Sunday, September 22, 2019

Come Follow Me - Galatians

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 misinterpreted by some Christians to show that other Christian faiths (such as Latter-day Saints) are evil:

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
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.
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.” (Galatians 1:6-9)

As in Corinth, Paul is fighting a growing problem of false apostles and teachings entering into the Christian church. A big problem is the continual push by Jewish Christians to enforce the Law of Moses upon all Christians, Jew and Gentile. It is almost as if the decision made by Peter and James in Jerusalem regarding Gentile converts and circumcision and the Law did not happen, or that even the authority of the chief apostles was questioned. This growing threat from apostates would threaten the main Church for several centuries. Gnostic Christianity would come close to replacing Christianity, and in fact, influenced the concept that we now call the Trinity.

Some modern Christians use this passage 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:

“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.
But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:9-12)

The gospel which Paul received was not given him by any man, but through revelation. Revelation that Paul received initially came from his vision of 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 Jesus had already returned for the Second Coming, and Gnostics would insist that the resurrection was not a physical/bodily resurrection. For those deeply studying the Bible, it seems clear that the Great Apostasy was already in its early stages during Paul's lifetime.

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!  Writing decades after Paul wrote Galatians, the apostle John would mention many angels coming to earth, one even bringing the gospel with him:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (Revelation 14:6)

 Joseph Smith did not preach a different gospel given him by a false angel. It was another angel that brought the "everlasting gospel." He preached the same gospel that Christ preached, and was taught to restore ancient teachings and authority.

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.

“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.
Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” (Galatians 2:9-10)

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 law 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. Under the Law, we were slaves to the law. Under Christ, we are made free.

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
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.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)

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. No longer slaves to the Law, we are freed. 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.

“And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:6-7)

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, an Egyptian woman. One was called the daughter of God, the other lived and acted the part of a servant/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:

“For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6)

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 stiff necked” (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 of commandments alone cannot save nor exalt 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, changing us from temporal slavery to spiritual freedom. Our faith in Christ fills us with the Holy Ghost, heals us, and makes us whole. We become true disciples of Christ, and heirs of God.

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