Saturday, August 6, 2011

Acts 18-20, Epistle to the Galatians

Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians


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:
  1. to witness of Paul's apostolic authority at a time when some may have been questioning it, and
  2. to report some faith-promoting incidents relative to the growth of the young church.
(Dale Sturm, instructor of Religious Education at BYU,"New Testament Study Aids--Live in the Spirit," at the old LDS World Gems website [which unfortunately no longer exists]).

The five events noted:
  1. 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).
  2. Paul was identified as one with authority like Christ's by an evil spirit who refused to leave by sorcery (Acts 19:13-18)
  3. 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)
  4. 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).
  5. 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):
  1. Salutation & rebuke--the only epistle beginning with a rebuke rather than a statement of gratitude (1:1-10)
  2. Vindication of Paul's authority as an apostle (1:11-2:21)
  3. Theology--The doctrine of faith in Christ's Atonement is superior to the doctrine of works in the Mosaic Law (3-4)
  4. Results of the practice of faith (5-6)
  5. 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.
Galatians 3:19-20 doesn't make a lot of sense.  Even The Harper-Collins Study Bible footnote to verse 20 reads, "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).

The mistaken belief that had grown up around the Law of Moses was that one could be saved simply by keeping each of the many rules involved.  But that, of course, is impossible in two ways:  1) it's impossible to keep all those rules, and 2) it's impossible to be saved by the keeping of rules. 

"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).

The Law of Moses was much more focused on obedience and fairness, particularly with the additions by the rabbis.  For example, the phrase "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" was common among the people (see Matt. 5:38), and meant that when someone wronged you, you could not expect to be compensated for more than what you had lost.  The Law of the Gospel, however, was not about fairness, it was about love.  It was not just about obedience in regulations, but about obedience as a way of showing love to God, and of becoming like God.

"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.

Galatians 3:24-25 has another clarifying JST change:  "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster until Christ, that we might be justified by faith, but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.  For [now] ye are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ."  The Greek word for schoolmaster, "paidagogos, was not a teacher but a slave who guarded and supervised children," in other words, a babysitter.  The Law of Moses kept them out of trouble; it did not teach them godhood.

"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).

"Sadly, the second half of the New Testament is sometimes neglected by Latter-day Saints.  That is unfortunate because the times in which those books of the New Testament were written were not so different from our own.  The information in those books and the lessons we can learn from them could become a towering source of peace and power in coping with life's challenges in our own times" (Ogden/Skinner, p. 1)

So where is the relevance for us?  We are no longer concerned about living the Law of Moses.  Or are we?


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.
Matthew 22:37-40 is very familiar to us:  "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.


Anonymous said...

Just a question... If someone were to ask u What is living in the spirit? How would u sum it up in a couple of sentenses.....
I understand that the lesson talked about the important of the holy ghost and inspiration of the spirit but to sum all of it in 1 or 2 sentenses is not easy. Please explain

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

Good question! That would be a great question for class discussion as well.

I would say that living in the Spirit is being in tune with the Holy Ghost so that you receive promptings of what to do and you act upon those promptings. You remain in a state of love so that the Spirit can dwell in you and prompt you, comfort you, teach you, bring things to your remembrance, etc. You have peace because you know you are doing God's will for you.

You avoid any feelings of pride or enmity of any kind, any feelings of despair, any media that has evil images, etc., so that you are "in tune" with the Spirit.

Sorry, that was more than 1 or 2 words...

Nikki said...

I would love to have you email me your chart. My email address is Thank you for your insight and hard work in putting it all together!!

Anonymous said...

Thak for responding to my question. I had someone in class asked from lesson 31... about the part Paul explain that at the second coming the people that died in Christ will be resurrected first and then those who are still alive at this time who are righteous will be next. The question was does it include people of other faith or just church members, because he refer to what Christ told Nicodemus that man must born of the water and spirit meaning baptism, so he said it should only church members that had gone thru the water of baptism and given the gift of the holy ghost. Other people in class said its anybody that was righteous. Please explain

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...


The First Resurrection means not only the first one chronologically speaking, but also the best one--two meanings. Those who arise in the morning of the First Resurrection are those who inherit the Celestial Kingdom, also refered to as the Church of the Firstborn. (Please see D&C 76:50-70.) This goes beyond simply being baptized into the church (v. 51); it is those who have kept all their temple covenants as well (v. 52-57).

But keep in mind the work for the dead! All those billions of children who have died before the age of eight are included! All those who have died without a complete knowledge of the gospel, but who then received it in the Spirit World are included! All those who left this life heading in the right direction (for example, a person who was baptized and learning to live the gospel but was not yet endowed and sealed) and who continued that journey in the next life are included! (Please see Elder McConkie's statement in lesson 31.) All of these will be included!

So the answer is that both people in your class are correct, because if a person is truly "righteous" but not a member of the Church, he will become one in the next life, and accept the work that is vicariously done for him in the temple.

jack haight said...

I am not computer literate but enjoy your post each week. I would love to see the charts in a clearer format. Please email to
I will be greatful for any thing youare able to do.
Jack Haight

Carolyn said...

Please email me the chart. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insightful posts. Pl
pease send me a clean copy of your charts for this lesson.

Judy Jepson said...

I would also like a clean copy -

JennyTaylor said...

Hi. I teach the 16-18 year olds in our ward and would love a copy of your chart. I use your blog often to help me with my lessons and find it very helpful. My e-mail is Thank you so much.

4kidsandcrazy said...

I would also love a copy of your charts. (If I'm not to late, I'm teaching gospel doctrine tomorrow.) Thanks so much for all your hard work! My email is

Anonymous said...

If you can, I'd love a copy as well. Thank you for your hard work and insights!!!

holly said...

You are a live saver! thank you for all your hard work! and willingness to share!!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent insight! Received a call this morning to substitute for Gospel Doctrine and would like to use your chart. Definately realize it is last minute, but maybe it will work. Please send a copy of your chart to Thank you!!

Karen said...

Please send me a clean copy of the chart. Thanks so much for your hard work and insights into the lessons. My email is

Aaron said...

I am becoming quite the fan! I echo everyone else's comments - these are great insights and the chart is really a great graphical way to understand the true principles being taught. Can I also get a clean copy of the chart (no rush - getting ready for next week :) ):

Kris Foster said...

I would also love a copy of your chart.

Thanks for sharing and for the work you do so others who aren't that creative can benefit from it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy.

Genius. I would love to share your chart with my gospel doctrine class. Would you kindly send me a clean copy?

Blessings to you and many thanks!

Anonymous said...

Very nicely done! I, also, would love to share these with my family in a family home evening. Could you send me the charts. Thanks.

Jannette said...

I am at school and teaching sunday school for the first time ever on sunday and I would love a clean copy of the chart. My email is Thanks for all the help!

Anonymous said...


Its very wonderful to see your service to others and to the lord and how it has affected them and myself. Can I please have a copy of your chart, it will mean so much to me because I'm teaching tomorrow for sunday school. Sorry if its late.

Thanks Jason

Anonymous said...

oh sorry its ^^ thanks.

Anonymous said...

Can I have a copy of the chart aswell please. Thankyou so much truly inspiring

Unknown said...

Is this chart still available? Would be much obliged if you wouldn't mind emailing it me. I realize this was 4 years ago. Worth a shot. Thanks, V

Anonymous said...

I would also like a copy of your chart.

Thanks so much. :)

Nancy Wyatt Jensen said...

I'm so sorry, 2015 friends. I no longer have that chart. It disappeared with the death of my old computer. If you right-click on the chart, you can pull it up and then print it as a picture. It's not super crisp and clear, but it is readable.

Anonymous said...

I know this blog post is years old - but I have to tell you how helpful it has been for me. This post, and all of the others I have pulled from to teach, have greatly enhanced my lessons and the spirit that is felt. I so appreciate you having these available still, and all of the time that was spent to create them. Thank you, thank you!!

Spring said...

I recreated Nancy's charts from this lesson and turned it into a power point. I also have the word document. The only change I made was to make it more colorful. If you like a copy of either, please just let me know.

Shannon said...

Spring, I would like that power point and/or word document.

Thank you to both for your time and skills.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This is awesome. Spring, I would love to get an email from you. Thank you for your help.

Anonymous said...

Spring - would love to get a copy of your power point and word document. please send to

Unknown said...

Can I get a copy?