Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Walk in the Spirit

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As we move to Galatians in our New Testament Study prayerfully read and ponder Galatians,  Remember, recording your impressions shows gratitude to God for His help (see Paul B. Pieper, “To Hold Sacred,” Ensign May 2012, 109)

Imagine or think of one of your family members or friends who has expressed that he or she is no longer sure that the teachings of the Church are true. As a result, this person has stopped attending church and is no longer living the gospel. What would you say to them to help them know that the Church’s teachings are true?  This is what Paul faced with the saints of Galatia and his council can continue to help us today.  

History and Commentary

Galatia was a region in north-central Asia Minor that included many cities Paul visited during his second and third missionary journeys.  The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians was written to Christians who were straying from the Lord by embracing false teachings. In correcting this problem, the Apostle Paul illuminated the difference between the burdensome “yoke” of the law of Moses, which led to spiritual bondage, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, which leads to spiritual freedom. Though Paul’s reasoning is sophisticated, he addresses basic questions: What is the gospel? How does one receive it? What can happen when one applies it in daily life? What is the relationship between justification and faith?

Paul likely wrote his Epistle to the Galatians while traveling through Macedonia during his third missionary journey, about A.D. 57. The book of Romans was also written during Paul’s third missionary journey, and similarities between the content, organization, and style of Galatians and Romans have led scholars to believe that the two epistles were written during the same time period. There are some commentators, however, who believe that the events recorded in Galatians 2:1–10 happened before the Jerusalem conference (held in A.D. 49; see Acts 15); they propose that Galatians may have been written as early as A.D. 48 or 49.

Paul wrote to the Saints in Galatia, deeply concerned that they were straying from the Lord by following the teachings of some who sought to “pervert the gospel”Details in the letter make clear that these people were Jewish Christians—sometimes referred to as Judaizers by New Testament commentators—who were teaching Gentile Christians the false doctrine that they had to be circumcised and observe the ritual requirements of the law of Moses in order to be saved. Some Galatian Saints had embraced the teachings of these people.  

Paul’s main purposes in writing the Epistle to the Galatians included (1) defending himself against the accusations of the false teachers who opposed him; (2) teaching that all people, whether Jew or Gentile, are saved by the Atonement of Jesus Christ by placing their faith in Jesus Christ, not by performing the works of the law of Moses; (3) clarifying the role of the law of Moses in God’s plan; (4) distinguishing between the old covenant God made through Moses and the new covenant in Christ; and (5) calling upon the Saints to live by the Spirit.

Chapter Summaries

Paul stated that he was writing to the Galatian Saints because they had strayed from the Lord and embraced false teachings. He defended his calling as an Apostle by recounting his initial opposition to the Church and his conversion, by emphasizing that he received revelation directly from God, and by clarifying that his ministry to the Gentiles had been approved by the Apostles. He stated that he had once disagreed with Peter concerning the Gentile Saints. He taught that people are justified not by the works of the law of Moses but “by the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Galatians 3–4
Paul defended the gospel message. He taught that Abraham was an example of a person who was justified by faith and not by the works of the law of Moses. Through the Atonement, Jesus Christ redeemed mankind from the curse of the law. The purpose of the law of Moses was to be a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” Through faith and baptism Saints receive the blessings of the Atonement, enter the gospel covenant, become heirs of God through Christ, and are no longer servants but children of God.

Galatians 5–6
Paul called upon the Saints to live in the liberty and spirit of the gospel covenant: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh”.  Paul set forth the characteristics of one who lives a carnal, or fleshly, existence as opposed to the attributes of one who possesses the Holy Ghost. Saints should bear one another’s burdens and not be weary in well doing. We reap what we sow.

Part 1: Galatians 1:6–7; 3:1–5; 4:8–21; 5:1, 13–14  The gospel of Jesus Christ offers liberty

Paul reproved the Saints in Galatia for embracing the falsehood that Gentile Saints had to observe the rituals of the law of Moses. He defended his calling as an Apostle by declaring that he taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ, that he had received revelation from God, and that his ministry to the Gentiles had been approved by the Apostles in Jerusalem. Followers of Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles, are justified not by the works and rituals of the law of Moses “but by the faith of Jesus Christ” Paul supported this doctrine by citing the example of Abraham, teaching of the redemption made possible through the death of Jesus Christ and explaining that the law of Moses had been given as a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” Those who have faith in Jesus Christ and are baptized become Abraham’s seed and Paul called upon the Saints to live by the Spirit and to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel. 

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.

1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
15 Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Why were many of the Galatian Saints falling away from the true gospel?  Those who were troubling the Galatians and corrupting gospel teachings were raising doubts about Paul’s teaching that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ. These false teachers were Jewish Christians who claimed that the Galatian Saints had to be circumcised and observe the rituals of the law of Moses in order to be saved.

Paul typically began his epistles with words of gratitude and praise for the Saints he was addressing, even when they were in need of correction.  His Epistle to the Galatians lacks any expressions of thanksgiving or praise; rather, Paul immediately confronted the Galatian Saints with the charge of following false teachers.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie described the circumstances in Galatia:

“[Paul’s epistles are] written to answer the questions and solve the problems of specific groups of saints. And in the case of the Galatians, the problem is apostasy. These Galatians are Gentile converts. They are now being contaminated by Jewish-Christians who tell them they must also be circumcised and live the law of Moses to be saved. Paul’s purpose is to call them back to Christ and his gospel.

“Galatians is thus written to people who are losing the true faith, who are adopting false doctrines and ordinances, who are being overcome by the world, who are commingling the dead law of Moses with the living word which is in Christ”
(Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 2:455).

What did Paul teach about those who believe in Jesus Christ?

How is Paul’s message relevant to us today? Paul admonished the Galatian Saints not to become “entangled again with the yoke of bondage”   While today we do not worry about becoming entangled with the law of Moses, we “sometimes either consciously or unwittingly bind ourselves to the things of the world. As we do so, we place ourselves in a comparable position to Paul’s opponents in Galatia. … Christian liberty does not come from an absence of law; it comes from willingly yoking ourselves to Christ. The difficulty comes when we refuse to give up our other yokes, as did Paul’s opponents in Galatia. The yoke that they clung to was the law of Moses.

“In our day, our yoke, our law of Moses, is anything that prevents or impedes our total commitment to Christ and His gospel” (Gaye Strathearn, “Law and Liberty in Galatians 5–6,” in Go Ye into All the World: Messages of the New Testament Apostles [2002], 70–71;

President Harold B. Lee quoted Paul’s warnings to the Galatian Saints, found in Galatians 1:6–12, and then declared: “Today those warnings are just as applicable as they were in that day in which they were given. There are some as wolves among us. By that, I mean some who profess membership in this church who are not sparing the flock. And among our own membership, men are arising speaking perverse things. Now perverse means diverting from the right or correct, and being obstinate in the wrong, willfully, in order to draw the weak and unwary members of the Church away after them. And as the apostle Paul said, it is likewise a marvel to us today, as it was in that day, that some members are so soon removed from those who taught them the gospel and are removed from the true teachings of the gospel of Christ” (“Admonitions for the Priesthood of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, 105).

According to Galatians 5:1, 13–14, how do we find freedom from spiritual bondage? In Galatians 5:1 Paul described the old covenant—the law of Moses—as a “yoke of bondage.” Elsewhere in the scriptures, bondage usually described the captivity of sin, but Paul used the word to describe the limitations and burdens of the law of Moses. By contrast, the Savior taught that His yoke was “easy”—a “light” burden—and that those who took His yoke upon them would “find rest unto [their] souls” (Matthew 11:28–30). Paul taught that the liberty of Christ meant that disciples were free to be led by the Spirit and were not constrained by the law (see Galatians 5:22–23).  (New Testament Student Manual) 

President Howard W. Hunter explained that when our religious observance is not done “mechanically” but “because of our love for the Lord, in complete freedom and faith, we narrow our distance from him and our relationship to him becomes intimate. We are released from the bondage of legalism, and we are touched by the spirit and feel a oneness with God” (Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 36).
How have you experienced the liberty promised in the gospel of Christ? 

President Gordon B. Hinckley explained how the gospel of Jesus Christ makes us spiritually free: “True freedom lies in obedience to the counsels of God. … The gospel is not a philosophy of repression, as so many regard it. It is a plan of freedom that gives discipline to appetite and direction to behavior. Its fruits are sweet and its rewards are liberal” (Conference Report, Apr. 1965, 78).

What truth can we learn from Paul’s example about how to live by faith in Jesus Christ?  We exercise faith in Jesus Christ as we eliminate beliefs and practices that are contrary to His will and never return to them.  

Part 2: Galatians 5:16–26  If we “walk in the Spirit,” we will receive the “fruit of the Spirit.”

Many people struggle to recognize the influence of the Spirit. Galatians 5 can help us recognize the fruit of the Spirit.

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

What fruits, or results, indicate that someone is walking in the Spirit? The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.

What does it mean to walk in the spirit? To “walk in the Spirit” means to live worthy of and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost. To “fulfil the lust of the flesh” means to give in to temptations to sin.
In Galatians 5:16–17, we find two competing forces. Paul contrasted “the works of the flesh” with “the fruit of the Spirit.” 
To what degree do you “walk in the Spirit? ”

After understanding the meaning of Galatians 5:16: ask yourself this question: As I walk in the Spirit, I will overcome...

Consider how walking in the Spirit can help you overcome temptations. For each item listed in verses 19–23, ask yourself a question such as “Do I envy my peers?” or “Do I feel love every day?” Sometimes we can learn about a principle by learning about its opposite. This is what Paul is teaching us for today. 

Paul taught that we should “walk in the Spirit” and that if we do, we will overcome “the lust of the flesh” Paul’s words warned against participating in “works of the flesh” Galatians 5:19–21. These sins fall into four general categories. (1) Sexual sins. “Fornication” refers to any immoral sexual relationship; “lasciviousness” refers to unbridled or excessive lust. (2) Sins from the religious realm, such as idolatry and witchcraft. (3) Sins against other persons. “Variance” can be interpreted as discord and is an outgrowth of “hatred”; “emulations” are actions carried out in order to equal or be superior to another, often out of jealousy. (4) Sins associated with alcohol: “drunkenness” and “revellings.” Paul warned that those who habitually participate in these sins “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” Galatians 5:21.

What happens to the fruits of the Spirit when we give in to the lusts of the flesh?  We begin losing the fruits of the Spirit.

What happens to the works of the flesh when we walk in the Spirit?  They cease to be a part of our lives.

What do disciples of Jesus Christ try to do with the lusts of the flesh?  Crucify them, or eliminate them from their lives.

Paul used fruit to describe the Spirit. Why is fruit a good metaphor for the way the Spirit influences us? President Gordon B. Hinckley taught: “How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.”

On another occasion, President Hinckley said: “You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God. That which tears down, which leads us into forbidden paths—that is of the adversary. I think it is just that plain, just that simple” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley [2016], 121).

Paul gave the Galatians several examples of the “fruit of the Spirit”  Galatians 5:22–25. Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy gave further examples of the “fruit of the Spirit” and identified where these blessings are described in the scriptures:  “Paul described the fruit of the Spirit; that is, what the Spirit produces, ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness,’ and he observed, ‘Against such there is no law’ (Gal. 5:22–23). In other words, the Spirit can penetrate anything. No law can be passed which will preclude the Spirit from doing His work with an obedient follower of Christ. The scriptures teach us that the Spirit:
“Enlightens the mind (see D&C 6:15);
“‘Leadeth to do good— … to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously’ (D&C 11:12);
“Fills the soul with joy (see D&C 11:13; Mosiah 4:20);
“Reveals the ‘truth of all things’ (Moro. 10:5);
“Bears record of Father and Son (see D&C 20:27);
“Knows all things (see D&C 42:17);
“Convinces (see D&C 100:8);
“Gives knowledge (see D&C 121:26);
“Speaks in a ‘still small voice’ (1 Ne. 17:45);
“Teaches a man to pray (see 2 Ne. 32:8);
“Brings about mighty change (see Mosiah 5:2);
“Gives assurances (see Alma 58:11);
“Fills with ‘hope and perfect love’ (Moro. 8:26);
“Gives liberty (see 2 Cor. 3:17);
“Comforts (see John 14:16);
“Speaks peace (Alma 58:11);
“Is available (see D&C 6:14)” (“His Peace,” Ensign, May 1997, 32).

When have you felt the Spirit working within you to help you develop the qualities described in these verses? 

What could you do to invite the Spirit to help you further develop these qualities?

Part 3: Galatians 6:7–10 When we sow “to the Spirit,” we will reap blessings in due time.

Studying Galatians 6:7–10 can help us think more deeply about the long-term consequences of our choices.

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 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.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

What did Paul teach about what happens when seeds are planted?  What you sow, or plant, is what you reap, or harvest. This is called the law of the harvest.

How does the law of the harvest relate to the decisions we make?  Paul taught that God cannot be mocked, for the law of the harvest applies to spiritual things as well as physical.  He admonished that we “not be weary in well doing” for we will reap the blessings of our righteous actions, as well as the spiritually destructive results of sinful choices Mosiah 7:30–31; D&C 6:33). 

What principle can we learn from these verses about helping others who are not enjoying the blessings of the gospel?  If we are diligent in well doing, we will reap the blessings of our actions.

Elder L. Tom Perry spoke of the blessings assured by the law of the harvest: “[The Lord] is bound by his divine law to bless us for our righteousness. … [Galatians 6:7–9 is quoted.] May God bless us that we may sow to the Spirit in order that our harvest will be life everlasting” (“As a Man Soweth,” Ensign, May 1976, 65).

In an address focused on helping us avoid being deceived by Satan, President Dallin H. Oaks explained that the consequences of sin mentioned by Paul reflect divine justice: “If we indulge in drugs or pornography or other evils that the Apostle [Paul] called sowing to the flesh, eternal law dictates that we harvest corruption rather than life eternal. That is the justice of God, and mercy cannot rob justice. If an eternal law is broken, the punishment affixed to that law must be suffered. Some of this can be satisfied by the Savior’s Atonement, but the merciful cleansing of a soiled sinner comes only after repentance (see Alma 42:22–25), which for some sins is a prolonged and painful process” (“Be Not Deceived,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2004, 45).

How can the promise that we will reap “in due season” help us to not “faint” (verse 9), or give up, in our efforts to serve others and live the gospel in our own lives?

What “sowing” can we do now to be prepared to receive those blessings?  Elder Ulisses Soares explained: “To sow in the Spirit means that all our thoughts, words, and actions must elevate us to the level of the divinity of our heavenly parents. However, the scriptures refer to the flesh as the physical or carnal nature of the natural man, which allows people to be influenced by passion, desires, appetites, and drives of the flesh instead of looking for inspiration from the Holy Ghost. If we are not careful, those influences together with the pressure of the evil in the world may conduct us to adopt vulgar and reckless behavior which may become part of our character” (“Abide in the Lord’s Territory!” Ensign May 2012, 39).

Paul concluded his epistle to the Galatian Saints by reiterating that the peace and mercy of Jesus Christ are upon all those who become new creatures through faith on His name.  Let us make a point to accept the liberty offered through Jesus Christ, and walk in the spirit receiving countless blessings.  Remember to “not be weary in well doing” and to prayerfully consider your own actions while finding those whom you can help return to the Lord’s path.  By inviting them to diligently follow the impressions they receive from the Holy Ghost all will be blessed and gain peace.  As we heed this council from Paul we will become more purged, clean and whole, and able to connect with our Savior and our Father in Heaven.  

New Testament Student Manual
Conference Reports
Doctrine and Covenants
Book of Mormon
Teachings of the Presidents of the Church Gordan B Hinkley
Doctrinal New Testament Commentary
BYU Speeches

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