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

Sunday, July 08, 2007

LDS/Biblical Christianity and John 17

In spite of our belief in and use of the Bible, some critics like to say that Latter-day Saints are nonbiblical. OK, we have our flaws, but nonbiblical? The critics see themselves as the only "biblical Christians," a term that seems to apply only to those who interpret selected verses of the Bible in exactly the same way as they do. An irony, of course, is that the most common arguments for our "nonbiblical" status are based on our refusal to accept extra-biblical creeds crafted several centuries after the last New Testament writing. And these creeds rely on terms and concepts that are arguably foreign to the Bible (I mean you won't find those terms there - I know one can argue that they are rooted in or extrapolated from the Bible).

For those who have heard that we are nonbiblical, it might be helpful to sit down with an informed Latter-day Saint and go over multiple chapters of the Bible and and discuss each other's views. I think honest people will come away from the exercise feeling that "nonbiblical" may be a terribly inaccurate term, in spite of differences in interpretation. Perhaps you would say that we are overly literal or too fundamental or give the most weight to the wrong sections, but we are not "nonbiblical." We study and use and turn to the Bible as a basic part of our religion. There is plenty of room to differ in our interpretations, but a difference in interpretation is not a meaningful reason for branding someone who loves the Bible as "nonbiblical."

Today in Sunday School we discussed John 17. I'd like to offer my comments on some of its verses to point out how LDS themes really do resonate with the Bible, though others are allowed to disagree and interpret otherwise, without necessarily losing your status as Christians, biblical Christians, or human beings.

Here is John 17, with my comments:

1 These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:

2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.

3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Latter-day Saints love this verse and quote it frequently, in my experience. We also often comment that in Hebrew or Aramaic, the verb "to know" (yada) can imply a close, covenant relationship. It is not enough to just intellectually know Who God is. Rather, the Bible urges us have a close, intimate, covenant relationship. And note the reference to two Beings: God the Father AND Jesus Christ, Whom God sent. While this can be rationalized in terms of the later Trinity concept from the post-biblical creeds, it's much easier to construe this clear and simple language as referring to one Being, God the Father, and a second Being, His Son. Yes, they are one, but the question is how? We will address that in a moment.
4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
Yes, Christ was sent by the Father to carry out the Father's work. He is reporting on His stewardship to the Father, Who, as Christ said, is "greater than" the Son (John 14:28). All very solid LDS themes.
5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
Jesus Christ here refers to his premortal status with the Father before being born with mortal attributes on earth. Latter-day Saints believe that the title Jehovah/YHWH in the Old Testament typically refers to the premortal Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Creator under the direction of the Father, with Christ being one of the plural Beings in the "we" and "us" of Genesis 1:26,27 when "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" - a reference to the very Biblical concept that the physical image of God resembles that of man.
6 I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
An approving reference to believers who have "kept" the commandments. No surprise here, since when Jesus was asked what one should do to obtain eternal life, His answer was, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matt. 19:17) Shhh! That kind of talk can get a believer branded as a non-biblical cultist these days.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.

8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.

9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
No objections here.
11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Stop the presses. Did He just say what I think He said? Is Christ praying that Christians might be one as Christ and the Father are one? Could that have implications on the nature of the oneness of the Godhead? Hmmm, that sounds suspiciously LDS - must be a fluke in the translation of this passage.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.

13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
Right - Christians must not be surprised at rough treatment from the world, whether it's from the press, Hollywood, governments, or even from so-called Christian ministers.
15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
The Lord is praying that those who have already accepted him might be kept from evil. I fully agree. Our free agency is not taken away when our sins are. We can still turn from the Savior and deny Him.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
The word of God is not described as previously written words alone, but conveys the notion of that which God speaks. If we accept God as the source of truth, then what right do we have to tell Him that He may speak no more and that no more of His word is needed? We must be willing to accept the words of God - now and in the past.
18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.

19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Look, there it is again. The Lord is driving this point home: Christians are to be one as Christ and the Father are one. We are to be "in" them as they are "in" one another. The unity that we can and should have is being described as similar to the unity and oneness of the Father and the Son. The unity in John 17 it is not the unity extolled by Greek philosophers - a unity of substance, an incorporeal, metaphysical unity utterly foreign to beings with tangible bodies of matter (matter being utterly despised by the Greek philosophers as far too impure and limiting for God, who had to be immaterial only, not spirit clothed in a body) - but a unity that must be a unity of purposes, heart, and intent. Understanding this makes sense of numerous passages of scripture, such as Acts 7:55,56, where Stephen before his death saw God the Father with the Son standing at his right hand. Two Beings - in whose image we are created. This is precious knowledge, truly biblical knowledge, restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
Christ looks forward to unity beyond the unity we can experience here in mortality, but a unity with God and Christ in the glory of the presence of the Father, where we will be one with them. Once again, our oneness with each other and with them is described as at least similar in nature to their oneness.
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Any guess as to how many pages of anti-Mormon literature have been written explaining that the Mormon quest to "be made perfect" is nonbiblical and non-Christian? See also Matthew 5:48, where the Lord commands us to seek to be "perfect."
24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
Christ wants us to return to the presence of the Father to be with Christ - as if there is reference to a real, even physical location - where we will see Christ in His glory. And there is a reference to Christ's premortal role. All very LDS concepts.
25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.


I found nothing to disagree with in this powerful intercessory prayer of the Savior, and found many themes that resonate well with LDS doctrine. Nevertheless, our biblical and Christian status is often denied by our critics on the basis of the doctrines that I found so consistent with aspects of John 17. I hope they will at least recognize some of the post-biblical traditions they bring to the table were not visibly on the table in the room at the Last Supper, where this intercessory prayer was probably given (per Alfred Edersheim).

27 comments:

Adam said...

Eh, this one was just too long for me to read....

Jordan said...

Recently I was informed that believing that Christ suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane (rather than solely on the cross, I suppose) is "nonbiblical."

Are they, then, very confused by Luke 22? I'd love to hear your take on this (perhaps after next week's lesson?).

RubberDucky said...

Adam, This is the 1st one I read.

Jeff, right on man! I love that chapter. It'LDS sounding to be sure....

a little guy said...

Jeff,

Interesting article! One problem, your analysis of Matt 19 is very weak. Read it in context, specifically vs. 20-28. The rich man tells Jesus he has kept the commandments, and Jesus goes on to explain it's not enough. Not to mention the numerous other passages that where Christ demonstrates salvation by grace through faith alone. And try Romans 3:21-28 for a discussion on justification. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Impossible to work hard enough for Godliness, sir!

I noticed more errors but I will leave it at that.

Russell said...

"Not to mention the numerous other passages that where Christ demonstrates salvation by grace through faith alone."

I like the general spirit of what you said, but I am afraid I see a serious case of an out-of-context scripture.

Matt. 19: 21--AFter telling him that commandment-keeping isn't enough, what does he do? GIVE HIM A COMMANDMENT to go give everything to be poor. Further still, he tells him in doing so he will be perfect. While we may disagree on the meaning of this injunction, leaving it out and simply claiming that Christ said commandments aren't enough really does distort the scripture and therefore is not in good taste.

Of course, I don't maintain philanthropy godliness makes, but I do suggest that Christ does give us commands and he expects us to obey (Matt. 7:21-23, JOhn 14:15--and the apostles' writings abound: the epistle of James, 2 Pet. chpt. 1 on the acquisition of godly attributes, 2 Pet. 3:18 on how we are commanded, paradoxically, to "grow in grace", even Romans 2:13 suggests that the doers of the word will be justified).

No, my friend, you left out a key part of that verse. Hopefully, this omission is not indicative of how evangelical bloggers operate. I only say that because when I was on Tim Ellsworth's blog, one poster did exactly the same thing, only with my post. He quoted only the part that could be twisted and left out the part that expressed my belief in Christ's role as the Creator.

Not exactly a consoling idea...

Shawn said...

Dang Russell, you beat me to Romans... :)

While trying to be "biblical" in my Sunday scripture reading, Romans 2 came accross with more meaning due the Grace v. Works posts over the past few months.

Regarding justification and/or the justified, I figured I just post the scripture.

Romans 2 (KJV)
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

-Shawn

texasspirit314 said...

This reminds me of the scene from Hitchhiker’s Guide where Deep Thought tells the Universe that the Ultimate Answer is 42. Even if the Bible is God’s word, there’s too much room for interpretation for us to know what he’s talking about.

nathanielmacrae said...

Haha! I love Douglas Adams! =)

Anonymous said...

I can not belive that those who are knowledgeable in the scripture are still going over something that covers both grace, faith and works. If you want to work, work if you don't want to don't: then just live by faith.

Ryan said...

This is a really unpolished thought, but it more or less reflects what I've been pondering for the last few days:

No mortal can even imagine the perfection required to achieve salvation solely through Law and Justice. (i.e. works cannot save us).

However, Christ did exactly that, and further chose to take our sins and burdens upon Himself. Because of the Atonement Christ is capable of shielding us from Justice and the Law (saving us), and healing us, under whatever terms He chooses.

He chooses to bestow the gift of resurrection on everyone on earth, even the most evil. He also unconditionally forgives those who sin in ignorance (the young, the handicapped, the sincere "heathen"). However, for those of us to whom much is given, much is required; He has laid out commandments and ordinances we must obey in order to receive (or show that we accept?) His gift.

These commandments and ordinances seem to fall into two categories: things that remind us of Him and our commitments to Him, and things that encourage us to grow and be more like Him. Maybe He wants us to become the type of people who would actually enjoy living in Heaven...

We therefore find ourselves in a state where we are most definitely saved by grace (if Christ were not there, living the gospel would be utterly meaningless), but still have plenty of "work" to do.

Oh, and Christ's grace is also the enabling power that allows us to even do the "more doable" things that He asks of us.

Maybe that's the "easy yoke" of Matt. 11:28-30:

28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


Consider the Israelites bitten by fiery serpents: It certainly took some effort to drag your poisoned body across the camp to... look at a stick (!). Staring at sticks does not generally cure snake venom, but this time it was the condition upon which the gift of healing hinged. It also fell squarely in the "remind us of Christ" category of commandments:

Behold, he [Christ] was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live. But few understood the meaning of those things.... (Alma 33:19-20).

Anonymous said...

Works do not save us they just prove what side we are on and how strong our commitment is.

Anonymous said...

I will go then go not. I will not go the go and do his will. Doing his will may not save us but our faith alone will only get us to the door but actions are needed to open it to help Him with His work.

Anonymous said...

In that day Christ does not present before men the great work He has done for them in giving His life for their redemption. He presents the faithful work they have done for Him. To those whom He sets upon His right hand He will say, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me." But those whom Christ commends know not that they have been ministering unto Him. To their perplexed inquiries He answers, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me." Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.

Anonymous said...

Even the woman caught in adultery was not told "just have faith in Me" but "go thy way and sin no more."

Mormanity said...

Since LDS doctrines on obedience and commandment keeping are still one of the most frequently cited reasons for calling us nonbiblical, unchristian, etc., and since many people have been deceived by these arguments, it is helpful to keep reminding people of what the scriptures actually say, no matter how old and worn the long-resolved debate may seem to some.

Mormanity said...

Anon @ 3:09 AM:

Regarding the passage from Matthew 25 about the great day of judgment and the actions that separate the goats from the sheep, perhaps you are using a different Bible. Here's the authoroatative NHR version (New Highly Revised ):

". . . inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I quizzed thee on the nature of the Godhead, and thy answers were metaphysically correct; and I interrogated thee on thy understanding of grace, and thy theology was accurate."

a little guy said...

Russell - granted, context matters. Read Christ's clarification in Luke 6:43-48.

Shaun - put in some time to understand James. It's carefully (if awkwardly) explained there, brother.

Shawn said...

Hi A Little Guy!

OK, I'll reread James...



On a side note, I guess it doesn't matter much anymore as now all of our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters can now be grouped as "cults". The Pope has clairified that Protestant and other Christian denominations are "merely ecclesial communities" that do "not have the 'means of salvation'".

The reasoning behind this is that the "communities" can't be "'churches' in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession" and thus do not have the proper authority.

See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19692094/

:)

Wait a second! Peter, James, and John restored the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Which means the LDS Church has "apostolic succession". Who knew?!?!?

Guess we'll need to start letting others know they're not Christian! :)

-Shawn

Russell said...

Little guy--

A great set of verses; in fact, you sound like a Mormon. We even have a primary song based on verse 48 (I know, I know, because we're Mormons, we MUST be taking it out of context, corrupting scriptures, etc. etc.) It's odd that you select those verses as a "context" given that 1) Christ did not say them in relationship to the situation you cited and 2) these verses don't change the fact that you still left out a key portion of the scripture (an unintentional omission, I hope).

So, I wonder, why did you choose a paasage that is such a paragon of LDS doctrine? Cuz this demonstrates yet again how little practical difference between the evangelical and LDS positions on the grace/works issue.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this whole debate on Grace and Works. They are both needed. How can anyone say they are not. We have to strive to be the best we can. This takes work, but no matter how good of a person we become. In accepting Christ we accept the challange of trying to become one with Him. This is constant work. Just about every evening I ponder the day. I think and pray about things that I would have liked to have said or done different. I have hope and faith that these imperfections will slowly fade away out of my life. I have hope that with WORK when I am an old man a lot of these things that seem to side track me away from Him will not anymore. This is work..... but I realize as do many other of my LDS friends, that it takes more than that. No matter how rightous we become we will always be unprofitable servants. Aren't we all beggers?.. This is were grace comes in. We need Him. We can't do it without Him. I love Him and want to be with Him. I accept Him as my Savior,.....but it can't just stop there.

Mike Bennion said...

Jeff, this was my take on the same Sunday School Lesson:

This blog entry is found at:

http://truthrestored.townhall.com/Default.aspx

JOHN CHAPTERS 13-17 LOVE, COMMANDMENTS AND BECOMING ONE WITH GOD
Sunday, June 24, 2007 9:10 PM

by Mike Bennion

Today in Sunday School we discussed the Book of John Chapters 13-17. I had some thoughts that I believe are germaine to the topics we are considering here. I thought I would share them. I am using the New Inspired Version of the Bible in deference to my Orthodox Christian friends.

It is the last evening that Jesus has with his Apostles. Before this night is over he will suffer the beginning pangs of the Atonement, and will be betrayed into the hands of wicked men, who will falsely accuse and judge him. Tomorrow he will be stripped, beaten, crowned with a crown of thorns, carry his cross up the Via Dolorosa and be crucified between two thieves. Jesus knows all this is coming. It is the last opportunity to teach his disciples before his death.

As dinner is being served, Jesus "...took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." (John 13:4-5)

Can you feel what it must have been like had you been one of the disciples? Imagine the King and ruler of heaven and earth kneeling at your feet, washing the dust and filth of the roads of Jerusalem off them, and drying them ever so gently.

Peter, was confused and embarrassed! This was his master, the Messiah--the Son of the living God, soiling his knees on the floor while doing the task of a menial. "No", said Peter, "You shall never wash my feet." (John 13:8 ) He was horrified that Jesus would demean himself in this way.

Jesus looked tenderly, but firmly into Peter's eyes. "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." (John 13:8) Peter's eyes swam with tears as he cried, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" (John 13:9)

After Jesus finished washing his disciples feet he returned to the table and taught them concerning what he had done.

"Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus had shown love by action. He didn't just say that he loved his disciples. He showed them by washing their feet. He humbled himself before them. If they were to follow him they must do things that showed their love and faith in him.

After Judas Iscariot was revealed as he that would betray Jesus and left, Jesus was ready to teach even higher truths.

"Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him,[c] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. (John 13:31-32)

Jesus would give glory to God the Father by atoning for the sins of men, God would be glorfied in his son by accepting that sacrifice. He alone could do this. No man could follow him there, yet there were things that men could do to show thier love and faith for him.

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35)

How did Jesus say we are to love? As he did. We follow his example in everything. What Jesus did, we do. His example is our guide. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) We cannot come to Christ unless we follow his example. He is the way. He is God. "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;" (John 14:11) We will discuss this unity when we consider Chapter 17.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12)

What does Jesus say? "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing".
So faith is not just an abstract concept, but a concrete principle demonstrated by doing.
"If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15) "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21) "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. (John 14:23-24)
26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Let's recap: We show love and faith for Jesus and his Father by obeying their commandments and teachings. the Holy Ghost will teach or reveal what we should do. If we do those things the Father and Son will come and dwell with us.

Now Jesus teaches how we are saved

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:1-4)

Jesus says that the branches that are cut off are those that "bear no fruit" that is, they do not do the works Jesus commands. Even those disciples that do his works will be tried and tested to allow them to grow and do even more. Once a branch is cut off from Christ, due to a lack of faith manifested by failing to keep his commandments, it cannot live or bear fruit apart from him.

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8)

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. (John 15:9-14)

So Jesus says that we are to remian in his love by keeping his commandments; by doing his will, as he does the Father's will.

1"All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. 2They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. 3They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you. I did not tell you this at first because I was with you. (John 16:1-4)

Those who are not "in the vine" or who do not keep God's commandments will persecute and even kill those who do. and these will think that they are right and do God a great service.

As we try do do God's will, we must not be surprised--we must even expect oppostion and persecution from those who do not understand Jesus' teachings and commandments, and who fail to do them.

Now, just before he goes out to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sons of men, Jesus offers the great Intercessoary Prayer.

3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Those who teach that God is not to be known or comprehended, that he is a great mustery, are teaching contrary to the plain words of Jesus. If we do not know God and his son we cannot have eternal life. And we know them by keeping their commandments.

6"I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:6-11)


We learn from these verses that those given to Christ by God the Father have known Him by REVELATION or they cannot know him at all. The son is revealed to them because they obeyed the Father's word given through the Son. They are protected by the Father by his name, the same name he gave the Son and they become one with the Father and the Son.

This raises a question?

If we are to be one with the Father and the Son, How is the Son one with the Father?

17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.


Jesus Prays for All Believers
20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25"Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:20-26)

Jesus says that those who are "One with him" are one in the same way that he is "one with the Father" According to Jesus they share the same glory, the same love and the same unity. It says nowhere here that they share the same body. They do share all that the Father has. So Jesus shares glory, love and unity with the Father, and we share Jesus glory, love and unity.

We are children and joint heirs with him. (Romans 8) We sit with him in his throne (Revelation 3) We become like him. (1 John 3) We are created in the Image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) So according to the Bible and the plain words of Jesus we become as God now is if we love him and keep his commandments, thus showing faith in him we abide in him and he abides in the Father.

mike bennion said...

by the way I was on a mission to Norway so it is pretty interesting to have these instructions in Norwegian

Anonymous said...

Commandments, commandments: Even after Christ sent the crowd away with "Any without sin cast the first stone" He told the woman to go thy way and sin no more. What a commandment. Sin no more.

michael bennion said...

Indeed, commandments. The women was commanded to repent. Repentence is not genuine if the person never breaks free from the sin. The Savior tells us over and over again to keep his commandments and tells us that this is the only way to be of "the vine" and he IS the vine.

Anonymous said...

Michael B: Why do our detractors in the evangelical community equate our emphasis on commandment-keeping with "works" ?

I always thought that "works" or "works of the law" as the apostle Paul wrote about were performances of the Mosaic Law, especially those that were done away with, such as sacrifices.

We don't preach the Mosaic Law. We are in agreement with all of Christendom that the performances of the Mosaic Law have been done away with.

So why are they accusing us of believing in "salvation by works"?

Anonymous said...

Jordon: (9:34pm, July 08), The only clue in Luke 22 is verse 44:

(KJV) "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground."

That doesn't explain much. It doesn't explain the degree of agony, or the cause of the agony. If all one had to go on was the Bible, then one might say that the agony was due to foreseeing his crucifixion.

Various biblical scholars and translators have had disagreements as to whether verse 44 means he actually sweat blood or not.

The LDS position that the Lord _actually_ sweat blood was revealed to LDS prophets, starting with Joseph Smith as he clarified it in his translation of the Bible.

And the belief that the actual atonement started in Gethsemane was also given to LDS prophets by revelation. It is not something that LDS scholars have deduced soley from the KJV Bible.

Much of Paul's writings focus on the cross. And I can't think of anything in Acts or the epistles that refers to the Lord's suffering in Gethsemane as the atonement or the beginning of the atonement. So I don't think we can fault our Christian brothers in other churches for thinking that the atonement was solely on the cross.

However, I don't think the biblical account can logically be construed as to disallow the LDS teachings on the matter, either. There is room for both interpretations in the biblical account.

MG said...

Looking at the comments I had to do a double take to see if I had clicked the wrong article. The original post was concerning John 17, and then we're off in the weeds talking about faith and works and Matt 19.

I have always thought that John 17 was the most powerful chapter in favor of the LDS view on the Godhead. Unlike other references that are usually single-verse references that can be interpreted one way or another, this is a full discourse that again and again elucidates the Savior's intent of the description "one". He says it multiple times. The LDS view is best defended by a literal reading of this chapter and a literal reading of praying to heaven, "touch me not, I have not yet ascended", "no one good but one, that is God (when they try to call Christ good)", etc.

These verses have to be construed to fit the God of the creeds. We have to basically say they don't mean what they say. John 17 makes the creeds very hard to justify.

It should not be the LDS that have to explain why they don't consider 4th century creeds essential to Bible interpretation, but the 4th century creeds have to justify by what authority they take a clear chapter such as John 17 and explain it away. There was not a single prophet or apostle in any of the creedal councils. No scholar of the creeds claims it was given by revelation as other scripture.

Finally, how did the 1st, 2nd and 3rd century Christians ever get along without the creeds? To project a 4th century document back in time on them simply will not do.