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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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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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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Acts 10-15 – Come Follow Me

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Does the Bible prove there are anachronisms in the Book of Mormon?

 

Acts 10 is another landmark chapter that brings in a very important part of Christian history – especially for the non-Jewish pagan Gentiles – the reception of the Good News.    .   Before this chapter, the Gospel was preached only to the Jews.  God had covenanted with the Nation of Israel and it was through them that the very Messiah would come, and the gospel would be offered to them first.   

Back in Acts chapter 9, we read that Peter wound up in a place called Joppa in the house of a man named Simon the Tanner.  Which now takes us to Acts 10:1-2 “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion (a Roman commander of 600 hundred men).  A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.”  Cornelius was a believer in the One True God.  But he did not know Jesus.  Verses 3-4 “He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day (3:00 pm) an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him Cornelius.  And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord (meaning, what is it sir)?  And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.”  Then the angel gives Cornelius instruction.  Verses 5-6 “And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do.”  So, Cornelius sent his servants to Joppa.  Verse 9 “On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour (noon):”  While Peter was on the rooftop praying and waiting for lunch to cook – it says Verse 10 “And he (Peter) became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance,”  Peter fell into a state of mind where he was absorbed in deep thought.  Verse 11 “And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth.”  This sheet – perhaps a large prayer shawl worn by men during religious devotionals – was a universal symbol of the nations and the animals of these nations upon the sheet represent the gentile world and the non-kosher animals eaten by gentiles.  Verse 12 “Wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.”  Peter was hungry and it could be that the Lord uses this moment to teach him a new way about eating which would break down the cultural barrier the Jews had between them and the rest of the world.  Verses 13-16 “And there came a voice to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill, and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.’  And the voice spake unto him again the second time, ‘What God hat cleasned, that call not thou common.’  This was done thrice (repeated three times): and the vessel was received up again into heaven.”  Now, to put this into perspective, the Law of Moses, reigning for some 1500 years over the Jews, was pretty darn clear regarding what could be eaten and what was not even to be touched.  You can read a little about it in Leviticus 11:1-8.  Peter was faced with a conflict between what was written in the Law and the verbal command of the Lord.  But, the purpose of this vision was to provide direction and meaning to what Peter would be asked to do the next day.  It was to teach Peter that what God called unclean could and would now be seen as clean – the Gentiles and everything about them.  That under the direction of the Spirit, what was written would no longer reign over the hearts of Man – God would (Hebrews 10:16; Hebrews 8:10-11; 2 Corinthians 3:2-3).  

Verse 19 “While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, ‘Behold, three men seek thee.’  At that exact time, the men who Cornelius sent arrived at Simon’s house.  Verse 21 “Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with the, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.”   Peter greeted the men – who said Cornelius had been told by a holy angel to bring Peter to his house so he could be taught the gospel.  When they and Peter traveled to Caesarea, they found Cornelius with his family and close friends waiting for them.  Verse 25 “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.”  It means he simply bowed himself down out of honor and respect.  Verse 26 “But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.”  Peter is stepping right out of his element – and into a gathering of people who his people, the Jews – called the “the Great Unwashed.”  Now listen carefully to what Peter says to Cornelius in Verse 28 “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; BUT God hath shewed me that I should not call ANY man common or unclean.”  How do we look at other men and women?  Do we consider any person or groups of people unclean?  Think about it!  God showed Peter that NO man is to be called unclean.  How is that possible?  It’s possible because Christ paid for the sins of the entire world – past, present, and future.  That work has been done, once and for all.  He has had the victory.  And so, by believing on Christ’s work for us we receive His righteousness that is imputed on us.  That is why we should never look at someone who we think is unclean and condemn him or her.  That person’s sins are paid for too.  They just need to hear that Good News and accept the free gift of salvation.  Verse 34 “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:” There were to be no more barriers to the availability of the gospel in people’s lives.  All barriers were being eliminated.  No more barriers between Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free.  All are equal – having full access to God.  Peter then teaches Cornelius and his household about the mission of Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection.  Verses 44 “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the word.”  No hands were laid to bestow the “gift of the Holy Spirit.”  They were born-again when they received the gospel of grace into their hearts and minds.    

As we move into Acts chapter 11 there were strong feelings among Jewish believers who viewed Gentiles as second-class people.  As a result, there is a heated debate when Peter returns to Jerusalem about the fact that he has actually associated with the Gentile, Cornelius.  Peter had to convince the Saints that the Gospel was meant for Gentiles too.  So, it’s now time to bring Saul back into the picture.  At this point Barnabas does something that will change the course of Christianity forever.  Verse 25 “Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus for to seek Saul.”  Tarsus was about 123 miles away.  Verse 26 “And when he (Barnabas) had found him (Saul), he brought him unto Antioch.  And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people.  And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”  Christian was a new name assigned to non-Jewish followers of Christ.  Before that, early Jewish church followers of Christ called themselves disciples, believers, Church of Christ, Church of God, Church of the Firstborn, Church of the Thessalonians, and “those of the Way.”  The “Way” taken from Jesus’ statement that he is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  Those of “the Way.”  The term “Church” comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which means “a called-out assembly or congregation.”  It is a gathering of people called-out to follow Jesus.  “Christos” is a Greek way of saying “Messiah” which means “Anointed.”   So, as it says in Verse 26 “And the disciples were called Christians FIRST – in Antioch.” 

I want to ask, if you are familiar with the term “anachronism”?  Anachronism is referring to something that is out of its proper historical time or context – centuries apart.  There is an account in the Book of Mormon, Alma 46:15 that was written in 73 BC. calling believers “Christians.”  But remember the term “Christian” was first used here in Acts 11:26 – long after Christ’s ascension into heaven.  That would make the Book of Mormon reference an anachronism.  Another example of an anachronism is the use of the word “Church” found earlier in 1 Nephi 13:4 which was supposedly written around 600 BC.  Yet, the first time the word “Church” was ever used in the Bible was in Matthew 16:18, by Jesus.  The word “Church” in the Book of Mormon was taken from a Greek term which the Nephites in 600 BC would never have known since it had yet to be created centuries later.  It is an obvious indication that the Book of Mormon was written by Joseph Smith who used the New Testament to write his book.       

Acts chapter 12 starts out by telling us that James the Apostle, the brother of John, will be martyred.  He was killed by King Herod.  James will be the first of the apostles to be martyred.  Interesting that there was no coming together of the Apostles to call or appoint a replacement for James in the quorum of the twelve.  That was because God ordained it to be that way.  These eye-witnesses of the Savior’s life, death, and resurrection would be the foundation of the Church along with Jesus Christ as the Chief Cornerstone.  That foundation and cornerstone were never to be replaced, repaired, or restored.  The Gospel and the Church would be built upon the lives, teachings, and writings of those men.  Consequently, as each of the original Apostles died, they were never replaced by God or men – until Joseph Smith started doing it in his own church – 1800 years later. 

In Chapter 13, Paul – called Saul until verse 9 – is sent on his first of three missions.  Paul is a master teacher and will become known as the missionary to the Gentiles.  Except for a brief appearance in Chapter 15, Peter fades away from the scene as the rest of Acts revolves around Paul and his ministry.  Acts 13 through Acts 28 report the beginning of the expansion of teaching the gospel outside the Holy Land, starting in Antioch and eventually ending up in Rome.     

Chapter 14 is an action-packed chapter in which you feel the energy and determination of Paul, as he and Barnabas preach despite mounting opposition.  They will be declared gods by the people in one place, and Paul will be stoned and left for dead in another. 

 

Finally, in Chapter 15:6-11 Peter gives a speech that is one of the strongest defenses of salvation by grace through faith on Christ alone, contained in Scripture.  

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Acts 6-9 – Come Follow Me

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Today, we are going to talk about three great witnesses of the resurrected Lord.  

 Okay, we pick up this lesson with Stephen in Acts chapter 7 delivering a speech to the Jewish Sanhedrim in an, attempt to defend accusations that he was a blasphemer and spoke against the Temple and the Law of Moses.  Stephen is giving an amazing speech by laying the foundation for bearing witness to them of Christ.  Moses was probably the most important prophet in the eyes of the Jews, and Stephen, with inspired skill is leading up to the fact that Moses prophesied about Jesus in Acts 7:37 “This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet (meaning Christ) shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him (Christ) shall ye hear (listen to and obey).“  After patiently relaying the history of the Jews to his audience, Stephen seems to shift into high gear and says to his accusers Verses 51 -53 “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.  Which of the prophets have not your father’s persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of who ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.” 

So, after condemning these Jewish leaders they went ballistic.  Standing before them was one of their own – a Jew – who had accepted Jesus, who they put to death – as Lord and Savior.  They were so angry with him they couldn’t refrain themselves any longer.  Verse 54 “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”   Recorded are these powerful verses.  Verses 55-56 “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.  And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  Stephen looked steadfastly to the only place that he knew He could – into heaven – the only place where WE can place our trust.  And he saw “the glory of God” – a display of magnificent light – some sort of exhibition of the presence of God.  He was having a vision or a revelation of God’s glory.  And Jesus was standing by the glory of God.  “On the right hand of God” refers to a place of honor, not literally on the right hand of something.  God is Spirit, Light, and Fire.  Stephen did not see God the Father in a body with Jesus standing on his right side.  That would be eisegeses – reading into the text.  It says that Stephen saw the “glory of God.”  

Verse 57 “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord.”  They had heard enough and together, they rushed upon him.  Verse 58 “And cast him out of the city, and stoned him and the witnesses laid down their clothes (so they wouldn’t get dirty when they killed Stephen) at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.”  A very dramatic end to a faithful witness of Christ.  And, an introduction to a character who will play the most major role in the early Church – Saul, whose name will be changed to Paul.  Verse 59 “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Steven here was praying and speaking to Jesus.  Verse 60 “And Stephen kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.  And when he had said this, he fell asleep (he died).”  And this brings us to the first line of the first verse in chapter 8 “And Saul was consenting unto his death.”   We will read more about this Saul who was a devout Pharisee, who persecuted and imprisoned the Christians. 

In the meantime, we read in Acts chapter 8 about Philip and his successful missionary work.  Verses 26-28 “And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saiying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.  And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia (a nation in eastern Africa, south of Egypt), an eunuch (a man who had been surgically rendered incapable of fathering children) of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship.  Was returning (home to Ethiopia from Jerusalem), and sitting in his chariot read Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet.”   This is a really inspiring story – here’s a man sitting roadside and reading Isaiah – and God caring enough about this man’s heart and mind that He had another man leave his local in Samaria and travel a great distance just to reach this single Ethiopian eunuch with the truth.  Verse 29 “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot (where the man was sitting).”  Why was he reading Isaiah – we don’t know.  It may have been simply because he was a Jew or possibly he had been to Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus – that he had heard about Him, and that he opened the scripture to see what it said on the subject.  Regardless, the Eunuch was reading from Isaiah and by the time Philip arrived on the scene, he had some questions.   Obviously, the Eunuch was reading out loud Verse 30 “And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias (Isaiah), and said, Understandest thou what thou readest?”  “Are the words you are reading making sense to you?”  I have, to ask do you know the scriptures well enough that you’d feel confident asking a stranger that question?  Would you be equipped to answer questions they might have? 

Verse 31 “And he (the Eunuch) said, How can I, except some man should guide me?  And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”   The Eunuch was humble and open to being, lead to understand the things of the Lord by a complete stranger.  He was like a sheep looking for a shepherd.  Being a Jew and familiar with the Torah, he was trying to understand the scripture and how it spoke of the promised Messiah.  And being in Jerusalem he was probably told that the true Messiah had come, and His name was Yeshua.  Verses 32-33 “The place of the scripture which he read was this (and he cites Isaiah 53:7-8), He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.”  Isaiah 53 is perhaps one of the most poignant Old Testament chapters that speak clearly of the Messiah’s life and death.  Acts 8:34 “And the eunuch answered (asked) Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?”  In other words, “Who is Isaiah talking about here?”  Verse 35 “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.”  How much detail Philip went into is unknown, but he must have said something in his teaching about water baptism, because of the next verse.  Verse 36 “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”  “Is there any reason why I shouldn’t be baptized?”  He was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah and wanted to make an outward profession of his inward conviction.  Verse 37 “And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.  And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 

At this point, I want to relate an experience I had several years ago.  I was on a business trip in Tempe, Arizona.  Being a missionary-minded Mormon, I always traveled with a copy of the Book of Mormon and would pray for an opportunity to give it away to someone.  During this trip, I stopped by a McDonald’s to grab a quick breakfast before I went on to my business meeting.  When I walked into the establishment, I noticed a homeless man sitting at a table reading his Bible.  We were the only two in the eating area.  I recognized him from the night before as I spotted him walking down the sidewalk.  Because he had a long thick gray beard, I thought he looked like Santa Clause.  As I sat and ate my egg-McMuffin, I thought how I would start up a conversation about his reading the Bible to introduce the Book of Mormon.  So, I walked over to his table and asked, “What are you reading about in the Bible?”  Without looking up at me, he quietly said “About the Messiah.”  I asked if he wouldn’t mind sharing with me what he was exactly reading about the Messiah?  I sat down next to him and listened intently – looking for my opportunity to interject a message about the Book of Mormon.  He began by going to prophecy found in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah and then quickly to a passage in the New Testament where that prophecy was fulfilled.  With complete knowledge and command of the Scripture, he moved back and forth through the pages of his Bible with ease.  And without even looking at me, he spoke of his love for, and honor of, the Savior.  I was captivated!  I was so touched by the sincerity and reverence this homeless man had for the Word of God.  My initial somewhat, prideful intention for bring up the Book of Mormon faded into the background.  I knew that I was in the presence of man of spiritual greatness.   After five or ten minutes, I thanked him for his time and asked if I could give him some money.  All he said was – “if God wills it.”  That entire day during my meetings I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room where a Gideon’s Bible waited for me in the dresser drawer.  I wanted to read those passages that dear man shared with me that morning.  I made up my mind that day, I would begin reading the Gospel according to John.  That was the start of my discovery of the True Jesus.  Since I somewhat considered myself a student of the Gospel, I thought I knew who He was – but I did not.   From that point on, my eyes were opened to the truth and I realized that Jesus was God incarnate.  He was the great I AM.  So, I can relate to what the Eunuch said in Verse 37 “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 

We will end this lesson by reviewing the conversion of the Pharisee Saul – persecutor of the Christians – as he enters the path to becoming one of the most influential Apostles ever.  His name will be changed to Paul and he will become the Apostle to the Gentiles, who wrote fourteen of the books of the New Testament. 

Acts 9:1-2 “And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”  Saul got permission to arrest any Christians and to put them in chains.  Verses 3-4 “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  A light appeared – as it did on the mount of transfiguration – and the voice spake to him.  Paul was overcome and overpowered – thus falling to the ground.  Jesus asks Saul why he persecutes him.  Verse 5 “And he (Saul) said, who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”  A prick was a goad, a sharp stick which could be used to poke animals when herding them along.  The tendency of the animals when poked with the goad, was to stubbornly kick back against it, thus driving it deeper into their hide.  Perhaps, Saul’s conscience was starting to bother him.  Verse 6 “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”    Here Saul is called out by the Lord, himself, for persecuting others for believing in Him.  Now, it is Saul who is shaking in fear.  But then becomes peacefully compliant and doing what he was told to do.  In one fell swoop he placed himself in the employ of Jesus forevermore.  The experience left him blind for three days and neither could he eat or drink.  In the meantime, the Lord came to Ananias in a vision instructing him to find Saul who had reached Damascus.  The Savior told Ananias Verse 15 “For he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”  So, Ananias found Saul and blessed him.  Immediately he received back his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was baptized.  Verse 20 “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”

What we have just briefly covered is considered one of the greatest conversion stories in the annuls of the faith.  

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Acts 1-5 – Come Follow Me

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When were the “times of restitution of all things” accomplished?  Was it fulfilled in Joseph Smith’s day or Jesus Christ’s?

 As the Book of Acts begins, Luke explains this rich historical account is a continuation of his former account – the Book of Luke.   When we call it the “The Acts of the Apostles” it is a bit of a misnomer because it does not speak of all the Apostles and their acts.  Even though the others are briefly mentioned, the Acts of the Apostles are really limited to the Acts of Peter and Paul, who in some ways represent the work of God among the Jews – through Peter – and then the Gentiles – through Paul.  It is interesting that Luke was a Gentile.  We don’t really know when he converted to the faith.  In Luke 1:2 he intimates that he received his information from those who were “eye-witnesses and ministers of the word from the beginning.”  The design of Luke’s Gospel was to describe the work and humanity of Christ until He ascended into heaven.  And, then Acts was to serve as his sequel – written to show how after Jesus ascended – what happened with the Good News He gave His life for – and how it was delivered to a sinful world.  The book teaches us what it looks like when people are touched by the Holy Spirit.  Acts is a lynch pin that serves to connect the Old Testament – the Law – and the New Covenant – which is Grace – and the transition between the two. 

Jesus, In Acts 1:3 “To whom he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible (absolute) proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  Then Luke speaks of Jesus meeting with the Apostles in the upper room.  Verse 4 “And, being assembled together with them, He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.”  The promise of the Father Jesus is speaking of, were made in John 14:16, where He said, “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.”  Then Jesus tells them Acts1:8 “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”  Then these apostles – these special witnesses – watched Jesus as he was taken up into heaven.  Then they all returned to Jerusalem and met in an upper room to pray along with women and Mary the mother of Jesus.  And His four half-brothers were there. 

Verse 15 “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of names together were about an hundred and twenty.)”  What were they about to do at this point?  They were going to choose another Apostle to fill the vacancy of Judas Iscariot.  Peter now lays out the ground rules for their election, saying in Verses 21-22 “Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.  Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”  So, there are the qualifications  for the next apostle whose job, Peter says at the end of Verse 22 was “to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”  Who were these candidates?  Is it possible that from the group of “seventy” who were called to preach and teach when Jesus was alive?  When Peter says, “ordained” in the Greek it means “to appoint.”  It has no connection to religious ritual – what is called ordination, or the laying on of hands.  So, looking around at those who qualify according to what Peter set up as the standard, we read Verse 23 “And they appointed two, Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.”  We literally know nothing about either man.  Then the group prayed, seeking the Lord’s guidance in this important decision.  But rather than wait for that inspiration, we read in Verse 26 “And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”  They tossed rocks or threw sticks and trusted that God was in control of the results – Like we would today with dice or drawing straws or names out of a hat.  In other words, by this process Matthias became the twelfth apostle.  Nothing further is related to Matthias in the New Testament.  Maybe Matthias was used but God knew that the next apostle would have to be Paul.  And we know what Paul contributed to the early church.  

Alright, we are about to about to study one of the most important chapters in all of scripture – Acts 2.  Prior to these events happening, the resurrected Jesus had instructed the apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait there to be “empowered from on high.”  So, here they are – 120 believers gathered together.  Verses 1-4 “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.”   Gathered there in Jerusalem were all the faithful male Jews – by the millions.  They would have come to offer sacrifice and to commemorate the completion of the grain harvest.  We are about to read the first conversion of the true believers in the Body of Christ.  All the sins of the world have been paid for by Christ Jesus.  That work is finished.  What we are reading about here is God sending His spirit to now fill or live in our hearts.  Scripture refers to this Spirit as the Holy Spirit but also the Spirit of Christ.  Whatever happened here in these first four verses was spiritual and is only expressed here in physical terms for our comprehension.  Here we have the spiritual power coming down from heaven and resting upon the first believers in the New Church.  And what will be the immediate result of this spiritual event?  Verses 4-8 tells us “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.  Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.  And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?”  To these believing Jews this would be the greatest evidence of God being involved in what was happening.  We have to remember that John the Baptist said that while he came to baptize with water, the Son of Man came to baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.  This was that moment.  Here at Pentecost we are witnessing the birth of a New Testament Church which physically contains members of the Body of Christ that lives on today.  So overpowering was this experience that a crowd of more than 3,000 Jews gathered, while Peter stood and preached to them.  In preaching he claimed Jesus as Lord, explained that they were witnesses of His miracles and His overcoming the grave.  Calling them brethren he told them that they had put Jesus to death – but that death could not hold Him.  He wrapped up in Verse 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 

Luke now tells us what the results of Peter’s words – through the power of the Holy Spirit – were on the crowd.  Verses 37-38 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  At that moment- they realized their guilt before God and Christ’s innocence.  In response to their anguish, they asked Peter and the Apostles “what should we do?”  We too may have been “pricked in our heart” because we realized our sin and contribution to the suffering and death of the Messiah.  But we would make a giant mistake in reading what Peter says to these men and then assign it to ourselves – as Gentiles – today.  This is where context in our study of the Bible plays such an important role.  What Peter says to his audience is not what Paul would say to us today.  Remember these Jews were living under the Law and the Prophets.  They understood “doing” as part of their religious life.  And Peter, sent to them, had something they needed to do – repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.  Let’s see what happens when Paul the apostle called to the non-Jews – is asked the same question “what should I or we do?”  In Acts 16:25-30 we read the story about Paul and Silas who were placed in jail.  While they prayed there was a great earthquake and these men were miraculously freed.  The keeper of the prison fell down before Paul and Silas saying, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Paul said in Verse 31 “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”  Did you notice a difference between Peter’s reply to the question and Paul’s?  Peter said first, “Repent,” but Paul doesn’t even mention it.  And second, Peter says, “Be baptized for the remission of sins,” but again Paul does not tie baptism to his response either.  All Paul says is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you’ll be saved.”  In all of his epistles, Paul never uses the word repent to believers.  How are we to understand all of this? 

Peter was speaking to the House of Israel, who were under the covenantal Law of God.  They had killed the promised Messiah and they needed to repent or change their minds about the Jesus Christ.  The Gentiles on the other hand were not under the Law – just their conscience.  So as Gentiles we do not first repent – we simply first believe.  That is why Paul writes that we are saved by grace through faith and – not that we are saved by grace and repentance.  As Gentiles we repent when we realize we have been saved by grace and our belief in Jesus.  We want to turn our lives around and live for him.  But we don’t need to be baptized to be forgiven.  The jailer was baptized AFTER he was saved and forgiven as an outward expression of an inward faith.  When Peter tells the Jews to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the remission of sins” – the word “for” in the Greek means “because.”  Because you have received a remission of sins.  And this is why people are baptized today – not for them to join a church – not to make them a member – especially not to wash away their sins.  It’s because those who submit to baptism are publicly acknowledging they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in their heart – which means they have and will repent or change their minds from former views by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  It’s a way of being identified with Christ. 

 

In Acts chapters 3, 4, and 5 we read about how the disciples of Jesus Christ are given power to perform miracles in His name.  Not through any priesthood power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But there is one passage the LDS use as proof text to for the future restoration of the gospel in the latter-days.   Let’s read Acts 3:19-21 “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”  Peter has preached to them – Jesus.  He has told them that they put Jesus to death in ignorance.  He has directed them to repent, and to turn, that their sins may be blotted out.  What does he mean by the rest of that passage?  What does Peter mean by the period of time of refreshing and restitution of all things?  Paul also spoke of this same time period by calling it in Ephesians 1:10 “the dispensation of the fulness of times.”  Are Peter and Paul speaking of a period or dispensation of time to come, or was it something else?  Something that would be applied to these men and their families?  The LDS assign this dispensation to their prophet Joseph Smith – beginning in 1820.  That’s what I taught on my LDS mission.   To the LDS this final dispensation would usher in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ.  But what Peter and Paul are speaking of is the ultimate completion of the former economy of the Old Covenant with it’s works/obedience/reward administration and the New Covenant of administration which is one of grace.   Same God – different administration or economy.  When did this fulness of times begin?  Galatians 4:4 “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”  The very presence of the Lord will initiate this times of refreshing.  It will signify the utter end of all things old and the full integration of all things new.  It has nothing to do with the restoration of the Gospel, the priesthood, and temple rituals.  Peter says in Verse 22 “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.”  Who is this prophet?  Not Joseph Smith.  It was Jesus Christ.  Peter ties the restoration of all things to the coming of Jesus and His work among the Nation of Israel and the world.  Verse 24 “Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of THESE DAYS.”  What days?  The days Peter and his audience were living in.  Verse 25 “Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.”  Christ has had the victory.  The dispensation of the fulness of times started at His birth, and the old administration along with priesthood, temples, ordinances, genealogies were utterly wiped out with destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The restitution of all things continues out to this very day with Jesus as our High Priest, who entered the Holy of Holies making intercession for us.  Speaking of Jesus, 1 Peter 3:22 “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.”  He has all power in heaven and in earth.  He alone can save, and he alone can destroy.  Nobody needs to fear who have put their trust in him, as He, making a restitution of all things spiritually, is in control.  He is drawing all men and women to God.  

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Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21 – Come Follow Me

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In this lesson – we will learn about the most important event in the history of mankind – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The most glorious of all mornings is recorded in Matthew chapter 28.  Verse 1 “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week (Sunday), came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (the mother James the less) to see the sepulcher.”  Up to now, Saturday was the Sabbath or holy day for the Jews.  But, in Acts 20:7 it tells us that – among the followers of Christ – Sunday became the holy day or Sabbath – after the resurrection of the Savior.  Matthew 28:2 “And, behold, there was a great earthquake (the second earthquake associated with Christ’s death): for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door (the opening of the tomb), and sat upon it.”  This all happened before the women arrived.  Verses 3-4 “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers (guards) did shake, and became as dead men.”  Can you imagine being a witness all this taking place?  These guards and they passed out.  Verses 5-6 “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.  He is not here: for he is risen (resurrected), as he said.  Come, see the place where the Lord lay.”  The women were looking in the tomb to see – when the angel tells them, Verse 7 “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him; lo, I have told.”   Jesus had told His disciples in Matthew 26:32 that He would meet them in Galilee after His crucifixion.  A description of His meeting them is found later in John, chapter 21.  

Mary Magdalene at the tomb still, was concerned about where the Savior’s body had been taken.  After turning away from the tomb – she sees a man whom she assumes is the caretaker.  John 20:15-17 “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom sleekest thou?  She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”  Then, this tender moment.  “Jesus saith unto her, Mary.  She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.”  As soon as she recognized Him – her sorrow was over.  “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not (don’t cling to me); for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God.”  Matthew 28, Verses 8-10 “And they (the women) departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.  And as they went to tell his disciples, behold Jesus met them, saying, All hail (a greeting meaning, rejoice).  And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.  Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren (the Apostles) that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” 

Now, when the women told the apostles the good news, it says in Luke chapter 24 that they didn’t believe the women.  John 20:3-8 “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple (John), and came to the sepulcher.  So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulcher.  And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; ye went he not in.  Then commeth Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie,  And the napkin (burial cloth), that was about (wrapped around) his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itselfThen went in also that other disciple (John), which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed.”

Matthew 28:16-17 “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.  And when they saw him they worshipped him: but some doubted.”  We know Thomas doubted, and probably many others.  But once convinced by the evidence – they became lions for the Lord.  What Jesus now instructs is a clear reminder to these Apostles that – their superior cultural background as descendants of Abraham must be discarded in favor of the true doctrine that – all souls are of equal worth in the kingdom of God.  Verse 18 “And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”  As God – the Word – He had an original right to all things in heaven and in earth because He created them.  By His condescension – taking on flesh – He overcame all to have total power over all things for them that believe.  Jesus says, Verse 19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”  Did you catch that?  He said to baptize “in the NAME” – not NAMES of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We are talking about One God here.  He continues saying, Verse 20 “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”   Okay, we have to remember that Jesus came to the House of Israel.  And He was sending His disciples to reach the House of Israel – the Jews.  They were not to preach or convert any non-Jews, or Gentiles for years to come.  The Jews would show their willingness to receive the promised Messiah through baptism – in the name of the Father, Son (now added to the equation), and Holy Spirit.  There would be an entirely different process for Gentile converts in the future.

John 20:19 “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week (Sunday), when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews (they were hiding behind locked doors), came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”  Luke records in chapter 24, verses 36 through 40 “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.  But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit (a ghost).  And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts?  Behold (look at) my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.  And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.”  A major doctrine is taught in these verses.  Namely, that the Savior now has a resurrected body of flesh and bones.  LDS doctrine teaches that the same is true of the Father.  And where is that found?  In the Bible?  No, the Bible emphatically teaches in John 4:24 that “God is a Spirit.”  Is it found in the Book of Mormon?  No, it too teaches in Alma 18:26-28 that God is a “Great Spirit.”  Even Joseph Smith in his 1835 Lectures on Faith – Lecture 5 – page 65, that was once were part of the Doctrine and Covenants, claimed “there are two personages in the Godhead, and they are the Father and the Son: The Father being a personage of SPIRIT…and the Son a personage of tabernacle, made, or fashioned like unto man.”  Smith said, the Holy Spirit is “the mind of the Father and the Son.”  In 1820 – 15 years earlier – Joseph claimed to have seen the Father and the Son – both of which – had bodies of flesh and bone.  So why was he teaching in the 1835 Lectures on Faith that God was a personage of spirit?  After 1921, the Lectures on Faith was replaced with the revelation on plural marriage in Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 which states, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.  Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”  Sounds like Joseph Smith was confused himself, about what he believed.  With him the story was always evolving.    

Now, back to John 20:20-23 “And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side.  Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.  Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.  And when he had said this, he breathed on the, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit (forgive), they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”  When He breathed on them with the Holy Spirit, He breathed additional power into the Apostles.  The actual enjoyment of the gift was delayed until the day of Pentecost in Acts 2

John 20:24-25 “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.  The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord.  But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  Verses 26-27 “And after eight days again his disciples were within (the house), and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.  Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and trust it into my side: and be not faithless, be believing.”  This appearance of the Lord was all for Thomas’ benefit.  It doesn’t tell us if Thomas actually touched Jesus, but I assume if the Lord told him to – he did.  Because, in the next verse is – one of the greatest statements in scripture.  Verse 28 “And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”  Thomas just called Jesus his God.  He declares – Jesus is God.  Was Thomas, right?  Absolutely!  Jesus IS God?  Is He the One true living God?  If Jesus wasn’t – you would have expected the Savior to correct Thomas’ doctrinal understanding.  But, there is no need for correction – cause Thomas was rightVerse 29 “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”  Touching and physical evidence is not the foundation of our belief.  It’s not based on a burning in our bosom – it’s based on truth.  It’s not a blind faith – it’s an informed faith.  Because of his desire to know the truth for himself – we should refer to Thomas as Honest Thomas – not Doubting Thomas.  John closes out his writing with this saying, Verses 30-31 “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life (eternal life) through his name.”  But then in the next chapter – John includes an encore of Jesus appearing to His Apostles on the lake shore in a very touching scene.  

In the last chapter of the Book of John, we read about the appointed meeting of the Apostles with the resurrected Lord at the Sea of Galilee.  Peter and the others had been fishing all night with absolutely no success.  In the morning a stranger on the shore asks if they have had any luck.  He then tells them to simply cast their net overboard on the other side of the ship.  Perhaps there are few things worse than a stranger telling professionals how to do their work.  Nevertheless, they do what He says and suddenly the net fills with so many big fish, they could hardly pull it in.  Aww -this, rings a bell!  An almost identical thing had happened three years before – when Peter had been fishing all night with no success and Jesus told him to let down his nets.  On that occasion also – their nets were filled with so many fish that the nets began to break.  Now the same thing is happening again.  Could it be the Master, who is on the shore now?  When John recognized it was the Lord – Peter jumped in and swam to the shore.  When the others came to land – Jesus was there cooking breakfast for his weary disciples.  The last meal with His disciples was not the Last Supper in the City of Jerusalem – but breakfast on the shore of Galilee.   Jesus told the Apostles – when He called them back in Matthew 4:19 – that He would make the “fishers of men”.  The fact that the Savior helped them have such success with actual fish is symbolic of the fact that He will help them have great success in bringing men, women, and children into the gospel net and – unto the Father.  But Jesus wanted to test Peter’s conviction.  So, He asked Peter three times – if he loved Him?  When Peter answered to the affirmative – Jesus said to “feed my lambs” and to “feed my sheep.”  The rest of the New Testament from this point on – shows us that the lesson was not lost on the chief Apostle.  Filled with the Spirit – Peter possessed great moral courage in the defense of truth. 

Finally, strong testimony is born to us that the things written by John are true.  Verses 24-25 “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.  And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.  Amen.”    

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