Thoughts on Gospel Doctrine Lesson 32

by | Aug. 14, 2003

Sunday School

David O. McKay on Paul's Third Missionary Journey:
While Paul and Timothy are visiting the churches in Galatia and Phrygia, let us hasten ahead of them to Ephesus; for there is a man there whose acquaintance we should make. His name is Apollos and he came from Alexandria. He was, undoubtedly, one of the most eloquent preachers of the Gospel in that day.
But when he first came to Ephesus, he "knew only the baptism of John." He had accepted the message of John the Baptist, but he had not heard the Gospel as it had been taught by Jesus and His disciples. He seemed to have been ignorant of the mission of the Holy Ghost.
With him were twelve other men who held the same incomplete belief.
Believing they had the truth, these men went to the same synagogue in which Paul had preached when the Jews asked him to tarry longer, and Apollos spoke to the people. In the congregation sat Aquila and Priscilla. These good Christians perceived at once that Apollos did not understand the Gospel; so, they invited him home with them and "expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly."
Shortly after this, Apollos left Ephesus for Corinth, taking with him a letter of recommendation from the Saints in Ephesus.
Thus it was that when Paul arrived in Ephesus he met the twelve men who had been taught the Gospel as Apollos had known it. When they told Paul that they believed the Gospel, he asked them, "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?"
"We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost," they answered.
"Unto what then were ye baptized?" asked Paul.
"Unto John's baptism," they replied.
"John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance," said Paul, "saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him that is, on Christ Jesus."
They were then baptized by the proper authority, in the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul then "laid his hands upon them" and "the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied."
For three months Paul continued to preach in the synagogue, "disputing and persuading the things concerning the Kingdom of God." During this time, he worked at his trade supporting himself "with his hands." Daily the Church grew in strength, and daily its enemies became so bitter in their opposition that Paul left the synagogue, and held his meetings in a schoolhouse where taught a man named Tyrannus.
In this place, Paul labored for two years, a period in his life marked by wonderful manifestations from the Lord. Sick people were healed by the power of faith in most miraculous ways. Sometimes when Paul could not visit in person those afflicted, they would be healed by simply touching a handkerchief or an apron he had worn. Thus "the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
Among those who witnessed these miracles were some-vagabond Jews who made a living by deceiving the people by pretending to be magicians. When they saw Paul heal the sick in the name of Jesus, they thought they could do the same, and thus make a great deal of money. So one day these seven men who were sons of Sceva, meeting a man who was afflicted with an evil spirit, said, "We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth," to come out of him.
"Jesus I know," said the evil spirit, "and Paul I know, but who are ye?" "And the man leaped on them, and overcame them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded."
The treatment that these seven men received through their hypocrisy, soon spread over the city. Many who had practiced such arts as the sons of Sceva had, brought all their books of magic and made a bonfire of them. Paul saw burned that day about $10,000 worth of books and papers.
Every year in Ephesus, in the month of May, there was held a great festival in honor of the Goddess Diana. Rich men came from all parts of Asia, and "paid vast sums of money for the entertainment of the people. The entertainments were of different kinds. In the theatre were concerts and shows; in the hippodrome horse-racing; in the stadium gymnastic games of running, leaping and wrestling. There were noisy scenes through the day and night. In every hour of the day there were gay processions to the temple, following the bleating animals crowned with garlands, being led to sacrifice. Idlers and drunkards could be seen almost everywhere at any time. * * * The shops and bazaars were filled with all the attractive things of those days which parents and friends would buy themselves and those left in distant homes. The special mementos would be little models of Diana and her shrine. The poorest of purchasers would buy those made of wood; others those of silver; and the wealthy those of gold."
Paul, no doubt, had told the Ephesians as he had the Athenians, that God is not made of wood, or of silver, or of gold, "neither graven by art of man's device." These were hundreds and thousands of people who believed Paul and worshiped the true God. Consequently, at this annual feast, there were not so many images of Diana bought as there had been at other festivals.
Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines for Diana, became very much agitated when he saw his trade interfered with. He called together all his workmen and said:
"Sirs, ye know by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands."
He continued to speak to them until they became thoroughly aroused and cried out, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
Soon the whole city became in confusion. A mob gathered, and tried to find Paul. Failing in this, they caught Gaius and Aristarchus, two of Paul's companions, and rushed them into the theatre.
Paul was kept in safety by his friends who refused to let him enter the theatre, although he insisted on doing so.
A Jew named Alexander tried to speak to the mob, but they would not listen, and continued to howl for two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
When they had worn themselves out, the town clerk arose and told them they had better go home and be quiet, or the Romans might "call them in question for this day's uproar." He said, too, that if Demetrius had any case against Paul, he could have Paul arrested and taken into court.
As half the people, as is the case of all mobs, did not know why they had come, they began to move out of the theatre. "The stone seats were gradually emptied, the uproar ceased and the rioters dispersed to their various occupations and amusements."
As Paul had already made preparations to go into Macedonia, he called the disciples to him, and after embracing them, left Ephesus so far as we know, forever.
(David O. McKay, Ancient Apostles [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1964], 208.)
Bruce R. McConkie on the Conversion of Apollos:
Apparently Apollos was a persuasive, dynamic disciple of John, who had not yet forsaken the forerunner and come to the full faith. He was a fervent, devout theologian who searched and expounded the scriptures and sought to save souls. But until taught by Aquila and Priscilla, he had not accepted the fulness of the gospel. How like him are some of the devout Christian preachers of this day. They have a measure of the truth, have searched the ancient scriptures, and they seek to save souls, not knowing that to do so they must first receive the gospel fulness as preached by the Mormon Aquilas and Priscillas.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 166.)
Joseph Smith on Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost:
Acts 19:1-6. Baptism was the essential point on which they could receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. It seems that some sectarian Jew had been baptizing like John but had forgotten to inform them that there was one to follow by the name of Jesus Christ, to baptize with fire and the Holy Ghost, which showed there converts that their first baptism was illegal. And when they heard this, they were gladly baptized, and after hands were laid on them they received the gifts, according to promise, and spake with tongues and prophesied.
"Not so, not so, my friends. If you had, you would have heard of the Holy Ghost. But you have been duped by some designing knave who has come in the name of John—an impostor." How do you know it, Paul? "Why John verily baptized with water unto repentance, always telling the people that they should believe on him that should come after him. He would baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost." John's baptism stood good, but these had been baptized by some imposter.
"No, John did not baptize you, for he did his work right." And so Paul went and baptized them, for he knew what the true doctrine was, and he knew that John had not baptized them.
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 152.)
 Sidney B. Sperry on the Sons of Sceva:
Luke tells of certain "vagabond Jews," exorcists, who attempted to cast out evil spirits by calling on the name of "Jesus whom Paul preacheth." (Acts 19:13) They had evidently seen Paul cast out evil spirits in the name of his Master, and were attempting to imitate him. Seven practitioners of their black art, sons of Sceva, a Jew, are specifically mentioned by Luke in an incident which he tells about. They were attempting to cast out the evil spirit from a man in the manner mentioned, when the evil spirit, speaking through the man, said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?" (Acts 19:15) Then the man, actuated by the evil spirit, fell upon these imitators of God's servant, "and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." (Acts 19:16) The incident caused a sensation among the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, and fear fell upon all of them. In this way the name of the Savior was magnified; many who believed in Him came and made confession and declaration of their deeds. And many of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burnt them in the presence of everybody. The value of these was reckoned to be fifty thousand pieces of silver ($10,000?). (Acts 19:17-19) Luke adds this significant line to his description:
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:20)
One who believes in the Scriptures and reads of the incident concerning the sons of Sceva must be impressed with the fact that the power to operate in God's name is confined to a relatively few of His servants. The Lord does not give His power to anyone who takes it upon himself to minister in His name. He is a God of order and operates through the appointed spiritual channels of His Church. Paul had the appropriate Priesthood and authority to act in God's name; the sons of Sceva did not. One hears slighting remarks these days about an "authoritarian" church, but the fact remains that God always acts through His one true Church; He does not work through sectarian channels. The sons of Sceva found that to be true in Paul's day. The same is true today.
(Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], 136.)
 Bruce R. McConkie on Priesthood and Priestcraft:
Paul preached and ministered in the power and authority of the priesthood. The pagan priests of Ephesus taught and made their livelihood through priestcraft. Priesthood and priestcraft are two opposites; one is of God, the other of the devil; one is spiritual and godly, the other is carnal and evil.
Acts 19:21-41. Priesthood is the power and authority of God delegated to man on earth to act in all things for the salvation of men. Priestcraft is Satan's substitute for this true power and authority. The Lord's Church is administered by priesthood; Satan's church organizations, all of them, are governed through a system of priestcraft. Nephi said, "Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion." (2 Ne. 26:29.)
Acts 19:24. Made silver shrines for Diana] These were various small models of such things as the Ephesian Temple, or the goddess Diana, which worshipers purchased for their religious significance.
Acts 19:27. Our craft is in danger] So often religious zeal becomes the hypocritical cloak of self-interest.
Acts 19:29. The theatre] There was room therein for more than 24,000 people.
The temple of the great goddess Diana] "It was reckoned one of the wonders of the world. It was built about 550 B. C., of pure white marble, and though burned by a fanatic on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great, B. C. 356, was rebuilt with more splendour than before. It was 425 feet long, by 220 broad, and the columns, 127 in number, were sixty feet in height, each of them the gift of a king, and thirty-six of them enriched with ornament and colour. It was what the Bank of England is in the modern world, the larger portion of the wealth of Western Asia being stored up in it. It was constantly receiving new decorations and additional buildings, statues, and pictures by the most celebrated artists, and kindled unparalleled admiration, enthusiasm, and superstition. Its very site is now a matter of uncertainty. The little wooden image of Diana was as primitive and rude as its shrine was sumptuous; not like the Greek Diana, in the form of an imposing huntress, but quite Asiatic, in the form of a many-breasted female (emblematic of the manifold ministrations of Nature to man), terminating in a shapeless block. Like some other far-famed idols, it was believed to have fallen from heaven (v. 35), and models of it were not only sold in immense numbers to private persons, but set up for worship in other cities." (Jamieson, pp. 206-207.)
Acts 19:29. Diana ... whom all ... the world worshippeth] What does it matter how many adherents a false religion claims? Suppose all men worshiped Diana forever, would any of them gain salvation as a result? Nephi saw that in the last days the Church of the Devil would have "dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people," and that the membership of the Church of the Lamb of God would be slight by comparison. (1 Ne. 14:11-12.)
Acts 19:29-31. Wise counsel from the saints and his gentile friends kept Paul from personal participation in the devil-led demonstration, thereby probably saving his life.
Acts 19:32. How often "the more part" of a mob scarcely know the reason, the cause, the excuse, that unites them as persecutors and defamers of others.
Acts 19:33-34. Lest the rage of the mob be turned on them, the Jews (who themselves were opposed to idol worship) apparently sought to disassociate themselves from Paul and the saints. But even their defense was shouted down with the fanatical chant, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians."
Acts 19:35-41. In the providences of God there is often a townclerk, a Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-40), or an Alexander W. Doniphan (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, p. 241), to come to the aid of the saints.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 173.)
 Richard Lloyd Anderson on Paul's Farewell Address to the Ephesians:
Paul loved God's work and his converts more than his life. He reviewed his three years of labor at Ephesus, warning "every one night and day with tears" (Acts 20:31). A man who had built up the work so successfully would surely promise similar success to the local leaders with a tone of optimism for further growth and achievement. That would follow as a principle of successful leadership, and Paul was a successful leader. But he did none of this. The tears were not in thankfulness for new generations of Christians but in sadness in realizing that all that he had worked for would be spoiled. He bluntly warned of apostasy soon after his time: "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:29-30, NKJB). "Perverse" literally means "turned around," the exact translation of Paul's Greek (diastrepho). Thus, Paul left the astounding testimony that local Christian leaders would reverse the apostle's doctrines. In the words of other translations, "distortion" would follow Paul's teaching of truth. Who would walk in Paul's steps? Not Christian leaders, he said; the successors of the apostles would be "savage wolves," words close to the Savior's portrayal of sheep who are really "ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15, NKJB). In both cases, only the appearance is Christian. Paul's point is that the Church itself will be corrupted. He does not say that part of the Church will remain faithful. He simply speaks of the factions of different disciples and leaves it at that. Paul expresses no hope for the continuation of the Church that he labored to create.
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 65.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Paul Predicting Apostasy and Cultism:
Acts 20:28. The Holy Ghost hath made you overseers] God calls his own ministers. All calls to the ministry should come by revelation. Unless and until God speaks, no man can represent the Lord in the ministry. (John 15:16; Fifth Article of Faith.)
Acts 20:28. Feed the church of God] Teach the doctrines of salvation; supply spiritual food; bear testimony of our Lord's divine Sonship—anything short of such a course is unworthy of a true minister who has been called by revelation. Only when the Church is fed the bread of life are its members kept in paths of righteousness. It is the spiritually illiterate who become cultists and who forsake the faith.
Acts 20:29-30. Which is worse, persecution from without, which drives men from the truth, or heresy from within, which perverts and twists the truth until all saving power is drained from it?
Theretofore persecution had been Satan's tool to prevent the spread of the gospel, now he was beginning to use a new weapon—dissension from within, perversion of the truth, the formation of conflicting cults and sects within the so-called Christian fold. How well this second approach succeeded is everywhere apparent.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 179.)
Sidney B. Sperry on the Epistle to the Galatians:
In this book the author is assuming that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Galatians late in the year A.D. 57, possibly in December, while he was visiting Corinth. In so doing he is quite aware of the great differences of opinion among so-called authorities on the subject of the time and place of the Epistle's origin. In fact, from the early centuries of the Christian era opinions have been and still are sharply divided on the points involved. Many early writers and even a few recent scholars have insisted that the Epistle was written from Rome while Paul was a captive. Some have placed its composition before the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 50), but others assign its writing to a time shortly after that Council. Still others would insist that it was written at Ephesus during the Third Missionary Journey. (A. D. 57?) Lagrange, the great Catholic scholar, thought it to have been written A.D. 54 at Ephesus. Ramsay and Weber put its composition at Antioch before the Jerusalem Council. Bleek and Lightfoot assumed that it was written at Corinth after Paul's three years of labor at Ephesus. In short, Rome, Ephesus, Antioch, and Corinth are the places mostly held to be the point of origin of the Epistle, and the dating of it, depending on the authority, may vary from A.D. 48 to 58. To be frank, this is a roundabout way of saying that we don't know when and where the Epistle was written.
...Now let us look at the occasion and purpose of the Epistle. Here we are happily on firmer ground. From time to time Paul had evidently received notices that the Judaizers had come among the Galatians and were teaching, contrary to the doctrines taught and espoused by the Apostle, that in order to receive salvation it was necessary to be circumcised and conform to the Mosaic Law. (Gal. 3:1-4:31 The false teachers from Jerusalem, or perhaps Antioch, had invaded the branches of the Church in Galatia and, pretending to have the sanction of the Church Authorities, were busy controverting Paul's teaching and introducing another "gospel." (1:9) The Galatians were given to understand that the authority and commission of the original Twelve was everywhere admitted and understood, but as to Paul's Apostleship, it could well be doubted. If he had any authority, did it not come of men? (1:1,12) True, he had had hands laid upon him at Antioch and had been sent out to preach (Acts 13:3), but he had been set apart by ordinary human beings, and his authority rested on his own testimony. (2:7-9) Furthermore, Paul's preaching had been opened to examination at the Jerusalem Council. (2:1-10) Peter had differences with him at Antioch (2:11-15), and he (Paul) was making a practice of pleasing all men for the sake of success. In his attempts to please men he had been guilty of inconsistency, teaching circumcision or uncircumcision as he found it expedient. (1:10; 5:11) Specious and unfair as their arguments were, the Judaizers appeared to the Galatians to be men of importance, and their flattery and fine talk so bewitched them that some of them were circumcised and began to "observe days, and months, and times, and years" (4:10), thus taking upon themselves the yoke and bondage of the Law with all of its burdens.
Naturally, the Apostle had great reason to be alarmed, because he saw clearly (1) that his authority and personal influence might be almost completely undermined among the Galatians, (2) that there might be a substitution by the Judaizers of the doctrine of justification by the works of the Law for the great doctrine which he had taught the Galatians, of justification by faith, and (3) that the destruction of hopes that Christianity could become widespread among the Gentiles. Inasmuch as he could not then visit the Galatians, Paul saw fit to write his Epistle to them in defense of his Apostolic authority and the validity of his Gospel, to point out to them the fatal results of cleaving to the doctrines of the Judaizers, to call to their remembrance the gospel of liberty which he had taught them, and to defend his character against the allegations of his adversaries.
(Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], .)
 Richard Lloyd Anderson on Galations:
Paul aimed at a narrow target in writing Galatians: those burdening the Gentile converts with circumcision and its covenant of living Jewish rules. An ancient word used by Paul and Josephus is useful—these were "Judaizers." The threat to the Galatian churches is clear from the letter, but the manner of Paul's defense as clearly suggests that the Judaizers used the leaders of the Church against him. Such claims are cheaply made but harder to back up. When Church leaders sent their decision to Antioch after the Jerusalem Council, they noted similar rumors but denied them: "Certain which went out from us have troubled you . . . saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment" (Acts 15:24). This clearing of the record not only showed their position on circumcision but also revealed the pattern of misrepresenting their position. Paul's defensiveness in Galatians 1 cannot be understood without knowing that he is correcting such a problem.
"Who has cast a spell upon you?" That is Paul's question as he moves to preach Christ over the old covenant (Gal. 3:1, literal trans.). The "foolish Galatians" are afflicted by those "that desire to be under the law" (Gal. 4:21). This is specifically the Law of Moses, for the Judaizers "constrain you to be circumcised," and Paul accuses them of wanting to please Jews living around them to avoid persecution (Gal. 6:12). Many had begun to obey the ceremonies of the Jewish calendar: "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years" (Gal. 4:10).
All of the above is most important in using Galatians, for it speaks to the narrow issue of false doctrine more precisely than does any other letter Paul wrote. A refutation of a single misconception is not a good source for perspective on the whole gospel. We have truth, powerfully presented, but not the whole truth. Readers should think about their reactions under the emotions of arguing against a false position. Paul can oversimplify in correcting extreme Jewish Christians. Galatians is a sharp and precise tool but created for a narrow purpose. Paul here explains the power of Christ's atonement but not all the remaining doctrines that relate to it.
No other letter of Paul has so much agreement on authenticity and so little on dating. Scholars multiply theories here, but there are important guidelines. One is the organization and style of Romans and Galatians. Midway through chapter 2, Galatians discusses the inadequacy of the Mosaic law and the need to accept Christ through baptism (Gal. 3:27). It closes with the moral duties of the Saints. Paul is too creative to make any letter the duplicate of another, but Romans follows the same format: it discusses the shortcomings of the Mosaic law, becoming Christ's through baptism (Rom. 6:3-5), and closes with the moral duties of the Saints. No two letters of Paul resemble each other so closely in content and argument. Then there are impressive phrases unique to the two: the Golden Rule as the sum of Christian duty (Gal. 5:14, Rom. 13:9) and the language of the Saints' adoption, using the Aramaic word in "crying, Abba, Father" (Gal. 4:4-7; Rom. 8:14-17). Such similarities argue for nearness in the times of their writing. As will be seen, Romans was clearly written in southern Greece as Paul was on his way to Jerusalem with the welfare contribution. His premonitions of persecution were strong, for he said that "all" of his converts "shall see my face no more" (Acts 20:25). He could not interrupt taking funds and Church representatives to Jerusalem. Had he received news of the Galatians' defection at such a time, the frustrated tone of that letter would follow. His only chance of helping would be a strong rebuke, though he really desired "to be present with you now" (Gal. 4:20).
Whatever the date of Galatians, the average Bible reader would recognize the correlation between the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 and Paul's conference with Church leaders on his Gentile gospel in Galatians 2. Some scholars spin theories here, insisting that the Galatian conference does not give the conclusion of the Jerusalem Council decision—and Paul would have told the Galatians specifically of that decision if the Jerusalem Council had been already held. But this argument comes from modern armchair scholarship. The decision of the Twelve was taken to the Galatian churches by Paul (Acts 16:4- 5), and if his converts had weakened in spite of knowing that, why should it be requoted? Galatians would give supplementary information in the obviously short time that Paul could write. The following discussion will show the close resemblance between the Acts 15 and the Galatians 2 councils. Since they so clearly refer to the same event, Galatians must have been written after that council and Paul's first revisit to Galatia. The Galatians accepted the council decision from Paul about A.D. 50, and one would assume some time would have passed afterward for their radical change of mind. Stylistic correlations discussed above suggest how much later Galatians was probably written—about the same time as Romans, A.D. 58.
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 152.)
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