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Inductive Bible Study: Discussion of Galatians 2

February 19, 2010

Continuing from our study in Galatians 1, we are now going to consider Paul’s main arguments in Galatians 2.  (If you are visiting for the first time, please review this post for an overview of the inductive study method we are using – then feel free to jump right in and post your comments!)

I couldn’t decide whether to share my own observations now or later.  I got a second opinion from Stephanie who said I should wait to share them later.   So if you disagree, blame her.

I look forward to this discussion!  I love Galatians 2 – especially the second half of the chapter.  It is one of my favorite passages in the whole Bible!  And I guess I can just keep mining its depths because I gleaned new insights while studying for this lesson.  I look forward to hearing what you found!  You can choose to answer one or all of the following questions or you can share something else that you discovered in this section.

1.  What key words/ideas are contrasted?  For example, the word bondage is contrasted with the word liberty in v. 4.  I found 7 other contrasts in this chapter – there are probably a lot more than that – how many can you find?

2.  What comparisons are made between ideas?  For example, under the new covenant being a Jew = living like a Gentile (v. 14) and being crucified with Christ = being dead to the law (v. 19-20).

3.  What is the significance of the word “only” in verse 10?  What is “only” referring to?

4.  According to this chapter, how is a person justified before God?

5.  How would you sum up the main point of this chapter?  Which verse(s) do you think convey the main point?

For today’s bible study I am serving Mayan Chocolate Brownies

33 Comments leave one →
  1. February 19, 2010 2:27 pm

    Oh my gosh those brownies look yummy!

  2. shematwater permalink
    February 19, 2010 6:38 pm

    Hello again.

    I am only going to answer some of these questions.

    3. The significance of this seems very important. What I think is being said is that Paul and Barnabus were given no direct instructions on what to teach, but to simply teach as they had been. The only exeption to this was to focus more on the poor. This is another verse that seems to show a deferment to the authority of the other Apostles. He is emphasising that the only instructions his suppierors gave him was to focus on the poor.

    5. I do believe there are two parts to this chapter. The first is the ending of the story that was started in chapter one, concerning what he did before he took his ministry to the gentiles. The second is the discussion he had with Peter, and the reasons behind it.

    Now, I will say that verse two also shows a deferment to Authority. I would point out, like i did concerning chapter one, that up to this point he had not yet gone to the Heathen nations, even though he was called to. We read in chapter one that he went to Damascus and Arabie and taught in the synagogues, or to the Jews. After his visit with Peter he went to Syria and Cilicia, both having large Jewish populations (he was even from Cilicia). After the fourteen years the first thing he did was to go to “them which were of reputation” in private conference to make sure he had it all right (or that he had not run in vain). After this conference the three who had the Highest authority (James, Cephas, and John) accepted him and his calling to the Jews, and, as I answered to question 3, sent him to the Heathens with no actual instructions.
    This is the first time he mentions actually going to the Heathens, 17 years after he was called by Christ. In this time we read of him going to Peter, and later to a kind of general conference of the church leaders. All this before he fulfilled his actual calling. The question should be asked as to why? It seems to me that he was going through the proper channels. He was waiting for the leaders of the church to send him, as in opposing them he would have caused divisions within the church (and the Lords house is one of order).

    As to account of his chastising Peter, and think the whole recounting of his history was to show what the Galatians should be looking for. This chastising of Peter was a finale to it. It was basically, “I was now strong enough in my Faith that I was not dependant on any others, and thus could oppose my leaders when I felt them in error.”

    It all comes back to the idea of receiving the truth by revelation yourself. He knew the truth, and was confident in it because of his revelations, that no man was going to lead him astray, not even the leaders of the church, and that is how we should be.

    (Just a comment. I know it is against the rules and I do not want to use it as anything but an interesting story-I am LDS. Did you know that Joseph Smith was actually taken up on charges before the High Counsel-basically taken to Church Court on criminal charges. I am sorry, but this story reminds of that. As I said, I do not offer it as evidence of anything, just as an interesting side note.)

  3. February 20, 2010 6:04 am

    1. I get the strong impression (based on observations about to be described) that the Galatians have a messed-up view of spiritual authority. In particular, they appear to have been either enamored with or intimidated by the Jerusalem center of Christianity — not because of the Jerusalem apostles but through the teachings of the “false brethren” (v. 4). And Paul responds by this amazing contrast.

    On the one hand, he repeatedly emphasizes that God Himself authored both Paul’s gospel and that of the Jerusalem apostles. Fully three times in verses 7-9, he cites God as the one who committed the gospel of the circumcision to him (and of the uncircumcision to Peter). He states twice that the Jerusalem apostles only recognized his apostleship (“saw,” “perceived”). It was God who sanctioned it, just as He did Peter’s.

    On the other hand, Paul outright refutes the idea of personal authority of the apostles (both himself and others). As for himself, he describes once going to lengths to cross-check his own teachings, even holding open the possibility of being mistaken (v. 2). Similarly, he regards the personal rank of the Jerusalem apostleship to be of no account, saying, “whatsoever they were” didn’t matter to him, for “God accepteth no man’s person” (v. 6). He is unafraid to call Peter out when that apostle goes against the “truth of the gospel” (vv. 11-14). The entire chapter very strongly gives the impression that the gospel is of divine origin, but the leaders do not possess personal authority apart from it.

    Nevertheless, since the Galatians have this messed-up perspective, Paul uses the reputation of the Jerusalem apostles (“these who seemed to be somewhat” and “seemed to be pillars”) to lend independent confirmation of his gospel. Both parties were independently given the same message “that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).

  4. shematwater permalink
    February 20, 2010 5:37 pm


    Just a few things, and don’t take this the wrong way. I think you meant the Paul was of the Uncircumsized, and Peter the Circumsized, but you flipped it in your post.

    Also, I do not see him as regarding the personal rank of the first Apostles of no account. I think you are misreading this part. When he speaks of “whatsoever they were, he is not speaking of the Apostles. He is speaking of others who were among the leadership that attended this conference who had tried to pressure Titus into becoming circumsized, which failed. I do not think is refering to Peter and the others because we read in Acts 15: 6-11 Peter personally puts down the idea of requiring circumcision.
    Verses 3-6 are all a single account, namely that some false men (or those not truly of faith) wanted Titus to be Circumcized, but that the counsel struck down the idea, as it was contrary to the truth, which Peter had upheld previously.

    Just saying.

  5. February 20, 2010 9:09 pm

    Hi Shem,

    Thanks for the correction of my reversal re: Paul and Peter. You’re absolutely right–it was a typo.

    Also, I think it’s a good observation (thank you) that the “whatsoever they were” or “those who seemed to be somewhat” in verse 6 is not only the apostles. Rather, they are the “apostles and elders” of Acts 15:2. They are definitely not the “false brethren” of verse 4 because “those who seemed to be somewhat” are the ones who agreed with Paul; they “added nothing” to him (v. 6). The false brethren disagreed with Paul — and obviously continued to do so at the time Paul wrote this letter. If you look at Acts 15 (as you have), it is easy to see who were the ones in this group called “those who seemed to be somewhat” — these ones who agreed with Paul. They included Peter who (as you said) stood up for Paul’s teachings. They also included James the brother of Jesus, who in Acts 15 appeared to be moderating the meeting and also gave verdict in favor of Paul and Barnabus. In other words, Paul includes Peter and James at minimum among those whose rank did not matter to him since “God accepteth no man’s person” (v. 6).

    To further confirm that the Jerusalem apostles were included in this group whose personal rank Paul disregarded, read Galatians 2:2-6 all together, comparing verses 2 and 6. The group in verse 6 called “those who seemed to be somewhat” whom Paul met in “conference” is the same as the people “of reputation” that Paul went to see “privately” in verse 2. That would be the apostles and elders of Acts 15:2, as you noted.

    Furthermore, Paul uses the same type of language when he specifically refers to James, Peter, and John (v. 9). He calls those three apostles “those who seemed to be pillars.” The “seemed” is the same word used in verse 6 for those “who seemed to be somewhat.”

  6. Susan permalink
    February 21, 2010 12:36 am

    I haven’t commented for a loooong time! I so much appreciate what you do here 🙂

    A couple thoughts on previous comments…

    Paul didn’t wait to preach until after his meeting in Jerusalem described at the beginning of chapter two. At the end of chapter one it is clearly stated that the word was getting around that “he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (verse 23).

    His purpose for the visit the first time (1:18) was to “see Peter” (the translation I’m using says “to make Kefa’s acquaintance” (Complete Jewish Bible) and the second visit fourteen years later was “in obedience to a revelation” to explain to them the “gospel WHICH I PREACH among the gentiles” (2:3).

    Paul was very clear in Chapter One, verses 15-17 that he was called by God and sent by God to preach to the “heathen” (Gentiles).

    Paul expressed that his second visit to the leaders in Jerusalem was out of concern that his efforts among the Gentiles (previous and current) would be “in vain” (2:2). Based on the first two chapters, it seems there were some false believers infultrating the church and distorting the gospel. Paul wanted to be clear that he stood firm in the teaching that he had received straight from Jesus Christ. Preserving the “truth of the gospel” was his utmost concern (2:5).

    In answer to #5…I believe the main point of this chapter is that the gospel is for all people, cannot be changed or added to, and that all are justified by faith alone, not “works of the law” …”For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (2:16)

    I think this Bible study is a great idea! My prayers are with everyone involved…God is always so good to bless and teach us when we approach His Word with humble and sincere hearts.

  7. February 21, 2010 9:03 pm

    Hi all! I really enjoyed reading the other comments! Here are my observations on the chapter:

    1. What key words/ideas are contrasted?

    bondage / liberty (v. 4)
    Jews / Gentiles
    circumcision / uncircumcision
    apostleship of Peter / apostleship of Paul (v. 7-8)
    works of the law / faith in Christ (v. 16)
    sinners / justified (v. 15-18)
    Not I / but Christ (v. 20)
    righteousness of the law / grace of God (v. 21)
    law-keeping / death of Christ (v. 21)

    2. What comparisons are made between ideas?

    under the new covenant, being a Jew = living like a Gentile (v. 14)
    under the new covenant, being crucified with Christ = being dead to the law (v. 19-20)
    seeking to be justified by the law = frustrating the grace of God (v. 16, 21)
    seeking to be justified by the law = making yourself a transgressor (v. 16-18)
    seeking to be justified by the law = bondage (v. 4)
    seeking to be justified by the law = nullifying Christ’s atonement (v. 21)
    being dead to the law = being alive to God (v. 19)

    3. What is the significance of the word “only” in verse 10? What is “only” referring to?

    In considering the context of this chapter and what is being emphasized, I believe the word “only” is very significant. When Paul went to Jerusalem to share with the other apostles the gospel that he was preaching, they confirmed that he was preaching the true gospel – the gospel of the grace of Christ – one of liberty, not the false gospels that lead to law-keeping bondage (v. 4). The only recommendation that remotely resembled “law-keeping” was the admonition that he should be mindful of the poor. It brings to mind James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

    4. According to this chapter, how is a person justified before God?

    “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ” (v. 16)

    5. How would you sum up the main point of this chapter? Which verse(s) do you think convey the main point?

    Because of Christ’s death, we are now justified by faith in Christ, not by the works of the law (v. 16 and 21)

  8. shematwater permalink
    February 22, 2010 4:13 pm


    I still do not think he included the Apostles among those he refers to in verse 6, as this verse is a reference to those false Brethren, of whom Peter and the others would not have been included.
    As to using the word “seem” again, this is a common expression. In verse 6 these false men seemed to be in conference with each other, or as I thinkhe meant, in cahoots with each other, or allied. On the other hand, Peter James and John seemed to be pillars, or seemed to be the strongest in the faith, having perceived Paul’s authority.


    Good to hear from you.

    First, I never said Paul did not preach as soon as he was called. What I said was that he did not preach to the Heathen nations, because he didn’t. Read his history in Acts. After his conversion he preached in Damascus and Arabia, but only in the Synagogues, or to the Jews of the area. After his first meeting with Peter he went home to Tarsus and preached in Syria and Cilicia, where there was a large population of Jews. The fact that they new of his previous persecutions and were thus impressed seems to attests to this, as the gentiles wouldn’t have cared that much.
    Thus, my argument is that while he was called of Christ, he still defered to the proper chain of authority within the church before he acted on it. For further support of this idea I would direct you to the timeline of Acts. We read about Paul’s conversion, his early ministry, and his going to Tarsus in chapter 9. We do not hear of him again until chapter 13. In the meantime Peter has his vision instructing him to take the gospel to the Gentiles (chapter 10). In chapter thirteen we read that the Holy Ghost now commanded that Paul and Barnabus be sent to their work that they had been called to (verse 2), indicating that Paul had not yet entered into the ministry in regards to the gentiles.

    As to Paul standing firm among false teachers, if this was the point why did he meet privately with the leaders first? It seems more likely that he was there to discuss what he had taught and make sure that he was correct, otherwise his minsitry would have been in vain, having taught false doctrine.

  9. Susan permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:34 pm

    “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by men, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)” Galatians 1:1

    The definition of apostle is “a person sent by another” ( Paul was sent by none other than Jesus Christ. And the people to whom he was sent…

    “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach among the heathen.” Galatians 1:15-16

    Paul certainly did a great deal of preaching to his beloved fellow Jews and he greatly desired for them to receive their long-awaited Messiah. But he knew from the beginning that the bulk of his ministry would be directed toward the gentiles.

    “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the gentiles.” Galatians 2:2

    The phrase “which I preach among the gentiles” sounds like he’s been preaching among the gentiles.

    I’m not reading this as a visit to seek permission from the proper “authorities” in order to fulfill Christ’s call on his life.

    Paul was very wise in all his ministry efforts and careful to do everything possible not to hinder the spreading of the gospel. It seems that he wanted to be clear with the acknowledged leaders in Jerusalem that the gospel he was preaching had not changed, and to be sure that they were not being led astray by these false brothers and placing unnecessary expectations on the gentile believers. He immediately states in 2:3 that they, in fact, did not force the apostle Paul’s gentile companion (hmmm) to be circumcised.

    However, Paul did have to confront Peter publicly in regards to his withdrawing from meals with gentile believers after these false brothers had arrived. So the “revelation” (2:2) and resulting concerns over what was going on in Jersusalem were valid…indeed, the preservation of the true gospel was at stake (2:14).

    Paul knew that he had the one and only gospel…since he had received it from Jesus Christ himself (1:11-12). He was very clear in Galatians 1:6-9 that they were not to receive ANY OTHER GOSPEL than the one he had proclaimed to them….regardless of who it came from (even an angel from heaven! 1:8) . He did not need confirmation of its validity from any human source.

    Shem…we can agree to disagree on this one 🙂

  10. shematwater permalink
    February 25, 2010 12:32 am


    As everything we are saying here is simply opinion I do not wish to get to hostile.

    I will concede that Galatians 2:2 does seem to indicate that he taught to the gentiles. However, I will point out a few things.

    First, by following the timeline I gave we can see that much of the 14 years Paul spent in Cilicia and Syria was after Peter had the vision instructing them to take the gospel to the gentile nations. We have no direct indication that Paul taught to any but the Jews before this revelation was given, and so my argument still stands. he waited until the proper authority of the Church sent him to the Gentiles. This reconsiles very well the fact that he had taught to gentiles in this 14 years, and his companion being a gentile, without contradicting my main argument of deferment to authority.
    Also, I still must point out that Paul remained where there was a large Jewish population until after this conference in Galatians 2, or until he was sent by the church as is said in Acts 13. he may have taught gentiles, but he did not go to the areas that were predominately gentile until the church sent him.

    Now, as to his purpose in going to Jerusalem, I do see what you are saying, but I think you are not, as they say, letting the words interpret themselves. You seem to be caught in the idea that all this is focused on the few verses in Chapter one about false teachers. I do not agree.
    Going back to chapter one and the comments I made in that study: I see Paul making an admonition to the Galatians to seek personal revelation from Christ. He recounts his history as an example of one who did just this, emphasizing his own failings in the beginning to show them that anyone can receive this. Without going into great detail I will say that all of this history shows a process by which he came to know the truth. He concludes with his account of challenging Peter for a very specific purpose. It is to show that he was strong enough in his own faith, having received it from Christ, that he was willing to challenge those of a higher authority when he believed them to be wrong. He is telling the Galatians that they too should have this faith. They should not trust their local leaders simply because they are the leaders, which is what the Galatians were doing, but should be both willing and able to challenge them if they were wrong.

    Now, again, this is all opinion. Neither one of us can actually prove what we say, only state what we believe. As long as we understand this I think we will all have a great time here.

  11. February 27, 2010 8:19 pm


    At the end of our discussion on Galations 1 you mentioned the following.

    Oh, yeah, as to spiritual witness. If one truly has a witness from the spirit the power of it is overwelming. It is pure light, to the point that any other source would appear dark in comparrison. Once it is fealt there is no doubt left, for the Spirit driveth doubt away.

    You make the case that the test for truth is a spiritual witness and you say that Paul was advising the Galations to seek this witness.

    My wife and I have had spiritual witnesses that Mormonism is a false gospel, that Joseph Smith was a fraud, and that many of the LDS teachings are a perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We have felt an overwhelming, engulfing power testify that the true gospel of Jesus Christ is about coming into a relationship with Christ and that this relationship ensures that ones salvation will be in Heaven (The Celestial Kingdom) with God. This power has driven all doubt away and is a pure light to us… so much so that I can say that I “know” it to be true. God has told me through a spiritual witness that no one will ever become a G(g)od (big “G” or little “g”) as there is, was, and will only ever be one God. In addition, He has told me that Mormon teachings are damnable.

    Now, those may sound like strong words, but I testify to you that this is true. My testimony is not unlike many, many others. I have spoken with ex-Mormon Christians and many of them have had similar spiritual witnesses.

    On a sidenote: David Whitmer had a testimony that Joseph Smith became a false prophet, and he challenged people to develop a spiritual witness (as he had) of Smith being a false prophet (Whitmer, An Address To All Believers In Christ).

    So here is my question. If the ultimate determinate of knowledge and truth is a spiritual witness, and you and I both have had opposing spiritual witnesses regarding Mormonism, how can we know that our spiritual witnesses are correct? If your’s is true, mine cannot be. Yet if mine is true, your’s can’t be. As a result, we are left at a standstill.

    Paul challenged the Galations to not follow false teachers and teachings. That is what the entire book of Galations is all about. Your position is that he told them to gain a spiritual witness to know if the teachers/teachings are false. Yet you and I have both gained OPPOSING spiritual witnesses regarding the teachings of Mormonism and Joseph Smith.

    How do you reconcile this?


  12. shematwater permalink
    February 27, 2010 8:44 pm


    I am not going to challenge anyone on what they have felt from the spirit. It does no good, causing only tension, hostility, and often violence in our words. What I have said is true, but I will not judge what another man has experienced, for I do not share their experience.

    The witness of the Holy Spirit is unmistakable, which is why Christ declared that the blasphamey against it was the only sin that is unforgivable.

    One of us is wrong, having listened to a false spirit, and neither one will be proven until the second coming when Christ reigns personally.

    As to your question.
    Following your reasoning, how did Paul know that his vision was from God? How could he have known as there was nothing to be trusted? If he is telling the Galatians to trust only in what he has taught than he is setting himself equal with God in authority, which I cannot believe.

    The ultimate determination of truth is not a “Spiritual Witness,” for there are many spirits which are false. It is the Witness of the third member of the Godhead that is the altimate determinator of truth. No other spirit can take his place, and not even Christ’s personal witness can. The Apostles denied their faith in Christ near the beginning, and Christ told them that it was forgivable, but not the denying of the Holy Ghost.

    Paul knew the truth, not because Christ appeared to him, but because the Holy Spirit spoke to him. Without this witness it would have simply been another “Angel From Heaven” which is not to be trusted. He had this witness that could not be denied, and he knew that there was no other way for anyone to come to understand the truth and have faith sufficient to stand alone. This is why he told them not to trust anyone, not their local leaders, not an angel from heaven, and not even himself. But to seek the knowledge from the same source that he received it from, Christ and the Holy Spirit.

  13. February 27, 2010 9:03 pm

    The witness of the Holy Spirit is unmistakable, which is why Christ declared that the blasphamey against it was the only sin that is unforgivable.

    But, if it is unmistakable, how can you and I both think that we are receiving a witness from the Holy Spirit? Seems like one of us is mistaken, which means it is NOT unmistakable.

    If the ultimate determinate of whether I am right and you are wrong is based in a subjective experience (and it is obvious it is subjective as we both think we have received that witness), how can we know for sure?

    Basically, what I see you saying is, we can’t know for sure.


  14. shematwater permalink
    February 28, 2010 12:15 am


    You are not understanding what I am saying. We may both have had a “Spiritual experience” but only one of us has had that true witness from the Holy Spirit. We both cannot have had it. However, I cannot know that you have not had it. That is what is impossible. As such, for anyone to rely on the words of another is follishness.

    This is what Paul is teaching. For me to know the truth it doesn’t matter what you have experienced. It only matters what I have experienced. It doesn’t matter what Peter, or Paul, or Joseph Smith experieced. Nothing they have done or said can ever bring the truth to me. It is impossible to learn the truth from them because I cannot share their experience, and so I am trusting them, or putting my faith in them.

    For me to truly put my faith in God I must have contact with him. Nothing else is going to give me that faith.

    As I said, one of us has been deceived. Why, because either we have never had the true witness, or we have forgotten the witness we did have. Either way only one of us is right, and only God can declare who. But if God declares it to you that does me no good, and if he declares it to me it does you no good.

    My point is not that we cannot be sure of the truth. My point is that if we trust in the words and experiences of others we will never be sure. As such, for Paul to advocate such to the Galatians would either be telling them that it doesn’t matter, or that his word is as good as God’s. This is my point.

    True knowledge can only come from our own experience, and nothing else. What I know you cannot know until you have experienced the same, and vice versa.

  15. February 28, 2010 3:36 am


    Let me see if I can explain it another way.

    You have sought and received a witness from what you perceive to be the Holy Spirit telling you Mormonism is true.

    I have sought and received a witness from what I perceive to be the Holy Spirit telling me Mormonism is false.

    However, at least one of us is deceived.

    If the source of ultimate knowledge of truth is reached through appealing to and receiving an answer from the Holy Spirit and we both have sought and received answers from what we perceive to be the Holy Spirit, how can the one of us that is deceived know and verify that they are wrong?

    Since we have both sought and received answers from what we perceive the ultimate source there really is no other source to go to (at least based upon your understanding of Galations).

    How does the one who is wrong adjudicate their position?


  16. shematwater permalink
    March 1, 2010 5:58 pm


    Neither of us can prove to the other that we are right, and attempting to do so is silly and fruitless.

  17. shematwater permalink
    March 1, 2010 6:38 pm


    Sorry, I had little time last post. Here is a better explanation.

    To know if you are right or wrong there are a few things that can be done. This is a process I have done thing myself, and through it I have rejected somethings I once believed.

    First, determine your motivation. Are you seeking the truth, or are you seeking retification of what you want to be true. It is only through wanting the truth, regardless of what it is, that anyone can hope to find the truth.

    Second, determine where your faith is. This is not a reference to the object of your faith, but how strong it is. When you go to ask do you go simply hoping for an answer, or expecting an answer. The greater your faith the greater the chance of truly receiving the answer.

    Of course, you must then apply these two steps in prayer, and then listen. It may take a while, and several prayers, but you will get an answer.

    Third, take the answer you have been given and compare this to what you have received in the past. If the current revelation contradicts a previous one you have a problem, and you must return to praying to reconcile this.

    In general the best approach to prayer is to study something in depth, to read all you can on the subject. From this determine what you believe to be true, and then ask in prayer if you are right. Thus there are only two possible answers, making it more likely to gain an answer. After all, if you lack the faith to receive a vision, or a hear a voice, all you got is a general feeling, which can only give a yes or no answer. Thus, to ask “What does this verse in scripture mean” is less likely to get an aswer than asking “This is what I think this verse means. Am I right?” However, it takes more work, as if the answer is no you still do not have the truth, and thus must return to the study until you have formed a different theory and then take that to God in prayer, continuing the process until you get the okay on one of you theories.

    However, even after all this it wouldn’t really help anyone else, except to give them the disire to gain the same knowledge.

  18. March 1, 2010 8:16 pm


    I think we are talking past each other a little.

    I am not talking about how you can convince me you are right or how I can convince you I am right.

    Your position is that the ultimate source of truth lies in asking God about the truthfullness of something, e.g., The Book of Mormon or Mormon Church, and receiving an answer from the Holy Spirit. From what you have been saying, nothing can/should overide this answer. So, how or why should the person who is being deceived (but thinks they are listening to the Holy Spirit) look to anything else for answers. Afterall, they are getting the answer from the ultimate source (at least in their mind) and there is nothing that can override that.

    For example, take yourself. You have received an answer from what you perceive to be the Holy Spirit telling you Mormonism is true. However, what if the spirit you received your answer from is NOT the Holy Spirit, but is a false spirit? If the ULITIMATE source of answers is The Holy Spirit, how could or would you adjudicate the answer you have received since you BELIEVE your answer to be from the Holy Spirit? Is there any measure you use to judge the truthfullness of the spirit? We are command to test spirits before listening to them (1 John 4:1), but in speaking with you it sounds like your position is that the answer you received overrides everything else, so there is nothing by which to judge it.


  19. shematwater permalink
    March 3, 2010 3:58 pm


    I see your point, andit is difficult to explain what I mean. It is made more difficult because my argument would mean that you cannot techically trust the Bible for help.

    In truth I can’t answer. It is something that one must discover on there own. We have various accounts of people first feeling it. On the day of Pentecost a great wind harolded the Holy Spirit desending on the Apostles, and later it stirred the heart of the crowd so that thousands joined the church. Was it the scriptures that did this, or the words of Peter? No. It was the spirit that pricked their hearts.
    There are other accoutns that give us hints, but we cannot know until we have felt it. Once we have fealt it all else will seem like darkness, for God is light.

    This is all I can say. The only thing we can do to discover if it is a false spirit is to ask ourselfs, as I said before, what our motivation is, and how strong or faith is. If we are seeking ratification we will get it, but from a false spirit. If seeking the truth we may also receive from a false spirit, but it will not ring true with other revelations.
    If our faith is not strong enough we are more volnerable to these false spirits, or simply to immagining an answer because we want it so much, but lack the faith to truly get it. this is the only way to determine the truth of the spirit that speaks to you, and only you can do.

  20. shematwater permalink
    March 3, 2010 5:38 pm


    Just so you know, I am not just saying this because it sounds good. I have done this. I am a very stubborn person, and when I deside I believe something it take a lot to change my mind. However, I have, in the past, come to certain conclusions that I now know are wrong (even though they sound good). But at the time I refused to give up on them.
    In one instance it wasn’t until someone else pointed out that the idea I had contradicted what I had believed before that I was willing to step back and examine why I believed what I did. After some careful reflection it because obvious that it was all me, that I had not received any form of confirmation outside my own thoughts. So I took the matter to God, and through prayer and study he showed me that I was wrong.

    No one can determine another’s mtivation or faith. We must each ask ourselves what ours are, and act accordingly.

  21. March 4, 2010 4:31 pm


    Thanks for responding.

    The thing to keep in mind is that each of the things you mentioned above can be applied to my experience as well as your’s. As a result, they are simply not a sufficient standard for either of us to use to determine that our spiritual witnesses are true (again, I am not talking about you proving to me your’s is true or me proving to you mine is true. I am saying the standard you have laid out is not sufficient for YOU to determine that your OWN witness is true or for ME to determine that MY witness is true).

    For example:

    “It is something that one must discover on there own.” – I claim I have discovered it, yet you claim you have discovered it. However, since neither of us have ever experienced EVERY spiritual witness that is available, we cannot truly determine whether the one we have is truly “the one”, because the true one may be the one they haven’t felt.

    “The only thing we can do to discover if it is a false spirit is to ask ourselfs, as I said before, what our motivation is, and how strong or faith is.” – I believe my motivation is pure and true – I simply want to know what is true and I have expressed that to God repeatedly… reading the BOM and asking Him if it is true and JS was a prophet. You believe your’s to be pure and true, and personally, I believe you are being sincere. Yet, we have both expressed these pure desires to God and have received mutually exclusive answers – Mormonism is true/not true.

    The problem is, based upon the test you have layed out, there really is no objective measure by which one can determine if the spirit they are listening to is truly the Holy Spirit.

    The test your are using is called “Experientialism” as it is the belief that an experience (i.e., feeling the “witness” of a spirit, burning in the bosom, warm feeling, etc.) determines whether a worldview or belief is true or not. In reality, there are several problems with this position.

    First, no experience as such is either true or false. An experience is something we have; it is a condition of persons. But truth is something we express; it is a characteristic of propositions, e.g., Mormonism is true or not true. Hence, no experience as such is true; only expressions about the experience can be true.

    Second, no experience is logically connected with the truth of a worldview or belief. Logical necessity is a characteristic of propositions (as noted above) not of experience. Truth statements can be uttered without the experience and one can have an experience without uttering a truth statement. Therefore, no experience is logically connected with any given truth statement.

    Third, an experience cannot be used to prove the truth of that particular experience. To use experience to prove its own truth begs the whole question. The only truth established by an experience as such is the truth that one has had that experience. Therefore, an experience as such cannot be used to prove the truth of that experience.

    Fourth, experiences are not self interpreting. Experiences do not come with unchallangable truth labels on them and the same experience is capable of different interpretations depending upon the overall framework one gives to it. Therefore, no experience as such is an adequate test for the truth of a worldview.

    Fifth, we have been commanded to test the truthfulness of spirits prior to listening to them. Yet, using the experience of the spiritual witness itself as a test for the truthfulness of the spiritual witness begs the whole question. As a result, there must be something objective outside of the experience by which to judge the experience. This is precisely what Paul is referring to in Galations 1 when he tells us that the standard we should use is the “gospel… we preached to you.” This standard is sufficient as it is an objective standard, unike the subjective experiential standard decreed in Mormonism

    God bless!!


  22. shematwater permalink
    March 5, 2010 5:52 pm


    There is no objective source that one can use. It doesn’t exist. If you use the Bible you are are using your subjective interpretation of the subjective wording of men expressing the truth they have concluded on through subjective experience. There is no objectivity in it.

    Your logic sounds good, but it leads to the same conclusion that truth cannot be discovered by men, for everything we observe is subject to our own thoughts and ideas that we bring with us to the observation.

    Now, I will say this, that the Spirit of God will never bear witness to that which is contrary to the will of the Father. So, it is not a bad thing to read the scriptures. In is a very good thing, and we should do it, as you have pointed out. However, this cannot be our final authority, and that is my point. We must read the scriptures, ponder them, and take every revelation we receive to the scriptures. But should not discard a revelation simply because it does not fit with our interpretation of the scriptures. Our final authority should be the Spirit, and if there is a contradiction between him and the scriptures we need to ask him to help us reconcile it. It may not be that it is a false spirit, but that we are not yet able to see what the Spirit has said in the scriptures.

    All things work together, but there has to be a final authority. The Bible cannot be that authority, as we would be to much trust in ourselves and others. We must test all spirits yes, but we must also accept that the Person who spoke the words has more authority than the words themselves, and deffinitely more authority than those who wrote the words, or translated them.

  23. March 5, 2010 7:25 pm

    There is no objective source that one can use. It doesn’t exist. If you use the Bible you are are using your subjective interpretation of the subjective wording of men expressing the truth they have concluded on through subjective experience. There is no objectivity in it.

    I understand what you are saying, but I think you reasoning is in error and, thus, you are reaching a faulty conclusion. The problem is you are conflating the message of the Bible with man’s interpretation of the Bible. It is undeniable that at times man’s interpretation can be in error. However, it does not follow from this that the source (the Bible) is not objective. You have left a huge gap in your argument which I don’t think you will be able to fill.

    In addition, as I pointed out, there are numerous issues with basing one’s belief on a subjective “experience” that is very well could be provided by a false spirit. As the Bible tells us, we must test these spirit to detemine their trustworthiness and truthfulness, and contrary to what JS said in D&C 129, the proper test is not to try and shake hands with the spirit. Instead, we should do exactly what Paul tells us… compare what it is saying with the gospel that has been preached by the apostles Fortunately, we have that gospel message preserved in the Bible, and, in my opinion, on numerous counts the gospel of Mormonism vastly contradicts it.


  24. March 5, 2010 7:38 pm


    First you said:

    Our final authority should be the Spirit…

    Then you said…

    We must test all spirits yes…

    I must admit I am very confused. If the final source is a spirit, how is the WORLD do you test it? I am certainly not trying to be rude here (so please don’t take it that way), but you are really contradicting yourself. You say we need to test it, but you fail to provide a test and also say that the spirit (which, as we already discussed, COULD be a false spirit) is the final source.

    What is ever more perplexing is that God has commanded us to “destroy false arguments” and love Him “with with all our… mind”. Thus, God has commanded us to use our minds in judging which arguments are true/false and in approaching/loving Him. But your attitude seems to demonstrate utter disdain and distrust for our minds and complete trust in a spirit which very well could be a false spirit.


  25. shematwater permalink
    March 7, 2010 3:04 am


    Let us consider a different text for now. Let us take something simple, a poem. You read it and find it very powerful. You study the words, marking the meaning and come to believe that the author intended it to have a very deffinite meaning. This is all good, but others claim they had a different meaning, and yet another claims a third meaning. How do you know what the author really meant? The only way to know is to seek out the author.
    You do this. Finding a person claiming to be the author you ask them their intention. They explain it to you, but their words do not agree with your conclusions. Do you say, “Well you can’t be the real author, because I know the real author meant this.” In doing so you have simply stated that you don’t care what the author’s intent was, only what you want their intent to be.
    Now, if you say, well that doesn’t seem to make much sense, let me reread it and see. Then you go back, read the poem again, delve deep, and come back with an apparent contradition in what he says. Can he explain it. If he can’t he is false. If he can you have more evidence that he is the real author.

    Now, go a little more complex. Take a book, one written in a foreign language, to which all you have is a translation. Reading the translation is good, and you come to certain conclusions. But the same things happens that many people come to many conclusions. So you seek out the author. You find one claiming to be him, and ask him. He answers and you do the same thing of testing it. Once you are satisfied with one part you go study another and ask him, testing it again. If you see a problem you ask him to explain it. If he can’t he is false. If he can you continue through all the book. Only the real author can truly answer all your questions without contradiction.

    Apply this to the Bible. Thus, you are not testing the spirits on the words of the Bible, but on if they contradict themselves when explaining the Bible. If they teach one thing, and you see an obvious contradition that they can’t explain then yes they are false. But if they can logically and reasonably explain the contradiction they are not false (or at least not proven to be so yet). You test them against themselves, not against the Bible.

    Now, concerning your first post: My point is not that the source is not objective (though it could be logically argued to be so) as we will agree that the source is God. My point is that we cannot be trly object in conciding it.

    As to Mormonism contradicting the Bible, I can say with just as much conviction that nothing taught in the Bible in contradictory to the LDS doctrine. And this is my point. From your logical, thoughtout interpretation it does contradict, but from mine it does not. We are both just as logical, just as thurough, so who is right? It is easy to say “I am right” but it means nothing.

  26. shematwater permalink
    March 7, 2010 3:05 am

    I would love to give an example to the idea of explaining an apparent contradiction but I am not alloud to use any source other than the Bible in this thread.

  27. March 7, 2010 4:54 am


    Just a couple of quick comments prior to hitting the hay for the day. (do you like that rhyme?!!!)

    There are some problems with your proposed method for testing a spirit. You appear to be saying that if the spirit can “explain” contradictions between their message and the Bible, then they are a true spirit from God. However, this begs the question as to whether or not WE can read the Bible and come to an accurate understanding of the gospel message. For you are automatically assuming that OUR understanding is in error. Unfortunately, this completely contradicts what Paul told us, for he said NOT TO LISTEN to the spirit’s message if it contradicts the gospel message that we have already received. Therefore, Paul has already assumes that we understand the gospel message well enough to use it as a judge for the spirit.

    In addition, you are overlooking the fact that satan understands the Bible very, very well. As a result, he is a master at counterfeiting the truth and “explaining away” contradictions. We get a quick glimpse of this in Matt 4 where he tempts Christ. Satan quotes scripture that appears very consistent with what he is trying to acheive. Verses 5-6:

    Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'”

    It is interesting how Christ handled this as He didn’t go back to satan and say, “Wow… your answer doesn’t appear to line up with scripture. Can you please explain your contradiction?” Instead, Christ went straight to the scripture and used it to battle satan. Verse 7:

    Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

    Christ called satan out on the fact that He was wrong, and He did this by using scripture. Christ did this same thing in each and every one of the temptations.

    When tempted to turn stones into bread – “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

    When tempted to worship satan – “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”

    Bear in mind, this is not isolated to the temptations. Christ used scripture throughout His earthly ministry, clearly demonstrating that it holds a position of authority by which truth/error, righteousness/evil, true spirits/evil spirits are judged.

    One of my favorite verses puts is so well…

    2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”

    Scritpure is the standard, we can come to an accurate understanding of the gospel message, and, as Paul and Christ demonstrate, we are to use it as the standard by which we judge spirits.

    God Bless!


  28. March 7, 2010 5:22 am

    As to Mormonism contradicting the Bible, I can say with just as much conviction that nothing taught in the Bible in contradictory to the LDS doctrine.

    I understand how you feel about Mormonism as I felt that way myself for years. AI agree with your position on conviction . You can (and have) display just as much conviction in your belief as I can in mine.

    The reality is convictions don’t amount to a hill of beans. The 9/11 terrorists were thoroughly convicted that they were right. So much so that they were willing to die for their beliefs. However, they were still thoroughly wrong. Convictions don’t amount to truth.

    Where we will part ways on this point, however, is that I believe it is possible to determine who is right and who is wrong, and I do not believe that both of our positions are logical and coherent. Having been Mormon for a large portion of my life, I understand it very well, and I believe there are some serious issues with the theology and philosophy when compared to God’s special and general revelation. Not to mention the historical issues.

    God Bless!


  29. shematwater permalink
    March 8, 2010 5:18 pm


    Again, I must poinbt out that Paul was not refering to the Bible when he told them to rely on the gospel they had received. They did not have the extensive writing that is in the Bible, and much of what is in the Bible did not yet exist. As such Paul could not be refering to the written word.

    Now, as to testing spirits, I did not say that if they can explain the contradiction they are from God, I said that if they can they have not yet been proven false. This is very different. A false spirit will eventually reveal itself if you persist in testing it.

    As to Christ, you will notice that in all the temptations what Christ did was to point out a contradiction between what the Devil said and what was written in the scriptures. “He will protect you” is written, but so is “Thou shalt not tempt God.” The Devil could not reconcile the temptation to prove the protection with the warning to not flaunt that protection. The same can be said of the other temptations, and all the times Christ references the scriptures in his arguments. He is pointing out that his opponent could not reconcile what they taught with all that is written, thus proving them false.

    Now, a few comments about us today, in ragards to what Paul says. If we rely on what we have written I do not think we can come to a knowledge of the truth. We, as mortals, will always have the tendency to interpret in our favor, which is why we need the spirit to guide us. Also, what you say assumes that the Bible has not been altered in the past 2000 years, and that we now have all the scripture written by the prophets of God. This is a nice belief, but it is not logical, nor is it truly supported by the Bible itself. As such an appeal to it, and only it, for a true understanding of the Gospel is not possible.

    Let me give an example of what I mean. In 1 Corinthians 15: 29 we see the only reference in the Bible to Baptism for the Dead. Many try to explain this reference in a way that agrees with the idea that this life is the end, that there is no chance for redemption afterwards. That is all fine and good. But what would happen if we found the first epistle that Paul wrote to the Corinthians (referenced in chapter five, verse nine) and it detailed the practice of baptism for the dead as a practice necessary to the gospel? What would these people do who do not accept this doctrine? The great majority would, without even the slightest consideration, reject the epistle and false, no matter how much evidence could be given to support it. Is this the right approach? Do we know from the Bible we currently have that Baptism for the dead is a false practice? We do not, as the language does not clarify one way or the other. We must therefore take the new information to God, ask him what to make of it. The Bible would not help.

    I don’t know if this helps explain what I mean, but I do try.

    As to convictions, I have much more than convictions. I agree that both of us are not logical, but I disagree as to which one is more so than the others.

  30. March 8, 2010 8:15 pm


    I think we are starting to go in circles.

    You fail to see how the Bible as we have today contains the gospel that was preached by Paul and the apostles. As a result, when we are told to compare the gospel delivered by a spirit to the gospel received from the apostles, the means by which we do this is the Bible. For the Bible and gospel message delivered by the apostles are ONE AND THE SAME THING.

    As to Christ, you will notice that in all the temptations what Christ did was to point out a contradiction between what the Devil said and what was written in the scriptures.

    That is exactly my point. If a spirit tells you something which contradicts what the Bible teaches, which is exactly what Christ demonstrated, the spirit is not from God.


    As far as the Bible having been changed or altered throughout the years – fortunately, this is simply not the case. The New Testament that we have today has been demonstrated to be 99.5% pure to the autograph, and we have well over 20,000 manuscripts – more than we have for ANY book of antiquity. As a result, reality demonstrates that what we read today is what was originally recorded by the biblical authors.

    I did a few posts on this topic here.

    In addition, I co-author the blog with a good friend, Billy, and he has numerous posts on this topic as well. They can be found here.


    It has been great talking to you, but I think it may be time for us to move on.

    Take care and God Bless!


  31. shematwater permalink
    March 9, 2010 6:53 pm


    You did not answer my hypothetical concerning Baptism for the Dead.

    As to the Bible being unchanged, neither one of us can really prove it either way, and so let us leave it at that. Instead of arguing over who is more biblical let us just ask if both are logical.

  32. March 10, 2010 8:55 pm

    Hey Shem!

    You did not answer my hypothetical concerning Baptism for the Dead.

    You painted a “what if” scenario that is loaded with worldview assumptions. Before the question can be addressed properly, one needs to determine which worldview (if either) is correct: Christian or Mormon.

    Assuming a Mormon Worldview, the idea of scripture being discovered that is authoritative (at least in the Mormon sense of the word) is entirely possible.

    However, from a Traditional Biblical Christian worldview, any newly discovered documents would not be “scripture,” for the Bible that we have today is the scripture sufficient for teaching the salvation plan (side note: even the intro to the BOM says this, which is interesting when one considers the “logic” of all the extra-biblical/extra-BOM practices that are necessary for salvation in the celestial kingdom).

    So, while your “what if” scenario is fun to think about, it in no way demonstrates whether the Mormon or Christian perspective are right, wrong, logical, or illogical, for the worldview one brings to the situation will determine the answer to the question. Consequently, one first needs to determine which worldview is correct, and that worldview will give the needed structure by which the answer is determined.

    In addition, given the fact that no new documents have ever been discovered that teach baptism for the dead or any other new radical component to the salvation plan, it is truly a very, very hypothetical scenario. Bear in mind that the Mormon scriptures which teach baptism for the dead were not “discovered;” rather, they were written by JS.

    As to the Bible being unchanged, neither one of us can really prove it either way, and so let us leave it at that.

    Not exactly. We need to discuss what you mean by “prove”. If you mean that it cannot be empirically tested, you are correct. However, if by “prove” you mean “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the facts demonstrate that you are incorrect.

    To demand empirical proof for anything to be “believed” necessitates you become a complete historical agnostic, for nothing from history can be proven “empirically”. As an example, do you believe that Julius Caesar existed? There is no empirical evidence for his existence, and the historical evidence we do have is significantly less than that for the New Testament. Have you ever read Homer’s Iliad? It is the second most documented book in all of antiquity, and we only have 643 manuscripts for it. On the other hand, the New Testament is the MOST documented in all of antiquity with 24,970 manuscripts. That is a 24,327 manuscript difference between first and second place!! In addition, you don’t hear much about the contents of Iliad being questioned… kind of funny. Combine this with how close in time the manuscripts are to the autograph and a very strong case can and has been made for the accuracy of the New Testament.

    As scholars Bruce Metzger and William Nix have concluded, the evidence demonstrates that the New Testament is 99.5% true to the autograph. Furthermore, the .5% of verses that are in question don’t even speak to a doctrine central to the Christian faith. As such, your viewpoint that the Bible “not being altered” is a “nice belief”, but “not logical” or “supported by the Bible” is patently false.

    Instead of arguing over who is more biblical let us just ask if both are logical.

    I am happy to the discuss logic/lack of logic of our beliefs.

    Let’s start out by discussing what we mean by logical. What is your definition of this word?

    Take care!!

    God Bless!



  1. Inductive Bible Study: Discussion of Galatians 3 « I Love Mormons

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