Does the New Testament teach that all human beings are literal “offspring” of Heavenly parents? Does God dwell in Mormon temples?
Okay, we are more than half-way through the book of Acts. Today’s chapters describe two of Paul’s missionary journeys with his companion Silas. We begin with Acts 16:5 “And so were the churches (ekklesia – assemblies) established in the faith, and increased in number daily.” But, during their travels Paul and Silas are taken into custody for their preaching. They were ordered by some magistrates to be stripped of their clothes and beaten. Then the Jailor having been given strict orders, threw Paul and Silas into prison where their feet were locked in the stocks, so there was no chance they would escape. Verse 25 “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” What an attitude these men had! We often praise God in times of gratitude and joy, but do we – like these men – praise God in times of pain and trial and discouragement? From this event, we are reminded that our joy comes from within – not from without.
Verse 26 “And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” This was truly the power of God doing His miraculous work of liberation. Verses 27-28 “And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here” Verse 29 “Then he called for a light (a torch), and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,” It suggests that the guard was aware of something supernatural occurring, for there would really be no other reason for him to come in trembling. He probably had been hearing their songs and prayers to God through the night which was preparing his heart. Then – BOOM – a sudden shake that opened the doors and loosed their stocks. The jailor may have desired to have the kind of faith in God like Paul and Silas had even before the earthquake. He wanted to be saved from himself and to be saved to peace and truth – the way Paul and Silas were. He asks them in Verse 30 “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He merely wanted what these men were promising and teaching and, what they themselves possessed. Often – even today – people have no idea about who God is, who Jesus is, what the Gospel is really about – but they want answers to the meaning of life and fulfillment. So, he asks Paul and Silas, “What must (or can) I do to be saved?”
Before we read Paul’s answer –
What would you say to someone who asked this question of you? “What can I do to be saved?” The LDS response – “Have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, receive temple covenants, keep all the commandments including word of wisdom, paying tithing, receiving the priesthood and last but not least – endure to the end – but there is no promise that you’ll be saved until you die and are judged.” What was Paul’s response to the jailor’s question “what must I do to be saved?” Verse 31 “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” It was basically the same thing Peter said to Cornelius back in Acts Chapter 10. When we talk about being saved – we are talking about placing our trust in Jesus. Faith in Him alone is the saving grace we are talking about. The jailor was not asked by Paul if he felt worthy enough. The response was clear and concise – “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Meaning – believe that Jesus paid for our sins and, that He lived the perfect life we will never live. He is enough! There is nothing we can do to add to being saved – but to believe. Verse 32 “And they (Paul and Silas) spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” So, they shared the good news of the gospel.
Let’s move on to Chapter 17 in Acts. Verse 10 “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.” For their safety they were sent unto Berea, which was a city of Macedonia. And they went directly into the synagogue. At this point Luke makes a comparison between what Paul and Silas found in Thessalonica and what they discovered in Berea, saying Verse 11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Those in Berea were more noble because they received the word with more readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily to see whether the things Paul and Silas were teaching were true. These Berean’s hadn’t let their predispositions get in their way. They didn’t allow their prejudices to stop them from considering what Paul and Silas taught. They nobly received the word with open, eager minds AND then, they searched the scriptures daily to see if what they were told measures up. It cannot get better than this. I mean, a person who will first hear and then test what they are being told against scripture. That is the perfect description for a seeker of God and truth, in my estimation. This is the key to conversion. If we are willing to test all things – we should have no need to fear anything. I remember when I was having doubts about my faith in the religion of my up-bringing – I asked myself, “if the LDS Church wasn’t true – would I honestly want to know?” Yes, of course! If it is true, then it will past the test of scripture, right? As I earnestly searched the scriptures daily, I compared the fundamental teachings and doctrines of Mormonism with the Scriptures – the Word of God – to find out whether my high-demand, works-based religion was so. And you know what? The method works. And, I had my answer – just like what was described in Verse 12 “Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few.” The Bible provided the standard of truth that can be used as a measuring stick for truth. If individuals or churches teaching anything contrary to what the Word of God says – those individuals or churches are not teaching truth. They are false teachers and prophets presenting a different gospel.
Paul now travels to Athens where – as it says in Verse 16 “his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.” In the absence of a visible tangible God – our tendency to worship the tangible is irresistible. And idolatry is as rampant today as it was back in among the Greeks. If we look at the first two of the ten commandments: 1) There is one God and we are to have no other God’s before Him. 2) Make no graven images. And so, here in Athens, Paul begins to dispute with the Jews and Greeks. Verses 22-23 “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mar’s Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD, Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” By rearing this altar these Jews and Greeks acknowledged their need of instruction. Paul challenges their ignorance by stating in Verse 24 “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;” Paul speaks of God as the Creator of ALL things in heaven and in earth. Thus, opposing their opinions that there were many gods. Also, emphasizing that this One True and Living God does not dwell in temples made with hands. Did you hear that my Latter-day Saint friends? God does not dwell in man-made temples. Hebrews 9:24 tells us that Christ does not enter into the holy places made with hands. Paul also tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 that WE are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in us. Paul’s intention was to introduce them to the Only True God – who to them thus far was unknowable. As Jesus said in John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
It is in the coming verses we find a troubling misinterpretation of God’s Word. Acts 17:26-28 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.” This shows the foreknowledge, the love, the planning, of God, to set forth before all peoples – from every land – the truth of Himself. He has established their boundaries in His time so that we might all want to seek after Him. From what Paul says here – the very design of God placing man on earth in their specific habitation was so that at some point in time they would desire to seek Him and come to a knowledge of His existence and character – and therefore obtain life eternal.
Here the manual states “As you examine Acts 17:24-31 together, consider discussing the truth taught in Verse 29 ‘We are the offspring of God,’ meaning that Heavenly Father is the literal Father of our spirits… What does this fact that we are children of God teach us about God? about ourselves?” Let me put this in context. Paul was raised in Tarsus, a Greek city of Cilicia that was under Roman control. He was familiar with Greek writers to a certain extent even though he was a devout Jew. In Cilicia was a poet by the name of Aratus and he wrote a hymn to Jupiter that includes the line, “For we are also His offspring.” Appealing to the wisdom they possessed here in Athens, Paul cites this particular poet. The word “offspring” here is also translated “kin.” Are we “kin” to God? We are His only kin as we are made in His image. We are literal creations made in the image of the invisible God – with the means to reason and choose – and are in fact, His created offspring. Mormonism has misconstrued the meaning of Acts 17:28-29 by reading into the text an idea that is not there. Here’s the context. Paul was preaching to the Athenians. They weren’t believers in the true God. But despite their unbelief, Paul goes on to affirm that we are all offspring of God. Why? Simply because God is the Creator of us all. Whether we believe in Him or not, all of us were nevertheless created by Him, and thus are rightly called His offspring. God is the Father of all humanity in the sense that He created all humanity. Acts 17:28-30 says nothing at all in support of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother or Mothers giving birth to billions of spirit children. The emphasis in these verses are on God’s creation, not procreation. Show me a single reference in any book written by any of the New Testament authors that explicitly states that humans pre-existed in spirit-bodies. Show me in the Book of Mormon for that matter. It can’t be done.
The first part of Verse 28 says, “For IN HIM we LIVE, and MOVE, and HAVE our being.” These are words to describe the whole of us. In Him we have our very lives, our every move, our being. We should love Him with all our heart, mind, and strength.
And, that concludes our study. Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.