Paul was amazed that the Galatian converts were turning away from the living Christ in favor of a dead law. Could they really prefer the bondage of the old law of Moses over the liberty of the new law of Christ? In Galatians 1–2, notice Paul’s emphasis on faith in Jesus Christ as the foundation that gives new life.
Prayerfully study Galatians 1–2and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 306–10.
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Galatians 1–2.
Invite students to share their school’s requirements for graduation. Discuss requirements such as attendance, required classes, exams, and so on. Ask: Why do schools have such standards?
Read this explanation by Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
“A few weeks ago I was returning from the East with President [Gordon B.] Hinckley. We conversed with a passenger who said something to the effect that all churches lead to heaven. How often have you heard that—the parallel path to heaven philosophy?
“They claim one church is not really better than another, just different. Eventually the paths will converge. One is, therefore, quite as safe in any church as in any other.
“While this seems to be very generous, it just cannot be true.
“… Suppose schools were operated on that philosophy, with each discipline a separate path leading to the same diploma. No matter whether you study or not, pass the tests or not, all would be given the same diploma—the one of their choice.
“Without qualifying, one could choose the diploma of an attorney, an engineer, a medical doctor.
“Surely you would not submit yourself to surgery under the hands of a graduate of that kind of school!”
Ask students why the kind of education described would fail to prepare them for their chosen career. Elder Packer concluded:
“But it does not work that way. It cannot work that way—not in education, not in spiritual matters. There are essential ordinances just as there are required courses. There are prescribed standards of worthiness. If we resist them, avoid them, or fail them, we will not enter in with those who complete the course” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 106; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 82).
Testify to your students that there is only one true gospel on the earth that has all the teachings, ordinances, and covenants we need to return to Heavenly Father and live like Him in His kingdom. Tell students that the Apostle Paul understood this doctrine and tried to explain it to the Saints (see Ephesians 4:5, 13).
Read and discuss the following verses and the corresponding questions with students. They may wish to underline the answers in their scriptures.
How many true gospels are there? Why would the teaching of different gospel plans be a serious problem to one’s faith?
Why are the teachings of men often more pleasing to some than the teachings of the Savior?
Paul had learned much about the gospel from the scriptures and his religious training from the time he was a child, and he no doubt talked with Church members after his conversion. Why do you think Paul said he was taught the gospel “by the revelation of Jesus Christ”? (see Acts 9:4–6). How is revelation vital to learning the gospel?
Explain that Paul was a relatively new convert who taught the gospel with confidence and power. He wanted the presiding officers to know that the doctrine he was teaching was sound and centered in Jesus Christ (see also the commentary for Galatians 2:2–4, 9in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, pp. 308–9). Read Galatians 2:1–2, 9and ask:
Who did Paul speak to in Jerusalem? (If necessary, have students read John 1:40–42to discover that Cephas was Peter.)
How did Peter, James, and John respond to Paul’s teachings?
Why would it be important that they all taught the same gospel?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:30. Invite students to share how they feel knowing that the Savior has restored, through revelation to prophets and apostles, the same true Church that was on the earth in Paul’s day.
Provide thirteen new pencils, or sticks of about the same size, and a few rubber bands. Ask for a volunteer to break a pencil (or stick) in half. Tightly bundle the remaining pencils with the rubber bands and invite someone to attempt to break the bundle. Ask:
Why is it so hard to break them when they are grouped together? (Be sure students understand that the strength of one is increased when united with many.)
Read Galatians 2:9. Why was it important that Paul and Barnabus receive the “right hands of fellowship” (acceptance and support) of Peter, James, and John?
How does unity among Church leaders bless the work of teaching and administering the gospel?
Explain that when Peter first went to Antioch, he ate openly with the Gentiles. That changed when a group of Jewish Saints, who believed they should not associate with Gentiles, arrived with the Apostle James (see Galatians 2:11–12). Read Galatians 2:13–14and ask:
Who followed Peter’s example when he left the gentile converts to go eat with the Jewish members?
How did Paul respond to Peter’s action?
Why was it important that Peter and Paul have the same view on this matter?
How would the Church be weakened if the leaders disagreed on the doctrine of Christ?
Share Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s explanation of this apparent conflict:
“Peter temporized for fear of offending Jewish semi-converts who still kept the law of Moses. … Without question, if we had the full account, we would find Peter reversing himself and doing all in his power to get the Jewish saints to believe that the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ and no longer applied to anyone either Jew or Gentile” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:463–64).
Read President Gordon B. Hinckley’s insight about the harmony of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Each man is different. We speak from various backgrounds and experiences. We discuss ways to improve and strengthen the work. At the outset of these discussions, there may be various points of view. But before the discussion is ended, there is total unanimity, else no action is taken. The Lord Himself has declared that such unity is an absolute necessity” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 79; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 59).
Ask students: What can we learn from the unity of the Lord’s Apostles? Testify that we can find great strength in unity with our leaders and fellow Church members.
Write the following on the board: Pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. Have students silently read Galatians 2:16–17; 3:11, 24looking for the word justified. Note that it appears six times. Invite various students to read the verses out loud, substituting the above definition in place of the word justified. Ask:
What justifies a person?
What does not justify a person?
Share with students the theme of the book of Galatians from the introduction (p. 193). Discuss these questions:
Why was Paul’s teaching of justification an important message for the Galatian Saints? (They were rejecting faith in Jesus Christ and emphasizing the works of the law of Moses.)
Why is justification an important doctrine for us to understand? (We may overemphasize our works and neglect our faith in Jesus Christ and His power to justify us.)
Paul taught that it is impossible for us to be declared guiltless based on our own efforts. We are justified “by the faith of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16). Yet we also know that works of righteousness are essential to our spiritual growth (see Romans 2:13; James 2:17–18).
To help your students understand the relationship between faith and obedience, reproduce the following diagram on the board, leaving out the words in parentheses. Describe how a hydroelectric power plant operates. (Water flowing through the channel near the base of the power plant turns the generators, which produce the electricity that travels to buildings and blesses the lives of those who use it.) Label the power plant us. Explain that just as the power plant is not able to produce electricity by itself, we do not have the power to be justified by our own works. We need the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Ask students where the source of power to generate the electricity is. (In the moving water.) What converts the strength of the river into power we can use? (The generator.)
Explain to students that our faith in Christ harnesses the power of the Savior’s Atonement. Label the generator faith in Jesus Christ and the river behind the dam Atonement of Jesus Christ. Invite students to look at the diagram and determine what we must do to allow the water to flow through the generators. (We must open the water channel and keep it clear.) Explain that to access the power of the Atonement we must keep our channel clear through our obedience and repentance. This allows the power of the Atonement to flow into our lives and make us worthy. Label the water channel obedience and repentance and the building personal worthiness.
Read Galatians 2:20with students. Ask: How can we “live by the faith of the Son of God” and keep our channels open so we can have the power of the Atonement in our lives? Read 2 Nephi 25:23. Testify that if we do all we can to obey and repent, the power of the Atonement will make us clean and enable us to return home to Heavenly Father.