Chapter 38: “Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap”

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 306–13


Map Chp. 38

A Letter of Paul to the Saints in the Province of Galatia

Written from Corinth During Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, ca. A.D. 57 (Galatians)

 

Galatians

A Warning Against False Preachers

1:1–10

Paul’s Call to the Ministry

1:11–24

The Meeting at Jerusalem

2:1–10

Peter and Paul of Antioch

2:11–14

Salvation Comes Through Christ

2:15–21

The Spirit Comes by Faith

3:1–5

How the Mission of Abraham Is Extended to the Gentiles

3:6–18

The Purpose of the Law

3:19–22

Saints Are God’s Children by Faith

3:23–29

How Saints Become Sons of God

4:1–8

Galatians Called Back to Assist

4:9–20

The Two Covenants: Hagar and Sarah

4:21–31

Christian Liberty

5:1–12

Liberty and Charity

5:13–15

Walk in the Spirit

5:16–26

Bear One Another’s Burdens

6:1–6

“As Ye Sow, So Shall Ye Reap”

6:7–18

Interpretive Commentary

(38-1) The Book of Galatians—Freedom and the Gospel

The Theme of this letter is that true freedom can be found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul shows clearly and powerfully that adoption of the teachings of the Judaizers (Jewish Christians who insisted on the observance of the Mosaic law) would limit or even destroy the new freedom the saints had found in Christ. Paul demonstrates that although the Mosaic law was of value for the children of Israel prior to Christ’s mortal ministry, its need is now superseded by the higher law.

(38-2) Place and Date of Writing

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 the conclusion that it was written from Corinth during the third missionary journey in approximately A.D. 57.

(38-3) Special Problems

The most significant debate about the letter itself concerns the identity of the Galatian saints. The term Galatia could refer to two different areas, depending on whether its user was speaking ethnically or politically. The ethnographic usage of the term referred to that area just below the Black Sea in Asia Minor where the area was inhabited by Gauls.

When the Roman legions brought these Gaulic tribes under subjection, the territory was made a Roman province called Galatia. This included a much broader territory, since it encompassed more southerly sections of Asia Minor. This provincial title was the political use of the term Galatia.

Which sense did Paul have in mind when he used the term? That is the point of debate. Two basic theories have resulted. The first is called the North Galatian Theory. Those who hold this view assume that Paul is using the term ethnically and therefore Galatia is limited to the northern parts of the province. The greatest problem with this theory is that there is no record of any preaching activity there, nor does Paul or Luke ever make any reference to the major cities of northern Galatia.

Those who accept the South Galatian Theory hold that Paul always uses provincial titles when he refers to established churches. (He refers to Achaia, Arabia, Asia, Cilicia, Dalmatia, and so on.) If this is so, then Galatia, as Paul uses it, would include 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, then, is supported by what we know from both the record of Acts and Paul’s other incidental references.

While the interpretation and value of the book is not affected by the correctness of either theory, we shall assume that the South Galatian Theory is correct and that Paul is writing to those churches established on his first missionary journey.

(38-4) Galatians 1:8, 9. Those Who Would Introduce False Teachings into the Church

Elder Howard W. Hunter spoke of this problem in a general conference:

“From the earliest days of the Christian church, spurious gospels have been taught—not really gospels, as Paul pointed out, for there is only one gospel of Christ. Today is not different. We are surrounded by frustrations and advances in thought and learning which raise questions and doubts. These seem to drag men down and destroy faith and morality. Where, then, is hope in this world of frustration and moral decay? It lies in the knowledge and understanding of the truths taught by the Master, which must be taught by the Church of Christ without deviation and believed in and lived by its membership. These are eternal truths and will be so in perpetuity regardless of changing circumstances in society, development of new scientific achievements, or increase of man’s knowledge.” (CR, Oct. 1973, p. 66.)

President Harold B. Lee warned about false teachings arising from within the Church itself.

“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 to be led astray into something that corrupts the true doctrines of the gospel of Christ into vicious and wicked practices and performances.

“These, as have been evidenced by shocking events among some of these splinter groups, have been accursed, as the prophets warned; and they are obviously in the power of that evil one who feeds the gullible with all the sophistries which Satan has employed since the beginning of time.” (CR, Oct. 1972, p. 125.)

(38-5) Galatians 2:2–4, 9. Does Paul’s “Running in Vain” Imply Doubts about His Mission?

The implication that is sometimes derived from the English rendering of verse 2 is that Paul had inner doubts about his commission to the gentiles and went to the apostles to see if he was “running in vain.” But that implication is not found in the original language. The feeling conveyed there is that Paul sought official sanction for the work he was engaged in (probably in answer to the criticisms that were already being started by the Judaizers). Verse 4 shows that he received that official approval without reserve, for Titus was not required to be circumcised, as demanded by those who were opposed to Paul. This full and unqualified support of the brethren is further shown in verse 9, where Paul says he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship—a Greek and Hebrew idiom showing full partnership, alliance, or unity.

(38-6) Galatians 2:11–21. How Could Paul, an Apostle, Correct Peter, the President of the Church?

“Peter and Paul—both of whom were apostles, both of whom received revelations, saw angels, and were approved of the Lord, and both of whom shall inherit the fulness of the Father’s kingdom—these same righteous and mighty preachers disagreed on a basic matter of church policy. Peter was the President of the Church; Paul, an apostle and Peter’s junior in the church hierarchy, was subject to the direction of the chief apostle. But Paul was right and Peter was wrong. Paul stood firm, determined that they should walk ‘uprightly according to the truth of the gospel’; Peter temporized for fear of offending Jewish semi-converts who still kept the law of Moses.

“The issue was not whether the Gentiles should receive the gospel. Peter himself had received the revelation that God was no respecter of persons, and that those of all lineages were now to be heirs of salvation along with the Jews. (Acts 10:21–35.) Further, the heads of the Church, in council assembled, with the Holy Ghost guiding their minds and directing their decisions, had determined that the Gentiles who received the gospel should not be subject to the law of Moses. (Acts 15:1–35.) The Jewish members of the Church, however, had not been able to accept this decision without reservation. They themselves continued to conform to Mosaic performances, and they expected Gentile converts to do likewise. Peter sided with them; Paul publicly withstood the chief apostle and won the debate, as could not otherwise have been the case. 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.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:463–64.)

(38-7) Galatians 2:13. What Is the Meaning of the Word Dissimulation?

Paul used a very strong word, of which the English dissimulation is an excellent translation. The English is based on the word simulate, which means “to make similar.” Dissimulate therefore means “to hide under false appearance. The Greek word hypokrisei is a derivative of the same root as our word hypocrite. These Judaizers were hypocrites because they pretended to be extremely faithful in their obedience to gospel principles even while they were working in a manner contrary to true gospel standards.

(38-8) Galatians 2:16. What Did Paul Mean by “the Law,” “the Works of the Law,” and “Justification by Faith”?

As we have already seen, the major thrust of this particular letter was an attempt to show the Galatian saints that obedience to the Mosaic law was not only unnecessary but actually contrary to the gospel. Technically, “the law” referred to the first five books of the Old Testament. In Hebrew those were called the Torah. Paul used the word in that sense in 4:21, 22 when he called attention to the example of Sarah and Hagar. But by the time of Jesus, the phrase “the law” had also come to mean the whole set of rules, rituals, and practices of the Mosaic code, both those included specifically in the writings of Moses, and the mass of oral traditions that had been formulated throughout the following centuries. It is in this sense that Paul most typically uses law in Galatians.

Very briefly, justification means “to be declared righteous,” and also “to be put back into the right relationship with a person.” Therefore, what Paul was saying is that no man can be made righteous and reestablish the proper relationship with God exclusively by the words of the Mosaic law or, for that matter, by any law of works alone. This can come only through the atoning sacrifice of the Savior and through the obedience to the principles and ordinances of the gospel. (Paul outlined this doctrine much more completely and systematically in the first few chapters of his letter to the Romans. Therefore, a detailed and complete treatment of these important doctrines will be reserved for that section.)

(38-9) Galatians 3:8. Did Saints before Christ Have the Gospel Preached to Them?

“It will be noticed that, according to Paul, (see Gal. 3:8) the Gospel was preached to Abraham. We would like to be informed in what name the Gospel was then preached, whether it was in the name of Christ or some other name. If in any other name, was it the Gospel? And if it was the Gospel, and that preached in the name of Christ, had it any ordinances? If not, was it the Gospel? And if it had ordinances what were they? Our friends may say, perhaps, that there were never any ordinances except those of offering sacrifices before the coming of Christ, and that it could not be possible before the Gospel to have been administered while the law of sacrifices of blood was in force. But we will recollect that Abraham offered sacrifice, and notwithstanding this, had the Gospel preached to him.” (Smith, Teachings, p. 60. See also Jacob 4:5.)

(38-10) Galatians 3:19. To What Was the Law of Moses Added Because of Transgression?

“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. From these few facts, we conclude that whenever the Lord revealed Himself to men in ancient days, and commanded them to offer sacrifice to Him, that it was done that they might look forward in faith to the time of His coming, and rely upon the power of that atonement for a remission of their sins. And this they have done, thousands who have gone before us, whose garments are spotless, and who are, like Job, waiting with an assurance like his, that they will see Him in the latter day upon the earth, even in their flesh.” (Smith, Teachings, pp. 60–61.)

(38-11) Galatians 3:24. How Was the Law a Schoolmaster to the Children of Israel?

The translators of the King James Version used the word schoolmaster to translate the Greek word Paul used here because it had come directly into English and by then had come to mean “a teacher.” The Greek word is paidagogus, from which comes our pedagogue, or teacher. But it had a special usage in Paul’s time which lends even more power to the image he was creating. A paidagogos was a special tutor hired by the more wealthy families; he was not only responsible for the child’s education, but he 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 or governess, who lived right in the house and had direct responsibility for the children’s upbringing.

Paul’s usage of the word here would immediately convey the true purpose of the Mosaic law—to prepare the children of Israel (who were literally children in the spiritual sense) for maturity and the “adult” laws and ordinances of the gospel. The prophet Abinadi had this very thing in mind when he explained the reasons why the Israelites were given the law of Moses. (See Mosiah 13:29–31.)

Abinadi’s statement that all these things were “types” of things to come is an important one. Type is a common scriptural synonym for symbol. So not only was the law of Moses a set of strict laws designed to tutor the children of Israel in the ways of obedience and bring them to spiritual maturity, but also it contained deeply spiritual symbolism pointing the mind to Jesus as the Redeemer and Messiah. Clearly, the law of Moses was designed to prepare God’s people for the gospel which was to come.

(38-12) Galatians 3:27. Can a Wicked Person Really Put On Christ through Repentance and Baptism?

“When a physical body is filthy, the process of cleansing is a thorough bath, the brushing of teeth, the shampooing of hair, the cleaning of fingernails, and the donning of fresh, clean clothing. When a home is renovated, roofs are mended or replaced, walls washed or painted, floors swept and scrubbed, furniture repaired and dusted, curtains laundered and metals polished. When a defiled man is born again, his habits are changed, his thoughts cleansed, his attitudes regenerated and elevated, his activities put in total order, and everything about him that was dirty, degenerate or reprobate is washed and made clean. …

“… When one is washed and purged and cleansed, he is no longer an adulterer. The washing, purging, cleansing process is mentioned many times, many places, by many prophets.

“The effect of the cleansing is beautiful. These troubled souls have found peace. These soiled robes have been cleansed to spotlessness. These people formerly defiled, having been cleansed through their repentance—their washing, their purging, their whitening—are made worthy for constant temple service and to be found before the throne of God associating with divine royalty.” (Kimball, Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 352–53.)

(38-13) Galatians 4:6. What Is the Significance of the Title “Abba, Father”?

Paul suggested that through the atonement of Christ we can be adopted as sons of God, and then the Spirit shall help us cry “Abba, Father.” Abba is Aramaic (a cognate of Hebrew) and carries more than just the connotation of father. It is the intimate and personal diminutive of the word father used by children in the family circle. The closest equivalent we have is papa or daddy, although neither can really convey fully the impact of the word. The point is that God is not only Father (the formal title and name), but he is also Abba, the parent of love and guidance that knows us intimately and whom we can approach without fear.

(38-14) Galatians 4:21–31. The Allegory of Sarah and Hagar

“Paul here uses the life of Abraham as an allegory to dramatize the superiority of the gospel over the law of Moses—a mode of teaching designed to drive his doctrine home anew each time his hearers think of Abraham and his life.

“Hagar, the bondwoman, bore Ishmael; and Sarah, the free-woman, brought forth Isaac. Ishmael was born after the flesh, while Isaac, as a child of promise, came forth after the Spirit. Hagar is thus made to represent the old covenant, the law of Moses, the covenant under which men were subject to the bondage of sin; while Sarah symbolizes the new covenant, the gospel, the covenant under which men are made free, free from bondage and sin through Christ.

“Mt. Sinai, from whence the law came, and Jerusalem, from whence it is now administered, symbolize the law, and their children are in bondage. But the spiritual Jerusalem, the heavenly city of which the saints shall be citizens, is symbolized by Sarah, and she is the mother of freemen. Sarah, who was so long barren, as our spiritual mother, has now made us all, like Isaac, heirs of promise.

“But it is now, as it was then, those born after the flesh war against those born of the Spirit. And as God rejected Ishmael and accepted Isaac, so does he now reject those who cleave to the law of Moses and accept those who turn to Christ.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:477–78.)

(38-15) Galatians 5:2. Why Would Circumcision in Paul’s Day Have Negated the Power of Christ?

“Circumcision, as a religious ordinance, is the token and sign certifying belief in, acceptance of, and conformity to the whole Mosaic system, and therefore for the Christians of that day it constituted a rejection of Christ and his gospel which replaced the law. See Acts 15:1–35.” (McConkie, DNTC, 2:479.)

(38-16) Galatians 5:16–26. The Natural and the Spiritual

“… man is a dual being, and his life a plan of God. That is the first fundamental fact to keep in mind. Man has a natural body and a spiritual body. …

“Man’s body, therefore, is but the tabernacle in which his spirit dwells. Too many, far too many, are prone to regard the body as the man, and consequently to direct their efforts to the gratifying of the body’s pleasures, its appetites, its desires, its passions.” (David O. McKay, “The Abundant Life in a Selfish World,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1949, p. 558.)

(38-17) Galatians 6:17. I Bear in My Body the Marks of the Lord Jesus

Our English word stigma is drawn from the Greek word which was used here, stigmata. It meant a wound or scar and came originally from the brands with which slaves were marked. Since generally that was a mark one was not proud of, such marks were generally looked upon with some negative connotations—thus our use of the word stigma. But here Paul seems to refer to them not as a mark of shame, but of faithfulness in the face of persecution. Perhaps the stigmata that he bore were partially received in Galatia itself. It should be remembered that on the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas were expelled forcibly from Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:50). Then they were forced to flee from Iconium to avoid stoning (Acts 14:5), only to have the angry Jews follow them to Lystra and carry through with their intent, stoning Paul and leaving him for dead outside the city (Acts 14:19).

Points to Ponder

Paul’s concern was that the Galatian saints had turned from their evil ways, had repented and received baptism, and had been wrought upon by the power of God and given a new birth, but were now returning to their former practices (Galatians 4:9). They did the thing that wasted the effort of their ever having repented in the first place: they returned to seek God by outward and fleshy things, to seek happiness by means that cannot touch the inward man. Consider Ezekiel 18:21–24.

Many who were converted to the truth in Paul’s day and who had turned away from their former lives, after a season and a time began to miss their former associations and the yoke of the law of Moses to which they had been subjected. They did not want to forsake the truth directly, but they wanted to bring into the truth all of their former practices and pollutions.

John

But why would someone want to return to and bring into their life the errors which they formerly had forsaken?

David

Not everyone who makes a mistake is willfully and deliberately wicked. Some may be well-intentioned, although wrong. These converts wanted to stay in the church; but because of pride or maybe other reasons, they felt that if they could introduce their former sins into the church, they could appear to justify their former participation in them.

John

I’m not sure I understand. How could bringing my former sins into the church justify what I may have done before baptism?

David

Let’s suppose that before you joined the Church, you belonged to a Protestant congregation that did not forbid the drinking of tea. Then you hear the missionaries; and among other new concepts, they teach that you should not drink tea You now have two alternatives: (1) you can be humble and repent and never drink tea again, or (2) you can justify yourself and try to force your peculiar views upon the Church.

John

How could I try to do that?

David

You might join the Church and then find a weak member who likes to drink tea. So you invite him to drink tea with you, and you try to get other members and even leaders in the ward or stake to drink tea with you, because the larger your group, the more you may think to have justified your former behavior. Perhaps you may agitate to have the standards changed and the ideals reduced, not because you necessarily are convinced it is right to drink tea, but because it is hard for you to forsake things that have been so familiar to you and perhaps because it would be easier to justify continuing your former behavior than to repent.

(38-18) You Shall Always and Forever Reap Just as You Sow

Emma Jane struggled with the handrail as she edged her way up the steps of the church and into the foyer. She had been brought up in the faith, had married and reared a family, her husband had passed away recently, her children lived far away, and she felt just a little lonely as she made her way on through the foyer and into the aisle that led to her usual seat near the front of the chapel. She was bent with age, and it was only with great effort that she could prepare to attend her Church meetings. But she enjoyed the meetings, and today was a special day, for the young, new bishop was going to address the ward members. She liked him and marveled that he could be prepared at such a young age to preside over a ward. She hoped he would say something pleasant for a change, for the previous bishops seemed to speak only about sin and worthiness and repentance. The sacrament was administered, and soon the bishop was speaking.

“Oh no!” thought Emma Jane. “He’s going to speak about repentance and sin, too. I’m old. I’m entitled to hear about sweeter things now. “Why all this talk about morality? When will we ever hear the end of that …”

Her silent questions trailed off as her mind flashed back to that one time now almost fifty years ago. She had been pretty and young, and a little too careless, and had slipped just once. In her subsequent courtship and marriage in the temple to another man, she had rationalized that since it had just been one mistake, she needn’t tell anyone, especially the bishop who had interviewed her. Certainly, she had convinced herself she must have been strong and good or she would have made many more mistakes than one in those carefree years.

The bishop was saying that repentance must be complete, and that included confession of major sins. “But mine was not a major sin because I was so young and I never did it again. Oh, why must we hear of sin when our services should be filled with peace?” Her mind recalled the graveside service of her late husband. She had been pleased that he had never known, and yet as she had stood there by his grave on that lonely day, she couldn’t help but feel that she had been a deceiver and that where he was now he probably knew. The bishop was speaking of how our former sins will remain with us always unless and until we resolve them. How could you know if your sins were resolved? the bishop was asking. If you could hear a sermon on the subject of your former sins and still feel at peace.

Emma Jane did not feel peace! “Oh I wish he would quit,” she thought. Her mind was tormented now as it had been many times before by the suggestion that she should see her bishop about that trouble so many years ago. Throughout the rest of the meeting she could hardly refrain from crying out. “Oh, why can’t I forget? Why must I always feel like this?”

The people were leaving now, and she among them. She silently hoped that her profound anxiety inside did not show on her face. Then all of a sudden there he was, her new bishop, smiling, with his hand stretched through the crowd.

“Good afternoon, Sister Emma, how good to see you here.” She stared up at him; she could not bring herself to speak; the tears welled up in her eyes and she felt as if she could not move.

“Are you feeling well?” the bishop asked, still clasping her hand. Still she could not speak; but the tears continued to flow, and she became unaware of the other members of the congregation. Gently, the bishop led her by the arm into his office, where she collapsed into a chair. Then, almost before she could think about it, the story came gushing out—her grave mistake of fifty years ago and all the aching, tormented years since. Within minutes it was done, and then her sobbing stopped. After some words and reassurance, her young bishop sat back in his chair and was quiet for a long time. At last he said: “Oh, I wish that you had cleared this up before now. The years …”

Her mind trailed off. “Yes,” she thought, “the long years, all of them, but always I knew—deep inside I knew that I would one day have to come back to the bar of nature’s God and pay, pay in deep pain and tears.”

E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.

(“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, 66.)

Before considering the following questions, read again Galatians 6:7–9.

Is the way in which Emma Jane reaped as she had sown the only way in which that law may apply?

Is that law of return operating in your own life even now? When the seeds that you are sowing now in terms of honesty, virtue, and obedience have grown and bloomed and become fully ripe, what kind of person will you be? What thoughts will consume your time, what great desires surge within your breast?

Galatians 6:7

Can a man fool God and succeed in a false effort to reap joy by sowing wickedness? (Compare Helaman 13:38.) Why does Paul say, “Be not deceived”? Are there those who would try to deceive you to think that wickedness might really bring happiness?

Galatians 6:8

If a man seeks to gratify the flesh, and lives just to satisfy base allurements that have their origin in a fallen world—pride, appetites, passions, inordinate honors and plaudits—what must he eventually receive? What shall be his returns if he strives to live his life in an upright and wholesome way? Now, are you thinking of yourself in this analysis?

Galatians 6:9

Does Paul indicate that we shall necessarily receive our rewards immediately? Anyone can live righteously for one day. It is no measure of a man’s character if he sows generously and bestows service graciously for one day or one week. It is dedicated, calculated obedience, given over time, over years and years and years, throughout a life, that shows the true measure of the man.

Do you understand now why the prophet Nephi stresses that we must endure in good works to the end of our lives in order to obtain exaltation? (See 2 Nephi 31:20.) The law of return is always at work. Are you prepared to make the commitment to sow the seeds of holiness and purity and service from now on so that they may bring back to you a bumper harvest of glory, exaltation, and eternal lives?