When you read the lesson material notice how often people were converted to the baptism of John, but knew nothing of the Holy Ghost. John taught the people to look forward to the Messiah, which many were anxiously doing, but John’s baptism did not grant them the supreme gift, that of the companionship of the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost.
Without the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost the repentance and promises of Christianity fall short in being able to fulfill the expectations of its members, just as the baptism of John couldn’t grant full salvation to those who never received the baptism of Jesus, which included the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Reading Assignment: Acts 18:23–20:38; Galatians
Additional reading: Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost, ” 704; “Pauline Epistles: Epistle to the Galatians,” 744–45.
Acts 18:26 tells us about Apollos, a man in the New Testament who had been baptized with John’s baptism, the baptism of repentance, but knew nothing about the gift of the Holy Ghost. It took a couple of faithful members who recognized his sincerity to bring him to the baptism of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
There are good people like Apollos all around us. The only thing separating them from the fullness of the gospel of Christ is someone who is willing to open their mouth and ‘expound unto them the way of God more perfectly.’
A sacred partnership
The Holy Ghost does not do missionary work by walking up to people and introducing the gospel to them. He prepares their hearts, but the preaching must be done by a mortal person, in the flesh. It is when one person bears testimony of the truth to another person that the Holy Ghost is able to take what is said and convey that message deep into the soul of the one hearing the testimony. A human is usually the carrier of the message. This is why the missionaries, and all those who do missionary work are promised special blessings for doing this work.
Missionary work is a partnership between us and the Spirit. Neither of us can do it all alone, we need each other. We cannot convert anyone, only the Holy Ghost can do that. But He needs us to open our mouths and bear our testimony and our experiences to others so He can witness to their souls that what we are saying is true. He needs us to be willing to open our mouths so He can witness the truthfulness of our words to the heart of the one to whom we are speaking.
By doing missionary work, by bearing testimony of the truth we open the door for the Spirit to do His job, that of witnessing of truth to those who will listen. At no time do the scriptures tell us that the one bearing the testimony has to have fancy words or be dressed nicely. All that is required by the Spirit is that the person bearing witness be honest and believing. He can do the rest.
The nature of conversion
In Galatians 2:16 – 17 Paul is writing to the Saints in Galatia about a problem that has arisen. Many of the members of the Church in Galatia had returned to practicing the Law of Moses. The question is why? Why would they return to the lesser, preparatory law when they had the law of the gospel of Christ in their hands? Read these two verses then we’ll look at what is being said.
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
Those who had just joined the Church came largely from the Jewish population, all of whom lived the law of Moses. So why would they give up the law of the gospel to go back to something they had just abandoned? To bring this home to all of us, why do new members of the Church sometimes leave the Church and return to their old ways shortly after being baptized?
In verse 16 Paul reminds them that the law of Moses cannot justify or make anyone clean before God all by itself. The law was not designed to do that. People cannot be saved by the law of Moses. He goes on to point out that this is the reason we have faith in Christ, because through Christ we can be justified or made clean before God.
Why do you think those ancient members of the Church went back to what they found comfortable? Why do you think modern Saints return to what they find to be comfortable? Paul offered a couple of reasons. He told them it was because there were those among them who deliberately sought to destroy the faith in Christ of the members, and that some of the members were just not willing to exercise faith in Christ, finding it more difficult to do than the practice of their old ways.
In verse 17 he asks the Saints if it is alright for us who are seeking to be justified or cleansed through Christ to be sinners. In his own words, “God forbid.” Faith in Christ requires effort, and it doesn’t allow for us to be sinners as well as Saints. Don’t get me wrong, all Saints are sinners, but we are supposed to be repentant sinners. We should be seeking to be cleansed from our sins every day. We can’t remain justified by the laws of God if we continue to cling to our sins.
To retain a remission of our sins requires that we constantly exercise our faith in Christ, which is what those who went back to their old ways were not willing or able to do. So what does it take to remain forgiven of our sins?
The role of the Holy Ghost
The way we remain forgiven of our sins is to constantly seek the support and guidance of the Holy Ghost. He brings us closer to God, teaches us to understand the words of Christ and His servants the prophets, and witnesses to our souls truth so we will accept it when we hear it.
Life falls into two basic categories, the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit. In Galatians 5:19 – 21 Paul lists the works of the flesh – those things that lead to our spiritual destruction. These include all the appetites of the body, the cravings for power, etc. Then in Galatians 5:22 – 23 he talks about the fruits of the Spirit or the results that come from living close to the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Notice his last comment that says that the law of God justifies those who receive the fruits of the Spirit. There is no law that can condemn someone who lives according to the promptings of the Spirit of God.
What we are required to do
The rule is simple. If we want to have the Spirit teach us, testify to us, reveal truth to us, guide us, and bless us with the fruits of the Spirit and free us from any condemnation by the laws of God, we have only to obey the commandments and the promptings of the Spirit. We only need to live worthy of His company.
It is those who continue to pursue to lusts of the flesh, the cravings for power and control, those who use anger and manipulate others, etc. who need to worry about the law of God and its punishments. When we stop exercising our faith in Christ, which means we no longer are willing to trust that His atoning sacrifice is needed in our life, we are in danger of judgment. This is what happens when new members return to what is comfortable.
The laws of God demand of us our best effort. Initially, living righteously is not easy. It requires us to abandon our old habits, and exercise faith in something we haven’t understood before. It requires a full effort from every part of our soul. Sometimes people become tired, and instead of seeking strength through the Holy Ghost, thy retreat to their old ways or become lazy about their covenants. This costs them both forgiveness and salvation.
As you read and reread this lesson I hope you will focus on the blessings of obedience and the fruits that come from making sacrifices in the name of your faith. It does take work. It is hard, especially at first. But the joy that comes from living a life of service and sacrifice for the Lord, or coming to know and being able to follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost completely overshadow all the sacrifices it takes to receive the promised blessings. We just need to support each other and help each other keep the faith until we all can taste the fruits of the Spirit.