THE EFFECT OF THE MIRACLES AND MINISTRY OF PAUL
In this section of Acts, "Luke chose to include five anecdotes about Paul's work in this area, each of which fulfills one of two purposes:
- to witness of Paul's apostolic authority at a time when some may have been questioning it, and
- to report some faith-promoting incidents relative to the growth of the young church.
The five events noted:
- Paul baptized 12 disciples and gave them the Gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-7) "John the Baptist's influence is so powerful that it is still being felt many years after and many miles removed from his actual ministry" (D. Kelly Ogden & Andrew C. Skinner, New Testament Apostles Testify of Christ, p. 91).
- Paul was identified as one with authority like Christ's by an evil spirit who refused to leave by sorcery (Acts 19:13-18)
- Consequently, many of those who believed in such magic burned their spell books and joined the Church (Acts 19:16-20) "Book burning, in this case, is good. There is estimated to have been more than $10,000 worth of books burned" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 93)
- The silversmiths and makers of idols nearly caused a riot over the loss of their business to Paul's converts (Acts 19:23-41). "In Ephesus was a magnificent temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis (the Roman Diana), the structure was four times bigger than the Parthenon in Athens. Pliny the Elder, who, like Luke, was writing in the first century after Christ, described the prodigious shrine: 'The length of the temple overall is 425 feet, and its breadth 225 feet. There are 127 columns...60 feet in height.' By comparison, a modern American football field is 300 feet long. Certain craftsmen who made shrines and figurines of the goddess were now feeling the loss of business brought on by Paul's preaching. It has been well said that the most sensitive part of civilized man is his pocket" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 93).
- Paul raised a young man named Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). (Yes, we can make all kinds of High Priest Quorum jokes out of this one...)
"For centuries scholars have debated when and exactly to whom Paul wrote his epistle to the Galatians. Though the evidence is insufficient to draw any certain conclusions, it seems likely that Paul wrote the letter during the latter part of his third missionary journey (about AD 57)..." (Sturm).
"Galatians and Romans...were the scriptural foundation of the Protestant Reformation. They led Martin Luther to break from the Roman Catholic Church. Thus Paul's words became an impetus to the great religious revolution of the sixteenth century" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 159).
Martin Luther said, "The Epistle to the Galatians is my Epistle. I have betrothed myself to it. It is my wife" (quoted by Sturn).
The Bible Dictionary gives a great deal of information about the Pauline Epistles, including the following outline of Galatians (p. 744-745):
- Salutation & rebuke--the only epistle beginning with a rebuke rather than a statement of gratitude (1:1-10)
- Vindication of Paul's authority as an apostle (1:11-2:21)
- Theology--The doctrine of faith in Christ's Atonement is superior to the doctrine of works in the Mosaic Law (3-4)
- Results of the practice of faith (5-6)
- Autograph (6:11-18)
What was the problem that prompted the writing of Galatians? Gentile converts were being forced to live the Law of Moses (often referred to in a shorthand manner as simply "circumcision") as taught by false teachers. In other words, Gentile converts were being expected to make the cultural and lifestyle changes to become Jews before they were allowed to become Christians.
The Law of Moses was much better than lawlessness, and it was a preparation for the receipt of the power of Atonement of Jesus of Christ in the people's lives, but by itself, it was inadequate to save. Once the Atonement was made, it was unnecessary altogether. Its purpose had been fulfilled.
The Gospel of Christ is what? It is, very simply, what Paul taught to the 12 men: "Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them" (Acts 19:4-6). (See also 3 Ne. 17:20-21.) The gospel of Jesus Christ is basically the 4th Article of Faith. It's believing in and calling upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ (faith) to change (repent) and progress through the keeping of covenants (such as baptism) and living in the Spirit (Gift of Holy Ghost) until we are perfected. It is going from darkness to a fullness of light.
"This verse is notoriously obscure; apparently the point is that those who are in Christ have direct access to God's promise without mediation. God is one." The Joseph Smith Translation completely changes these verses and now they make sense:
"Wherefore then the law was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made in the law of Moses, who was ordained by the hand of angels to be a mediator of this first covenant, (the law). Now this mediator [Moses, as just stated] was not a mediator of the new covenant; but there is one mediator of the new covenant, who is Christ, as it is written in the law concerning the promises made to Abraham and his seed. Now Christ is the mediator of life; for this is the promise which God made unto Abraham" (Gal. 3:19-20).
"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Gal. 2:16).
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23). All of the states of being that follow the word love are just various manifestations or results of love itself, aren't they? The concluding phrase "against such there is no law" means, "there is nothing that can hold you back" if you are filled with the Spirit, and consequently with love. Love is all-powerful.
"For all the law [meaning the pure Law of Moses] is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Gal. 5:14). However, the way the Law of Moses was understood by the people was inadequate to really internalize this. For example, The Harper-Collins Study Bible writes that a saying of Rabbi Hillel, one of the most important rabbis in Jewish history who helped to put together the Talmud, summed up the Jewish understanding of this law: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." (p. 2190). It's better than doing whatever you want, regardless of the effect on others, but it is not the same as truly loving.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1).
So where is the relevance for us? We are no longer concerned about living the Law of Moses. Or are we?
ROUTINE VS. DEVOTION
In our worship, we still have many rituals, as did the Jews under the Law of Moses. However, they should never be treated as ends in themselves. Joseph Smith taught that repetition is necessary because it teaches. But only if we let it.
The following ideas come from Matthew O. Richardson, BYU Professor of Religion, given in an address at BYU Campus Education Week, August 1999.
If we thoughtlessly take the sacrament each week, we are stuck in routine, just like the Jews and the Galatians: we are not acknowledging Christ as our Savior, we are not drawing upon his Atonement, we cannot progress. If, however, we use the sacrament each week with devotion to draw closer to God, to study his attributes, to perfect them in ourselves, to praise his sacrifice, to feel his love and infuse it in ourselves, we are steadily coming to know him. We are progressing toward eternal life. It is a vertical orientation, rather than horizontal. In routine, it is as if we are building a long train of items we have done:
X X X X X X X X X X X
In devotion, it is as if we are building a tower of items that build upon each other, ever reaching higher:
Routine is not bad, if it leads to devotion, just as the Law of Moses was not bad when it was pointing to Christ's Atonement. But routine, for the sake of itself is no better than the Law of Moses for the sake of itself.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." "Heart, soul, and mind," means "from the innermost seed."
"For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" (Gal. 6:8). Physical seeds eventually die; spiritual seeds live and grow forever.
The epistle would have been dictated to a secretary or scribe, but often the writer would add a signature and postscript in his own hand, as Paul did in Galatians. This begins at 6:11 and what he writes is significant: "Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand." "A better translation of the Greek would be, 'You see what large letters I made when I wrote to you in my own hand'" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 167).
It seems that in the postscript, he wrote with exaggerated penmanship (as if in big letters, all caps, and underlined) to let them know how strong his feelings were on the matter. If Paul wanted to underscore the importance of this message for the Galatians, maybe we should evaluate whether we need to underline it today. Each Sabbath, each Sacrament meeting, each scripture study session, each temple visit, each home teaching assignment, each church calling, etc., etc., let's think, "How can I use this ritual to raise myself to be closer to God?" The answer is always to do it in love, and to follow the direction of the Holy Ghost. That is the message of Galatians for the Latter-day Saints.