1 Corinthians 1-7 ~ Come Follow Me

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Are there qualifications on scripture for who is to be called and apostle of the Lord and who is not to be?

 

So far, Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth has really gone into some depth in terms of apostolic instruction on the way to live – in that day and age.  And, at this point he speaks about the Christian relationship to idols.  We remember that idolatry was almost the universal practice of the Greeks.  And there – located in Corinth – was the temple of Diana.  And where there are idols – there are sacrifices to idols.  Sometimes those sacrifices included edible items that could be later consumed by others – including Christians.  Paul says in Chapter 8:4 “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.”  Therefore, Paul’s advice seems to be that there is no danger in partaking of the food offered in sacrifice to idols.  He is implying that there is nothing wrong with buying meat left over from pagan idol worship to help feed the family.  Paul summarizes the point by saying “that an idol is nothing in the world.”  And then he emphasizes “and that there is none other God but one.”  This line hearkens back to what the Jews called the Great Shema: Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”  That is straight up – pure monotheistic worship of the true and living God. 

 

Okay, listen carefully to the wording in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 “For though there be that are called gods (lower-case g), whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods (lower-case g)  many, and lords many,)  But to us there is but one God (upper-case G), the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”  Joseph Smith taught in the Section concerning the plurality of wives – Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-20  that all who are worthy will become gods over their own worlds and will send their own spirit offspring to those worlds to go through the same plan of salvation as we are going through here.  Therefore, there are many gods in the universe.  But there is only one Heavenly Father for us.  If that is how the LDS want to twist Paul’s teaching to fit Smith’s theology, then they simply don’t understand what Paul is speaking about here.  Paul has been talking about the pagan gods Greeks worship – that they believe resided in heaven – like Jupiter, Juno, Mercury, and others.  And those deities they believe resided in earth – like Neptune, Ceres, and others.   Again, Verse 6 “But to us (Christian believers) there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”  Everything comes from God, through His only Human Son, Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

1 Corinthians 9:1 “Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?”  From the start in this chapter, Paul mentions the first qualifier of being an apostle – being a firsthand, eyewitness of Jesus – called directly by Jesus.  I think it’s important to realize that the “word” apostle and the “office” of apostle have two very different applications.  Apostle, the word, simply means a person sent – a messenger.  The office of apostle was occupied by twelve men who Jesus entrusted the organization of His church and the dissemination of His gospel.  Any one after that, claiming the office of Apostleship are false apostles.   Just want to make that clear. 

For a good portion of Chapter 9, Paul argues that Christian workers should be paid by those they serve.  Paul’s explanation that God’s ministers should be supported by the churches – came as an order from the Lord.  Verse 14 “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”  But Paul supported himself so that no one would have any reason to think he was ministering with a financial motive.   This is true devotion.  The question I ask – why don’t today’s Mormon Apostles follow Paul’s example?  I know while I was on my LDS mission as a young man, I told the narrative we were given that – the LDS Church had no paid ministry.  It was an unpaid lay ministry from the bottom local leaders to the top quorum of the 12 and First Presidency.  I taught with pride that we are different from the Protestant and Catholic clergy who received salaries.  Then, decades later it was discovered that we had been lied to by the LDS Church.  Paystubs of six-figure incomes for the top leaders were revealed.  What a lie we all believed and propagated.  Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t have a problem with the Mormon leaders getting paid – like Paul said all ministers should be.  The problem I have is with the fact that the Church lied about themselves, not getting paid.  That is called duplicity and hypocrisy!     

In Chapter 10, Paul will turn his attention to explaining that Jesus Christ was the God who led ancient Israel out of Egypt and into the promise land.  This is crucial doctrine for those converts who are trying to understand why they should leave the Law of Moses rites and rituals to follow Christ – as Paul has been teaching them to do.  He will warn them not to fall into the same sins as the Children of Israel did – which led many to destructionVerse 13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man (all of us are subject to temptation): but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able (God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can resist); but will with the temptation also make a way to escape (will help you overcome it), that ye may be able to bear it (so that you can handle it).”  Why can’t temptation take us captive and force us to sin?  Paul tells us here that God is faithful and will not allow you to be tempted beyond your strength.  It is reassuring to know that no temptation can overpower us and strip us of our freewill. 

In Chapter 11, Paul deals with a number of issues among the Corinthian Saints, including local customs of hair and grooming, marriage, and husband and wife roles, some of which he approves and some of which he disapproves.  His counsel regarding some of these matters – if taken out of context – can become a problem.  In Verses 23-26 he also gives a beautifully written sermon regarding – what we call – the sacrament or communion.  If this letter or epistle was written before any of the Gospels, as most scholars believe – then Paul’s instruction was the first biblical record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper – given directly from the Lord to Paul and not through his reading of any other apostles.   

Chapter 12 is well-known for mentioning several spiritual gifts.  Paul calls them Verse 4 “diversities of gifts.”  He’s not talking about natural talents, skills, and abilities, but super-natural gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit.  Paul also says in Verse 4 that these various spiritual gifts come from “the same Spirit.”The Holy Spirit – who is in charge of them.  To the Corinthian saints, who lived in an environment of many false gods, it is an important clarification.  Otherwise, Christians might be tempted to believe that one spiritual gift came from one idol, and another from another god, etcVerse 7 “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man (and woman) to profit withal.”  God is a God of manifesting.  Those with God in them, by His Spirit, cannot help but manifest God in word and deed – and by these loving manifestations will all people know that we are His disciples. 

We don’t have time to examine individually each one, but the list of spiritual gifts Paul mentions are: the word of wisdom; the word of knowledge; faith; the gifts of healing; the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues; teaching; serving; encouraging; giving; mercy; helps; governments; leadershipVerse 11 “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit (the Holy Spirit), dividing to every man severally as he will.” 

Having taught the Corinthian saints about the role of spiritual gifts in strengthening the Church and individuals – Paul now in Chapter 13 focuses on the very essence of Christ-like living for each of us, namely, having charity toward each other.  The word “charity” in the Greek is defined as “brotherly love, good will, benevolence.”  This is one of the best known and beautiful of Paul’s teachings on Christian love – agape love – Godly love.  Because of the briefness of the passage, I will read each verse, 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.  And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (an empty vessel, a fruitless branch).  And though I bestow all my goods (material possessions) to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned (to die for the gospel), and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  Charity suffereth long (is patient), and is kind; charity envieth not (does not resent others for what they have); charity vaunteth not itself (does not brag), is not puffed up (is not prideful),  Doth not behave itself unseemly (indecently, inappropriately, rudely), seeketh not her own (is not selfish), is not easily provoked (is not irritable; doesn’t lose its temper), thinketh no evil (in the Greek means doesn’t hold grudges);  Rejoiceth not in inquity (doesn’t delight in wickedness), but rejoiceth in truth;  Beareth all things (keeps quiet about the errors and faults of others; doesn’t give in to resentment), believeth all things (is completely trusting of and committed to God and Christ); hopeth all things; endureth all things (never gives up in following Christ).   

Okay, hang in there – we are half-way through the chapter.   Verses 8-13 “Charity never faileth (could mean that a truly Christ-like person never runs out of charity towards others.  Or, could mean that exercising charity never fails to make the world a better place): but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail (meaning they eventually finish up by being fulfilled); whether there be tongues (speaking various languages), they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (false assumptions, philosophies, and opinions will vanish away in the light of truth).  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part (in other words, we don’t know all things, and the prophesying we do does not reveal all truth yet).  But when that (Christ) which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things (When we develop Christ like charity, we put away childish or spiritually immature behavior and thinking).  For now (with our mortal limitations) we see (ourselves) through a glass, darkly (a poor quality hazy distorted mirror, obscured); but then face to face (when we are face to face with God): now I know in part (I don’t know all things); but then shall I know even as also I am known (by God) (as it says in 1 John 3:2 ‘we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’).  And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these (the character trait we need most, and to which faith in Christ and hope lead) is charity (Godly love).”  That’s what’s most important!

And, that concludes today’s study.  Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast.

 

Until next time, God Bless!

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I Never Knew You – Part 1

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Chris

I was listening to an October 2016 General Conference address given by LDS Apostle David Bednar

Elders lets look at a talk given by Apostle David Bednar at the October 2016 General Conference.

Elder Smith

Is that the one titled, “I never knew you?” 

Chris

That’s the one.  Elder Bednar began his talk with a passage taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-23.  His point was to emphasize that, the Lord’s statement in the King James Version, “I never knew you,” was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to read “Ye never knew ME.”  

Then Elder Bednar recites in the King James Bible the Parable of the Ten Virgins found in Matthew 25:1-12, where Jesus tells the foolish virgins “I know ye not.”  And again, Elder Bednar explains that the King James Version was changed in the Joseph Smith Translation to read, Ye know ME not.” 

At the end of his talk found on lds.org or ChurchofJesusChrist.org – under references – you’ll find the footnotes to these JST passages. 

Elder Young

Thats why we believe Joseph Smith to be an inspired prophet of God.

Chris

Yeah well, it’s interesting the Lord inspired Joseph Smith to revise the word of God by taking out the incorrect wording and replacing it with what should have been in there.  But Elder Bednar makes a critical mistake in using the Joseph Smith Translation to prove his point.

Elder Smith

How so?

Chris

If we turn to the Book of Mormon – which is claimed to be the “most correct book,” – we find the Sermon at the temple in Bountiful, where Jesus supposedly appeared to the Nephites following His resurrection.  Would you please read 3 Nephi 14:23?

Elder Smith

 

“And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  

Chris

Notice anything there?

Elder Young

3 Nephi 14:23 is word-for-word the same as it is in the King James Version of Matthew 7:23.

Chris

Exactly, including the same phrase “I never knew you.” 

Elder Smith

Look, here in the footnote of 3 Nephi 14:23.  It cross-references another Book of Mormon passage, Mosiah 26:27 “And then I will confess unto them that I never knew them; and they shall depart into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” 

Chris

Do you see the mistake Elder Bednar made in using the Joseph Smith Translation?

Elder Young

It seems that the Book of Mormon agrees the King James Version and not the Joseph Smith Translation.  That’s confusing.

Chris

I think it’s very clear.  You not only have two verses in the King James Bible – but also two verses in the Book of Mormon – which was supposedly translated by the gift and power of God – that differ with the Joseph Smith Translation. 

Elder Smith

I wonder why – If it was good enough for the Lord to be quoted in the Bible and substantiated in the Book of Mormon – why did Joseph Smith feel it necessary to change the Lord’s words in his Inspired Version? 

Chris

And what was Elder Bednar thinking?  Why, is the footnote in Elder Bednar’s talk only referencing Matthew 7 and not, 3 Nephi 13 and Mosiah 26

Elder Young

I don’t know.

Chris

Is it because Joseph Smith copied the “Sermon at the temple” in 3 Nephi from the King James Bible “Sermon on the Mount?”

 

Look Elders – If you have a modern-day apostle telling its members in a world-wide General Conference that the Bible is wrong and the Joseph Smith Translation is inspired – in spite of what was just pointed out in the Book of Mormon – as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what do you do with that information?  

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Romans 9-16

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In Romans chapter 9, Paul writes about God having selected an entire nation – the nation of Israel – to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing.  The promised Messiah would come out of Israel, bringing eternal life.  Chapter 9 supports the doctrine of election.  The Jews had been God’s covenant people.  But Paul reveals to the nation of Israel that they were never going to please God by virtue of them being Jews, or by the works of the Law.  Salvation is available to anyone (including Gentiles) simply on the basis, of their faith.  Consequently, neither a person’s Jewish nationality nor their obedience to the law counted for anything – anymore.  Throughout Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11, Paul goes to great lengths to show that God’s goal had – all along – been to reach out beyond the borders of Israel and to the whole world.

As we begin Chapter 10, my wish is to relate what Paul says about Israel to the Latter-day Saints.  Listen to this passage and how it can apply to any works-based, high performance-based religious system.  Verses 1-4 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel (and Mormons) is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”   It is His righteousness – not ours – not our zeal – not our efforts.  It is His.  It’s not our law keeping – not our holiness.  It is His.  Any religious system where people believe they are in a position, or that it is up to them to save themselves, they will in the end: 1) Become ignorant of God’s righteousness, 2) Endeavor to establish their own righteousness, 3) and will less and less submit themselves unto the righteousness of God, 4) Forget that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who truly believes.  

Paul now, describes how a person receives salvation by grace through faith, Verses 9-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  This is not a simple acknowledging that He is God.  This is a deep personal conviction that Jesus is our Lord.  It includes repenting, trusting, and submitting to Him as Lord.  Now, there are those who believe they must add water baptism to the mix.  Not so.  Water baptism is an action that believers take as a result of having been saved – which is the result of them believing in their heart and confessing with their mouth.  That’s what Scripture says, here.  Now, is it possible for a man to confess Jesus as Lord and – for him not to be saved?  Absolutely!  Just read Matthew 7:21-23 for an illustration of that.  Paul reiterates in Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Period!  Among everything God could have done to get the word out – about His Son, Verse 14 explains the most effective method “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?”  God places this most important responsibility to share the Good News and the truth of the Gospel in the hands of mere mortal men and women and children.  Verse 17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Faith arrives by the hearing of facts – the Word of God – which points to Jesus Christ – His birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection. 

Starting off in the 11th Chapter of Romans, let’s consider a very important passage.  Verse 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.”  Paul makes it perfectly clear that salvation does not and cannot come by and through a combination of grace and works – or by works alone.  In other words, grace and works are mutually exclusive.  If we are expecting God to accept us by His grace, then there is no work that we can do to make us acceptable.  It is completely impossible for grace and works to co-exist.  If I am seeking to be accepted by God through my works, then grace has absolutely no affect upon my life.  Yet there are those who seek to make a combination out of the two.  Case in point, let’s read from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  It is obvious that Nephi and Paul are not in agreement.  Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  So you see – Nephi and Joseph Smith, got it all wrong. 

In these final five chapters of Romans, Paul explains in great detail how believers are to practically live out the rich theological truths taught in the first eleven chapters.  God has graciously given believers so much that Paul exhorts them to respond in grateful obedience.  Paul starts of in Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”  Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of dead animals.  But because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, they are no longer needed.  For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer themselves completely to the Lord.  When he says, “present your bodies” he means – present your whole being.   

Verse 2 “And be not conformed to the world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”  The “renewing of your mind” is a metamorphosis process – a renovation of ideas and ways.  He is talking about having our former man or woman morphed into a New Creation that views life through the lens of God.  It comes as Paul teaches in Ephesians by the “Washing of the Word.”  Jesus even said to His apostles in John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”  His words are Spirit and the Spirit replaces old ideas into correct and true ideas.  2 Corinthians 5:17 “There if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  Then finishing out the rest of the chapter, Verses 9-21 is a list of traits that characterize the Spirit-filled life. 

Now, let’s jump over to Romans chapter 14Verse 1 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”   And Paul goes on to explain that “doubtful disputations” are arguing, debating, criticizing, judging one another, over trivial things and personal preferences.  Paul counsels, believers not to get caught up in the sin of being judgmental of others who are “weak in the faith.”  Christians were not to despise others for what they ate or didn’t eat – Or, what day of the week they worship the Lord.  It’s not anyone’s place to judge others.  Verse 13 “Lets us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”  So, instead of forming a judgment about others – look at your own conduct and make sure you are not causing another stumble.   Verse 14 “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”   Nothing – in and of itself – is unclean.  It’s in how each of us – through our liberty in Christ – view it.  Romans 14:17-18 “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.”   We remember that in preparation for what He was about to accomplish, Jesus began to introduce to His followers – teachings that were to transition them away from outward observances and to the grace of God under the New Covenant.  Jesus said in,  Matthew 15:11 “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”  Yet, Mormonism has “restored” this legalism in the form of the Word of Wisdom and made it a requirement for all to obey – who want to receive salvation through temple rites and rituals.  This is exactly what Paul is trying to teach the Saints to get away from.  Paul taught in Colossians 2:16 “Let no man therefore judge you, in meat or in drink.”  No bishop or stake president should be judging you to decide whether or, not you are worthy.   There are no health codes.  Salvation is based not on food or drink – but upon our faith in Jesus Christ.   Paul is teaching that God is not dealing with us in the physical – He is dealing with us in the spiritual.  We are free from the law of man and religion, because we have the Holy Spirit. 

Paul is wrapping up his epistle by stating, Romans 15:15-17 “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind because of the grace that is given to me of God.  That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.  I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.”  Paul never boasted in his accomplishments as a Minister or Apostle – but only in what Christ had accomplished through him.  Paul is always deferring the attention and glory to the Lord.

 

Chapter 16, which has no explicit teaching and contains several lists of mostly unknown people, is the most extensive and intimate expression of Paul’s love for other believers and co-workers found anywhere in his epistles.  It also provides insights into the lives of ordinary first century Christians.  And gives an inside look at the nature and character of the early church.  

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Romans 7-8 – Come Follow Me

Romans 7-8 – Come Follow Me
Come Follow Me

 
 
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Romans 7:4 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another,

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Romans 4-6 – Come Follow Me

Romans 4-6 – Come Follow Me
Come Follow Me

 
 
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What is justification? What does it mean to be Justified? Simply put, to justify is to make one right with God.  Justification is God’s declaring

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Romans 7-8 – Come Follow Me

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Romans 7:4 “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”  He saying that as death dissolves the connection between a wife and her husband – so the death of the Christian to the law dissolves that connection between our Old Man and the guilt he carries under the law which makes it possible  then for the New Man to establish another union – with Christ – which like the first marriage was to bring forth fruit of the womb – the second marriage is to bear fruit of love.  Scripture teaches that with Christ being the groom – believers are His bride.  Romans 7:6 “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.”  Can real love exist when people are told they must: obey the Sabbath?  Pay a tithe?  Wear certain underwear?  What to eat and drink?  Do this?  Do that?  Never!  We are to serve in newness of the Spirit – not in the old letter of the law.  We are not under a covenant of works.  We are under grace.  Romans 7:7 “What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  God forbid.  Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.”  In other words, 

is there evil in the law?  God forbid – no!  But there is evil in Man.  And as a result, the presence of the Law merely brings out the evil nature in human beings.  Remember we read back in Romans 3:20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of  sin.”  Then Paul adds, just to make sure we understand that it was sin that did the evil.  Romans 7:12 “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”  Paul makes it clear is that it’s not the law, but the corrupt nature of man and his attempted failure to live up to the law. 

In Verse 14, Paul addresses the state of tension that exists in every true believer “For we know that the law is spiritual (it’s from God and it is perfect): but I am carnal, sold under sin.”  It is true that as Christians we are dealing with a dualistic nature in ourselves.  We are spiritual and we are carnal.  Paul describes it like this in Verse 15 “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.”  Ever feel that way?  I do.  In our renewed minds, we long to please God but in our flesh, we act in opposition – and hate the fact that we do!  Paul goes on in Verse 16 “If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.”  The very struggle with evil within us proves to us that we don’t love the evil – but that it is the law that is good and desired.  Verses 17-18 “Not then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no go thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.”  Our desire is there – but we fail miserably sometimes in the application.   After describing Verse 23 the state of warfare within him between the spiritual and the carnal – Paul exclaims in Verse 24 “O wretched (means miserable) man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”  Through this tension, we are forever reminded of our inability to overcome ourselves by ourselves or by any means other than reliance upon God.  And the answer – the solution to his own question he provides in Verse 25 “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” 

Before we move on to the next chapter, I want to make a comment about Romans 7:24.  For Mormons this statement of Paul may sound reminiscent of a verse found in the Book of Mormon.  The character Nephi, in the book of 2nd Nephi 4:17 wrote, “Nevertheless, notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth: O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.”  Obviously, Nephi (580 BC) uses the exact quote that in 58 AD Paul made in Romans 7:24 “O wretched man that I am!”  This my friends is called plagiarism.  The person or persons who truly wrote the Book of Mormon had to have had the New Testament in front of them to copy Paul’s statement found in Romans, by putting it in the Book of Mormon

Alright, now hold on to your hats!  We are about to enter the most amazing chapters – not only in the book of Romans – but of the entire New TestamentChapter 8:1-4 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”  Under the law there is condemnation – but in Christ it is gone.  No condemnation doesn’t mean that sin is okay or that it isn’t ugly or wrong – but it means that the gospel does not pronounce condemnation like the law does.  No sin can be held against the believer, since the penalty for sin was paid by Jesus Christ.  So, as Christians we live by and through the Spirit – and to do so is life, and liberty and freedom.  God has already forgiven you.  So, the only way to live free is to love.  Thus, we need to examine ourselves to see what our priorities are.  Verses 5-6 “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  What a paradox statement.  One gives death – the other peace with God. 

Verse 9 “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.  Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”  He is saying that we are not under corrupt desires and passions because we are “in the Spirit.”  We are spiritually minded and are under the direction of the Holy Spirit of God.  The indwelling of the Holy Spirit made possible by God’s grace through faith on the shed blood of Jesus.  Verse 10 “And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.”  Who’s righteousness?  Not ours!  But Christ’s righteousness that has been imputed to us and His Holy Spirit that now indwells us. 

Verse 14 “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.”   At this point, Paul is introducing us to a new thought: adoption.  When a person experiences the Spirit leading him or her, they gain assurance that God has adopted him or her into His family.  Verse 15 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  Have you ever really contemplated upon the fact that you have been adopted by the very eternal God?  Knowing that He is our Father, we never have to fear – because He is loving, tender, patient, generous, protective, wise.  He has not only adopted any and all who have received His Son – He sees us too, as His Sons and Daughters. 

Now, we get into a couple of verses the LDS like to use as proof texts for their teaching of premortal spirit birth.  Verses 16 “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirt, that we are the children of God:” Paul is affirming that those who are His – Know they are His.   Verse 17 “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”  Every adopted child will receive by divine grace the full inheritance of eternal life.  Mormons say that we are “children of God” in the most literal sense.  All of us are the spirit-offspring our Heavenly Father and Mother.  But we can’t forget the context of this passage.  Verse 15 explicitly states that people become children of God – by adoption.  This is not the only place where Paul wrote about people being adopted into God’s family (see Galatians 4:5-6; Ephesians 1:5).  We are not born a “child of God” as Mormonism teaches.  Only those who place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation are adopted into God’s family.  It’s not by conception – but by adoption.  John 1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”  We do not have the seed of godhood in us that can become exalted and grow to godhood.  We are adopted into God’s family.  Becoming “co-heirs” with Christ has nothing to do with becoming exalted as a God.  Heirs are people who inherit something.  As Christians, we inherit all the spiritual blessings and riches of God in His glorious kingdom.  We didn’t earn them – they were a gift through belief on His Son.  In Romans 8:19-22 Paul calls us creatures because we are created by God.  We were not born children of God.  but, Verse 23 “waiting for the adoption.”         

I hate to do this, but for the sake of time, I’m going to skip through the remainder of this amazing Chapter 8 and hit the highlights.   Paul writes that the Spirit searches our hearts and minds and makes intercession for us… All things work together for good to them that love God… We are foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son… He justified and glorified those he called… If God be for us, who can be against us?… Christ is at the right hand of God, and makes intercession for us… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?… We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us… Then closing the chapter with Verses 38-39 “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Wow, what a statement and promise.

 

And, this concludes our study of Romans 7-8.  Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons. com.  

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Romans 4-6 – Come Follow Me

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What is justification?
What does it mean to be Justified?

Simply put, to justify is to make one right with God.  Justification is God’s declaring those who receive Christ to be righteous, based on Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the accounts of those who receive Christ.  And our placing faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.  His sacrifice covers our sin, allowing God to see us as perfect and unblemished.  God see’s Christ righteousness when He looks at us.  This meets God’s demands for perfection.  He justifies us.

Paul starts out chapter 4 by saying in verses 1-3 “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?  For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.  For what saith the scripture?  Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”   If Abraham was justified by his works, he might boast of his own merits.  But Abraham has no ground of boasting before God, because he was not justified by works.  Paul will prove that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised; and that even his circumcision was in consequence of his being justified by faith.  Paul refers to the Scripture which says in Genesis 15:5-6 “And he (God) brought him (Abraham) forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.  And he (Abraham) believed in the Lord; and he (God) counted it to him (Abraham) for righteousness.”  This was incredible faith in that Abraham was old and his aged wife’s womb was dead.  Yet, he believed Jehovah’s promise.  Faith is a gift of God, extended to all, through the very existence of His Word to Man – we choose to either receive it or reject it.  Abraham accepted it.  It is God who will do the work.  And so, by us accepting God’s promises and believing them to be true – God is pleased.  We trust God’s Word that says, My sins are forgiven and God will remember them no more – that I am saved by faith and not by my works.   

Next, 4:4 “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”   In other words, if a man were justified by his works, it would mean salvation was due or owed to him – he or she had earned it by working for it.  Works, Paul is saying, produces debt – not a gift.  When we work, we place the person we are working for in our debt.  And we expect payment for our labor.  When talking about salvation the question then becomes: Can any human being ever put God in debt to them?  How does Man ever place the Creator of all things – Almighty God – in our debt?  As Paul says, it’s impossible.  Let me quote from Spencer W. Kimball, President of the LDS Church, who wrote in his book Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 206 “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is  saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  So far in Romans, Paul is presenting the exact opposite doctrine of the Mormon leader.  Verse 5 “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”  I mean it can’t get any clearer than that.  And yet people of works-based, high performance-based religions can’t understand it.  They have somehow allowed their arrogant selves to believe that what they do justifies them – not so.   

Listen carefully to these next verses.  Romans 4:14-15 “For if they which are of the law (those who seek justification by obedience to the law) be heirs (are saved), faith is made void ( or, neutralized) and the promise made of none effect (meaning, no more promise of salvation by grace through faith can be appealed to by those seeking to justify themselves by obedience to the Law): Because the law worketh wrath (condemnation): for where no law is, there is no transgression.”  Paul’s point is that if a law does not exist – neither does guilt.  He is saying that those who attempt to justify themselves by obedience to the law are always going to be found guilty.  Paul concludes in Verse 16 “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.”  Therefore, in light of all Paul has written, we must conclude that – man’s justification before Holy God – is by faith – “that it might be by grace.”  We are saved by grace through faith in Christ that He did the work perfectly on our behalf.   We will read later in our study of the book of Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” It’s a gift – it’s free!

Abraham was first given the promise that in light of the facts that seemed impossible – he and his aged wife would have unlimited offspring.  Then his faith in this promise of God was put to the test when God commanded that his only son, Isaac be put to death.  And once, again Abraham believed that God would actually raise Isaac up from the dead to fulfill what he had already promised.  Whoa!  What faith! 

Speaking of Abraham, Chapter 4:20-22 “He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.  Paul now ties the promises made to Abraham and his belief in them to us in Verses 23-25 “Now it was not written for his (Abraham’s) sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our (here’s that word) justification.”  Our faith is to believe in the promise that God will truly save us by His grace and not by our works.  We believe that God raised our Lord from the dead – who was delivered for our offenses – and was raised for our justification.  His righteousness is imputed on each of us as we surrender our unrighteousness – to Him.   

Paul now lays out a remarkable fact that illustrates God’s amazing love for us.  Romans 5:6 “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”  Since God saved us by performing the reconciliation work for us when we hated Him – isn’t it obvious that He will be wholly faithful to carry us forward and complete what He has begun.  And as a result, our hope is greatly increased.  Paul continues Verse 7 “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”  The point he is making is that very rarely will anyone die for a regular good guy or even a great guy.  So how many people would die for someone who hated them?  Verse 8 “But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Jesus paid the punishment for our sins on the cross – Such unconditional love!  Verses 9-11 “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.  And only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”  In the Kings James this is the only instance in which the translators used the word “atonement” in the New Testament.  It was used dozens of times in the Old Testament.

Then Paul states in Verse 12 “Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men for all have sinned.”  All Paul is doing is showing how the plan of justification meets the universal evils caused by Adam and then exceeds it.  Christianity is merely the solution to the problem.  Verse 15 “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift.  For if through the offense of one (Adam) many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”  Verse 19 “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one (Jesus Christ) shall many be made righteous.”   

Moving on to Chapter 6,  Paul will describe how baptism is done in the similitude of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  Verses 1-2 “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue to sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid, How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  This question addresses the ignorant and uninformed non-believers who often say, “Oh, so all a person has to do is confess Jesus and then they can go on sinning like there is no tomorrow?”  They think Christians use grace as an excuse to sin even more – since they’ve been saved and forgiven.  Only those who truly have experienced a born-again, regeneration of mind and heart will understand that when the Holy Spirit moves into a person – that person receives new life.  We don’t want to sin because we are dead to sin.  Dead to sin, because sin is loosing its influence on the person.  Paul writes in Colossians 3:3 “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”  Sin doesn’t dominate over us as it did in our former lives. 

Then in Verse 3 Paul explains the impossibility of a Christian who possesses this new identity to continue in sin, buy asking a rhetorical question which presents us with an illustration. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?”   We are literally baptized into His very death and we are also raised up from the water unto HIS life – not our own.  Verse 4 “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  Did you hear that?  “newness of life.”  What a glorious explanation!  What a beautiful description of who we are in Christ.  Verses 6-7 “Knowing this, that our old man (or woman) is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.”  When you die to your former self – you are dying with Christ.  He died as a result of our sin and selfishness.  So, when we die to it too – we are simultaneously being buried with Him.  Ephesians 4:22-24 “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man (or woman), which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”  The new man and woman embodies faith and love. 

Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”  This is an expression of how to be free from the dominion of sin and to be free to love as Christ loved.  Verse 22 “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”  And, this takes us right back to who we are in Him – not who we want to be.  Not what we are striving to be – but who we ARE.  Paul summaries his message in the last verse of this chapter Verse 23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   He is saying “the wages of the Law, is death.”  Remember He taught back in Romans 3:20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  The first line in the Romans 6:23 speaks of the earning efforts of mankind.  “But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Eternal life then, is a gift – not earned – given to us when we put our faith in the fact that Jesus did the work for us.  He paid for our sins completely – and gave us eternal life if, and when we will believe in Him. 

 

And, this concludes our study of Romans 3-6.  Don’t forget we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons. com.

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Romans 1-3 – Come Follow Me

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We will now begin to study the epistles in the New Testament.  The manual introduces them by saying, “The Bible epistles are letters written by Church leaders to Saints in various parts of the world.  The Apostle Paul wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament – starting with Romans and ending with Hebrews.  His epistles are organized by length.  Although Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, it was actually written near the end of Pau’s missionary journeys.” 

Paul boldly declares his testimony by saying in Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.  For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”   

Paul teaches us that everyone has received a knowledge of God.  Romans 1:19-20 “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.  For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”  One simply needs to look at creation to know that God exists.  Creation delivers a clear message about God.  As it says in Psalms 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shew his handywork.”  So, no one is without excuse.

But man will come up with their own ideas and philosophies about God.  Romans 1:22-23 “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.”  In LDS theology it is taught that – God was once a man and has a body of flesh and bones.  This is changing the “glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.”  When God himself said in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither son of man, that he should repent.”   LDS theology also teaches that men may become Gods.  Paul addresses that in Romans 1:25 “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.”  The focus of Mormonism is to have people believe they can reach Godhood. 

 

Paul teaches us in Romans 2:11 “For there is no respect of persons with God.”  Which means that God does not show partiality towards people.  Regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic background.  

Paul warns us that when we die, we will be judged not only by our actions and words – He will judge the secrets of men and women.  Romans 2:16 “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”    He’s talking about the hidden desires, secret lusts, unspoken passions, thoughts, and motives of all people.  The thoughts of the hearts.  And, only God through Jesus Christ can determine the human heart. 

Then Paul declares the status of all men, women and children.  Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:  There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  Wow!  How does that make you feel?  He is simply saying that man is universally evil.  Unprofitable – corrupt.  No one naturally seeks after God.  Our tendency is to seek our own interest.  We are born selfish.  The message is clear here – There has not been, nor will there ever be, anyone who is justified before God due to their good lives or their obedience to religious laws.  From Mother Teresa, to Ghandi, or the Dali Lama.  None!  Human corruption is universal.   Compared to the incomprehensible holiness of God who is eternal and unchangeable – how could any created human being ever be considered righteous for anything – especially when we consider the elements that hide within the human heart?  We are “unprofitable – there is none that doeth good – not one.”  This speaks of the failure of Man to DO good. 

This is the state of every person who lives and dies by laws, ordinances, and covenants.  We are totally screwed by our attempt to please God by any external approach – especially through religion.  And this is why Jesus was born, which allows Paul to describe the only solution to such a hopeless state.  Romans 3:23-24 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:”   Paul tells us in Romans 3:19-20 “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  There by the deeds (works) of the law there shall be no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  Paul is describing here the state of all men and women when they each stand before God and attempt to justify their lives by virtue of having done good.  There is no justification before Holy God through our works of righteousness and obedience to laws and ordinances.  That is why my friends, we need to completely understand that you can not have salvation by anything other than through grace.  Salvation comes only by and through God’s goodness, His righteousness, and His shed blood, and nothing from us.  We can’t go to the foot of the Cross and tell Jesus “Thank you for what you’ve done for me by paying for my sins – but it wasn’t enough.  I need to add my good works to the atonement.”  Try justifying yourselves before God on judgment day.  I repeat what he said in verse 20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall be no flesh be justified in his sight.”  God’s Law is good, is righteous, is perfect.  We cannot get angry at God’s Law – for it comes from Him.  But the Law was a way for us to examine our hearts and to understand that we can’t keep the law perfectly.  The last part of verse 20 “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  It should be reasonably understood by believers that we are not saved by obedience to Law.  Gravitating towards the law, limits our freedom in Christ and puts us back into bondage under the law. 

Paul continues in Romans 3:21 “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;”  It’s important to know that when Paul writes the sentence, “the righteousness of God” he is not speaking of an attribute of God – but instead how God makes Man righteous.  In other words we could read it this way, “But now, the way God makes man righteous without the law is made known.”  It was going to take a plan from God without including the law to save mankind.  That plan mentioned in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  How does that happen?  Jesus came and both fulfilled the law through perfect adherence to it and then magnified it in the lives of those who trusted and believed on Him.  Romans 3:22 “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.”  But faith is a matter of choice on our part.  Nobody can be saved by works; and all are dependent on the mercy of God found through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.  Why in this way only?  Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” 

Now Paul goes into greater detail saying, Romans 3:24-26 “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”  That is the good news of the gospel – that we are “justified freely by his grace.”  It is an absolute, totally free, unconditional and underserved gift.  Free to us through believing.  But the cost and price, was the highest of anything to ever be purchased in eternity.  Christ redeemed us – He paid the ransom for us. 

Paul then adds, Romans 3:27 “Where is boasting then?  Is it excluded.  By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.”   Where is the boasting? Jews? Mormons? Christians?  If it was by any works, at all, boasting would be in order.  But Paul adds “but by the law of faith” in the Son of God.  Then he concludes with this amazing statement in verse 28 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”  There is no other way.  To trifle with this doctrine is to truly present another Gospel – contrary to the biblical Gospel Paul is talking about.  A false gospel teaches that “people ought to do good works then saving faith will come.”  Doing good works in order to bring about salvation or saving faith is a tool centered in the flesh, not in faith.   

Then Paul ends chapter three by bringing us all the way back around full circle by saying, Romans 3:31 “Do we make void the law through faith?  God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”  By what means does the justification of someone by faith establish the Law?  Here’s a great saying “Grace teaches us to say no to sin.”  Where the law reveals and exposes each of us to sin – grace teaches us to say no to it.  The moral law is embraced by those who are justified.  The Law is established in those who have been saved by grace through faith.  Romans 13:8 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”  When Jesus was on earth he was approached by a lawyer, as recorded in Matthew 22:36-40 “Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?  Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  To love – God and others – is the result of those who have come to faith.  It is by and through this action – love – that the Law is established in the lives of those who’ve experienced God’s mercy. 

There are Latter-day Saints who go to James chapter 2 to say, “faith without works is dead.”  But If we go to James chapter 2 beginning in verse 14, we can put it all into context.  I think we’ll find that James is talking about this very point that Paul makes here in Romans 3:31. James 2:14 “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?  Can faith save him?”  He is saying, “What good is it if a man SAYS he has faith, but has not the works of LOVE?”  Then James goes on and gives us some illustrations in Verses 15 and 16.  Love is a verb.  God so LOVED the world He gave us His Son.  Jesus so LOVED the world He gave us His very life.  Then in verse 17 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”  James is saying the same thing as Paul is saying.  James continues in chapter 2:18-20 “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  Just as love without action or application is dead – so is faith without works.  There is no difference.

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Acts 22-28 ~ Come Follow Me

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Is there any comparison between Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus and Joseph Smith’s vision in the woods in New York? 

 This will be our last lesson from the Book of Acts.  The manual states that Paul’s “errand from the Savior was ‘to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel’ (Acts 9:15).  In chapters 22-28 of Acts, we see Paul fulfilling this errand and facing great opposition – chains, imprisonment, physical abuse, a shipwreck, and even a snake attack.  But we also see that Jesus ‘stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul’ (Acts 23:11).”

Paul had been falsely accused, arrested, and kept in prison for a couple of years by Felix the Roman ruler of Judea.  When Felix was replaced by Festus as ruler – Paul was brought before him.  Acts 25:7-8 “And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood around about, and laid many and grievous complaints against Paul, which they could not prove.  While he answered for himself, Neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all.”  The high priest and others wanted Festus to send Paul to Jerusalem in order that he might be killed there.  The reason is because Paul had preached openly about Jesus being crucified for the sins of the world and he affirmed that Jesus rose from the dead.  Had Festus been persuaded by their rhetoric – it is possible that he would have been killed.  But God had promised Paul back in Chapter 23 that he would “bear witness to the truth at Rome,” and nothing was going to stop that from happening.  So, Paul was kept at Caesarea.  Acts 25:10 “Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.”  Festus did not dare deny Paul the protection of the Roman laws, since Paul was a Jewish Roman citizen.  Acts 25:12 “Then Festus, when he had conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? Unto Caesar shalt thou go.”

Days later, King Agrippa and his sister Bernice, who was also his unlawful wife,  came to Caesarea to pay Festus a visit.  This Agrippa was the son of Herod Agrippa who was the great grandson of Herod the Great.  He was known as Agrippa II.  Festus explains Paul’s situation to Agrippa and says that he insisted that Paul get a fair hearing even though the Jewish leaders wanted to convict him.  Acts 25:22 “Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself, Tomorrow, said he, thou, shalt hear him.”  So, the next day Paul is brought before Agrippa and Bernice.  Which brings us to Paul and his eloquent response in chapter 26.   Verses 1-3 “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, thou art permitted to speak for thyself.  Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself: I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently.”  Paul was openly telling Agrippa that he was blessed to have someone who could understand where he was coming from.  Remember Agrippa was a Jew, himself.  At Verse 4 Paul begins his actual speech.  He recounts his youth as a Jew and becoming an educated Pharisee.  He knew and lived and followed the Law and traditions of the elders.  Then the bomb!  Verse 6 “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers.”  In other words, Paul is proving that what he is offering the world is a fulfillment of what they as a nation had long taught and believed.  And what was this that Paul was saying – God promised unto the forefathers of the faith – the HOPE of the promise!  The promise had been given all throughout the Old Testament that the Hope of Israel – the Messiah would come.  Paul was saying that God was true, and he, Paul, was a witness to this Messiah, even Jesus Christ.  That the Messiah did come and do what God said He would do.  Having established this Paul now asks Verse 8 “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”  I think the bottom line to it all is that they rejected the resurrection of Jesus – because if they accepted it, they would have had to let go of their former ideas and beliefs and allow Christ to reign.  That was too much for them. 

At this point, Paul steps back into his biography and begins to admit in Verses 9-18 that he himself had things against this Jesus of Nazareth.  So, Paul is retelling here an account of his conversion whereby he presents the evidence that he was called of God to do what he had done.  I need to mention that the manual states: “The book of Acts contains three accounts of Paul’s miraculous vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-20; 22:1-21; 26:9-20).  Each of these accounts is slightly different from the others, and some provide more detail than others.  Because the accounts were told to different audiences for different purposes, it is reasonable that Paul chose to emphasize different parts of the experience for each audience.”  I can’t argue with that statement.  But then the manual tries to compare the three accounts of Paul’s vision by stating that: “Similarly Joseph Smith recorded several accounts of his First Vision (see “First Vision Accounts,” Gospel Topic Essays, lds.org).  The various accounts were given to different audiences for different purposes and provide insights that would not be available if only one account existed.”   The book of Acts from which we have all three accounts of Paul’s vision was authored or written by one person, Luke.  There is also one account in Galatians 1:11-16 in addition to several references to Paul’s vision, conversion, or commission elsewhere in Paul’s epistles (1 Corinthians 9:1-2; 15:8-9; Romans 1:4-5; Ephesians 3:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:12-16; 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11-12).  Luke agrees independently with Paul’s epistles with regard, to the “who, what, when, where, and why” of Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ.  Since Peter and other apostles accepted Paul as an apostle – clearly they had accepted his claim that the resurrected Christ had appeared to him.  As an apostle, Paul articulated a revolutionary way of life based on love that broke down barriers and lifted human beings.  Paul lived a life devoid of material wealth, power, and sexual fulfillment yet without advocating retreat from ordinary life.  Paul suffered unjustly and repeatedly throughout his ministry and finally died for his testimony to the risen Christ. 

The LDS church’s approach to deflecting criticisms of Joseph Smith’s – nine first vision accounts – are to argue that similar issues pertain to Paul’s vision.  However, the comparative argument fails because it is based on isolated points of comparison rather than on comparing the two cases of Paul and Joseph as wholes.  It is evident that the case for Paul’s vision is quite strong, while the case AGAINST Joseph’s vision is just as strong.  The Mormons often point out that there are differences in the various New Testament accounts of Paul’s “first vision” of the risen Christ.  No one argues that Joseph Smith should have told the story with the same details and in the same words every time.  Thus, it is irrelevant that Luke’s report of Paul’s defense before Agrippa has a lengthier account of Jesus’ words to Paul than Luke’s other, parallel accounts of the same event.  Specifically, Mormons appeal to the apparent discrepancy as to whether Paul’s companions heard Christ’s voice or not (Acts 9:7; 22:9).  An obvious explanation of the discrepancy is that in Acts 9:7 they heard the voice, while in Acts 22:9 means they did not understand the voice.  The Mormons would argue that if Acts can have discrepancies in its accounts of Paul’s vision, and yet that vision still have taken place, Joseph Smith can have discrepancies in his accounts of his own vision and yet that vision still have occurred.  But this argument fails for three reasons:  First, the apparent discrepancy in Acts is a very minor, inconsequential difference that has nothing to do with the credibility of Paul’s having seen the risen Christ.  The difference does not come close to being as significant as whether Joseph saw God the Father!  Second, the discrepancies in Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision are significant because the accounts were given at various times over a period of several years and paralleled his evolving theology during those years from monotheist to polytheist.  Nothing like that is going on with the accounts in Acts.  These accounts appear in the same book, produced at the same time, and therefore cannot be evidence of Paul (or Luke) changing the story with the passing of time.  Third, there are good reasons to think that the two statements in Acts are not contradictory after all, but complementary.  To say that someone could not “hear” what someone else said – can mean that he did not hear the sounds – or that he did not hear them well enough to make out the specific words.  Paul’s vision of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus enjoys rich evidential support and is critical as an explanation for his dramatic conversion from persecutor of the church to apostle to the Gentiles.  By contrast, Joseph Smith’s vision of Jesus Christ and God the Father in 1820 is not only sorely lacking in evidence but is utterly lacking in credibility on a wide array of fronts.  That is why the manual’s attempt to compare Paul and Joseph’s visions is neither logical nor reasonable.

Then Paul ends his speech before King Agrippa by saying in Verses 19-23 that he did what God had called him to – by preaching the Good News to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God.”  “That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”  In hearing this, Festus shouts at Paul “are you mad?”  Paul calmly replies in Verse 25 “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.”  Built into Paul’s response is the challenge: Test what I am saying against scripture.  Challenge my testimony or witness but do not prematurely decide that I am wrong until you do.  After defending his words of truth and wisdom, Paul turns to King Agrippa who was a Jew and says in Verse 26 “For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.”  Agrippa would have been well acquainted with Moses and the prophets, the expectation of a Messiah, and the promise of His coming.  He would have known of Pilate and Jesus’ death and perhaps even heard of His resurrection.

At this point Paul directly asks and answers for Agrippa.  Verse 27 “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know thou believest.”  When he asked Agrippa, “do you believe the prophets?”  Perhaps the King swallowed hard, and the expression on his face gave away his conviction.  Because after a moment – Paul said kindly, “I know you believe.”  After Paul confirms this knowledge to King Agrippa, the Spirit was calling to the man.  And in that space, the king had a choice.   Verse 28 “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian.”  We all want King Agrippa opportunities in life.  We may have helped someone come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior – but it is not our job to convert anyone.  That responsibility is the Holy Spirit’s.  Ultimately, the person has to choose.  Considering the fact that Agrippa was a King sold out to the Romans, was illegally married to his own sister Bernice, and he was rich – there was just too much for him to lose – too much at stake.  Verse 29 “And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.”  Paul is saying – this is my earnest desire, that with the exception of these chains, this bondage that I am in, I would to God that all within my voice could be as I am.  There was nothing Paul could do to overcome Agrippa’s heart – that would need to be a work of God.  Verse 32 “Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar.” 

The rest of the chapters in the Book of Acts chronicle Paul’s harrowing voyage to Rome – as a prisoner where he was to be tried and executed.  But, in the weeks ahead – we will be richly fed from the letters Paul wrote to the saints in various locations. 

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

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Acts 16-21 ~ Come Follow Me

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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 ActsVerse 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.

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False Prophecies of Joseph Smith – Copyright©

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If Joseph Smith’s revelations were proven false or fraudulent how can we possibly accept anything in the Book of Mormon or anything Smith ever said?

As a Christian, I trust the Bible to be the Word of God.  In ancient times, God spoke to His chosen people through His prophets.  God knew there would be other men pretending to be prophets but – who were no more than mere counterfeits.

 And God gave us a fool-proof test to know if someone is a true prophet of God.  It says, in Deuteronomy 18:22 “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen, or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” 

And in Jeremiah 14:14 “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.”

It seems that Joseph Smith fits those descriptions.  Didn’t he make prophecies that did not come to past?

Yes!  There is a classic example in LDS Church history called the Canadian Copyright Episode.  This event was recorded during the winter of 1829 and 1830 in a publication called “An Address to All Believers in Christ, pp. 30-31” by David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.

When Smith desperately needed more money to complete the printing of the Book of Mormon, his brother Hyrum Smith suggested to Joseph that some men could go to Canada and sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon.  Smith agreed to ask the Lord by looking into the hat in which he placed the seer stone.    

I guess a traditional prayer wasn’t reliable enough for an answer to this question?  

Joseph claimed he received a revelation that some of the brethren should go on a mission to Toronto Canada. There, they would be successful in selling the copyright.  So, Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery traveled to Toronto, but they were unable to sell the copyright and returned without any money.  Smith was asked point blank, why God had forsaken them, having commanded them to go? 

Joseph didn’t know why the prophesy didn’t come to pass. So surprisingly – he enquired of the Lord by going back to the same seer stone in a hat to get an explanation from God. 

That seems bizarre.  So, what did the hat reveal this time?

He was told that the initial revelation was not from God after all.  He then supposedly received a NEW revelation. Smith said, “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.”

So, Smith admitted that he could not actually tell if his ideas came from God, from Satan or simply out of his own head – or in this case – the hat.  But then, how could Smith even be sure this second revelation was from God. How could he ever be sure of any revelation?

It did, however, give Smith a ‘Get out of jail free’ card to use in the future if anything else went wrong with his prophesying.  Revelations that succeed – come from God.  And, the ones that fail are either wishful thinking or, snuck in by Satan who can deceive the prophet. 

Smith couldn’t lose, whatever the outcome of his revelations.  Where then does that leave the reliability of any revelation coming from a supposed prophet?  Putting faith in something, with a such a small chance of it being from God is very risky.  Especially when it effects someone’s life. 

This also means about two thirds of Smith’s other revelations and scriptures are then completely false by the simple laws of probability. 

The fact that almost everything Smith taught and wrote has now been exposed as false, means that in reality nothing can be trusted as being from God, and that Smith made it up as he went along. 

How then, if he thought at the time it was a revelation, can we possibly accept anything written or said by Joseph Smith?

 

We can’t, since Smith himself didn’t even know if he could trust what he thought was revelation.  

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Why I Left Mormonism – Part 2

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I read in John 1:12,13which really had an impact.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:  Which were born, not of blood, nor or the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

I can see how that beautiful passage would have an, effect on you – or anyone for that matter. 

Exactly! You see, to a Mormon, the “power to become the sons of God” refers to the power or potential to become exalted.  Latter-day Saints love to sing the song “I am a Child of God” because they believe everyone comes to earth from the pre-existence as a son or daughter of immortal heavenly parents.  Mormonism teaches that every human being is born a child of God. 

That’s not what the Bible teaches.  We don’t inherit our sonship from God.  To a Christian, verses 12 and 13, means that as many as received Jesus as their Savior – He will grant the right and privilege for the new birth.  No one can attain this new birth by his or her own power, merit, or ability.  Only God can grant it.  It is a gift of God. 

Then is says in verse 14 “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”  According to The Proclamation on the Family, the LDS Church teaches that in pre-mortality, all of us, including Jesus were begotten and born as spirit children of heavenly parents.  But that Jesus was the only mortal whose father was literally Heavenly Father.  Thus, to a Mormon, Jesus is the Only Begotten of the Father as a mortal. 

 

But as Christians we believe verse 14 is saying that God became incarnate by taking on a mortal body.  He was “begotten of the Father” – meaning, He was uniquely qualified.  Christ – the Logos – did not cease to be the Logos when He became flesh.  Christ still had the fulness of the shekinah glory in Him, but that glory was veiled so he could function in the world of humanity.  This is the mystery of the Incarnation: Christ – the Logos – was not part God and part man, but fully God and fully human, as it says in Colossians 2:9.  Christ is the perfect expression of God in human form. (Philippians 2:5-9)

Another big verse for both the LDS and Christians is Verse 18 “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”  Joseph Smith twisted this scripture in the Joseph Smith Translation to read “And no man hath seen God at any time, EXCEPT HE HATH BORNE RECORD OF THE SON; for except it is through him no man can be saved.” 

The LDS rely on Smith’s translation to support their belief that God supposedly appeared in Joseph Smith’s First Vision.  But Christians believe the King James Version as being correct in saying that “no man has seen God at any time.” 

That’s because it is supported by other verses in the Bible that teach that no man has or can see God.  1 Timothy 1:17 and Hebrews 11:27 teaches that God is invisible.  1 John 4:12 clearly states “No man hath seen God at any time.”  The Bible teaches that some have seen His glory, but no one has seen Him, because He is Spirit – not an immortal resurrected exalted man – like Mormonism teaches. 

Even the Book of Mormon refers to God as the Great Spirit in Alma 18:24-28; Alma 19:25-27; Alma 22:9-11; Alma 31:15. There is absolutely no mention in the Book of Mormon that God has a body.  Only that God was Spirit. 

I think we can state the obvious here – The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity.

 

I arrived at this conclution after reading the first chapter of John’s gospel.  LDS Church President and Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley agrees with us as well.  Let me read from the LDS Church News, June 20, 1998, p.7.  The paper reports, “In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ,’ ‘No, I don’t.  The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.”

 

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