September 16, 2007 (My birthday!)
Acts 18:23-20:38; Galatians
Acts Chapter 18:23 picks up after Paul’s 2nd missionary journey and begins his 3rd, taking him into Galatia, Ephesus, Phrygria, Macedonia, and Greece, thus the book of Galatians is part of this week’s lesson.
Acts Chapter 18:
v. 24-28: APOLLOS (given by Apollo) a Jew from Alexandria, was eloquent (which may also mean learned) and mighty in the Scriptures; one instructed in the way of the Lord, according to the imperfect view of the disciples of John the Baptist, (Acts 18:24) but on his coming to Ephesus during a temporary absence of St. Paul, A.D. 54, more perfectly taught by Aquila and Priscilla. After this he became a preacher of the gospel, first in Achaia and then in Corinth. (Acts 18:27; 19:1) When the apostle wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Apollos was with or near him, (1 Corinthians 16:12) probably at Ephesus in A.D. 57. He is mentioned but once more in the New Testament, in (Titus 3:13) After this nothing is known of him. Tradition makes him bishop of Caesarea.
What can you learn from the character and life of Apollos? How are Apollos and Paul alike? How are we like either of these brothers? What does it mean to be “mighty in the scriptures?” This Greek word, δυνατός (dunatos), could also be translated as “powerful.” The NIV uses the words “well-versed” here. Is that a good translation or not? What is required to be mighty in the scriptures? How do you think Apollos got that way? Do you know anyone today who could have something similar said about them? See D&C 100:11 (in footnotes). What does this scripture teach about being mighty in the scriptures? This is speaking specifically about Sydney Rigdon. What do you know about Sydney Rigdon that can teach us further about being mighty in the scriptures?
Note how Luke ends this pericope of Apollos: “shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.” What does this teach about scriptures? About leaders in the church?
Do we often just assume that everyone got that message (Jesus was Christ) and skip onto another message? Is there any more important message in the gospel today? How might the needs of the saints in the early church differ or be the same as our needs in the way of gospel instruction?
How does this story of Apollos’ teaching reflect on previous stories in the book of Acts?
v. 26: What does it teach us that this husband/wife team is mentioned so many times in the sciptures? What were they doing with Apollos here? What does “took him unto them” mean? Have you been or do you know a couple like this? Here are some thoughts about Priscilla: PRISCA (ancient), (2 Timothy 4:19) or Priscilla (a diminutive from Prisca), the wife of Aquila who is never mentioned without her. We find that the name of the wife is placed before that of the husband in (Romans 16:3; 2 Timothy 4:19) and (according to some of the best MSS.) in (Acts 18:26) Hence we should be disposed to conclude that Priscilla was the more energetic character of the two. In fact we may say that Priscilla is the example of what the married woman may do for the general service of the Church, in conjunction with home duties, as Phoebe is the type of the unmarried servant of the Church, or deaconess.
Why didn’t Aquila & Priscilla simply speak with him at church?
Acts Chapter 19:
v. 1-20: Ephesus was a major pagan religious center with much syncretistic “magical” practice. How are the disciples in Ephesus like Apollos? How are these disciples, Apollos & the Jews mentioned in v. 14 the same and different? Why did Luke give us this story? What is it’s point?
v. 4: These disciples may have had their contact with John early on in the Baptist’s ministry before Jesus had emerged. This is the fifth time Luke links John the Baptist and Jesus (Acts 1:5; 11:16; 13:25; 18:25). Why is Luke making this repeated link?
v. 9: The Way refers to the Christian movement (Christianity). Luke frequently refers to it as “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).
v. 10: The word of the Lord is a technical expression in OT literature, often referring to a divine prophetic utterance (e.g., Gen 15:1, Isa 1:10, Jonah 1:1). In the NT it occurs 15 times: 3 times as ῥῆμα τοῦ κυρίου (rJhma tou kuriou; Luke 22:61, Acts 11:16, 1 Pet 1:25) and 12 times as λόγος τοῦ κυρίου (logo” tou kuriou; here and in Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48, 49; 15:35, 36; 16:32; 19:20; 1 Thess 1:8, 4:15; 2 Thess 3:1). As in the OT, this phrase focuses on the prophetic nature and divine origin of what has been said. How might using this technical expression be an effective teaching technique? How might we use this today?
v. 12: These handkerchiefs or aprons “were taken” to the sick. It might be that as word went out into the region that since the sick could not come to Paul, healing was brought to them this way. The “handkerchiefs” are probably face cloths for wiping perspiration (see BDAG 934 s.v. σουδάριον) while the “aprons” might be material worn by workmen.
v. 15: Why didn’t the evil spirit obey the command to leave when the exorcists used the name of the Lord Jesus as their authority?
v. 19: Or “fifty thousand silver drachmas” (about $10,000 US dollars). BDAG 128 s.v. ἀργύριον 2.c states, “ἀργυρίου μυριάδας πέντε 50,000 (Attic silver) drachmas Ac 19:19.” Another way to express the value would be in sheep: One drachma could buy one sheep. So this many drachmas could purchase a huge flock of sheep. A drachma also equals a denarius, or a day’s wage for the average worker. So this amount would be equal to 50,000 work days or in excess of 8,300 weeks of labor (the weeks are calculated at six working days because of the Jewish cultural context). The impact of Christianity on the Ephesian economy was considerable (note in regard to this the concerns expressed in 19:26-27).
v. 20: How often do we see the “Elders of the Church” interacting with Paul? What is their purpose? How is that modeled today? (Acts 11:30; 14:23; Php 1:1; Acts 20:28; 1 Ti 3; Tit 1).
v. 21: Achaia was the Roman province of Achaia located across the Aegean Sea from Ephesus. Its principal city was Corinth.
v. 24-28: Diana (Roman name) or Artemis (Greek name) was the name of a Greek goddess worshiped particularly in Asia Minor, whose temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, was located just outside the city of Ephesus. The Ephesian Artemis, however, was very different from the Greco-Roman goddess. She had taken on the characteristics of Cybele, the mother goddess of fertility worshiped in Asia Minor and served by many prostitute priestesses. The temple was 425 feet long and 220 feet wide, having 127 white marble columns 62 feet high and less than 4 feet apart. In the inner sanctuary was the many-breasted image supposedly dropped from heaven.
The charge that Christianity brought economic and/or social upheaval was made a number of times in Acts: 16:20-21; 17:6-7; 18:13. What does our livelyhood have to do with our religion? Note that Paul was a tent maker and used his skills to support himself while he was a missionary. In this city of Las Vegas, how might the gospel message be met by those involved in businesses contrary to the gospel? Could you imagine a modern-day scene such as that recorded in Chapter 19 in a Las Vegas court? Why or why not? What can you learn about preaching the gospel, tho it is unpopular on account of economics? How might this stretch to other areas in which the gospel is contrary?
Acts Chapter 20:
v. 1-6: The days of Unleavened Bread refer to the week following Passover. Originally an agricultural festival commemorating the beginning of harvest, it was celebrated for seven days beginning on the fifteenth day of the month Nisan (March-April). It was later combined with Passover (Exod 12:1-20; Ezek 45:21-24; Matt 26:17; Luke 22:1).
v. 8-12: Is this a warning about the dangers of falling asleep in church meetings?
v. 22-27: Why would Paul need to make this statement, especially v. 27? How are Jesus and Paul similar here?
v. 28: According to this verse, the Holy Ghost makes us overseers of our brothers & sisters. How is this the case? In what way has God purchased His flock with his own blood? v. 28: Literally “his own blood” is “the blood of his own one, ” a term of endearment such as “his own dear one,” referring to his own Son.
v. 30: The Greek term here is ἀνήρ (anhr), which only rarely is used in a generic sense to refer to both males and females. Since Paul is speaking to the Ephesian elders at this point and there is nothing in the context to suggest women were included in that group (“from among your own group”), it is most likely Paul was not predicting that these false teachers would include women.
v. 31-38: Envision the scene here. How much love does Paul have for these people? How much love do they have for him. What does this teach you about relationships within the gospel? What does this teach specifically about missionary work? How do these people move on without Paul? How do new converts move on without the missionary who baptized them?
v. 35: Paul is remembering, and Luke recording, the words of Jesus that are not found in the canonical Gospels.
Galatians is often referred to as “Luther’s book,” because Martin Luther relied so strongly on this letter in all his preaching, teaching and writing against the prevailing theology of his day and is credited with the Protestant Reformation. Luther said, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am as it were in wedlock. It is my Catherine.”3 It is also referred to as the “Magna Carta of Christian Liberty.” A key verse is 2:16. Boice, commenting on its impact since the Protestant Reformation, says, “not many books have made such a lasting impression on men’s minds as the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, nor have many done so much to shape the history of the Western world.”4 How might Galatians have impacted Joseph Smith and contributed to the Restoration? As Latter-day Saints, how do you understand the teachings in the above verse and all of Galations? How might this be different from the understanding of other Christians, including Luther?
Apart from a few radical Dutch critics, the Pauline authorship of Galatians (as a whole or certain parts) has never been seriously questioned.5 Indeed, the letter has often been used as a benchmark from which to test the authenticity of the other Pauline letters. As Richard Longenecker points out:
The most uncontroverted matter in the study of Galatians is that the letter was written by Paul, the Christian apostle whose ministry is portrayed in the Acts of the Apostles. The letter begins by naming him as its author (1:1). Furthermore, the nature of its theological argument, its distinctive use of Scripture in support of that argument, the character of its impassioned appeals, and the style of writing all point to Paul as its author. If Galatians is not by Paul, no NT letter is by him, for none has any better claim.6
As you read Galatians, whenever Paul refers to “the law” remember that he is speaking about the Law of Moses. See Gal. 2:20-21.
I think it’s helpful at this point to consider the historocity of slavery during Paul’s life. “Slavery was an integral and fundamental aspect of first-century Mediterranean and Near Eastern economy and society. It was ubiquitous, and the presence of slaves is presumed by New Testament authors. Jesus and Paul used slave imagery, which makes sense only if the original audiences were fully aware of the institution. However, the King James Version hides this world of slavery by substituting the gentler English word “servant” in many passages for the harsher, but technically correct word “slave” (doulos in Greek).
Although we cannot identify the percentage of slaves and former slaves in the empire in New Testament times, the system was widespread and is one of the inegral aspects for the entire new Testament story.
Unlike American slavery in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the ancient institution was not based on ethnicity and was frequently not a lifelong experience. Most of our evidence is based on domestic or urban slavery; therefore, we have a diffiuclt time ascertaining what life was really like for the thousands and thousands of agricultural slaves and for those working in mines–few of whom were ever manumitted.
Slavery in antiquity began primarily as a result of war–those captured were enclaved. It was augmented by those kidnapped by slave hunters, those abandoned or exposed as infants and picked up by strangers, and those enslaved as a result of debt. Later, the slave population grew more as a result of children born to slave parents than in any other way. HOwever, thens of thousands of Jews later came to Rome as slaves following the First and Second Jewish Wars in the 60s, 70s, and 130s.
The congregations in Acts and in the Pauline letters were often composed of both masters and slaves. Additionally, some of paul’s co-laborers, such as Aquila and Prisca, were former slaves themselves. For this reason, Paul addressed issues regarding the relationshiop between master and slave in some of his letters (see for example, Ephesians 6:5-9 and, of couse, Philemon).
Why do you think Paul goes to such great lengths to prove his authority and speak of his past deeds? Why do you think Paul refers to his previous persecution of the church? (see v. 13, 23).
Why do you think Paul recounts his past mission efforts?
v. 1: Of what is Paul accusing the Galatians?
v. 2-5: Can you answer Paul’s questions in v. 2-5?
v. 8-11: What does “justification” mean? Begin your study here.
v. 24-29: This is the best explanation for the Law of Moses that I have ever found in the scriptures. What does it mean that the law was a schoolmaster? How does faith replace the Law? How is it different to have a schoolmaster verses a Father in Heaven through Jesus? How do we “put on Christ?” How does v. 28 make you feel? How do we become heirs and what will heirs inherit? From whom do we inherit it? See these scriptures for further thinking here: Gal. 3:27, 4:1-7; D&C 76:24, 93:22.
v. 8-9: What can we understand the Galatians to be doing that Paul is upset about? When we come to know the true God does God in return know us? Hasn’t he known us all along? How is this relationship reciprocal? How is it that we turn away from God once we’ve come to know him? How does this relate to the word “repentance?” [The term shubh, pronounced shoo-baw’, is employed to express the Scriptural idea of genuine repentance. It is used extensively by the prophets, and makes prominent the idea of a radical change in one’s attitude toward sin and God. It implies a conscious, moral separation, and a personal decision to forsake sin and to enter into fellowship with God. It is employed extensively with reference to man’s turning away from sin to righteousness (Dt 4:30; Neh 1:9; Ps 7:12; Jer 3:14). It quite often refers to God in His relation to man (Ex 32:12; Josh 7:26). It is employed to indicate the thorough spiritual change which God alone can effect (Ps 85:4). When the term is translated by “return” it has reference either to man, to God, or to God and man (1 Sam 7:3; Ps 90:13 (both terms, nacham and shubh; Isa 21:12; 55:7). Both terms are also sometimes employed when the twofold idea of grief and altered relation is expressed, and are translated by “repent” and “return” (Ezek 14:6; Hos 12:6; Jon 3:8).]
v. 10: The adjective “religious” has been supplied in the translation to make clear that the problem concerns observing certain days, etc. in a religious sense. In light of the polemic in this letter against the Judaizers (those who tried to force observance of the Mosaic law on Gentile converts to Christianity) this may well be a reference to the observance of Jewish Sabbaths, feasts, and other religious days.
v. 19: What is the imagery Paul is using here? Where have you seen that same imagery used before? What is the message and why did Paul choose this imagery over other options? In what way is Christ formed in US?
v. 20-21: Look at the couplet here between these two verses: a-desire, b-hear, c-speak. This preceeds the story of Hagar and Sarah. Why does Paul do this? What is the law that Paul wants them to hear?
v. 22-31: What theological truth is Paul underlining with the example of Hagar and Sarah? In verse 30, Paul quotes Sarah (see Gen. 21:9). What is he teaching the Galatians? I’ve always been uncomfortable with Sarah’s treatment of Hagar. How does Paul’s use of this story affect your understanding of Sarah and Hagar, their life missions and their destinies? Does Gal. 3:26-29 help here?) What does this teach us about eternity, God’s nature, the Plan of Salvation?
I think the previous chapter should have continued since this empowering thought is so integral to the previous allegory of Hagar and Sarah!
How would this teaching have been received by Paul’s audience, especially those slaves and masters to whom he was speaking?
v. 1: The NET translates this verse as “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.” Translating the dative as “For freedom” shows the purpose for Christ setting us free; however, it is also possible to take the phrase in the sense of means or instrument (“with [or by] freedom”), referring to the freedom mentioned in 4:31 and implied throughout the letter.
v. 7: Why is Paul fond of comparing the Christian life to a race? (See 1 Co. 9:24-27; Php. 2:16; 2 Ti 4:7.) Is this analogy good today or is there a better one for our time?
v. 12: Or “make eunuchs of themselves”; Grk “cut themselves off.” This statement is rhetorical hyperbole on Paul’s part. It does strongly suggest, however, that Paul’s adversaries in this case (“those agitators”) were men. Some interpreters (notably Erasmus and the Reformers) have attempted to soften the meaning to a figurative “separate themselves” (meaning the opponents would withdraw from fellowship) but such an understanding dramatically weakens the rhetorical force of Paul’s argument. Although it has been argued that such an act of emasculation would be unthinkable for Paul, it must be noted that Paul’s statement is one of biting sarcasm, obviously not meant to be taken literally.
v. 13: It is possible that the verb δουλεύετε (douleuete) should be translated “serve one another in a humble manner” here, referring to the way in which slaves serve their masters.
v. 16-18: What does it mean to “Walk in the Spirit?” How does doing this prevent the lust of the flesh? Why would doing this exempt people from the Law of Moses?
v. 22: The scriptures frequently use “fruit” as a metaphore as Paul has done here. What can you learn from the use of the word “fruit” verses some other word? How does one acquire these virtues, producing Christian character?
v. 1: Speaking to men and women about men and women. “Ye which are spiritual” meaning being directed and controlled by God. What is Paul teaching about stewardship in this verse?
v. 2: How do we fulfil the law of Christ by bearing another’s burdens?
v. 3: Why would Paul put this line here?
v. 5: Why does Paul say that every man shall bear his own burden when in v. 2 he instructs us to bear others’ burdens? Perhaps it will help to know that the Greek verb is in the future tense indicating that the reference may be to the future judgment when every person will give an account to God.
v. 11: The letter to this point had probably been dictated to a scribe, after which Paul took the pen in his own hand and finished the letter.
v. 17: Paul is probably referring to scars from wounds received in the service of Jesus, although the term στίγμα (stigma) may imply ownership and suggest these scars served as brands.