Lesson 118: Galatians 1–4

New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual, 2016


Introduction

The Apostle Paul rebuked the Galatian Saints for following after false teachings and taught that they could become heirs of God by having faith in and following Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

Galatians 1–2

Paul rebukes the Saints for following false teachers and encourages them to return to the gospel

Invite students to imagine that one of their siblings or friends 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. Ask students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals what they would say to this sibling or friend to help him or her know that the Church’s teachings are true.

Invite students to look for a truth as they study Galatians 1 that can help them know how to recognize true teachings.

Explain that Galatia was a region in north-central Asia Minor that included many cities Paul visited during his second and third missionary journeys (see Acts 16:6; 18:23). (You may want to invite students to locate Galatia on Bible Maps, no. 13, “The Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Paul.”) Invite a student to read Galatians 1:6–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a problem that existed among the Galatian Saints.

  • Why were many of the Galatian Saints falling away from the true gospel?

Explain that those who were troubling the Galatians and corrupting gospel teachings were raising doubts (see Galatians 1:7, footnote a) 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 (see Bible Dictionary, “Circumcision”) and observe the rituals of the law of Moses in order to be saved.

Invite a student to read Galatians 1:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said about those who preached a gospel contrary to the one he preached as an Apostle of the Lord. Ask students to report what they find.

Invite a student to read Galatians 1:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for who was the source of Paul’s teachings.

  • According to verse 12, who was the source of Paul’s teachings?

  • What truth can we learn from Paul’s words in verses 10–12 about true doctrine? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Jesus Christ reveals true doctrine to His prophets.)

  • How can remembering this truth help us when we have questions about the prophets’ teachings?

Explain that because Jesus Christ reveals true doctrine to His prophets, He can also reveal to us the truthfulness of a prophet’s teachings.

  • What can we do to receive revelation from the Lord so that we can know for ourselves that the prophets’ teachings are true?

Remind students of the scenario you introduced at the beginning of the lesson. Invite a few students to explain to the class how they would use the truth they have just identified about revelation to respond to the person who is questioning Church teachings.

Testify that we can recognize true doctrine as we study the prophets’ teachings and seek revelation from the Lord.

Summarize Galatians 1:13–2:21 by explaining that Paul recounted his conversion and initial missionary journeys. He also explained that salvation was not in the law of Moses, but rather we are forgiven, or justified, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Galatians 3–4

Paul invites the Galatians to obtain all the blessings promised to Abraham through Jesus Christ

Read aloud the following scenarios. After reading each one, ask students to explain why the individual in the scenario may feel at a disadvantage in receiving all of the Lord’s blessings compared to others in the Church who had been faithful to the gospel from an early age.

  1. 1.

    A young man grew up in a less-active family and was not taught the gospel when he was young. His family is now returning to activity in the Church and is beginning to learn and live the gospel.

  2. 2.

    A woman criticized the Church for many years. She recently experienced a change of heart and was baptized.

Invite students to look for a truth as they study Galatians 3–4 that can help us understand what blessings are available to everyone, regardless of his or her circumstances and past choices.

Explain that many of the Galatian Saints were Gentile converts to Christianity and so were not literal descendants of Abraham, to whom all of God’s blessings were promised. Invite a student to read Galatians 3:7–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul taught about those who “are of faith” (verse 7), or who believe, in Jesus Christ.

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

  • According to verse 8, what did the Lord promise Abraham?

  • According to verse 9, what will happen to those who have faith in Jesus Christ?

Explain that to be “blessed with faithful Abraham” refers to being a beneficiary of the covenant God made with Abraham that through him all people could enjoy the blessings of the gospel (see Abraham 2:11).

Summarize Galatians 3:10–25 by explaining that Paul taught that the law of Moses was intended to help the Israelites come unto Jesus Christ and be justified by faith in Him.

Invite a student to read Galatians 3:26–27 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what we must do to receive the blessings promised to Abraham.

  • What must we do to receive the blessings promised to Abraham?

Write the following incomplete statement on the board: All those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ and enter the gospel covenant will become …

Invite a student to read Galatians 3:28–29 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for words or phrases they could use to complete the partial principle statement on the board.

  • According to verse 28, what do different individuals become when they enter the gospel covenant?

  • According to verse 29, what do those who are numbered among Abraham’s seed through Jesus Christ also become?

Explain that an heir is someone who is entitled by law to receive the estate, or belongings, of another.

Invite a student to read Galatians 4:7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for whose heirs we can become.

  • Whose heirs can we become? (Using students’ words, complete the principle statement on the board so that it conveys the following truth: All those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ and enter the gospel covenant will become one in Christ and heirs of God.)

  • Why is it important to know that God promises these blessings to everyone who enters the covenant, regardless of his or her circumstances?

Testify that Heavenly Father’s promises are for anyone who enters into the gospel covenant. Encourage students to be faithful to the covenants they have made.

Summarize Galatians 4:8–31 by explaining that Paul invited the Galatian Saints to return to Christ and to escape the bondage that comes from adherence to the law of Moses.

Commentary and Background Information

Galatians 1:8–10. “An angel from heaven”

Paul’s teachings recorded in Galatians 1:8–10 are sometimes used erroneously to argue against visions of angels and preaching a restored gospel. However, Paul did not teach that all manifestations of angels are to be rejected, for the scriptures show that angels would indeed come in the last days to preach the gospel anew (see Revelation 14:6). Rather, Paul taught that if an angel were to come to divert people away from the true gospel, then that angel should be rejected (see also Alma 30:53). The true gospel today, as in Paul’s day, is administered by authorized prophets and apostles (see Ephesians 2:19–20; 4:11–14) and grounded in “the grace of Christ” (Galatians 1:6; see also 2 Nephi 2:8; 10:24).

Galatians 2:11–16. Paul’s confrontation with Peter

For additional information regarding the disagreement Paul had with Peter while Peter was visiting the Saints in Antioch, see New Testament Student Manual (Church Educational System manual, 2014), 413.

Galatians 3:10–14. “The curse of the law”

As recorded in Galatians 3:10, Paul taught that those who seek to be justified by the law of Moses are obligated to obey all of it. “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” Paul said. This impossible requirement leaves all who seek justification through the law also under “the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13). Paul explained further that Jesus Christ suffered for “the curse of the law” by “being made a curse for us” through His Atonement (Galatians 3:13). Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all can receive the blessings of Abraham by exercising faith in Jesus Christ and entering into the gospel covenant.

Galatians 3:24. “The law was our schoolmaster”

Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy explained that many people in New Testament times misunderstood the purpose of the law of Moses:

“Many Jews, and even Jewish Christians, … had lost sight of the intent and proper position of the law. One reason for this was the unauthorized addition of requirements and traditions around the law that helped obscure its real intent. These additions and traditions were no longer a ‘schoolmaster … unto Christ’ (Galatians 3:24), ‘pointing our souls to him’ (Jacob 4:5), but rather were so burdensome and consuming that many Jews looked ‘beyond the mark’ (Jacob 4:14) and put the perverted law in place of the Lawgiver Himself” (“Responding Appropriately to Change” [address to Church Educational System religious educators, Feb. 8, 2013], 1, si.lds.org).

Galatians 3:28. “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus”

Sometimes people hesitate to be baptized or participate fully in the Church because they worry that they might have to give up their culture or because they may feel that they do not fit in. President James E. Faust of the First Presidency taught that the membership of the Church can be both diverse and united:

“We do not lose our identity in becoming members of this church. We become heirs to the kingdom of God, having joined the body of Christ and spiritually set aside some of our personal differences to unite in a greater spiritual cause. We say to all who have joined the Church, keep all that is noble, good, and uplifting in your culture and personal identity. However, under the authority and power of the keys of the priesthood, all differences yield as we seek to become heirs to the kingdom of God” (“Heirs to the Kingdom of God,” Ensign, May 1995, 62).

Supplemental Teaching Idea

Galatians 2:16–21. Paul teaches why it is not necessary to follow the law of Moses

Invite a student to read Galatians 2:16 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for why the Gentile Saints did not need to obey all the rituals of the law of Moses.

  • Why did the Gentile Saints not need to obey all the rituals of the law of Moses? (The “works of the law” included a number of rituals designed to keep Israel separate from other nations and looking forward to the coming of Christ. Circumcision was among these works of the law. Because the law was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Saints in Galatia at that time needed to exercise their faith in Jesus Christ to be justified.)

  • What does it mean to be justified? (“To be pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Justification, Justify,” scriptures.lds.org].)

Invite a student to read Galatians 2:18–20 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said would “make [him] a transgressor” (verse 18).

  • According to verse 18, what action did Paul say would make him a transgressor? (To rebuild the things he had already destroyed, which means to return to his former beliefs and practices even though the law had been fulfilled in Christ.)

To help students understand Paul’s teachings in Galatians 2:18–20, fold three sheets of paper in half. Write the word beliefs on one paper and the word practices on another. Stand these two papers up next to each other to make a square. Place the other paper on top of the square to create a roof, as illustrated in the accompanying diagram. Explain that this house represents Paul’s life prior to his becoming a disciple of Christ.

paper house
  • What did Paul destroy or leave behind in order to become a disciple of Jesus Christ? (His observance of the law of Moses. After students answer, knock down the house.)

  • Why would Paul make himself a transgressor if he returned to his former way of life?

Point out the phrase “crucified with Christ” in verse 20, and explain that Paul used this phrase to describe the process he went through of leaving behind his old beliefs and practices and letting them die.

  • According to verse 20, how did Paul live his life after his conversion? (He lived by faith in Jesus Christ.)

  • What truth can we learn from Paul’s example about how to live by faith in Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: We exercise faith in Jesus Christ as we eliminate beliefs and practices that are contrary to His will and never return to them. Write this truth on the board.)

  • What are some examples of beliefs or practices that someone might need to give up in order to live the gospel of Jesus Christ?

Ask students to think of someone they know who has put away old beliefs and practices to live a new and more godly life. Invite students to ponder how this person exercised faith in Jesus Christ.

Invite students to consider any beliefs or practices they might need to leave behind. Encourage them to live by faith in Jesus Christ by leaving those beliefs or practices behind.