Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 35: “Be Ye Reconciled to God” - Second Corinthians

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 35: “Be Ye Reconciled to God”

Second Corinthians

Second Corinthians is accepted by almost all scholars as being authentically written by Paul. There is a twist, however. There is evidence that suggests that 2 Corinthians isn’t one letter, but actually two letters that were later combined. Chapters 1-9 focus on harmony and reconciliation. The last four chapters focus on divisions occurring in Corinth. In fact, 2 Cor 2:4 mentions a “sorrowful letter” or “letter of tears” that Paul had written them. Several scholars believe that the chapters 10-13 of Second Corinthians are that sorrowful letter.

In chapters 2-6, Paul attempts to establish himself with the Corinthian Christians, explaining his authority compared to that of others who had arrived in Corinth with claims of authority from elsewhere. He has had a painful visit with them, and wants to show that his love for them is greater than the pain caused during the visit. Chapters 1 and 7 show Paul’s effort to reconcile with the saints in Corinth and to reestablish the gospel in its proper form.

In the “sorrowful letter” found in chapters 10-13, Paul discussed his sadness from a visit he made to Corinth, where he was humiliated by others who had obtained power in the church there. In fact, it becomes a polemic defense of his apostleship against those who attacked his authority.

So disconcerting is this letter that Paul has to strongly chastise the people for rejecting him and following others. He establishes that he never has taken money from them, but was provided by the churches in other areas, such as Macedonia. He warned the Corinthians:

“13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11).

They were deceived by pretenders, who came to town with forged letters of authority, who then gained power in Corinth and attempted to turn the members away from Paul and the real apostles of God. Paul told of his conversion and dedication to the gospel, as well as his call to preach by the apostles in Jerusalem. Why? To establish his authority once again among the Corinthians, as well as to help them reject the falsehoods that plagued the Christians there.

Paul’s Vision of the Heavens

2 Corinthians 12:2-4

Paul continued to explain his authority and power that God had given him through visions:

“2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Most scholars agree that Paul is speaking about himself when he refers of “a man” who was caught up to heaven. Such an experience would show that Paul was worthy of being an apostle of God, and with knowledge of God to share with the people of Corinth.

These verses are perhaps the best in all scripture to denote a separation between paradise and heaven, and that there are levels of heaven. LDS belief is along these lines. For Mormons, Paradise is the place the spirits of the dead go to as they await the resurrection and final judgment of God. So, when Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43) we get a better understanding of what was going on. Jesus went to the “spirits in prison” to preach to them (1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6) - obviously there are two sections to the world of Spirits (paradise and prison). The thief could not have been that day with Jesus in heaven, for Jesus told Mary Magdalene he had not yet ascended up to God (John 20:17).

Ancient Jews and Christians believed in three or more levels of heaven. Some think these statements referenced the Hebrew belief of a tripartite world: heavens above, earth, and Sheol or hell beneath. And while this may apply, there is definite evidence from early sources of levels within heaven itself, such as the Ascension of Isaiah.

There is an ancient Christian text entitled, “the Apocalypse of Paul”, wherein Paul ascends through the ten levels of heaven. Like Nephi, Moses, the apostle John, and others, Paul is caught up to an exceedingly high mountain. There, he is given a special guide to direct him through the vision. In this case, as with Nephi (1 Nephi 11), it is the Holy Spirit.

Paul tells us:

“Then the Holy Spirit who was speaking with him caught him up on high to the third heaven, and he passed beyond to the fourth heaven.”

The fourth heaven was filled with angels, presided over by the “toll collector” or sentinel. People were judged for their sins, with witnesses and books brought forth to judge them. With the Holy Spirit as his guide, Paul continued through the fifth and onto the sixth heavens.

“Then we went up to the sixth heaven. And I saw my fellow apostles going with me, and the Holy Spirit was leading me before them. And I gazed up on high and saw a great light shining down on the sixth heaven. I spoke, saying to the toll-collector who was in the sixth heaven, "Open to me and the Holy Spirit who is before me." He opened to me.
Then we went up to the seventh heaven, and I saw an old man [...] light and whose garment was white. His throne, which is in the seventh heaven, was brighter than the sun by seven times. The old man spoke, saying to me, "Where are you going, Paul? O blessed one and the one who was set apart from his mother`s womb." But I looked at the Spirit, and he was nodding his head, saying to me, "Speak with him!". And I replied, saying to the old man, "I am going to the place from which I came." And the old man responded to me, "Where are you from?" But I replied, saying, "I am going down to the world of the dead in order to lead captive the captivity that was led captive in the captivity of Babylon." The old man replied to me saying, "How will you be able to get away from me? Look and see the principalities and authorities." The Spirit spoke, saying, "Give him the sign that you have, and he will open for you." And then I gave him the sign. He turned his face downwards to his creation and to those who are his own authorities.
And then the heaven opened and we went up to the Ogdoad. And I saw the twelve apostles. They greeted me, and we went up to the ninth heaven. I greeted all those who were in the ninth heaven, and we went up to the tenth heaven. And I greeted my fellow spirits.”

In this instance, we see there are ten levels or layers of heaven. At least some of them are guarded by sentinels, who question Paul concerning his purpose and require a sign before he is allowed to pass on to the next higher level.

While this series of events may seem strange to most Christians, they make perfect sense to Mormons, whose temple rites include practicing going through levels of heaven and returning back into the presence of God. Speaking of these rites, President Brigham Young stated:

"Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Journal of Discourses 2:31).


Early Christian Writings on 2 Corinthians: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/2corinthians.html

Wikipedia on 2 Corinthians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Epistle_to_the_Corinthians

Bible.org’s Intro on 2 Corinthians: http://bible.org/article/introduction-second-corinthians

Ascension of Isaiah: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ascension.html

The Apocalypse of Paul: http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/ascp.html

Monday, August 15, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 34: “Keep the Ordinances, As I Delivered Them” 1 Corinthians 11-15

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 34: “Keep the Ordinances, As I Delivered Them”
1 Corinthians 11-15

Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, as discussed in lesson 33, focuses on the many problems the Christians in Corinth faced due to differing teachings and beliefs entering in from many factions. These included issues regarding chastity, idols, the resurrection of Christ, and many other issues. In this second lesson on First Corinthians, we focus on more of the issues Paul covers.


“Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth” (1 Cor 10:24).

The Corinthians were seeking their own. They had personal agendas, with which they sought to change the church to meet their own desires. They were selfish to the point that it was affecting their relationships within the church, and even within their families.

Paul was forced to give them guidance on the roles of husbands and wives, according to Jewish tradition. That tradition was that all should wear a covering, symbolizing that men are subject to God, and women to their husbands. Such guidance is still followed by some Christian religions, while others have adapted it some to modern times. The LDS belief is that the man and woman are equal, and can also be found in chapter 11:

“11 Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.
12 For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”

The LDS Church teaches they are equal, yet there is still a hierarchy in the family to ensure order prevails. The parents make a presidency, with the father presiding and the wife as his counselor. The husband should ensure his wife’s counsel is listened to, considered, and generally heeded in many cases. From the Proclamation on the Family, we read:

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.”

The Lord’s Supper

There seems to have been a tradition in Corinth, where people would attend the religious meetings of the various temples primarily for a free meal. The Lord’s supper seemed to have been used as a meal by many, and so was causing dissensions.

Paul complained that some were coming to the Lord’s supper only to fill their bodies or get drunk. He insisted they eat at home, and attend the Lord’s supper for the purpose of renewing the covenant with Christ.

“27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.”

The focus here is: those who partake of the bread and cup must be remembering the Lord’s sacrifice, and not their bellies. To partake of the blessed sacraments with no thought to the covenant one makes with God causes condemnation, for such a person does not take his covenants with God seriously. For the Corinthians, it became a very serious issue, because many were using the Lord’s supper as a place for food and wine, just as they did with at the pagan temples. Many in our day partake of the divine without first making themselves holy. They profane the sacrifice of Christ’s flesh and blood by their insincere actions and indifference.

Gifts of the Spirit
1 Cor 12

That Paul had to explain to the Corinthians how the Holy Ghost worked with people is telling of how far they drifted from the core Christian teachings. The pagan religions, which led people to worship “dumb idols” also encouraged many to believe Jesus was accursed: the common assumption of people who were crucified. Yet, Paul insisted that only through the Holy Ghost can a person know that “Jesus is Lord” (vs 3).

With such an understanding, we can see that most Christians have been touched by the Holy Ghost with at least one gift: a testimony of the Savior.

Yet, Paul exclaims there are many different gifts available, all from the same Holy Spirit. And not only Christians, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (vs 7). All mankind is touched on some level by the Holy Spirit. This is not the same as the “Gift of the Holy Ghost” which in its fullest regard means the Spirit becomes a constant companion and guide in all aspects of a person’s life. It does mean that God inspires all mankind, giving them special abilities. And all of these special gifts come from the Holy Ghost.

Most of us know people who seem inspired with wisdom or knowledge. Did Einstein figure out his theories of relativity on his own? Or did God inspire him, enlightening his mind so he could figure out such amazing theories? The ancient Greeks believed mankind was inspired by the muses. We know mankind is inspired by the Holy Ghost.

For those who embrace Christ, Paul seems to suggest a greater level of such gifts of the Spirit. Whether a person is Jew or Gentile, when they embrace Christ, are baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18, 19:6), they become a vessel able to receive a greater portion of the Holy Ghost and its powerful gifts.

“28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”

There is a pattern set forth from Adam on down that helps us see how the Spirit and God’s power work. The pattern begins with apostles and prophets, those holding the priesthood authority to perform ordinances of salvation (baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, Lord’s supper, etc), establish doctrine, and guide the Church in all things, even as the apostle Paul was now doing for Corinth.

Next, are teachers to explain the doctrines of the church to the believers and those investigating the claims of Christ as Lord. Paul sent this epistle to Corinth with teachers to correct the wrong occurring among the Christians there. Only after the foundation of leadership is established can the miracles and gifts occur in an orderly fashion.

“29 Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
30 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”

Not all are apostles or prophets. Not all have the gifts mentioned. These are important and necessary things in the Church of Jesus Christ. Without these holy men and gifts of the Spirit, the Church cannot function properly. Both are needed. As apostle Dallin Oaks recently noted, there are both formal and informal lines of power in the Church of Christ. The informal line is often called by the Protestants the “priesthood of all believers”, or the personal inspiration and guidance given each of us through the Holy Spirit. This is extremely important to our personal salvation and personal growth in Christ.

Yet the formal line of power and authority through apostles and prophets is also extremely important. Paul notes the struggle the Corinthian church was going through, precisely because they were listening to many claims of teachings by a variety of speakers. Yet none of these were apostles and prophets. No Christian prophet or apostle taught the Corinthian Christians to be unchaste, to eat the food of idols, or to be selfish. The key doctrines of salvation had to be established and preached by living prophets and apostles, or as in Corinth, they would sink into apostasy.

“ 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”

Many believe that the “more excellent way” is a rejection of the Gifts of the Spirit, a rejection of prophets and apostles, a rejection of miracles. Some even believe it to be a rejection of the commandments. But Paul’s original epistle was not divided into chapters. His most excellent way is found in chapter 13: charity.

Faith, Hope and Charity
1 Corinthians 13

Paul now teaches of the greatest gifts we can aspire to as a priesthood of all believers. There are three great gifts, greater than all the others: faith, hope and charity. Of these, Paul explains that faith and hope lead to charity, which is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:47-48). When it comes to spiritual things, if we do not have charity, we are nothing.

In this world we often confuse the things of most worth for the things that glitter. The Corinthians had their focus on the things of the flesh: sex, food, drink, selfishness and the philosophies of the Greek idol worshipers. None of these things would make a real positive difference in the world. None would make any difference in the world to come.

Even to give all ones belongings to feed the poor did not mean anything without charity. Why would someone give everything up, if that person did not have charity? What would be the motivation in doing so? Power? Fame? Glory?

Charity is everything the Corinthian Christians are not. It is longsuffering, not selfish, loves truth, hates sin, not given to anger. Only in developing our faith, hope and charity can we ever hope to have our works truly mean something here on earth and in the eternities.

Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues
1 Corinthians 14

In this chapter, Paul explains that not all gifts are of equal importance. The gift of tongues is a good gift for the individual. But without an interpreter, it means nothing to others listening. Only in the instance where the gift of tongues is used to let a prophet speak in someone else’s language is it of great worth to all who listen, such as what happened with the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

But prophesying, whether of current truths or future events, benefits all who listen. So important is prophesy that an angel told the apostle John, “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). As Paul explained with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, without this special witness from above, we cannot know that “Jesus is Lord”.

Jesus, Resurrected
1 Corinthians 15

Obviously there were also contentions in Corinth over the resurrection of Jesus and all people. Paul begins by reminding them of the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. This physical witness is very important in establishing the things he is about to explain, because for the Greeks, the concept of a man being ignominiously crucified as a traitor to the state, then resurrecting, seemed foolish.

If there is no resurrection, there was no need for Jesus to ever be sent down to save us. With death, all would end. We would only be worm food, forever non-existent. If there is no resurrection, then our hope in Christ would make us the most miserable of all people, because we would place our faith in a false hope. But Paul shows there was a resurrection, and how it applies to all mankind from Adam til now.

Paul explained in depth how the resurrection of Jesus overcomes death. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (vs 22). Jesus became the second Adam. The first Adam brought about death, so that we may have the experience of mortality, of learning, and of building faith in God. Christ came to overcome the affects of the first and second deaths (Alma 11-12), that we may all live again. The resurrection means that Jesus and all mortals who have ever lived, will have their bodies and spirits restored again, only this time in an incorruptible form. We will never die, be sick, injured, or suffer physical ailments again.

As to the resurrection, we find that there is not one level of resurrection, but levels of resurrected glory:

“40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead.”

In the next lesson, we’ll expound more on what this means, as Paul explains it in 2 Corinthians 10:1-4. What we find here is that God has different levels of reward or glory for those who resurrect. This is also reflected in the ancient Christian prophecy of the Shepherd of Hermas, who saw that each person was given a willow twig to care for. On the day of judgment, each twig was reviewed. They differed in quality: some had not changed, others had buds, some had grown branches and leaves, while a few had also sweet fruit growing. For each there was a place given. For those who produced nothing, they were left out of the castle. For those who produced, they were given different rewards within the castle.

The rods or twigs represented the laws of God. As one obeyed the laws, they changed into ever growing rods of life and beauty. So it is with us. As we seek to know Jesus, follow his example, and learn to be Christ-like, we too can receive a glorious resurrection.


Proclamation on the Family: http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,161-1-11-1,FF.html

Dallin Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication”, October 2010 General Conference: http://lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/two-lines-of-communication?lang=eng

Shepherd of Hermas, (see Parable 8): http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/shepherd-lightfoot.html

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: “Ye Are the Temple of God” 1 Corinthians 1-6

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 33: “Ye Are the Temple of God”
1 Corinthians 1-6

Corinth and Paul
Corinth was a major sea port on the Mediterranean Sea on the southern portion of Greece. For almost 1000 years it was a major port and city, larger than Athens, until in 146 BC they rebelled against Rome, and the city was levelled. The men were slain, women and children sold into slavery. In 44 BC, Julius Caesar began construction anew on the seaport. In Paul’s day, it was a city that was just over one hundred years old, but so profitable that within just a short time had become a large metropolis once again.

The Athenians looked down upon the Corinthians, slandering them about their sexual perversions. It was claimed that the temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, had 1000 sacred prostitutes serving at her temple on the top of a1886 foot hill. A Greek verb for fornication is korinthiazomai, which stems from the city’s name.

In the town center were many other temples, including temples and shrines for Apollos, other Greek gods, Asklepios (Apollos’ son, the god of healing), and shrines to the Emperor and his family.

This cosmopolitan city of trade and commerce was one of Paul’s first major mission areas.

Paul formed the Christian Church in Corinth and then spent three years in Ephesus, about 180 miles away. During this time (about 53-57 AD), Paul heard of problems arising in the Church at Corinth, and used this epistle to address them.

Corinth consisted mainly of Greek converts, many of whom tried to bring concepts from their pagan religions into the Christian faith. Being a cosmopolitan city, there would be input from Jews, Gnostics, and the philosophies of the Greeks. The variety of beliefs trying to take over the basic Christian faith were causing huge divisions among the members there. Some scholars believe that only Jewish-Christians or Jewish-Gnostics were the actual rise of problems, but many of the problems occurring included sexual impurity - something unlikely from a member of any Jewish sect.

Paul begins his epistle

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (1 Cor 1:1).

Why would Paul have to establish his authority and apostleship to a people he had spent at least two years with? Because many had since come claiming authority and power from one source or another. In establishing at the very front of his epistle his authority, he hoped to be able to quell the divisions of those who would teach different things.

“10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.”

Obviously, the Corinthian members were claiming authority from the various missionaries that passed through the area or claimed to have been taught by, including Paul, Peter and Apollos (an early Christian missionary, not the pagan god). Paul was having to compete with a false image of himself! He was glad he only baptized just a few, so none could claim they received their authority from being baptized by Paul.

This shall be a common theme in areas that experience apostasy, and will even be dealt with decades later by the apostle John in his epistles and Revelation. Some members come forth claiming to have additional information or authority, sometimes hidden truths, as the Christian and Jewish Gnostics would claim to have. By the second century of the Christian era, some Gnostic and Christian/pagan groups would become so powerful as to threaten the young orthodox church.

Here, Paul seeks to stop it before it spreads. Explaining the problems he finds with the wisdom of men, he stated:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”

The rich and wealthy of Corinth were not necessarily being called as the leaders of the church. The Jewish-Christians were not necessarily being called as leaders, even though they had a background in the Law. Meanwhile, the Greeks often looked down on the simplicity of the gospel, because it didn’t fit in with their philosophy. Paul was trying to pull all the members back together into unity in Christ and his basic gospel.

So concerned was Paul that he would explain that they were not ready for gospel meat, but only the milk. Their divisions showed Paul that they were still babes needing the basic nourishment, even though others were offering to stuff heavier meals down their gullets (1 Cor 3:1-2).

Paul brought them back to the basics: faith in Jesus Christ, the atonement, repentance, and commandments. As explained in the Bible.org referenced below:

“Basically 1 Corinthians deals with abuses of liberty (just as Galatians deals with the stifling of the Spirit because of legalism). The correction Paul gives is not to question their salvation, but to challenge them in their sanctification. Although the apostle is dealing with several different issues, the general theme of the epistle is “the practical implications of progressive sanctification in the context of the Christian community.””

Salvation vs Sanctification

Salvation in Christ is a free gift. All mankind will resurrect. The only requirement to escape hell is to believe in Christ and repent of one’s sins. However, our degree or level of salvation is determined by sanctification: how holy we become as an individual. The greater our personal holiness and Christ-like abilities, the greater our personal reward and glory in the heavens (more on the levels of heaven will be discussed in the upcoming lesson 35).

The Book of Mormon notes that all will be resurrected among both good and evil. Then all will be brought to the presence of God through Christ. There, those who have repented and become worthy of Christ’s grace will remain, while those who refuse to repent will suffer from being filthy in God’s presence (Alma 11-12, Mormon 9:1-7).

Paul spends significant time discussing the commandments of God (1 Cor 3) and living by the power of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 2). The Lord has taught us that as we move from one grace to a higher grace, we receive grace for grace until we receive a fullness of grace (D&C 93, 1 Cor 3:10). Grace is described as the sanctification process that occurs as we progress in the path of righteousness, once we’ve accepted Christ as our Savior. As such, we become sanctified little by little, until we become fully perfected in Christ, meet to receive his greatest rewards.

Such, our works are tested to see if we have truly become sanctified in Christ. As Paul explained:
“13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Cor 3).

And the greater the work we have brought forth on what we have truly become, the greater the reward.


First Corinthians at Bible.org: http://bible.org/seriespage/1-corinthians-introduction-argument-and-outline

First Corinthians at Wikipedia:

Corinth: http://www.abrock.com/Greece-Turkey/corinth.html

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 32: “Live in the Spirit” Acts 18-20, Galatians

New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 32: “Live in the Spirit”
Acts 18-20, Galatians

Apollos and Paul - partial versus fullness of the Gospel
Acts 18:23-19:41

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....
Acts 20

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

Another Gospel
Chapter 1

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.


Diana: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_%28mythology%29

Elder Jeffrey Holland, “A Teacher Come from God”: http://lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/a-teacher-come-from-god?lang=eng