Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Philippians 2 and 3: Great Passages to Remember

Philippians 2 and 3 have some highly interesting passages for LDS folks (OK, for everybody). On the issue of faith and works, for example, Phil. 2:12 is a verse that caused one of my evangelical friends, an avid student of the Bible, to say, "What? Is that really in the Bible?" It is Paul's plea that fellow Christians continue obeying not just in his presence, but especially in his absence. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" was the part that rocked my friend.

Earlier in Phil. 2, we learn that Christ was in the "form" of God - one of those many passages referring to the physical image of God, an image that is gloriously divine but unmistakably human in appearance (in spite of centuries of denial). [Correction: Based on helpful comments to this post, I may have been wrong in assuming that the use of "form" referred to Christ's physical image. It may make more sense if His nature is meant. Yes, the "form" of God in v. 6 is parallel to being made in "the likeness of men" in v. 7, but both may refer to nature.] It also teaches the separate nature of Christ and God and hints at the divine potential of man in verses 5-10.

Then see Phil. 3:21, where we again encounter the corporeal nature of God [i.e., the corporeal nature of God the Son], and learn that our bodies can become like His - another reference to the divine potential of man.

Phil 3:12-15 has always been helpful to me in explaining to others the relationship between salvation and works. It teaches that we must press forward and not think that we have already become perfect. We must reach out and "apprehend" Christ just as he reaches out and apprehends (grabs) us - indicative of the two-way covenant aspect of salvation.

4 comments:

Greg said...

I hope you don't mind my asking questions on these issues as a non-Mormon. It helps me better to understand LDS beliefs.

Earlier in Phil. 2, we learn that Christ was in the "form" of God - one of those many passages referring to the physical image of God, an image that is gloriously divine but unmistakably human in appearance

This reading confuses me. The LDS Church teaches that Jesus had no corporeal body until he was born of Mary, right? In that case, if we are to take the word "form" in the physical sense, how can this passage mean that the Heavenly Father has a corporeal body?

This is what your reasoning seems to be saying (I'm probably misunderstanding, so please correct me): Jesus had a spirit body before his mortal birth. Then he took on human flesh. So according to Paul, with his spirit body he was in the form of God and then Jesus took on a corporeal body (v. 7). Would this then mean that God has a spirit body but not a corporeal body? Your point was that Jesus' being in the form of God means that his spirit body was the same shape as his Father's corporeal body. If that's the case, then what does Paul mean in verse 7? How does he take on a form he already has?

This seems to be the inevitable meaning if you choose to read the phrase "in the form of" as similarity of shape rather than similarity of nature.

It also teaches the separate nature of Christ and God and hints at the divine potential of man in verses 5-10.

Just for the record, this isn't news to traditional Christians.

Non-Mormon Christianity teaches that Christ and God the Father are distinct persons, and that man can participate in the divine nature (called theosis in the Greek Church, deification in the Latin Church).

Then see Phil. 3:21, where we again encounter the corporeal nature of God, and learn that our bodies can become like His

This is the verse in question: "Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body"

Am I missing something? The antecedent of "who" and "his" is clearly Jesus Christ (the last two words of the previous verse). How is this a proof-text that God the Father has a glorified body?

Notwithstanding, I agree with you that Philippians does not support the Protestants' "faith alone" concept of salvation.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you Greg; I think Jeff is wrong in his assumptions and interpretations this time around (I think that's a pretty rare thing, though). Phil. 2 says "being in the form of God...took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." I too think this statement has absolutely nothing to do with the corporeal nature of God. It instead must refer to Christ sharing the Father's nature as God. His physical form, in LDS doctrine, has not changed from the beginning (except I guess when he was a baby?). So thus, taking on the form of a servant must mean becoming mortal and humble and completely doing the will of the Father. "Likeness of men" I would suggest means that he became mortal, became "un-glorious" so others could look upon him with their natural eyes.

Phil. 3 does refer to Christ and not to the Father at all. Our bodies will become resurrected, immortal, and glorified like that of Jesus Christ. Yet I think you may be able to extrapolate this into the suggestion that the Father also has a body, because otherwise it makes no sense. Christ and the Father are one: they have the same power, the same nature. Why would Christ have a "glorious body" in heaven, but not the Father? To me that wouldn't make sense.

That is why I think we can and should stick to latter-day revelation to confirm to us that the Father does indeed have an immortal body. There are passages such as Acts 7:55-56 where Stephen sees Christ on the right hand of the Father, which seem to suggest that the Father has a form, a body of some sort. Combining all scripture together, it makes perfect sense that the Father has a body. Yet, I think it is hard to come to that conclusion simply from the Bible alone. You have to gain a testimony of the restored gospel for yourself, through reading the Book of Mormon and believing that Joseph Smith was called to restore the church left by the early apostles such as Peter and Paul. Once you have faith that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, then you can believe Joseph Smith's teachings, including that the Father has a body of flesh and bone.

Mormanity said...

Good points - I see I may be wrong about the implications of "the form of God" and have made a correction in my post.

For Phil. 3:21, yes, it obviously refers to Christ, but in His glorified and resurrected state. Since Christ is God (understand what is meant by the scriptures here), the fact that He has a resurrected physical body in Whose image we are created does indeed tell us something about the corporeal nature of God. Does it necessarily define God the Father's nature? No, but it certainly refers to the glorious body of God the Son, and states that He will change our bodies to be like His. And these are powerful, amazing bodies that help Him subdue all things unto Himself. Of course, since the Son is like the Father and is One with Him and descended from Him, it should be no surprise that we are also created in the physical image of God the Father.

Stephen said...

Enjoyed the comments and the essay. Thanks, I'll be sharing them with another blogger.