were not taken out of context. Just reading a few more verses explains much more:
“10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The gospel Paul received was not given him by any man, but through revelation. Revelation that Paul received initially came from his vision Jesus Christ, but also by other revelations: angels, impressions from the Holy Ghost, and revelations shared by other apostles and prophets (like Peter). Paul was warning about regular men corrupting the teachings of Christ, perhaps claiming that an angel taught them something different. Why? Because beginning already in Paul’s day were men who were corrupting the gospel with false claims. Paul warned that after he left a region, “grievous wolves” would enter in to tear the flock with false doctrines (Acts 20:28-35). Some would later claim that the Jesus had already returned for the Second Coming, and others would insist that the resurrection was not a physical/bodily resurrection.
That Joseph Smith had a First Vision of Jesus Christ, telling him regarding the truth of religion, just as Jesus did for Paul, should help us realize that it was not another angel preaching another gospel, but it was God restoring gospel truth via revelation of Jesus Christ! Joseph Smith did not preach another gospel given him by an angel. He preached the same early gospel that Christ preached, but was taught to restore teachings and authority, even as Paul had to bring the proper authority and fullness of the gospel to places like Ephesus after others had gone before with only a portion of the gospel and authority with them.
Controversy over the Law of Moses
However, apostate concepts were already apparent among the Galatians, as Jewish-Christians came among them insisting that the members had to live by the Law of Moses. For several years, the young Christian Church had lived with the apostolic order that Gentiles did not have to abide the Law of Moses, yet here came members preaching false teachings!
Paul explained that the issue was already resolved years before in Jerusalem. By revelation, the Spirit sent Paul to Jerusalem to discuss the matter, and the apostles Peter,James and John spoke on behalf of the Gentile converts: they did not need to be circumcised nor follow the Law of Moses. A small list of laws were given for them to follow, including being chaste and not worshiping idols. But the Law of Moses would not apply to the Gentiles.
“9 And when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.”
The Galatians could live by the difficult law of Moses or by faith in Christ. The Law of Moses would not save them, but Christ could and would through faith on his name. This is not to say they didn’t have to keep commandments. It does mean they did not keep all the hundreds of commandments in the law of Moses. Instead, they lived a higher law: by growing in faith and repentance in Christ, they would naturally seek to serve Christ and their fellow man. Loving others, forgiving others, helping others would come naturally as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit due to their faith on Christ.
Paul explained that the promises were made to Abraham and his seed. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as the original Twelve Tribes of Israel did not live the Law of Moses and its many restrictions. They worked through faith, and were blessed and considered holy because of their faith.
Moses tried to bring Israel the fullness of the gospel and bring them into the presence of Christ at Mount Sinai (D&C 84:19-26). Israel refused to go up the mountain to see Christ, and so the Melchizedek Priesthood’s fullness was taken from them. They were given the lesser priesthood of Aaron/Levi, and the many rules of the Mosaic Law in the stead of the higher laws of Christ. Paul explained that the Law “was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Once we find ourselves walking in the path of Christ’s fullness, we no longer need the Law of Moses, as we are now made holy in Christ and will walk by faith, and not by physical works of the Law of Moses.
“26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
By faith in Christ, repenting of our sins, and making a covenant with Christ through baptism, we put on Christ, or become Christ-like and holy. We become the family of Christ, the seed of Abraham and heirs of God through Christ.
Heirs of God through Christ
Paul continues in chapter four, explaining that we are all born slaves and servants on earth because of sin. We have no way to change our eternal path on our own. Without Jesus, we would forever be slaves to death and hell.
But God has seen fit to send us a Savior. We are spiritually adopted into the family of God through our covenant with Christ. We exercise faith in him, we repent, and we accept the covenant. In turn, he promises to make us the seed of Abraham and heirs of God.
“6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”
Because of the Fall of Adam, we are out of God’s presence. Christ provides the reconciliation between the natural and spiritual man, so that we may be made holy and return as heirs of God into His presence.
Paul was afraid for the Galatians and he feared he wasted his time on them. For even after accepting the gospel, they were wont to go after other gods, They celebrated the festivals of the pagan gods, whether they lasted days, weeks or months. One cannot be a true son of God through Christ, if also proclaiming to follow other gods as well.
Abraham had two wives: Sarah and Hagar. One was called the daughter of God, the other lived and acted the part of a slave. The children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, but given the chance to be sons of the Divine at Mount Sinai. We and the Galatians both have to decide whether to remain slaves in unbelief, or rise above our current state and choose to be like Sarah: chosen by Jehovah to be his daughter and heir, knowing she would be faithful to Abraham, the covenant, and the Lord.
Finally, in chapter five Paul explains:
“6 For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
It does not matter whether we are circumcised or not. Outward evidences are only useful as symbols of our inward love, faith and devotion to Christ and Heavenly Father. As the Lord explained through Moses:
“Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” (Deut 10:16).
Paul taught that the commandments are important and necessary to keep. Obedience keeps us from following Satan and being in his power. Keeping the commandments may bring us earthly blessings and good fortune. But the keeping the commandments cannot save us. The Pharisees kept many commandments, rules, regulations, and even made up more to follow in order to build a wall of protection around the Torah (Books of Moses). Yet, these efforts only led them away from Christ, as they focused on the external changes, and not on changing from within.
We must BECOME Christ-like in order to be a son or daughter of God. This change occurs as we grow in faith and repent of our sins. The Holy Ghost inspires us to live righteously, and in following his inspiration, we naturally keep the commandments of God more and more, until we become perfected in Christ. We keep the commandments because we desire to be holy and find joy in being like Jesus. For those struggling with such a concept, we have repentance. We are called upon to keep commandments, and Paul gives a laundry list in Galatians of the commandments we need to follow. But we do not follow them as one would follow the Law of Moses, except that they become a schoolmaster to lead us to faith in Christ, where our faith fills us with the Holy Ghost, heals us, and makes us whole. We become true disciples of Christ, and heirs of God.
Elder Jeffrey Holland, “A Teacher Come from God”: http://lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/a-teacher-come-from-god?lang=eng