📜Ephesians 3-6 – Part 3

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Mormonism claims to have the same organization that existed in the early Christian church, which was necessary to bring all believers into a unity of the faith.  But a close examination of the LDS church structure reveals that it is not the same organization as in Biblical times.  

 Here beginning in Chapter three, Paul is continuing to speak about the unity of the believers of God.  He will refer especially to the great “mystery” that was revealed in that dispensation.  Paul’s words are so beautifully and eloquently written. 

Chapter 3:1-4 “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.  If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:  How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (that both Jews and Gentiles are brought together in one body in Christ); (as I wrote afore in few words, Where by when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” 

Verses 5-7  “Which in other ages (ages past) was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (none of the Old Testament prophets knew the meaning of this mystery, until it was revealed to Paul and the other apostles);  That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:  Whereof I was made a minister (by God Himself), according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power (which caused the gospel to work effectively in me).” 

Verses 8-11 “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints (the least deserving Christian there is), is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ (the infinite blessings of Christ).  And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:  To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places (Angels and the entire realm of spiritual beings) might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,  According to the eternal purpose which he (the Father) proposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:” 

Verses 16-21 “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man (the Holy Spirit will energize the committed believer);  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded (solidly based) in love,  May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth (width), and length (extending into the eternities), and depth (His deep love), and height (suggests the vastness and completeness of His love);  And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (exceeds our ability to understand), that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.  Now unto him (the Father) that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power (of God) that worketh in us, Unto him (the Father) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.  Amen.”

Chapter 4 is very important in Mormonism because it contains – what the LDS believe – is strong Biblical evidence that there is one true (brick and mortar) church – one true organization.  Paul writes, Verse 4 “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;”   The LDS believe theirs is the one true church – and that they are the only ones who have the one Spirit – they call the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Verse 5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” Mormonism claims that the LDS Church is the “one faith” and that all other churches are corrupt.  At least that’s what Joseph Smith claims he learned in the First Vision.  Yet there are 83 different church groups which point to Joseph Smith as their founder.  Each group charges that the other groups are improperly structured or completely apostate.  However, what Paul is talking about here is that – the body of Christ is composed of all true believers who are sealed His by the one Spirit.  They have been baptized with the Holy Spirit when they accepted Christ into their lives.  Verses 6-7 “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.  But unto every one of us is given grace (unmerited, unearned, undeserved grace) according to the measure of the gift of Christ” 

As a young LDS missionary, I quoted the next passage often due to the fact, that it was part of the First Discussion we taught investigators.  It was used to prove that the Mormon church is the only true church.  Verses 11-12 “And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;  For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”  Similar to the 6th Article of Faith also states “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”   The LDS church claims it has all of these – BUT it uses different names for them.   Why don’t they use the names given in the Bible?   The LDS church claims it has “evangelists” which in Mormonism are called “patriarchs.”  But, biblical “evangelists” were simply gospel preachers or traveling ministers – not Stake Patriarchs.  The LDS church claims it has “pastors” which in Mormonism are called “bishops.”  Biblical “pastors” tended to the needs and affairs of the believers.  The LDS church claims it has “teachers” which in Mormonism are ordained 14-15, year-old male priesthood holders.  But, biblical “teachers” were local gospel instructors.   The LDS church claims it has “apostles” and “prophets.”  But the biblical term “apostles” meant, those “sent ones.”  Anyone God sends to declare the Good News are “apostles.”  In this verse, Paul is not speaking of the Apostleship of the Twelve men Christ called as His eyewitnesses.  And the biblical term for “prophets” in this verse is not talking about “prophets, seers, and revelators” in the manner the LDS church refers to them.  Paul is talking about specially commissioned men and women – called prophets and prophetess in the early church who spoke practical direct revelation and inspiration for the church from God. 

Mormonism teaches that when God removed the foundation of the apostles and prophets, the edifice collapsed, and its debris was used to build the many churches now dotting the Christian landscape.  But put Verse 11-12 in context with the following Verses 13-14 “ Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the statue of the fulness of Christ:  That we henceforth be no more children (immature in the faith), tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of (conflicting) doctrine, by the sleight (deception) of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”   This means a unity of belief in Christ Himself, and this belief relates intrinsically to our knowledge of Him.  With that mature faith we aren’t easily susceptible to false teachings. 

Now let’s skip over to the last chapter of Ephesians and examine one of the most recognizable and oft quoted passages in Scripture – Verses 11 through 17.  Paul begins in Chapter 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord (not in our own flesh), and in the power of his might (God’s mighty power).”  Paul has been explaining the need for unity throughout this epistle and now – he tells the church and individuals to be ready to stand and fight against the evil forces of this world and the invisible world.  To withstand their attacks, we must depend on God’s strength and use every piece of His armor.  The whole body of believers needs to be armed and protected.  Verse 11 “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles (deceits, temptations, and strategies) of the devil.”  Paul uses the common armor of Roman soldiers in this analogy.  Then Paul adds these immortal words Verse 12 “For we wrestle (hand to hand combat) not against flesh and blood (evil people), but against principalities, against powers (cosmic powers), against the rulers of the darkness of this world (fallen angels), against spiritual wickedness (spiritual darkness) in high places (the entire spiritual realm of an evil empire).”  

Paul continues Verse 13 “Wherefore take unto you (put on) the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand (come out the victor) in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (to remain standing – not wavering or falling – as a soldier who survives in battle does when the battle is over).”  What imagery!  When a person or a soldier loses courage in a physical fight – one of the first things he does is drop to the ground – often in fear and resignation.  We therefore seek to stand firm in our ideas of what it really means to be a Christian or follower of Christ. 

Verse 14 “Stand (ready oneself) therefore, having your loins (hips and thighs) girt about with truth (be prepared for action with truth), and having on the breastplate (protecting the torso and vital organs, especially the heart) of righteousness (referring to the righteousness of Christ, made available through our faith);” Paul is borrowing from the Old Testament in this imagery.  Isaiah 59:17 “For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.”  So, this was a very common literary devise used by Jews when writing about preparing oneself for warfare in Spiritual matters.  “Loins” represent virtue and chastity.  

Verse 15 “And your feet shod (wearing foot gear) with the preparation of the gospel of peace;”  Here Paul taps into a well-known phrase from Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”  Paul’s message is that the message of the Good News is bore on feet of peacemakers.  It is a message of peacemaking.  Always remember you are an emissary of peace, which is tied to the Good News.

Of all the things – Paul has said and will say – he writes Verse 16 “Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherein ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts (temptations) of the wicked.”  Everything is based on faith.  The shield of faith.  The importance of faith cannot be overemphasized.  It is “above all.” 

Verse 17 “And take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” We wonder why salvation is tied to the helmet – which is connected to the head?  I would suggest that “our knowing” that we are saved – that we are His, is a matter of our mind, will and emotion – our understanding or comprehending the facts or promises of God relative to what we have learned by the Spirit and the Word of God.  Paul says to put on the that helmet of your assurance of salvation – to protect you against doubt and discouragement.  Then Paul says, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  He is saying that the Spirit is the word of God.  This is important dear brothers and sisters.  Paul is saying that as we study and hear the Word of God, we are better armed with the sword of the Spirit.  The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is used upon ourselves – upon our minds and hearts – in the internal warfare that is going on in our souls.  The writer of Hebrews made this plain Chapter 4:12 “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  There is the warfare, friends.  THERE is the battleground – it’s personal, individual, and aimed internally. 

We end with Ephesians 6:18 “Praying always with all prayer and supplication (requests to God) in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for the saints.”

And this concludes our study of this amazing epistle of Paul to the Ephesians.  Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.

Learn more in the links below.  Included are the lesson notes.

Until next time, God Bless!

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Ephesians 2 – Part 2 – Obedience to the Laws and Ordinances or Grace?

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The Apostle Paul taught that we are saved by grace – it is the gift of God not of works.  Nephi taught that we are saved AFTER all we can do.  Joseph Smith taught that we are saved by obedience to laws and ordinances.  Either Paul was right, or Nephi and Joseph were right.  Only the Bible makes the truth clear for us.

 Paul starts out in Chapter 2:1-3 reminding the believers in Ephesus that they were once spiritually dead in their sins before they met Christ.  They were worldly, carnal, sinful, and alienated from God.  “And were BY NATURE the children of disobedience.”  Not born an innocent child of God – but born with a sin nature – day one.   These first three verses present a hopeless humanity – trapped in sin, unable to save itself.  Then Paul wrote the small but glorious words – Verse 4 “But God” Behind those two words lies a cosmic plan so huge in scope and so vast in love that the human mind cannot fully comprehend it – all we can do is humbly receive it.  Let’s read Verses 4-7 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great (agape self-less) love wherewith he loved us,  Even when were dead (spiritually) in sin, hath quickened us (has given us new spiritual life) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved);  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:  That in the ages to come (throughout the eternities) he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”  Christ defeated sin and death through His atonement – thus offering spiritual life to those dead in sins.   The verb form “have been saved” refers to a past event with present and ongoing results.  As believers, we have already passed from death to life.  Salvation is not something to be waited for – but something that has already been delivered.  This passage teaches that we are seated with Christ now “in heavenly places.”  Meaning that we now belong to the heavenly kingdom of God and are one with Him.  We now – while on earth – have an intimate relationship with God. 

The next couple of verses were conveniently skipped over in the Sunday School and Individual/family manuals.  As we cover them, I think you’ll understand why the Curriculum department of the LDS Church wouldn’t want to discuss them.  These are powerful words written by Paul to emphasize God’s great love and special favor towards those who put their trust in Him alone.  (Read Twice)  Verses 8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith (in Christ); and that not of yourselves (you can’t earn salvation): it is the gift of God:  Not of works (our works can’t save us), lest any man should boast (taking pride in thinking they are achieving salvation).”  Paul is firm that absolutely nothing is of our own doing – not salvation, not grace – everything is the gift of God.  It is a gift to be thankfully accepted.  When you receive a gift at Christmas or on your birthday – you don’t offer to pay back or contribute towards that thoughtful gift – you simply receive and accept the gift with gratitude.  It would be offensive and insulting to the giver of the gift for you to try and pay for it.  In that respect – we can’t take credit for our salvation.   It is not a reward for the good things we have done.  People find it difficult to accept something so free – so willingly given – so available to anyone.  We want to feel as though we did something – that we somehow earned our salvation by our merit.  We think or – are told by false teachers – that there has to be a certain amount of law keeping, ordinance keeping, covenant keeping – in order for us to receive salvation.  But Paul’s words are unmistakable – if salvation is by God’s grace and is accepted through faith – then it is not a reward.  If salvation could be earned by good works, then by nature we would be boastful or prideful.  The fact is – no one could ever be good enough to please a holy God.  If righteousness was something men earn, then salvation would be something God owed them.  But we can never put God in our debt.  Salvation is a gift – not a debt.

In Mormonism, it is taught that you must do as much as you can – in order to qualify for God’s grace.  In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 it says in part “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL we can do.”   The Third Article of Faith states “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind MAY be saved, by OBEDIENCE to the LAWS and ORDINANCES of the Gospel.” This is in total opposition to everything Paul has written about the grace of God.  “We are saved, after all we can do” means there is no way of ever knowing if you have done enough until after you die and go before God to be judged – then grace might kick in to save you.  Establishing “obedience to the laws and ordinances” is not the Good News message of the New Testament Gospel.  Mormons will ask – “then what part does good works play in our salvation.”  Let’s read (Read twice) Verse 10 “For we are his (the Father’s) WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus (becoming a new person, born again and made spiritually alive through Jesus Christ) unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (which the Father planned in advance for us to do).”   We are God’s “workmanship” – His masterpiece.  People become Christians through God’s undeserved favor – His grace – not as the result of any good works or acts of service on our part.  Out of gratitude for this free gift however, believers will seek to do good things – to help and serve others with kindness and love.  We are saved not merely for our own benefit but – to serve Christ and to love others.  We are saved FOR good works but not BY our good works.  Works do not produce salvation – but are the evidence of salvation.  (see James 2:14-26)  

 

Verse 13 “But now in (through) Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off (away from God) are made nigh (brought near to Him) by the blood of Christ.”  Verse 14 “For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both one (Jews and Gentiles into one people), and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”   The “middle wall of partition” in the temple – portioned off the court of the Gentiles from the areas accessible only to Jews.  It was symbolic of the social and religious separation that kept Jews and Gentiles apart.  The “middle wall” also refers to the heavy thick curtain or veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies inside the temple.  At the time of Christ’s crucifixion (see Matthew 27:51), the veil was rent or torn in two from top to bottom.  Symbolizing that all Israel could now approach God – not just the high priest who would enter the holy sanctuary on Israel’s behalf.  In Jesus Christ all spiritual privileges were now extended to every believer – Jew and Gentile.  

Verses 15-19 “Having abolished in his flesh (by dying on the cross) the enmity (the opposition and hatred), even the law of commandments contained in ordinances (like temple ordinances); for to make in himself of twain one new man (two peoples – Jews and Gentiles – into one people), so making peace (between the Jews and Gentiles);  And that he (Christ) might reconcile both unto God in one body (uniting them together) by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off (you the Gentiles), and to them that were nigh (the Jews).  For through him (Christ) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit (the Holy Spirit) unto the Father.  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens (equal partners) with the saints, and of the household of God.”     

Now, these next verses are heavily relied upon by the Mormon Missionaries for proof that the LDS Church is the restored church of Jesus Christ.  Verse 20 “And are built (our lives are built) upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (head of the church or body of believers).”  Mormonism claims that an earmark of the true church is its organization.  They use this verse to prove that living apostles and prophets must govern the church today.  Since the LDS church have twelve men – plus three – all of which are unqualified – who they call apostles, they claim that this helps identify them as the true church.  Yet, other churches also have apostles – including several who claim they are the true church restored by Joseph Smith.  So, claiming to have twelve apostles does not prove that they are really apostles to begin with or that their church is the true church.  Ephesians 2:20 does not say that the CHURCH is built upon apostles and prophets.  It says, Ye ”are built upon the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets.”  And, the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets has always been Jesus Christ.  Get it?  In 1 Corinthians 3:11 it says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is the foundation of the apostles and prophets which the believers are built upon.  Jesus is also referred to as the Chief Corner stone.  While the apostles and prophets did the initial preaching of the gospel which was written down – Christ is the theological foundation of His Church.  A foundation is laid only once and then the building is built upon it.  If men decide that a new foundation of apostles and prophets is needed in every generation – and that foundation is re-poured – then it must also teach that a new Christ is needed each time – because He is the Chief Corner Stone.  Did Jesus lay a faulty foundation?  No, He built upon the foundation – He Himself laid.  There is no need to restore it. 

Ephesians 2:21-22 “In whom all the building (the whole body of believers) fitly framed together (properly put together and guided by the Holy Spirit) growth unto an holy temple (not made with hands) in the Lord.  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”  Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s temple – the church – Christ’s body of believers.  His church is forever growing and will not be complete until every person who will believe in Him has done so.     

And this concludes our study of Ephesians chapter 2.  Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.

Learn more in the links below.  Included are the lesson notes.

Until next time, God Bless!

 

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Women in the Bible vs the Book of Mormon – pt 2

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Chris

From the very first chapter in the Old Testament, we are taught that women – like men – were created in God’s own image.  Men and women are created equal.  And from that point forward, women played prominent roles in may key biblical narratives. 

As we study the Bible, we see at every turn – in the story of God’s people – that the gifts of women are necessary and vital.  God elevates the status of womanhood throughout the biblical record.

But, now let’s consider the women in the Book of Mormon.  The Book of Mormon has over 500 pages, covering a span of 1021 years of Nephite and Lamanite history.  Plus, another 2,000 years of Jaredite history.  Considering all that time and history – how many women in the Book of Mormon are actually mentioned by name?

Ava

Total?!  Six.

Chris

Only six.  It was very, noticeable to me when I read the Book of Mormon – the lack of personal names for women.   

Ava

And three of those women mentioned by name are taken directly from the Bible: Sarah – wife of Abraham; Eve – wife of Adam; and Mary – mother of Jesus. 

Chris

So, who are the remaining three women originating from the Book of Mormon? 

Ava

There’s Sariah – wife of Lehi; Abish – a Lamanite convert; and Isabel the harlot. 

There’s almost complete silence on women in the Book of Mormon.  They play basically, unimportant roles.  There are references to other females such as “wife,” “mothers,” “daughters,” “sisters,” “queen,” “her,“ “she” –  but none of them have proper names. 

While Nephi never mentions his wife’s name once, he uses his own name numerous times in the first two books of the Book of Mormon.  In fact, we find the phrase “I, Nephi” eighty-six times.  Unlike the Bible – there is virtually nothing mentioned about family life, children, romantic love, marriage ceremonies, or divorce. 

It seems that in the Book of Mormon, women were primarily accessories to men – dependent upon them, not only for survival – but also for identity.

All of this is strong evidence that the Book of Mormon was written by one man – who wasn’t interested in the matters or needs of women. 

Chris

You’re right.  If the Book of Mormon really was a collection of histories passed down from one writer to the next over thousands of years – like the Bible – there would have been numerous women named in the record.  But, there are not. 

The god of the Book of Mormon does not appear to be the God of the Bible.  Which is yet another proof that the Book of Mormon was a fabrication of one man’s misogynistic imagination. 

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Ephesians 1 – Part 1 ➡️Predestination⬅️

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Paul wrote this letter from prison in Rome about AD 62.  Ephesus was an important political, educational, and commercial center.  It is one of the seven churches Jesus addresses in the book of Revelation.  Paul pastored there for three years, and left Timothy to pastor for a year and a half.  It is written to spiritually more mature believers, but who like other congregations struggled with being unified. 

Chapter 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God (called of God), to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus.”  Verse 2 “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  It is interesting that the Father and Jesus are mentioned, but not the Holy Spirit.  I believe that is because the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Spirit.  This next verse is used as a proof text by the LDS to support their doctrine of preexistence.  Verse 3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”  Paul is describing blessings as being heaven-centered and not earthly based.  I don’t read into that verse a hint of there, having been a pre-mortality.  Paul is simply stating that our spiritual blessings come from heaven, where Christ lives.

Now we come to a passage of scripture that is heavily debated even within Christianity.  Verse 4 “According as he (the Father) hath chosen us in him (in Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (sanctified) and without blame before him in love (because of the Father’s love for us):”  The LDS will again use this verse and those following to try and prove that “predestination” is referring to a premortal life where valiant and faithful spirit children were chosen to perform particular missions and service here on earth.  Verse 5 “Having predestinated (LDS call it foreordained) us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”  Let me explain.

There is a large segment of the Christian population here in the United States – who believe in Reformed Theology.   Another term for it is Calvinism – after John Calvin.  They insist that Ephesians 1:1-12 clearly establishes the idea that God is a God of TOTAL sovereignty.  That He unconditionally predestined His elect to salvation – meaning He chose who would be His before the foundation of the world.  And after so doing, set His will in motion – making it so that none would come to Him and be saved who are not on the list.  Admittedly these first twelve verses – taken out of the context of the rest of the Bible – could be readily interpreted to mean this.  And if this is true, the Sovereign God has also – by electing some to be saved – elected MOST to suffer in hell eternally.  In Reformed Theology there is no individual free will – no choice.  It is obvious that Ephesians 1 puts considerable emphasis on God’s purposed will.  The question remains – whether His will and purposes are directed at each individual He has elected – or is Paul talking about something else here?   I suggest he was talking about something entirely different. 

Predestination spoken of here by Paul is directed ONLY to the Jews as a Nation – whom God predestined to do what they would do for the salvation, reconciliation, and unity of the world with them into one.  Now we read Verses 4 through 12 and discover that the terms “we” and “us” and the terms “ye” and “you” refer respectively to – the Jews (the we, and us) and then to the Gentiles (whom Paul calls ye and you).  Here in this first chapter of Ephesians, Paul identifies himself with the Jews, who he calls “the first hope in Christ.”  He dwells on God’s purpose for the Jews as a nation – how God chose them (whom Paul calls “us”) before the foundation of the world – how he predestined them to adoption as sons – and how he offered them the gospel of grace – first.  And in this we realize that in context – all the references to predestination in Ephesians 1 are strictly speaking of the predestination of the Nation of Israel – by God – and not the predestination of individual believers.  

As I read Ephesians 1:1-12, I want you to listen for the “we and us” references -which is speaking of the members of the House of Israel.  “Blessed be the God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed US (Paul includes himself as a Jew) with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:  According as he hath chosen (selected) US in him before the foundation of the world (God had planned it), that WE should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated US unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made US accepted in the beloved.  In whom WE (that Jewish Nation) have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,  Wherein he hath abounded toward US in all wisdom and prudence (was liberally manifested),  Having made known unto US the mystery of his will (what mystery?), according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That (in other words here is where Paul explains the reason God has done all of this in and through the Nation of Israel) That in the dispensation of the fulness of times (a time when all people will be offered the gospel) he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him:  In whom also WE have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  That WE should be to the praise of his glory, who FIRST trust in Christ.”   Paul is speaking, here, of those Jews who ardently sought God and were devoted to Him.   

Now read with me the next verse where Paul deliberately shifts from talking about a – “we and us” group – to describing ANOTHER identified as the “ye or you” group.  Verse 13 “In whom YE also trusted, after that YE heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation: in whom also after that YE believed, YE were sealed with that holy spirit of promise.”  Here, Paul has clearly shifted to another group – which are the Gentiles – who are outside of the first group – the Jews.  And this theme continues to develop in the chapters that follow.  Note that when Paul shifts to the Gentiles – who God did NOT predestine and who are not included in with the we/us group – that his description of them coming to the faith in Christ is absent of – talk about predestination.  Instead, it is pretty much a passage that speaks of free will.  Here in Ephesians, Paul is speaking of the elect from the house of Israel whom God predestined to do what they did and then – he speaks of the great “mystery” in which God will include all Gentiles who are true Israel – meaning those who are joined in the family of God that are genuinely His and therefore genuinely Israel.  That was the “mystery” that was revealed.  That is why we read in Hebrews 8:8-10 “For finding fault with them, he (God) saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.  For THIS is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel (both Jews and Gentiles) after those days (meaning from Paul’s day forward), saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts (we will be led – not by religion, but taught by the Holy Spirit): and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:” 

Now, I want to go back and look at Ephesians 1:10 “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him:”  Mormonism teaches that it wasn’t until nearly two thousand years after Paul wrote this passage, that “the dispensation of the fulness of times” occurred with the restoration of the “Mormon gospel” through Joseph Smith.  But that is completely and totally miss- interpreting the meaning of this verse.   Paul is describing what God had intended to do all along – that “in the dispensation (that period of Jesus and Paul’s day) of the fulness of times (when the Law and the Prophets were fulfilled) he (God) might gather together in one all things (the Jews and the Gentile Nations) in Christ.”  This was the wrapping up of everything necessary to complete the heavenly family – the Bride – which is the Body of Christ.  And to launch it into the age to come – this age of the Spirit, this age of Grace, this age of faith, and this age of love – for those who are His. 

That dispensation then was when God – by and through the predestined Nation of Israel – through His Son – and through the Gospel going to all men and women – established the New Heaven and the New Earth – with a New Jerusalem on high – after wiping out everything that had to do with the former Kingdom.  It was the founding of His eternal Kingdom that would rule and reign over the hearts and minds of those who are truly His.  This was the “fulness of times” – the complete consummation of all that had happened and come before it.  And the “mystery” was unfolded to them then – that God was going to gather into one – all people of the earth into His Kingdom.   Christ is all in all.  God writes on the hearts who are His.  And His are everywhere.  We recognize them by their love which is the fruit of the Spirit.   

From Verse 13 on, Paul appeals to “ye’s, you’s and yours” and drops the use of “we and us,” proving that in the rest of this first chapter that he is addressing Gentiles who came to faith.  Then Paul will return to the “we’s” after this opening chapter and it seems that he will be speaking of the whole body – Jew and Gentile.  

Let’s wrap this lesson up by looking at Verses 15-17 where Paul speaking to the Gentile Ephesians said, “Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,  Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers,  That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit (Holy Spirit) of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”  We know when Jesus walked the earth, He said John 3:16 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”  Back to Ephesians and I’ll finish – by reading the rest of this amazing chapter.  Verses 18-23 Paul continues that “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,  Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put ALL things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over ALL things to the church,  Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth ALL in ALL.”  Praise God!

And this concludes our study of the first chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians.  Don’t’ forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.

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Until next time, God Bless!

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Women in the Bible vs the Book of Mormon – pt 1

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I’ve always been interested in how women in the Bible were viewed.  I know numerous women were mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments, but how many had speaking roles?

I was recently on an internet site called Word Counter and discovered that of the numerous women mentioned in the Bible – 93 had speaking roles.  The site said that in the Kings James Version there are a little over 783,000 total words, and those spoken by these 93 women add up to a little over 14,000 words – which was about 1.8 percent of the entire Bible. 

That isn’t a big percentage, but those words are like pearls or precious gems lying in a field – just waiting to be discovered.  And while 93 speaking women is a relatively small number – I don’t believe there are any other existing historical documents that quotes that many women. 

I know that some of the women in the Bible were healers, warriors, business leaders, diplomats, judges, musicians, and prophets.  There were even prostitutes and murders among the ranks.  Two of the books of the Old Testament were named after women – Esther and Ruth.  And those men who wrote the other books of the Bible, certainly felt free to mention women by name – and to write concerning their achievements.

The ten women who talk most in the Bible are primarily in the Old Testament.  But the New Testament is unique because against the backdrop of first-century – Middle-Eastern, patriarchal, Judaic culture – Jesus treats women with SO much respect and as equals to men. 

In fact, Jesus’s longest recorded conversation with anyone was with a woman – the woman at the well – recorded in John 4:4-42.  Remember, she had five husbands and was living with a sixth man.  Jesus initiates the conversation with this woman – a Samaritan – unheard of.  Her surprise is expressed in the narrative: “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” 

 

Jesus then enters, into a prolonged dialogue which honors her thirst for truth.  Ultimately, He reveals to her His identity as the Messiah.  And, because of her excitement in witnessing to the town folks – many believed in Jesus.  

Jesus refused to view women as unclean or deserving of punishment.  Women who were menstruating or persons who had any flow of blood were considered ritually unclean.  And, anything or anyone she touched was considered unclean.  We find in Luke 8:43-48, the account of a women who had been bleeding for 12 years.  She was considered an untouchable – a nobody.  Yet, she is healed instantly upon touching the border of His garment.  Jesus turns to her and addresses her affectionately, calling her “Daughter.”  He tells her that her faith had made her whole and to go in peace.  How tender!

Jesus recognized the dignity of women in situations that seem – by ritual law – to demand judgment.  As examples: the sinful woman who anoints Jesus in Luke 7:36-50, and the woman caught in adultery in John 8:3-11.  In both cases Jesus sees the women as someone deserving compassion. 

When Simon, the Pharisee, was upset that Jesus allowed a sinner to touch Him – not only does Jesus tell the woman her sins are forgiven, but asks Simon “Do you see this woman?”  The question urges Simon to look beyond the prejudice he always had for women of reputation – and to see her as a woman of humility and great love. 

Then there’s the woman caught in adultery who is brought before Jesus to be judged according to the Law.  Jesus says that none of the men who brought her themselves are without sin.  When her accusers departed, Jesus speaks compassionately to the woman.  He doesn’t gloss over her sin, but in his refusal to condemn her, He invites her to a new image of herself. 

I noticed how Jesus stepped over the boundaries between men and women by His acceptance of women as disciples.  The story in Luke 10:38-42 of Martha and Mary, highlights Jesus’s acceptance and blessing of Mary’s desire to learn.  In Mary we see what it means to be a lover of Christ, for she is seen three times in the Gospels – each time at the feet of Jesus.  This was the typical position of the male disciple.  But Jesus welcomes her desire to learn, and says “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Jesus not only taught women, but some of them traveled with Him and ministered to Him – like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Chuza, and Susanna. 

Then there is, the account of Martha who was grieving over the death of her brother, Lazarus.  While they stood at the tomb, Jesus reveals to her, in John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Then He calls Lazarus to come forth from the grave.    

Women were present at Jesus’s crucifixion.  And women were the first witnesses to the Resurrection.  In Acts 1:12-14, women joined in prayer between Jesus’s ascension and Pentecost.  Even the apostle Paul regularly ministered in the gospel alongside women.  He applauded their faithfulness and their giftedness. 

It is clear, that God elevates the status of womanhood throughout the biblical record.

 

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Galatians 4-6 – Part 2

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Who are the true children of God?  Are we born into this world as children of God?  How do we become the seed of Abraham?  What does it mean to receive the adoption of sons and daughters of God?  These are important doctrinal concepts to understand and Paul attempts to clarify them for us in Galatians.  

We left off in our study of Galatians with Paul saying in 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”  He means, only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are God’s – true spiritual children.  Verse 27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Now, this verse could be speaking of water baptism.  But Paul is most likely speaking of those who have been baptized into Christ spiritually or – by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  And have put on Christ or – taken upon us His righteousness.  Verse 28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  All are saved in the same way – all are entitled to the same privileges.  There is no favoritism.  All who place their faith on Christ to save them – will be saved by the merits of the Savior and – all are given the same privileges as children of God – justified by faith.  Note that when Paul says, “there is neither male nor female,” that it was intended to abolish the distinction of the sexes relative to God.  There is no male or female in Christ.  Circumcision is now of the heart.  Paul adds “for ye are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus.”  And, Paul ends with Verse 29 “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  The promise made to Abraham related to the Messiah.  It was a promise that in Jesus all should be blessed.  And if you are a believer – a Christian – then you are Abraham’s seed, “and heirs according to the promise.”  Again, not by the Law – but by faith – according to the promise made to Abraham by God. 

The first two verses in Chapter 4 describe a person who has come to faith but remains a babe or a child in Christ.  1:1-2 “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he (or she) is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he (or she) be lord of all (the one who will someday inherit the whole estate);  But is under (is subject to) tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.”  The Father – God – decides when this happens.  Until the child matures into a son or daughter of God – a child lacks understanding of spiritual things and initially are still carnal in nature.  Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.  I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.  For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, and ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  Like the Prodigal Son who was immature in the faith and irresponsible with the inheritance.  He put himself in bondage to a Gentile citizen.  Back to Galatians 4:3 “Even so we, when we were children (still immature in spiritual things), were in bondage under the elements of the world.”  Paul is speaking of the Law, which kept the Nation of Israel in bondage as children to the elemental things relative to God.  Throughout the New Testament, the word “bondage” is often tied to the law.  Paul taught in Galatians 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  And for our LDS friends, Colossians 2:20-22 “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste no; handle not;  Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?”  Back to Galatians 4:4 “But when the fulness of the time was come (when the time was right), God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (while the Law of Moses was still in effect).”  This is when – as it says in John 1:14 “the Word was made flesh” – when the Word became the Son.  What came forth from God to earth – was not a Son.  God’s son – as it says in this verse – was made of a woman and was made under the Law.  What came forth from God was God’s logos – His mind, will, emotion, words – and entering, into humanity became God’s Son…made of a woman, made under the Law.  Why?  Galatians 4:5 “To redeem them that were under the law (who were the Jews, the Children of Israel), that we (those who put their faith in Christ) might receive the adoption of sons (and daughters).”   The only way unregenerate people can become God’s children is – by spiritual adoption (see Romans 8:15, 23; Ephesians 1:5).  Now, Galatians 4:6 “And because ye are sons (heirs with Christ), God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”  Abba is translated as “Papa or Daddy” and is the same term the Savior used in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:36).  A person cannot have a personal relationship with laws and ordinances.  But believers can have an intimate relationship with God. 

Paul continues to counsel the Galatian saints to resist the efforts of others to get them to revert, back to the Law of Moses.  He urges them to hold tightly to the freedoms which come with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Galatians 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”  Paul isn’t talking about the mere freedom to say or do anything, anytime without a care.  That is not the liberty wherein Christ has made us free, is it?  Paul is telling the Galatians to stand in the liberty where Christ has made them free – which would be a liberty to die to self, to live by the Spirit and, by the laws written on our hearts by God.  Christ gave us – the removal of laws and bondage and, therefore the liberty to authentically love.  God, himself is consummately free – for He is love and true love can only exist in freedom.  We are created in His image and as such He seems to seek for all of us to be as free as He is in order to love as He loves. 

 

If we insist on keeping laws and ordinances, Paul says in Galatians 5:4 “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”  Scripture makes justification plain and clear – it is either by works or it is by grace – but it cannot be both.  Paul taught in Romans 11:6 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”  And Paul also said in Romans 4:4-5 “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  Any amalgamation of Grace and works will render His grace ineffectual.  I want to make it clear here, that Paul is not giving us – a two-roads to heaven choice here.  He is no way saying that the Law and/or Grace by faith in Christ – are the two ways.  There is only one way and it is by faith in Jesus Christ.   Galatians 5:5 “For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”  And then, Galatians 5:6 “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision (being a Jew) availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision (nor being a Gentile); but faith which worketh by love.”  It is all about love.  

Verse 13-14 “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty (created for them and us by faith on the cross and nothing more); only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh (to justify sin), but by love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”  The whole gospel, including all the commandments could be summed up in loving others as ourselves.  This is faith which worketh by Love.  Verse 16 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”  How do we seek the will and Spirit of the Lord?  We petition Him in prayer, and we seek Him in Scripture.  Talk to God – ask Him to help you grow and understand and overcome yourself.  Then accept the influence of the Holy Spirit in your life when it is presented.  As maturing Christian’s, we learn to submit our flesh and will – to that of the Father’s will, by the Spirit and by the Word.  And to walk in the Spirit is not to feed the flesh.  Again, this is a choice.  As Paul says in Romans 7, there is a war between the Flesh and the Spirit with each seeking to dominate the other.  By choosing the Spirit we will not – by virtue of, the fact that the Spirit is in control – fulfill the lust of the flesh – no matter how powerful it may seem or be.  Remember – we have our identity in Christ – not in our flesh.  We see ourselves as new Creatures in Christ, and don’t identify any longer with the former man or woman of the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would (you can’t just do whatever you want to).”  That last line hearkens back to Paul who said openly in Romans 7:15-16 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.  If then, I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.”  Ever find yourself in that situation as a Christian?  You want to serve God with all, of your heart and soul and might, but you fail miserably.  That’s because our flesh is at war with the Spirit.  Galatians 5:18 “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”  Bottom line, if we submit to the teachings and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are free from the demands of the law.  True liberty prevails as the Spirit calls us to love others as ourselves.  2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”    

It is with this understanding that Paul now says in Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness (meaning lustful thoughts, sexual immorality, including pornography),  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance (disharmony), emulations (jealousy), wrath (anger), strife, seditions (stirring up discontent), heresies (false doctrines), Envyings, murders, drunkedness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”  All, of those things Paul mentions are representative of the carnal nature of man.  These were the sins that were prominent in the Gentile or heathen world.  But then, Paul presents us with the fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness (gentleness), temperance (self-control): against such there is no law (there are no commandments of God against such personal character traits).”  These are the Godly attributes that characterize the lives of those who belong to God by faith in Christ and possess the Holy Spirit.  No external law is needed in the life of a believer.  Then Paul states Verse 24 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”  Those who belong to Christ have been crucified with Christ, and all the affections of their flesh have died.  This is not an immediate event, but we have, to choose to die daily, to take up our cross, and walk in perfection from that point forward.  Then Paul concludes, Verse 25 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  In other words, let our actions be in harmony with our faith and beliefs. 

As Paul concludes his letter to the believers in Galatia, he gives clear advice for righteous daily living: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”  “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  “He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”  “Let us not be weary in well doing.”  “God forbid that I should glory (brag), save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” 

And this concludes our study of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.  Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.

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Until next time, God Bless!

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Galatians 1-3⚠️

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Paul warned the Galatian saints about those who would corrupt or change the gospel of Jesus Christ by preaching another kind of gospel which included faith PLUS works to be justified before God.  Can you think of any religious organization that teaches that today?

Galatia was in what is now central Turkey.  Paul had many converts in Galatia during his first missionary journey and wrote this letter to them somewhere around AD 50.  When Paul left the Galatian Christians, they were extremely devoted.  But over a short time, they began to adopt false notions.  They attempted to revise the gospel by including pagan observances and Mosaic rituals like circumcision.  Like it was to the believers at Corinth – Paul and his authority as an apostle was under attack in Galatia.  So, his first objective is to prove he had received his commission as an apostle directly from God.  Galatians 1:1-5 “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)  And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:  Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,  Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:  To whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.”  Paul was a qualified witness of the Lord’s resurrection.  An apostle called directly by the Lord. 

Now, Paul presents the general purpose of his letter.  Verse 6 “I marvel (I am shocked) that ye are so soon removed from him (God) that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:”  Verse 7 “Which is not another (actually, there is no such thing as ‘another gospel’); but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert (corrupt or change) the gospel of Christ.”  There is only One Gospel – One Good News.  What was happening was that some group of individuals was pushing elements of the law on them as an approach to destroy the grace of Christ.  This message will be overly clear as we get into Chapters 2-5.  Remember, the Good News is the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to restore people’s relationship with God.  But as people frequently do even today – the Good News is just not enough for them.  They want more – they need more.  And as result we have the birth of religion.  The Good News can be summarized in one Word – Jesus.  Receive Him by faith in total and you have received the Good News.  We also note that the Gospel does not, include: anything about water baptism; nothing about church membership; nothing about temples; nothing about tithing; nothing about dietary laws; nothing about priesthoods.  The Good News is simply Jesus – who He is, and what He did, and trusting that it was accomplished.  Done – Over!  The believers had moved from the simplicity of the Gospel and embraced a different system – one which taught an entirely different method of justification before God – other than faith in Jesus.  It taught faith  PLUS.  This is the object of religions and especially religious cults.  There are also those groups who assume that because Jesus has finished the work and had the victory – there is no need for Jesus, no need for faith in Him, no need to even seek knowing Him.  After all, if He has accomplished it all, what’s the point?  They believe, somehow, that as long as they live good lives, they will be fine with God.  Both extremes miss the point of God giving the world His only human Son.  Both extremes miss the mark of being children of God, of being Christians, and of allowing Christ, by His Spirit, to live through us in this earthly state. 

The LDS missionaries will often cite this next verse in their attempt to prove that the early church fell into a complete apostasy – thus the need for a restoration.  But I want to make clear that the text does not say that.  It does not even remotely hint that there would be a total apostasy of the entire church.  Mormons are reading something into the text that is not there.  The nature of this false gospel the Galatians had bought into – was a gospel of legalism, which added works to faith.  This is not the same gospel Paul had preached and by which the Galatians had been saved.  Measuring the “gospel” of Mormonism against that expressed here in Galatians and the rest of the New Testament (a gospel of grace not, works), it becomes abundantly clear that the LDS works-based gospel is in fact “another” gospel that must be accursed by God. 

 

Let’s read, Verse 8 “But though we (the apostles and those traveling with them), or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (the word is Anathema – let him be doomed to destruction).”  I’m not sure that an angel from heaven would ever preach another gospel.  Certainly, an angel from hell could.   But when Paul says from heaven, I think his appealing to exaggeration to make a point.  This passage is huge for apologists to use against the founder of Mormonism – Joseph Smith, Jr. and his claim of having had an angel of light visit him on numerous occasions and revealing to him a false gospel.  So important was Paul’s message that he repeats it saying, Verse 9 “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”   The “restored gospel” of Mormonism is a different gospel that the “gospel of Jesus Christ” that Paul taught.  We need to understand that Paul is saying a false gospel is a horrible thing and you want no part of it.  If we are embracing a perverted gospel, we are accursed.  That’s not a good thing!  Right?

At this point, Paul steps into a segment where he establishes himself as a true apostle.  Verses 10-12 “For do I now persuade men, or God (do you think I am trying to win the approval of men, or of God)?  or do I seek to please men?  for if I yet pleased men (if my goal were to gain the approval of men), I should not (could not) be the servant of Christ.  But I certify (assure) you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man (does not come from the philosophies of men).  For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by (through) the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Paul had received communications at various times directly from the Lord Jesus with regard to the gospel message and his responsibility.  His knowledge of the gospel was derived entirely from the Savior.  Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles.  In, essence Christ through Paul, was creating a model by which all the earthly teachings Jesus gave to His own Jewish people and His works for the salvation of the world – would have application to the non-Jewish world in the New Testament.  This Chapter goes on to tell us that Paul – after his conversion on the road to Damascus – didn’t go to Jerusalem to meet the apostles – but instead went into the Arabia desert for three years to commune with God.  After that – he returned to Jerusalem where he stayed with Peter for fifteen days, before going to the Gentile cities. 

Moving on to Galatians 2, I want to cover the last half of the chapter beginning with Verse 16 and Paul saying, “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 the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”  Justification is a word that is applied in a legal sense as in the courts of Justice.  To be justified in a spiritual sense refers to God declaring a sinner not guilty and fully righteous before God by imputing to the guilty man or woman the divine righteousness of Christ – and imputing – or crediting – the person’s sin to the sinless Savior for punishment.  Three times in Verse 16, Paul declares that salvation is only through Faith in Christ and not by the law – or by our works.   All people are sinners who are made right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  This is the doctrine of Justification.  God justifies people despite their guilt, pardons them, and then makes them His children and heirs.  The reality is, no one will ever be saved by obeying the law.  Then, Verse 20 “I am crucified with Christ (I crucified my old self with my sins, through Christ’s Atonement): nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me (Christ is alive in me): and the life which I now live in the flesh (in mortality) I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  Paul says in his life – the world was put to death and his former man was put to death in terms of the world.  He told the believers in Romans 6:6 “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”  They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.  In and through our looking to Him and His life, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection – we each are provided with a template for the way we will choose to live our Christian life.  And it is all focused and made possible by and through Him.  Paul adds the final verse in Galatians 1, which says it all, Verse 21 “I do not frustrate (make ineffective) the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law (if we can be saved by keeping the law), then Christ is dead in vain (Christ died for nothing).”  You see, God has provided a plan of Grace – defined as unmerited favor – by and through faith on His Son.  The biblical view is that God’s daughters and sons are children of faith – and his sons and daughters place their faith on His Son.  Did you catch that last phrase of Verse 21 “for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”  This is exactly what the Galatians had done, having once received Christ and His work on the cross for them.  Then, somehow believing that religious laws ought to be incorporated back into what Jesus accomplished on the cross. 

So, Paul begins Chapter 3 by saying to anyone who think that they can, in some way, justify themselves before God by the law, by their works, 3:1 “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched (or deceived) you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes, Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.”   Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”  In other words, by His dying in our place for our sins, Christ removed the wrath of God that we all justly deserve and imputes the Savior’s perfect righteousness on us.  Paul says in Galatians 3:6-7 “Even as Abraham (who did not have the law of Moses) believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (God considered him to be righteous).  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith (who have faith in Christ), the same are the children of Abraham (will have the same reward of righteousness as Abraham).” 

For the sake of time, I’m just going to read some key verses from the rest of this chapter.  Verse 10 “For as many as are of the works of the law  (those who try to gain salvation through keeping all the laws and commandments) are under the curse (failure to keep the laws perfectly are damned): for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”  James said in James 2:10 “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  Galatians 3:11 “But that no man is justified by the law (no one is saved by the law) in the sight of God, it is evident (is obvious): for, The just (those made righteous) shall live by faith.”  Verse 13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law (Christ has freed us from the bondage of the law), being made a curse for us: for it is written (in Deuteronomy 21:22-23), Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (In other words, Christ subjected Himself to the curse of being hung on a tree – the cross):”  Verse 14 “That (so that) the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  Verse 21 “Is the law then against the promises of God (does the law and commandments work against God’s promises)?  God forbid (absolutely not): for if there had been a law given which could have given life (if it had been possible to have eternal life by keeping the laws), verily righteousness should have been by the law.”  But no one could keep the laws and commandments perfectly.  Verses 22-23 “But the scripture had concluded all under sin (the scriptures verify that all are guilty of sinning), that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.  But before faith came (before the Gospel of Grace came to us), we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed (which was to be taught at a later date).”  This next verse sums up everything Paul has been teaching in this chapter.  Verse 24 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster (our teacher) to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified (saved) by faith (in Christ).”  Verse 25 “But after that faith is come (faith in Christ and what He did for us), we are no longer under a schoolmaster (we don’t need the law).”  Verse 26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.”  Verse 27 “For as many of you as have been baptized (by the Holy Spirit) into Christ have put on Christ.”  Verse 28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (we are all the same in Christ’s kingdom).”  Finally, Verse 29 “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (given to him).”

And this concludes our study of the first half of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.  Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.

 

 

Until next time, God Bless!

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Stay in the Boat – Faith and Doubt – Part 2

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Last time, we were commenting on a speech given on January 13, 2019 by Dale Renlund, an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Ruth.  They were talking on behalf of the Church’s leadership, who are concerned that its members are having doubts about their Mormon religion.  The title of their address was “Doubt Not but Be Believing.” 

They told a parable about a boy, who after being rescued from sea – complained about the condition of the boat and wanted out.  The story was meant to illustrate the foolishness of abandoning the LDS Church.  The Renlund’s remarks throughout their address trivialized doubting Mormon’s concerns and belittled them as individuals. 

And he calls himself an apostle?  Quite honestly, it was a very unchristian-like response to this sensitive issue. 

His wife, Ruth, smugly made the comment, “You don’t have to be an ordained seer, like my husband, to know that slipping back into the water instead of staying in the boat is risky.” 

What I found interesting – is that he quotes from Lectures of Faith written by Joseph Smith which says, “For doubt and faith do not exist in the same person at the same time.” 

Anything from Lectures of Faith is suspect – since the LDS Church removed Lectures of Faith from its cannon of Scripture due to the inconsistencies taught in Smith’s lectures with current Mormon doctrine. 

Renlund said that “Many who have had questions, who have had doubt enter their minds, and have had difficulty finding their spiritual footing have nonetheless stayed faithful and have remained on the covenant path.” 

Faithful to what, though?  Faithful to the Church?  Or, faithful to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who is leading them to seek and search for truth, and for a stronger personal relationship with Jesus Christ? 

Related to that, is the story of Peter walking on water – mentioned by Mr. Renlund. 

The way I read it, only confirms the desire we all should have for a closer relationship with our Lord. 

Matthew 14 takes us out to the disciples who were in a boat, on the Sea of Galilee in the middle of the night.  The wind was blowing, and the boat was being tossed with the waves.  Those men were probably feeling helpless in those cold wet conditions.  It was then, when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea.  Matthew wrote, Verse 26 “they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” 

Jesus, being full of love – quickly calmed them down.  Verse 27 “But straightway Jesus spoke unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” 

It must have been reassuring to hear the Savior’s voice calm their fears. 

What we read next is perhaps one of the most amazing things ever to happen to a mere mortal man.  Verse 28-29 “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.  And he (Jesus) said, Come.  And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.” 

I admire Peter’s love for the Lord.  There were no waves or wind or darkness of night that were going to get in his way.  The Lord was out on the water and Peter wanted to be with Him. 

Peter was willing and ready to get out of the safety of the boat – to be with the Lord.  Peter did in fact, walk on water!  He is the only human being – who was not God in the flesh – to experience such a feat.  And, remember he did ask the Lord before jumping out of the boat. 

Jesus’ response to Peter was to “come.”  This is the exact call Jesus has on every single person’s life.  While others – like Mr. Renlund – is telling us to stay in the safety and comfort of the Church – Jesus is inviting us to step off the boat and walk with Him, in faith, and to not fear. 

What if Peter had stayed in the boat?  Remember, Jesus invited Peter to leave.  That takes a tremendous amount of faith.

What is there to fear when seeking truth – answers to our questions and doubts?  Members of the LDS Church should put their full trust in the Lord that He will be there to walk by their side and hold their hand as they navigate treacherous waters.

They might come to realize that their personal relationship with Christ has been strengthened and they are more secure in their spiritual journey than remaining in any boat.   

As Peter was walking on the water towards Jesus, he became afraid and cried, “Lord save me.”  Peter recognized there is no other name whereby men may be saved.  Verse 31 “And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 

If Peter had little faith yet could walk on water temporarily.  Think what would be possible in our lives if we have even that much faith. 

 

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