In Acts 18:23 – 19:41 we see Paul beginning his third missionary journey. In addition to Paul’s sincere efforts in teaching, baptizing, and conferring the Holy Ghost upon Christian converts in Ephesus (on the west coast of what is now Turkey), we see the deep testimonies and commitment of saints like Aquila and Priscilla as they teach the gospel to Apollos. We also see some people in Ephesus who want to stir up trouble against the believers, namely Demetrius and other silversmiths who make their living creating idols. The citizens of Ephesus worshipped Diana, and those who stayed true to her rioted in the streets against the disciples of Christ.
Paul preached in the area over two years and performed miracles in the name of Jesus. Some exorcists tried to mimic his deeds in casting out devils, but were themselves attacked and overcome. People began to see that real power and righteousness existed among the followers of Christ.
“And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”
The new converts who had before engaged in “curious arts” were willing to burn their books as they turned to Jesus for salvation. These books were many and of great value. So as we come unto Christ and exercise real repentance and make ourselves worthy of the kingdom of God, we leave behind those habits that are not acceptable to the Lord.
Paul traveled northwest and up through what is now Greece to Macedonia and Achaia, when the Holy Spirit prompted him to go to Jerusalem, and he also prompted Paul to go to Rome in the future. Paul left Timotheus and Erastus in Macedonia and himself sojourned in Asia.
In Acts 20 Paul, on his way back to Jerusalem, gives a farewell address in Ephesus, warning against apostasy. Paul celebrated the Passover and was eager to arrive back in Jerusalem for “Pentecost,” the Feast of Weeks (“Shavuoth”). There are 7 weeks between Passover and Pentecost.
As Paul departs from a group of Saints, he declares that he is pure from the “blood of all men (Acts 2:26). This needs some explaining. When God instructs one of His representatives to take the gospel to His children, teach salvation through the atonement of Jesus Christ, and call people to repentance, the person God calls had better do it. If the person should fail to follow through, then the sins of the un-warned are upon his head. Paul fulfilled his holy commission from God and fearlessly spent all his energies in preaching the Word and performing priesthood ordinances for the converted. As he says in verse 27, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
In Acts 20:29 Paul predicts the beginnings of what Mormons call “the great Apostasy,” a gradual falling away from truth along with the loss of the priesthood powers once exercised by the apostles of Jesus Christ. Some of the reasons for apostasy were a falling back into pagan traditions and patterns of worship, but other seeds of apostasy were sown by evil men desiring gain. As Paul said, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
The book of Galatians is a letter from Paul chastening the Galatians for returning to the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ. This backsliding was amazing to Paul, and it showed how weak was the testimony of these converts. It is not enough to believe. One must continue to pray, read the scriptures, meet often with the Saints to strengthen one another, and continue to strive toward God. A testimony of the gospel needs to permeate our souls and become the center of all our desires. Otherwise, some people seem to be comfortable casting aside the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ as if they were taking off a coat.
A solid testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be built upon social relationships or intellectual analysis. A testimony begins with revelation, when God witnesses to us through the Holy Ghost that the gospel is true. Striving to be like Christ helps us to keep that testimony burning.
Other messages in Galatians include the following:
Believers in Christ should avoid the “works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21). We need to cast off carnality and develop spiritually.
We must seek for spiritual gifts and live by them (Gal. 5:16, 25).
We should treat our neighbors as we ourselves would want to be treated. We must “bear each others’ burdens (Gal. 5:14; 6:2).
God will not be mocked. Those who turn away from Him to follow their own lusts will be punished.
What a man sows, he will reap.
Contention, worldliness, and apostasy will keep us from being in tune with the Holy Ghost, who prompts and teaches and warns us for good.