New Testament Lesson 32 (Acts 18–20; Galatians)


Problems Then, Problems Now

President Joseph F. Smith said in 1914, “There are at least three dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them. As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false educational ideas, and sexual impurity.”1

These are the same problems faced by the Saints in Paul’s day.

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

— “Through the upper coasts” means along the high road through Galatia and Asia (Acts 18:23; Acts 19:1).
— Paul revisited Tarsus, Iconium, Ephesus, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, and Corinth.
— He then backtracked to Troas and sailed via Miletus & Tyre to Caesarea and Jerusalem.

— Paul’s third missionary journey was the longest of the three.
— It lasted four years and covered 3,500 miles.
— Ephesus was the mission center for this third proselyting journey.
— By spring of AD 57, Paul was back in Ephesus, from where he wrote to the Corinthians.
— Paul wrote 4 letters during this journey: 2 to the Corinthians, 1 to the Romans, 1 to the Galatians.


False Baptisms

● John the Baptist’s influence is still being felt many years after his death (Acts 19:2–7).
— John taught that a baptism of fire would follow his baptism of immersion, but these persons had never even heard of a baptism of the Spirit.
— Thus we know that these were baptisms performed by unauthorized persons and had to be performed again.
— The reception of the gift of the Holy Ghost followed.

— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Baptism was the essential point on which [after receiving it] 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 these 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.”2

● Paul continued “disputing and persuading” in local synagogues for two years (Acts 19:8–10). The word “all” means a great quantity or large portion, not literally all persons.


● Miracles performed at a distance through touching Paul’s clothing (Acts 19:11–12). Other similar miracles include:
— A woman healed by merely touching the Master’s robe (Matt. 9:20–22).
— Many persons healed by touching Christ’s garment hem (Matt. 14:34–36).
— A person healed by the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15).
— A similar miracle at Nauvoo using Joseph’s handkerchief (July 22, 1839).

● Evil spirits refused to acknowledge the authority of exorcists (Acts 19:13–20). $10,000 worth of occult books were burned as a result (v. 19). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “It is very evident that [evil spirits] possess a power that none but those who have the priesthood can control, as in the case of the sons of Sceva.”3

● A magnificent temple had been erected at Ephesus, one of seven wonders of the ancient world (Acts 19:23–41).
— It was dedicated to the Greek goddess Artemis (the Roman Diana).
— It was four times bigger than the Parthenon in Athens.
— Pliny the Elder, who wrote in the first century after Christ, described it as 425 long, 225 feet wide, and 60 feet high (bigger than Cougar stadium) with 127 columns.4
— The theater at Ephesus had room for twenty-four thousand people (v.29).


● From Ephesus, Paul and his companions traveled to Macedonia and Greece, preaching the gospel (Acts 20:1–3).

Events at Troas: (2 Cor. 2:12–13). After writing 1st Corinthians, Paul is anxious for word from Corinth. He travels from Ephesus to Troas hoping to find Titus there with word from Corinth, but was disappointed—Titus was not at Troas.

Events in Macedonia: (2 Cor. 7:5–7). Increasingly anxious for news of the welfare of the Corinthian church, Paul hastened by ship west across the Aegean Sea into Macedonia, where he worked among the branches of the Church and waited for Titus. Finally, in the Fall of AD 57, at Philippi, Titus arrived. Paul received Titus’ report with gladness; the Saints at Corinth had repented and were anxious to see Paul again. Paul had already made two visits to Corinth, the second of which was painful (made in “heaviness”), though the reason why is not known. Perhaps the visit took place between the writing of 1 and 2 Corinthians. Paul intended to make a third visit (1 Cor. 4:19; 16:5–7; 2 Cor. 12:14; 13:1), but was delayed for various reasons.


● During Paul’s third missionary journey he spent 3 months in Corinth, probably waiting for good sailing conditions before departing for Jerusalem (Acts 20:2–3).

● From clues within the epistle, we deduce that the letter to Rome was written from Corinth near the end of the third journey, most likely during the winter months of AD 57–58 (Romans 16:35).


A Brief Return to Troas and Miletus

● Paul and his companions returned to Troas, on the way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4–6).
— At least seven companions returned through Macedonia to Troas (v. 4).
— Paul and Luke remained behind briefly (note the “us” and “we”) then joined them (vv. 5–6).

● Paul addressed members at Troas for many hours—until midnight (Acts 20:7–12).
— Note that the new Sabbath for Christians is the first day of the week—Sunday (v. 7).
— A warning to those who would sleep in sacrament meeting! (v. 9). Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote of this event, “Sermons can and sometimes should be long.”5

● The missionaries returned through Asos and Mityline to Miletus (Acts 20:13–17).
— In the interest of time, the leaders of the Church at Ephesus were called to meet with Paul in Miletus.
— He gave a tearful farewell address—the only one in the book of Acts.


● Paul rehearsed his many sacrifices to bring them the gospel (Acts 20:18–27).
— In 17th Century (King James) English, “temptations” meant “trials, ordeals, or afflictions” (v. 19).
— Paul predicted the bondage waiting for him at Jerusalem (vv. 22–23).

● Paul predicted the apostasy that would come to Ephesus after his departure (Acts 20:28–31).
— “Grevious wolves” will enter the Church from the outside (v. 29). By a figure of speech called hypocatastasis, wolves represent people who would attack the Saints with perverse (that is, distorted, corrupted) doctrine.
— Members will also apostatize, seeking followers by changing doctrine (v. 30).

● Paul charged the leaders to protect the Church and feed the flock (Acts 20:32–35).
— While doing so, Paul quoted a powerful teaching of Jesus that is not found in the Gospels (v. 35).

● After a sad, tearful, prayerful farewell, Paul departed for Jerusalem (Acts 20:36–38).


When, Where and Why Paul Wrote to the Galatians

● There is much debate about when and where Galatians was written (Galatians 6:19). Many believe it was written at the same time as Romans, and therefore could not have been written from Rome as this verse indicates.

● Though neither the place nor date of writing of the letter to the Galatian Saints can be established with any positive certainty, the evidence favors that it was written from Corinth in AD 57.

● While other theories exist, the strongest evidence suggests that Paul was writing to the southern regions of Asia Minor, including such towns as Antioch, Derbe, Lystra, Iconium—towns he visited on the first missionary journey (Acts 13:13–14:23 and Acts 16:1–9). This theory is supported by what we know from both the record of Acts and Paul’s other incidental references.

● Paul’s primary purpose for writing to the Galatians was to remind them that true freedom can be found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ and that holding onto Mosaic ordinances would destroy the freedom they had found in Christ.

● Paul demonstrated that although the Mosaic law was of value for the children of Israel prior to Christ’s mortal ministry, its need was now superseded by the higher law.

● Paul begins his epistle with a familiar greeting, similar to those of all his others (Galatians 1:1–5). Note again his clear distinction between the Father and the Son.


Paul Chastises the Galatian’s Apostasy

● Paul upbraided the Galatians for the apostasy already arising among them (Galatians 1:6–9). This shows that the apostasy began even before the Apostles were all taken from the earth.

Paul’s Conversion, Authority and Doctrine

● His gospel was not of man; he learned it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:10–14). Note that Paul was a valedictorian in his rabbinical class in Jerusalem (v. 14).

● After three years he went to Jerusalem for 15 days, seeing only Peter and James, the brother of the Lord (Galatians 1:18–20).

● After this short visit he preached in Syria and Cilicia, but was personally unknown to the Church branches in Judea (Galatians 1:21–24). They only heard that their former persecutor was now preaching the faith.

● Paul’s next trip to Jerusalem was fourteen years later (Galatians 2:1–2). He went seeking official sanction for the work that he, Barnabas, Titus, and others were engaged in.

● Paul did not receive the gospel from the Apostles; he already had it (Galatians 2:6–9; 1:15–17). They recognized the hand of God is Paul’s calling, and authorized him to take the gospel to the Gentiles. They continued to work with the Jews. He was probably ordained at that time.

● A controversy arose between Paul and Peter over basic matters of Church policy (Galatians 2:11–14). Several serious disagreements appear among early Church leaders in the book of Acts and in Galatians (Acts 15:36–40; Galatians 2:11–14).


The Law vs. Grace

● To be justified is to be made righteous, holy, or worthy of salvation (Galatians 3:11).

● Paul, who had been an ardent disciple of Mosaic laws and traditions, now put down the law of Moses, because it was not enough to save them (Galatians 2:16–17, 21).
— We are not saved by our obedience to the law (v. 16).
— If obedience to law alone saves us, Jesus’ atonement was in vain (v. 21).

● Christ’s atonement saves us “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

The Gospel of Christ Pre-dated the Law

● The gospel was preached to Abraham in his day (Galatians 3:8).

● The doctrine and covenants of Christ pre-dated the law of Moses (Galatians 3:16–17).
— The gospel was given to Abraham by God.
— The gospel was preached to him in the name of Christ.
— The law of Moses came along 430 years later.

● The gospel in its fulness was also preached at Mt. Sinai (Hebrews 4:2).

● The law of Moses was added after the gospel was rejected (Galatians 3:19).

— The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “When the Israelites came out of Egypt they had the Gospel preached to them, according to Paul in his letter to the Hebrews, which says: ‘For unto us was the Gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it’ (Heb. 4:2). It is said again, in Gal. [3:19] , that the law (of Moses, or the Levitical law) was `added’ because of transgression. What, we ask, was this law added to, if it was not added to the Gospel? It must be plain that it was added to the Gospel, since we learn that they had the Gospel preached to them.”6

● The Law was a “schoolmaster” for the children of Israel (Galatians 3:24–25). “Schoolmaster” translates the Greek word paidagogus, from which comes our pedagogue, or “teacher.” In Paul’s time a paidagogos was a special tutor who was not only responsible for the child’s education, but was also expected to prepare and train the child in all ways so that he was brought to maturity. The closest equivalent we have in modern times would be the English nanny, who lives right in the house and has direct responsibility for the children’s upbringing. Paul’s usage of the word conveys the true purpose of the Mosaic law—to prepare the “children” of Israel for the “adult” laws and ordinances of the gospel.

Joint-Heirs with Christ

● Baptized disciples of Christ are children of God and heirs of the blessings and promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:26–29).

● Through Christ we can we become joint-heirs of God with our Savior-brother (Galatians 4:1–7).
— “Abba Father” was their way of saying “Daddy,” thereby revealing the very personal nature of our relationship with God the Father (v. 6).


● Continuing in the Faith: (Galatians 3:1–5). In some of the strongest language he ever used, Paul rebukes the Galatians for forgetting principles of the gospel he taught them.

● Following Paul’s Personal Example: (Galatians 4:8–12). Paul expresses his concern about the Galatian Saints and advises them to follow his personal example of faith.

● The “Allegory” of Hagar and Sara: (Galatians 4:21–31). Hagar represents the old temporal law and its representative place of origin, Mount Sinai; Sara represents the new spiritual law, which could be symbolized by one of its places of origin, the Mount where Christ gave the Beatitudes.

● The Burden of the law of Moses is Past: (Galatians 5:1–6). Paul advises them to stand fast in the liberty of the gospel of Christ and not be burdened by taking back the yoke of the Mosaic law.

● The law is fulfilled in one thing: Loving our neighbor (Galatians 5:13–15).

● Comparing natural and spiritual things: (Galatians 5:16–23).

● Mercy and Kindness to the Weak: (Galatians 6:1–3). Real Christians humbly help those who are weaker

● The law of the harvest is still in effect, and eventually our deeds will be recompensed (Galatians 6:7–10). Justice will prevail in the end (Ephesians 5:8–11).

● Avoid becoming weary in well-doing (Galatians 6:10).

● Bearing the marks of the Lord Jesus: (Galatians 6:17). Our English word stigma is drawn from the Greek word which was used here, stigmata—a wound or scar, or a brand with which slaves were marked. Paul uses it here to suggest that our “scars” of adversity are marks of faithfulness in the face of persecution.


1.  Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 312–313.
2.  Jackson, Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, 151.
3.  Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible, 152.
4.  Natural History, 36.21.95.
5.  Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 2:175.
6.   Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith [1976