Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1 Corinthians 16

Paul gives guidelines for collecting the tithes and offerings and their being sent to Jerusalem where they'll be administered. He encourages the saints to be steadfast and faithful and expresses his hope to be with them for the winter. I'm impressed with the length of this letter, that he used four scribes when writing it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1 Corinthians 15

Chapter 15 is the great chapter on the resurrection. It is in this chapter that he talks about baptism for the dead and the three degrees of glory. My thoughts are lead to two things. First this is a message of great hope as he says in verse 19. If this life is where all our hope is placed, we are missing the big picture and missing out on a great source of peace and happiness. If, as some people believe, this life is all there is, there is little purpose; this is no ultimate justice, there is no final healing of what we suffer, there is an end to all of the deep and choice relationships we begin in this life. But there is so much more. This life is the Dick and Jane book of our experience. Paul's words are beautiful. He says we will be clothed in immortality, that death is swallowed up in victory. He promises us that the work we do in the Lord will not be for nothing, so we should be steadfast and immovable. I like those two words.

Look at the line of reasoning Paul uses

1. If there is no resurrection, then Christ no longer exists.
2. If there is no resurrection, we're wasting our time and our faith is a terrible joke.
3. If there is no resurrection, then the apostles are liars.
4. If there is no resurrection, there is no life for the spirit or the body after this.
5. If there is no resurrection, why do we perform baptisms for the dead?
6. If there is no resurrection, then why am I working so hard and killing myself off?

The second thing is Paul's testimony of Christ's having risen from the grave and how it parallels that of Joseph Smith's. Paul first bears witness that Christ has risen from the grave, that he lives, that his body is physical, immortal and incorruptible, just as Joseph Smith did. Paul is doing missionary work to teach the people of the Gospel and it's establishment just as Joseph bore witness of its establishment in our time. If you think about it, there is little difference between Paul and Joseph. Both of these men brought forth something that was fundamentally different then anything that was being taught at the time. Both men were dealing with an apostasy, Paul the Jewish apostasy and Joseph the Christian. Both dealt with apostasy among their own members. Both were persecuted, frequently jailed, and eventually killed for their testimony. Paul essentially says (like President Hinckley did of Joseph Smith and the restoration) that if this isn't true, it is the greatest hoax ever presented to mankind.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

1 Corinthians 14

We don't know if there was an excessive use of speaking in tongues, or if someone asked Paul about it and that is why he is addressing this topic. The message seems to be, speaking in tongues can sometimes be effective with non-members while prophecy is more valuable, especially for members because prophecy will teach doctrine. In the Joseph Smith Translation, the word another replaces unknown. This makes more sense, especially when you consider a perfect example of purpose of speaking in tongues is found on the Day of Pentecost. There, the apostles were able to speak in their own language, but everyone who spoke a different language was able to understand them. But prophecy is the greatest spiritual gift. According to Elder McConkie, "Prophecy stands supreme, the greatest of all the gifts of the Spirit. Prophecy is revelation; it is testimony; it is Spirit speaking to spirit; it is to know by revelation that Jesus is the Lord, that salvation is in Christ, that he redeemed us by his blood."

In this chapter, there seems to be a mistake. It says that women are not permitted to speak in church. Yet in 11:5 of Corinthians it talks of women praying and prophesying. Once again, the JST helps us by using the word rule in place of the word speak. This makes more since since the priesthood is the governing organization of the church and no one should usurp that including women.

An important verse to me is 33. "God is not the author of confusion..." I do not believe God would create a thousand different churches with thousands of different and conflicting doctrines about himself. I do believe he will work with individuals and the amount of truth they have to bring them to a knowledge of the true gospel.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

1 Corinthians 13

This is chapter is one of the most beautiful chapters in the epistles and I think gives us and idea into the character of Paul and what he was like. Having persecuted the members of the church and consented to their being put to death, I think his total conversion included going from one who could easily hate in the name of God to one who could love as God loves. The message of this chapter to me is, no matter how great your works are, no matter how important we are and the they things we do, if we do not have love for all people, none of the other matters. Everything we do will just be for us and will do nothing to bless or help anyone else. People will sense the guile of our efforts.

I like this quote from none other than Richard Anderson, Richard L. Anderson that is, a New Testament Scholar: "The concept of love is not dramatic sacrifice but steady relationship. It is not a giant gift on a special occasion but the continued support of personal caring... The tragedy of many unloving people is that they only imagine they love. In truth they want to love but do not pay the price to move from wishful thinking to reality... The impatient jerk on a child, the harsh word to someone trying to assist, or the cold shoulder to a spouse all reveal a smallness [in the] soul... It is subtly disguised in appearing to care but being too busy... The gospel experience of unselfish love is closer to eternity than anything else. It may be counterfeited by immorality and cheapened in superficial society. But genuine love is a taste of eternity."

Most all of us do not love everyone as we should. But most of us try. Even when we are filled with love, we do not love everyone with the same kind of love. But the Savior and his Father do. I have known people who were filled with love, who could find no fault in people they could easily have found fault with. Or if they found the fault, they had no problem looking past the fault and loving them in spite of it. To love someone that way, is to love unselfishly. To love should be our highest goal and our greatest achievement.

Friday, September 25, 2009

1 Corinthians 12

Every person has their own unique talents, intellectual abilities, athletic prowess, things that make them unique. Just as each person has unique special qualities that help them in the world and help them enjoy life, each person has spiritual gifts that are unique to them. In the same way, the church has many callings. No talent, spiritual gift or church calling is more important than another. By appearance this may seem so, but it isn't. A beautiful car can be brought to a complete stop by the disconnection of one tiny wire. It can fail to start if it has a weak battery. The point Paul is trying to make is that all are equal in the Lord's eyes. And the church should be the kind of place where when one person hurts, all hurt with that person. If a person has success, all are excited about the success. Their should be no jealousy or envy.

With spiritual gifts, we can seek out gifts that we do not have. Paul tells us we should seek the best gifts. In the process of that seeking, we can look to those who have those gifts we do not for example and guidance. In the Doctrine and Covenants, it says "To some it is given to know that Jesus is the Christ. To others it is given to believe on their words." We should all seek to know that Jesus is the Christ, but if we do not know, we can look to and trust in the knowledge of those who do. There are many things I do not know, but for myself, I can look to prophets and apostles who do know and I trust their guidance and teaching. That's one think that makes General Conference so wonderful. These are great men. They are not liars or deceivers. We can trust in their knowledge and testimonies as we grow in our own.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

1 Corinthians 11

Chapter 11 first deals with the role of women in the church and discusses the priesthood relationship of the husband and wife. In the realm of priesthood duties, Christ is subject to the Father, the man is subject to Christ, and the woman is subject to man. It is important to remember that in all other ways that men and the women are equal and the admonition given in Section 121 in the D&C should always be in the mind of every man who presides in his home: "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion (not force), by long-suffering (willing to bear all things quietly), by gentleness and meekness, and love unfeigned (not fake or pretended); by kindness and pure knowledge (revelation)..." The priesthood is given for the purpose of blessing lives and providing the ordinances that are necessary for salvation and exaltation. It is not given so that man can exercise authority over anyone, especially the wife.

It was the local custom for women to have their heads covered, especially while praying. For a woman to not her have her head covered was considered a sexual gesture at that time and the same tradition and teaching continues with Muslim women today. The reason Muslim women keep their hair covered and wear long clothing is to maintain their purity in the presence of men. Of course, this is taken to the extreme with some Muslims such as you see with burkas.

Paul also admonishes the saints about taking the sacrament, they shouldn't take it to feed their hunger; they should take the sacrament worthily so they do not condemn themselves by ignoring what the purpose of the sacrament is. The sacrament is first a remembrance of the Savior's atonement and death in our behalf, it is also the symbol of our promise to follow him by keeping the commandments. By following him, we show our appreciation and thanksgiving for what he has done for us and the blessings that have come to as a result.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

1 Corinthians 10

In the first verses of this chapter, we are told clearly that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Savior. That the children of Israel were baptized as they had been commanded by Moses.

Verse 13 is both informative and contains a wonderful promise. There are some things in life that are wrong. No amount of arguing or rationalization can change it. And there is no temptation that we suffer concerning those wrongs that is more unusual, or stronger than those suffered by anyone else. Everyone basically faces the same temptations in life. What is important is that we don't seek them out, and if they find us, it is a matter of how well face them. The promise is, when we are tempted, the Lord always provides a way to escape the temptation. We will be warned in our hearts it is wrong and an alternative path to follow will always be offered if we are smart enough to recognize its presence, and strong enough to follow it and walk away from the temptation. Each time we do, we are stronger and our confidence in ourselves is strengthened.

Paul admonishes the saints in Corinth that they should be unified. They all partake of the same sacrament and should be the same in their faith. But they can't, as he says in verse 21, partake of the sacrament and at the same time partake of the things in the world that are wrong or sinful.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1 Corinthians 9

Verse 5 is possible evidence that wives and family members accompanied some of the apostles on their trips. In this chapter, it is obviously important to Paul that when he preaches to people, he tries to find a common ground. He wants to blend with the culture of the people he is with. This is much like our missionary work. The missionaries learn the language and live the customs of the countries they are in and come to love the unique things about the people and the places they serve in. They come home with mementos that remind them of the people and their way of life. They usually want to go back and visit and rekindle the feelings they had while serving there.

The Isthmian Games were held every two years in Corinth. To the Greeks, these games were second in importance only to the olympics. The reward for winning a race at the Isthmian Games was a crown of celery. Paul contrasts that with a winning crown of everlasting glory. Any attempt to equate their worth is ridiculous. He basically is saying, don't run the race of the world to win an reward that in the end perishes and has no value. But run the spiritual race of the gospel where the reward is a crown of everlasting life, joy and peace.

I like the Greek translation of verse 27 which says "But I rigorously discipline my body, and bring it under subjection." I hope he's just talking about spiritual discipline and not exercise!

Monday, September 21, 2009

1 Corinthians 8

Three things in this chapter impress me. One is that knowledge can lead to pride, but charity builds and strengthens. At BYU, we continually see what we call "academic arrogance." When you couple that with positions of authority, it can be very stifling. Fortunately, this sort of thing is far worse at other universities. Second, Paul's statement that there are gods many and lords many. Not having revelation and the restored scriptures, other Christians interpret this to be Roman gods and Lords. As Joseph Smith taught, it refers to the ultimate promise of exaltation possible for each person. To know the nature of God and to know that we are offspring of that nature with the same potential, is a great blessing. To view mankind as a depraved and sin-filled being from birth robs a person of his true identity. Third, Paul admonishes the saints to avoid eating meat that has been offered to idols. He says that in and of itself, the meat is harmless. But if people who are weak see a righteous person eating it, it might cause them to stumble and weaken their resolve not to associate with idol worship. Having a drink of wine with dinner, a cup of coffee with breakfast is probably harmless for the most part. It's the excess that hurts the health. But being a commandment, if a weak member of the church saw me drinking wine or coffee, it could help them to become more weak and lead them further from the church. If one commandment isn't that important to keep, neither are the others.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

1 Corinthians 7

In the past, some have misinterpreted Paul regarding marriage. Some taught that the highest spirituality could only be obtained if you remained celibate or unmarried. But Paul never taught this. It is just the opposite. This chapter is a good example. In this chapter, he is responding to questions that were sent to him about marriage and sex. He says his answers are his own, not commandments. What he teaches this in this chapter I think can summed up as follows:

1. Marriage is good. Sex is not just for procreation, but for the blessing and bonding of husbands and wives.
2. The husband and the wife are equal and should each be sensitive to and respond to the needs of the other.
3. If one spouse joins the church and the other doesn't, the member spouse can still be a blessing to the other. If the non-member spouse leaves trying to force the member spouse to choose between them and the church, the member spouse is left with no choice but to choose the church.
4. It is better to be single and be a missionary than to be married and be one because your because all of your attention will be on the work. If you're married and become a missionary, it will be like you are not married as you will have to leave everything behind. Paul was either a widower or possibly his wife left him when he converted to Christianity.
5. When Paul talks about virgins and says things like there is a difference between a wife and virgin, a better translation for virgin is fiancee.

In every instruction in the scriptures, I think the teachings will always agree with common sense. We will not be asked to believe or practice something that is extreme or strange. It will always be normal, practical, and motivating towards higher and deeper belief.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

1 Corinthians 6

In this chapter on the immorality of the Corinthians, there are two thoughts that impressed me. One was, if members of the church are living righteously, they will never have cause to be at odds with each other to the point that they have to go to the courts to settle their differences. They will be able to settle them amongst themselves, and at the worst, with their church leaders.

The other thing that impressed me is the last verse, "Ye are bought with a price." The price is the suffering the Savior went through for each of us. That tells me how much he loves us, how valued we are in his eyes. It helps me to stand a little taller, believe a little more in myself, and not be bothered by those who don't believe in me or accept me. It tells me how much I am worth and that makes me want to do a little better and be a little better. Not because of guilt. Guilt comes from unrepented major sin. And even though we always have things we mess up on, the atonement takes care of that as long as I am trying to do what is right. I want to do better because I know can. This verse gives me hope because it tells me that there is a lot more to me than what I see in myself now, and I know it will be eventually realized.

Friday, September 18, 2009

1 Corinthians 5

Paul has learned that a man has married his step mother which was against the church's laws and tells the saints he must be excommunicated. If the man is allowed to stay in the church, he is like bad leaven, or yeast, and will affect the whole church. Paul tells the saints that he cannot be responsible for governing and judging the whole world. His responsibility is to keep the church pure.

Leaven in this chapter is used as a negative influence. Usually leaven is found in the scriptures as a positive instruction from the Lord telling us that we need have a good influence on those around us. I once read a book by a medical physician who had a near death experience. One of the things he was allowed to see was the results of a simple act of kindness towards someone. His kind act resulted in the person doing something kind and the good deed multiplied 10,000 times. We should never underestimate the power that comes from be caring, concerned, and helpful. Love is still the most powerful force on the planet. And even if our kindness doesn't change anything or anyone else, it still changes us.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

1 Corinthians 4

The message of this chapter is simple, don't be prideful. Follow the apostles as they follow Christ. Paul reveals how difficult it can be for him saying even at that moment he was hungry and thirsty, that he lacked clothes, a place to stay, that he was treated roughly. He says he is thought of as a fool, that he's reviled, persecuted, defamed, and "made as the filth of the world." In verse 9, he says he thinks they are the last apostles because they will all be put to death in a manner that will be a spectacle for the world. His ministry must have been deeply rewarding but at the same time almost more difficult, more frustrating, and more painful than a person could bear. How grateful we should be for Paul. What a shame we do not have more of the other apostle's writings and experiences whose stories must have been equally inspiring.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

1 Corinthians 3

You can read verses 1-3 this way: And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual men and women, but have been forced to speak unto you as carnal men and women. Because of your immorality and the divisions among you in the church, I must speak unto you like I would young child. Because of this lack of spirituality, I can only teach you the very simple things of the gospel. I cannot teach you the more deep and meaningful things of gospel because you would not be able to understand them. And as long as there are divisions and carnality among you, you will be like all other men and women in the world.

Verses 6-9 are great missionary scriptures. Some plant seeds, some nourish those seeds, some baptize, and some nourish after baptism. It does not matter which one we do as long as we our part and realize that is God who is really bringing that person along by strengthening their testimony through the Spirit.

Verse 9 is also important for understanding that when Paul asks in verse 16, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?" He is not saying that an individual's body is the temple like you so often hear, but he is saying the church is the temple of God. In the context of these first chapters, he is warning the church in Corinth to cease being carnal and divided. Here, he says the church is holy and anyone who would seek to destroy the church through sin, apostasy or teaching false doctrine shall be destroyed. In Ephesians, he says with the church built on apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone and with the members all fitting into there places, together this comprises a holy temple unto God. In 1 Timothy, one of his last letters, he is still speaking of "the house of God, which is the church of the living God."

Once again in this chapter, he emphasizes that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world, while in reality, the wisdom of the world is foolishness unto to God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1 Corinthians 2

There is a sense of humility in Paul's words when he says that he taught the Corinthians in weakness, fear and trembling, that his words would not have been viewed as wise as far as the world goes. And that is also his point. As far as the world goes, true religion will appear naive and foolish because truth revealed by the Holy Ghost will not be understood by the worldly. To paraphrase Isaiah, their eyes are open but they see not and their ears are open but they hear not. The only way we can receive truth and understand it is through the Holy Ghost. This is good because it forces us to humble ourselves, to accept the fact that maybe we don't know very much, and to search the deep regions of our hearts. When we turn to God for our knowledge, the Holy Ghost will teach us things the rest of the world cannot understand until they prepare themselves in the same way. All worthwhile things take some effort. And like the Savior's parable of the pearl of great price, when we find the truth, it turns out to be more precious than anything else we might possess. And it enables us to know the difference between the wisdom of the world and the actual truth of all things.

My patriarchal blessing contains a promise available to everyone. It says, "Do not be disbelieving or doubtful. Whenever there comes into your mind a seeming conflict between the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the philosophies and theories which you may encounter in your life, go to your Heavenly Father in prayer and ask for guidance and with a sincere heart seek to know the truth. Your Heavenly Father will reveal the truth unto you by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost which you received at that time of your confirmation and baptism of the Spirit, and you will know the difference between the truths of eternity and the vain and erroneous philosophies and theories of men." There is not only comfort, peace and security in knowing the truths of eternity, but there comes a sense of who you are and what your place in this world is.

Monday, September 14, 2009

1 Corinthians 1

Corinth was known throughout the Roman Empire for its immorality. There was a temple to Aphrodite that overlooked the lower part of the city. Plato equated Corinthian girls with prostitutes. There are a couple of things that are interesting about 1 Corinthians. First, it isn't the first epistle from Paul to them; it is the second. The first has been lost along with their response to Paul. So what we are reading is the middle of a correspondence between Paul the Corinthian members. It's like we have walked into the middle of a conversation. Second, the Corinthian saints were not good saints. The great apostasy was already started among them with some claiming to be followers of Paul, some of Apollos, some of Cephas. They were also divided on their views of the human body. Some felt that the body should be denied of all pleasure, that sex was evil. Others felt that you should not deny the body of any pleasure. So as one commentary says, the epistles to the Corinthians are so good because the Corinthians are not.

The main message I get from chapter 1 is the importance of the church having no divisions. It becomes powerless if it struggles within itself. This is true for the church at large, for stakes, missions, wards, and for families. As soon as divisions creep in, it becomes consumed with itself and its own problems, lessening its ability to be of good influence to others. Paul, who declares his calling as an apostle for the first time in the scriptures, pleads with the brethren, the church leaders, to have no divisions amongst themselves. He tells them that it is the humble who God uses. It is those who appear to be weak because of their faith who are really the strong in the world.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Romans 15-16

In verse 4, Paul tells us that the purpose of the scriptures is to give us hope. Whenever life confronts in ways we cannot control, the only hope that brings lasting peace comes from the Lord and the scriptures are one of the quickest ways through which we can access his hope. Hope cannot be found in the world. People spend all kinds of money looking and seeking for that which they cannot find in the world. I think life's answers to questions and problems are always found in far more simple ways than we realize. It's a simple thing to read the scriptures. It's not hard to pray. And the more we pray and the more familiar we are with the scriptures, the easier it is to find the deep and meaningful things we are seeking.

In verses 9-12, Paul uses the scriptures to show how Isaiah and other prophets prophesied of the gentiles receiving the gospel. In verse 20, it appears that Paul liked to do his missionary work in places where it had never been heard, rather than go where others have already preached. He says he doesn't want to build on other men's foundations. Finally, he says he wants to go to Spain. We have no record of him going there so we don't know if he did or not.

Romans 16
This epistle to the Romans is going to be taken to them (Paul is writing this from Corinth) by Phebe, a member of the church from Cenchrea, the port town south of Corinth. She had assisted Paul in the work previously and now she's carrying his letter to Rome. Paul mentions the names of 28 people in this chapter, some of them women. Verses 7, 11 and 21 seems to indicate that some of these people were relatives. One person, Erastus, was the city treasurer in Corinth. A stone slab has been discovered that reads "Erastus, in return for his position as city treasurer, laid this pavement at his own expense." Evidently he was a wealthy and influential member of the church.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Romans 13-14

Paul continues much in the same manner, emphasizing the need to submit to church leaders, to live lives of moral purity, and to love one another. He tells us it's time to quit associating with those things that bring darkness to our lives, to wake up and enjoy the brightness of the day.

I like verses 2 and 3 in chapter 14. Health food nuts should especially take note and don't look down on me if I like my ice cream! To me, the important message in this chapter is that because of the atonement, we are the Lord's. I look at that in the sense that I can feel protected, watched over, and know each day that he is with me regardless of what I may be going through. Since I am the Lord's, if I live each day for him, I will not only be more aware of his presence in my life, I will be more at peace with myself and my life.

Paul admonishes us to treat each other equally, to not judge. I especially like his counsel that no one should put a stumbling block in someone else's way. Paul talks about meat and drink and the differences of opinion over them that caused the people to judge others. For me, that means don't let trivial things about others influence how you treat them. O shouldn't be bothered by the fetish habits and actions of others, as long as they're not sinful. Doing what they do may not help me, but maybe it helps them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Romans 12

The chapters in Romans 12-15 have been called the "Sermon on the Mount of the Epistles." There are about 50 beautiful commandments in these chapters. In chapter 12, we are told to live a life of purity as a sacrifice to the Lord or be in the world but not of it, to view all callings or positions as equally important, to not think of ourselves more highly than others. We should love sincerely, without hypocrisy, and be patient in tribulation. Verses 14 and 15 sound like he is quoting the Sermon on the Mount. He counsels us to be equal in how we treat people and associate with people from all walks of life, rich or humble. We should live peaceably and not seek revenge but leave that to the Lord.

In verse 2, he tells us that we should prove that which is good. How important it is in today's world to be able to recognize the difference between truth and falsehood. It's so easy to assume something is true, especially if we hear it from a source we trust. But the Lord expects us to test all things and by the power of the Spirit, find not only the difference between truth and error, but see things from His perspective. This enables us to keep ourselves above fray, to stand outside all the bickering of the world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Romans 11

By grace, Israel was the chosen nation. They were not selected to be a chosen people as a result of their works, but by God's will. But now through their disobedience, they have lost their privileges and these blessings have gone to the gentiles. God has not abandoned Israel, but has adopted the gentiles into the chosen nation of Israel. Paul uses the analogy of grafting wild branches into a tame tree to nourish and save the tree. The convert gentiles (grafted branches) did not change the ultimate destiny of Israel (tree). Israel is still the chosen people and the nation that will be bear the sacred covenants, the ordinances, the promises of Abraham.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Romans 10

These verses contain statements that are often misinterpreted, especially by evangelicals. For example, Paul states in verse 13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." There are many that believe that all they have to do is confess, or say, that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that person then has salvation. Following this logic, they teach that a person who has spent their life murdering, stealing, or other serious sins can confess at the point of death that Jesus is their Savior and that person will go to heaven. While another person who has lived a righteous live will be condemned to hell because they never made that confession. But even many evangelicals will say this confession only is "cheap salvation." It should be remembered that in this chapter Paul couples confession of the "word of faith" with belief. And in chapter 2 of Romans, he has already taught that true faith includes works. A person should confess their faith, we call it bearing testimony. But true faith also involves hearing and doing.

More importantly, we forget that underlying this chapter and all of Romans is the contrast between the gentiles being accepted of God and the Jews, or Israel, being rejected because of their rejection of Christ and of hearing the words of those sent to testify of him. I like what Verse by Verse, Acts through Revelation states about this chapter, "The basic message Paul attempts to convey follows a logical progression. The heavens testified of the glory of God. But the Gentiles, who were not a single nation forged by God the way the Jews were, understood better than Israel did. Israel itself is responsible for its rejection by God owing to disobedience.

Romans 9

Evangelicals like to use verse 29-30 in chapter 8 and chapter 9 to show how God chooses some for salvation and leaves the rest to damnation. They follow the teachings of John Calvin, a protestant reformer who wrote, "By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wised to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, and others to eternal damnation. And accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or to death."

In my mind, this is a damnable doctrine and places limits on God's mercy and love. He loves all of his children. A God who would create children for the sole purpose of placing them in hell cannot be God. It is Satan who wishes to see God's children in hell and this false doctrine places God on the same level has Satan. This is a very conceited doctrine conceived in minds that have narrowed the vision of God by their own ignorance.

Paul is explaining to the Jews and their priesthood leadership that their lineage back to Abraham does not guarantee them salvation any more than the Law of Moses can save them. Man cannot determine who is saved, but God does and he makes that decision based on man's faith and obedience. With Israel's failure to accept the gospel, God had not failed since the gentiles can now be adopted into the house of Israel through their faith and obedience. Joseph Smith said this, "The whole of the chapter had reference to the Priesthood and the house of Israel; and unconditional election of individuals to eternal life was not taught by the Apostles. God did elect or predestinate, that all those who would (desire to) be saved, should be saved in Christ Jesus, and through obedience to the Gospel; but He passes over no man's sins, but visits them with correction, and if His children will not repent of their sins, He will discard them."

The problem comes when there is no understanding (like with Calvin) of a pre-mortal life. Because of obedience in the pre-mortal life, some are pre or fore-ordained to the House of Israel. They are chosen to be born into the church and fore-ordained to the priesthood and positions of leadership because of obedience in the pre-mortal life. They were chosen to take God's work and word to all of his other children. Some has to do this work and how would God choose who that would be? He would choose those who had been obedient to his word. But this does not limit the chance of salvation for any of God's children, and it does not guarantee salvation for the those who were fore-ordained in the pre-mortal life. We all must be obedient and faithful or the promise of salvation and exaltation are not in effect.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Romans 8

Chapter 8 is one of my very favorites in all of Acts and the epistles. There is so much to be gained from a close reading of it. If we live so that we follow the Spirit, we experience a regeneration, we become a new person; we are reborn. When that happens, we are no longer under condemnation because the atonement cleanses us on a continual basis. This brings a great sense of freedom. That's why Paul says that the "Spirit is life because of righteousness." And not only life more abundantly here, but eternal life.

Verses 14-18 clearly state that we are children of God. As we allow the Spirit to guide our lives, the Holy Ghost testifies to us that we are his sons and daughters. And though we suffer in this life in many ways, (and the Roman Christians will eventually suffer in unbelievable ways), Paul tells us that the suffering in this life cannot be "compared to the glory that shall be revealed in us."

Sometimes we do not always know with the certainty that we would like. But this is a gospel of faith. And Paul tells us that when we follow the Spirit, it is easier to wait patiently for that knowledge. And here is something that is very profound and deeply moving if you think about it. The Spirit will help us bear "our infirmities," helps us to pray for the right things. Sometimes there just aren't any words to express what we feel. Words won't come. We may feel incapable of even knowing what to say. It is then that the Spirit prays for us, expressing for us the feelings of our hearts in ways that words cannot express. That shows me how deeply our Father in Heaven cares us about us, how much he cares about what we feel and experience.

And finally, the message to the Romans saints, who in years to come will suffer in unimaginable ways under the hands of the Roman government, and the message is also a beautiful one to all of us, there is nothing that can separate us from Christ's love. He says even if they or we are led to the slaughter like sheep, which the Romans Christians were, they will come off conquerors. Sheep are the only animals that submit peacefully to their slaughter. They do not protest in anyway. This is what the Christians did then, it is what Paul did when he was put to death, it is what Joseph Smith did. And it is what the Savior did. We, fortunately, do not face that kind of opposition. But the world opposes us in spiritually violent ways. It seeks to destroy us spiritually which is a far greater death. To all who suffer, Paul reminds us that there is nothing,"neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, not 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."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Romans 7

This is a very a confusing chapter to read and I think that is the reason that you find the entire JST translation of the chapter in the appendix of the Bible. And the JST makes it so much easier to understand.

First Paul says that the Law of Moses is like a deceased husband. The wife is no longer bound to him when he is dead. In the King James version, Paul exclaims that he is a wretched man, battling the flesh and sin, struggling to overcome weaknesses. It reminds me of Nephi in 2 Nephi 4 saying "O wretched man that I am." But at the same time righteous Nephi says "I know in whom I have trusted." Paul and Nephi are obviously alike in this. They are great and righteous men who still who were able to conquer their personal weaknesses and enemies. The good thing about the JST is, is makes it clear that Paul was a carnal person when he lived under the Law of Moses, that the law did him no good. But the coming of Christ changed him. If he had lived righteously under the law, that was good. But even though he was under the law, he was still in sin. The King James version of this chapter presents a different Paul, one the contradicts the rest of Acts and his epistles. I’m grateful that rather than presenting Paul as a person still steeped in sin, the JST shows him to be someone who has overcome all because of the gospel.

The lesson for me is there are laws in the world that if I follow them, that is good. But they will not change me as a person in the same manner that the gospel can. The laws of the world do not help me to conquer my weaknesses, overcome temptation, and emerge a new man through the Savior. But through the Savior, I can overcome all things

Friday, September 4, 2009

Romans 6

Chapter 6 is a beautiful chapter that contrasts the freedom that comes from living righteously to the deadly consequences of sin. Paul first explains how our baptism is in similitude to the death and resurrection of Christ. We are buried in the water as he was buried in the tomb. And as he came forth a perfect resurrected being, we come forth a new person, cleansed and free from sin. And just as death has no more control of the Savior's existence, sin will no more have control over us. We are free from it. People who have struggled with weakness and addiction, when it is overcome, experience a wonderful sense of freedom and control in their life. Rather than feeling to dead to life, they feel more alive, more energetic, and see life through a new set of eyes. In verses 12 and 13, Paul says to not "let sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof....but yield yourselves unto God as those are alive from the dead." He asks who we are the servants of, sin or righteousness? The wages of sin is death, spiritual death or alienation from God for sure, but dead to the good things in life as well. The wages of righteousness brings freedom and God's gift of eternal life. Then Paul says, we will see fruit or rewards in holiness. We will be emancipated, freed, through the life-giving powers of the Atonement.

Two other important things are implied in this chapter. One is the importance of complete immersion when we are baptized. Sprinkling is hardly symbolic of the Savior's burial. We must be immersed. The other thing is that Paul says we will be in the likeness of his resurrection. When the resurrected Savior appeared to the apostles and others in a room, he said, "Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." His resurrection is what ours will be. Not just the chance to live after our death, but to have a perfect eternal body.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Romans 5

Chapter 5 can fill every person with hope and comfort. It explains that regardless of the sin, the Savior's atonement brings peace and freedom. Because of Adam's transgression, sin and death entered the world. We can't escape either one and we cannot escape the terrible price we would have to pay for our sins after this life were it not for the Savior. But we should be so grateful that there is justice, that there is a price that has to be paid for sin. There are some people in this life who do terrible, unspeakable things. There will come a time when they will realize fully the extent of what they have done and what it has done to the lives of others and they will have to suffer and pay the full price for what they have done. This life would be so pointless if these kinds of people never paid that price. But if justice is going to exist, it has to exist for everyone.

I think there are two dimensions to the paying the price of our sins. One is consequences and one is justice. When we sin, we cannot escape the consequences of our wrong choices and how those choices affect our lives and the lives of others. The atonement does not remove the consequences of our choices. In this life, we must learn from our mistakes and if the consequences of our mistakes were removed, we would never learn. Justice says that after this life, a price must be paid for our sins. We must suffer for them. With the atonement, the Savior paid that price for us. We will not have to suffer guilt and shame or endure any suffering. He was merciful and did that so we would not have to. How ever extensive the sins, the affect of his grace goes beyond that. Instead of death being a terrible thing with terrible suffering to follow, it will be sweet.

To appreciate what the Savior has done, we have to understand the fall. We have to understand the nature of our existence and our helplessness to do anything about our own fallen state without Him. I am so grateful for him, grateful to know what he has done, but grateful too to know that there is a higher purpose in life. That my life has a purpose and a reason for being.

Verses 3-5 also give me comfort. Tribulation brings us patience. Then patience brings us experience (which is why we are here). Experience brings hope and hope opens the door for the love of God to fill our hearts through the Holy Ghost. I should do better at realizing how important it is to live my life so that the Holy Ghost can not only do that for me, but fulfill all of the other wonderful promises that come with his companionship.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Romans 4

Romans 4
One of the difficult things with this chapter, and all of Romans for that matter, is the style of language and the way it was translated. I find it to be confusing and difficult. The contrast Paul is making is between being justified (pronounced clean and worthy for salvation, to be acceptable to God) by the Law of Moses and circumcision, or being justified by righteousness and the condition of the heart. The Jews in Rome are evidently still making the argument that it was by the law that Abraham was justified, because he was circumcised (the sign and covenant that a man was dedicated to God). Paul is saying that it is by the grace of Christ that those who have faith and works are justified. We look at faith and works as two sides of the same coin, but neither of those can bring about justification without the grace of Christ. All three are part of the same equation. Look at the JST of verse 16.

Verse 15 says that where there is no law, there is no transgression. Nephi's words are, where there is no law, there is no punishment. There is always a transgression because a law has been broken. Even though everyone has the Light of Christ and knows right from wrong, in some cases, the Savior's atonement removes the punishment because sin is not imputed to the person. Adam and Eve transgressed one law to keep another law. One law was transgressed, eating the fruit, but it was not a sin. There were consequences of the transgressed law, they were cast out of the Garden of Eden, but those consequences did not affect their salvation.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Romans 3

these first 18 or so verses, I think Paul is telling us that no matter how many good works we accumulate, we can never earn a place in heaven without the Savior's help (grace). If we could live a perfect life and never do anything wrong, then maybe we wouldn't need Christ's atonement. But like he says in verse 23, every single person has sinned and fallen short. We were not born sinners. But the fall of Adam placed in a fallen, mortal world where sin rules because of Satan. And we being mortal, sin. There is not one of us who has not sinned in the past and not one of us who will not sin the future. That's the whole points of the Book of Mormon. It's about a fallen people who must be redeemed by a Savior. We cannot resurrect ourselves and we cannot remove our own sin.

So then someone could ask, "If we're going to sin anyway, why bother keeping the commandments?" I think we keep the commandments so that we can become more God-like in nature. As we refine our thoughts, our speech and our actions, we become more kind, more thoughtful, more loving, more able to embrace truth and true principles, and we become more able to help bless those around us. As we make the effort to live this way, the Holy Ghost sanctifies us, cleanses us, and we begin to better understand our divine worth. Then we're better able to understand the divine worth of every person around us and see and understand them the way God sees and understands them. If God's work is totally dedicated to saving and exalting us, then our work should be to lift others in a similar manner. If it is the most fulfilling and rewarding way for God to live , it is undoubtedly the most fulfilling way we can live too.