The issue is not whether or not Jesus’ name is on the door of your church building, or who says the name of Jesus most often, the issue is who that Jesus is!! The correct definition of the gospel depends upon a correct definition of the nature of Jesus Christ.
“The Sons of Elohim”
You’ve noticed, I’m sure, our sign – this is one of two signs that will be placed on our new land this coming week. One sign will face Holly Springs traffic and the other will be read by Tryon road traffic.
The news will travel like lightning throughout our city that this is not another Food Lion.
We’re building a lighthouse – the shining light of the gospel will emanate from that campus like never before.
Having begun our study of Mormonism, I mentioned last Lord’s day, another campus is being built – a Mormon Temple in Apex. It happens to be one of the things the Lord used to challenge my heart to lead this series of studies. What an incredible ministry we can have to Mormons. One of the few Mormon temples in the world is being built right in our back yard.
We need to know what they believe and, more importantly what the Bible teaches we are to believe – and where those two belief systems contradict one another.
One of the elders on our board picked me up this past Friday -we drove out to the Mormon Temple site – their building project is surrounded by keep out signs and trespassers will be prosecuted – and we, outside the fence, had a time of prayer that God would allow us as a body of believers to reach many of them with the gospel of the only true and living God.
Are we really that different?
The average Mormon would say, “No, we’re not.” In fact, in our generation they have made great strides in presenting themselves as just another Christian denomination.
It all began, however, very differently. In 1820 a man by the name of Joseph Smith experienced what he called the First Vision. In that vision, as he would later write, he was told in the vision:
“All existing churches are wrong . . . all Christian doctrine is an abomination . . . all Christian leaders are corrupt.”
Three years after this vision, Smith claimed to be visited in his room by an angel named Moroni. This angel showed Smith a set of golden plates buried near his home and said that Joseph, because of his direct descent from Jesus and one of his wives was qualified to serve as the next prophet. He would be allowed to uncover and translate the golden plates. Ten years later, the Book of Mormon was published. In that same year, April of 1830, Smith organized what was then called the Church of Christ. In 1831, Smith and his followers bought land in Independence, Missouri and began to build a temple, motivated by the promise of Joseph Smith that Jesus Christ would return during their lifetime and reign from that temple with Joseph Smith at His side.
Primarily because of Smiths views on polygamy, they eventually were forced to move. They moved to Illinois and founded a city and began to build another temple. It was during their stay in Illinois that Joseph transferred many of his Masonic rituals and ceremonies into the Mormon church. And, in the meantime, even though he publicly denied his polygamy his entire life, he had already married at least 50 women in secret.
Some disillusioned followers who had been expelled from the church, published a newspaper attempting to expose Joseph’s polygamy – since Joseph was the mayor of the town, he ordered the printing press smashed – it created a riot – and Smith declared martial law. Charged with riot and with treason, for having declared martial law, he avoided arrest crossing the Mississippi – however, as he prepared to flee, his wife (his first wife Emma – to whom, by the way, he had always denied his polygamy) convinced him to turn himself in rather than risk being killed in his escape. That night, after surrendering to authorities and being placed in an upstairs holding room, a mob attacked the jail in Hancock County. On June 27, 1844, after firing his own gun and killing two men, Joseph Smith died while attempting to jump from the upstairs window.
End of story? Hardly. For Joseph Smith, according to his followers, immediately gained the unique status of martyr.
They spoke of him, “shedding his blood for their sakes.”
In the aftermath, the followers were divided. Led by the influence of Emma Smith, (Joseph’s widow) a reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints emerged which refused to practice polygamy and other beliefs. Isn’t it interesting that she would drop the particular practice of polygamy?!
The largest faction, still known today as simply, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints moved to Salt Lake Valley, led by a terrific administrator and leader named Brigham Young.
By the time of Brigham Young’s death, Mormonism’s key doctrines of man becoming God, God being an exalted human man with many wives and Jesus also being an exalted man became cornerstones of belief.
Just about 100 years ago, the fourth president of the Mormon church began the process of accommodation and compromise to the American religious scene. That process has been further defined so that today, in our generation, the church of Joseph Smith, is attempting to be recognized as simply another Christian denomination.
A more recent Mormon leader wrote, “Latter-day saints are Christians because they emphatically believe in Christ, use His name in their official church title and believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which testify repeatedly of the reality of Christ and the truth of His teachings.”
As I mentioned last Lord’s day, the Mormon’s today are using the vocabulary of evangelicalism, but they are using a different dictionary.
While the Mormon today will say, “Yes, I believe in Jesus Christ” . . . which Jesus are they talking about?
Let’s define their Jesus.
The Mormon church teaches that:
The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.
Remember, in our last discussion, those heavenly parents were Elohim (God the Father) and one of his many wives
Another Mormon teaching::
The physical body of Jesus Christ was produced by relations between Elohim and Mary.
Elohim, being a man of tangible flesh and blood, simply came to earth, and knocked on Mary’s door – had relations with her – and thus produced the physical baby that His Spirit baby, Jesus, could inhabit.
To a Mormon, Jesus Christ and every one of us are spirit babies, born first in heaven, in a premortal state, then given a human body by our human parents. We are, in fact, all gods in the making. Elohim, or God the Father got His start from His God the Father . . . and so shall we be, if faithful Mormons a God the Father ourselves one day.
Listen to Brigham Young, preaching in 1855:
“If we should take a million of worlds like this and number their particles, we should find that there are more gods than there are particles of matter in those worlds.”
Obviously, among many things, The uniqueness of God is dissolved. He is not the only God, He is one of many gods.
And what about the uniqueness of the Son of God?
Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
“Jesus was no more the son of God than any of the other billions of God’s children – we are all His children because we too were conceived by Him and one of His many wives – and simply awaited as spirit beings the birth of our physical body by human parents.”
One of the favorite Mormon sayings, that boils Mormon doctrine down to a sound-bite was spoken by Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the Mormon church, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be.”
You say, well that was written decades ago . . . it’s old beliefs. Listen to what one Mormon scholar recently wrote in a book I just finished reading; he was debating in print with a Denver Seminary theologian. This Duke graduate who now teaches at Brigham Young wrote:
“We believe that God and humans are the same species of being and that all men and women were his spiritual offspring in a premortal existence. The main purpose of the gospel of Christ is therefore not so much to get us to heaven as it is to get us home.”
In other words, in reality, everybody is a god – we just needed to know that – that is the essence of the Mormon Gospel. And by being obedient to that gospel, we will one day achieve our own god-status and rule some galaxy of our own, with our many wives, producing our own millions of spirit babies to populate the earth’s below that we have created for our pleasure.
In the 3rd letter of the Apostle John, known as Third John, he warns the church to test what they hear and critically think through the messages they receive from ‘Bible teachers, prophets and messengers; because, as John put it (4:1) “because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
False prophets have a different gospel – false prophets use the name of Jesus, but they believe in a different Jesus.
For many will say to him on judgement day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in your name . . . did we not cast out demons in your name, did we not perform miracles in your name (the name of Jesus) and I will declare to them, “I never knew you . . . depart from Me. . .” (Matthew 7:22, 23)
So the issue is not whether or not Jesus’ name is on the door of your church building – or who says the name of Jesus most often – the issue is Who that Jesus is??!! The correct definition of the gospel depends upon a correct definition of the nature of Jesus Christ, right?!
So let’s focus this morning on the Mormon belief that Jesus Christ is not eternal God, but an exalted man.
I’ll read a quote from The Mormon’s “Bible Dictionary”:
“When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children. The personage (change screen) known as Jehovah in the Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as Lord, is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God . . . he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim.”
In other words, Mormon teaching believes that Jesus is Jehovah in the Old Testament, and Elohim is God the Father.
Now that’s wonderful news – not because it’s true, but because it gives us the opportunity to search the scriptures to see if these things are so.
We now have something a little more tangible to inspect. It’s hard to argue whether or not an angel came to Joseph Smith – but it is possible to correctly interpret the Bible.
So . . . Mormons believe that Jesus is Jehovah but that Jehovah is not Elohim. They are two different Gods.
Let me show you from the Old Testament that Jehovah and Elohim are interchangeable names for the same God.
See for yourself . . . Genesis 27:20 “And Isaac said unto his son, ‘How is it that thou has found it [the ram] so quickly, my son?’ And he said, ‘Because the Lord [Jehovah] thy God [Elohim] brought it to me.’”
Well, the Mormon may say – both gods brought it to him – this verse isn’t airtight. True.
Jeremiah adds, however to this truth in chapter 32 and verse 18; “Who showest lovingkindness to thousands . . . O great and mighty God [Elohim], The Lord [Jehovah] of hosts is His name.”
Note the plurality of names for a singular God!
One more verse that removes even the smallest shadow of a doubt that Jehovah and Elohim are dual names of a one and only one God.
Deuteronomy 6:4 (the great Hebrew prayer or shema) “Hear, O Israel; the Lord [Jehovah] our God [Elohim] is one Lord[Jehovah].”
Now, if a Mormon says, Jesus is Jehovah – you can say, “Amen”. If a Mormon says, “But Jehovah and Elohim aren’t referring to the same God.” Then say, “Hear O Mormon, the Lord Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah.”
Jehovah and Elohim are two persons of one Godhead. Both God the Father and Jesus Christ are equally God.
Now . . . do I understand the Trinity – one God in three persons, equal in essence yet subordinate in function. So that the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son and the Son does the will of the Father?
No more than I understand how God created the universe.; or how eternal God showed up in a virgin’s womb; or life within a seed; or an eternal hell and heaven; or the resurrection of Lazarus from the grave, or for that matter, you and me reigning with Christ one day – understand it?
Not on your life!
It is a matter of faith. Mormons have great faith. Christians have great faith.
But it is not a matter of how big our faith is, it is a matter of in what, or in Whom, have we placed our faith.
You can have great faith in thin ice – and drown.
You can have weak faith in thick ice – and safely cross a frozen pond.
Now there are a couple of passages that offer challenges to the Bible student . . . let’s take a look at them.
What about the verse in Psalms that seems to indicate that Jesus Christ had a beginning?
Psalm 2:7 says, “I will declare the decree; the Lord [Jehovah] hath said unto me, “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”
Sounds like Jesus, the Son had a beginning.
Well, for starters, did you notice who is talking to the Son? The Lord! Remember, that is the name Jehovah – do you remember who Mormon’s believe Jehovah is? Jesus.
So Mormons have a problem here because it has Jesus talking to Jesus, when it’s obvious that Jehovah here is referring to God the Father. Well, they want to ignore that to get to the rest of the verse which, the Mormon church insists to mean – the Father is begetting the Son on a particular day! “This day have I begotten Thee.”
They are right in one thing – something is indeed happening on a particular day between the Father and the Son that the Bible refers to as an unusual event.
What’s the answer? The Book of Psalms doesn’t tell us. In fact, David is writing about something he doesn’t even fully understand – this is a Messianic Psalm – a Messiah David never saw – a Messiah we know as Jesus Christ.
So where’s the answer?
ACTS 13:28 explains PSALM 2:7
Paul is preaching in Antioch to the Jews – they have yet to hear the good news of their Messiah. Paul preaches (let’s pick up his sermon at verse 28. And though they found no ground for putting Him to death, they asked Pilate that He be executed. 29. And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the cross and laid Him in a tomb. 30. But God raised Him from the dead; 31. And for many days He appeared to those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, the very ones who are now His witnesses to the people. 32. And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33. That God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘Thou art My Son; today I have begotten Thee.’ 34. And as for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no more to return to decay, He has spoken in this way; ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessing of David.’”
The begetting of Jesus Christ, ladies and gentlemen, as explained in the clear commentary of Acts 13, has nothing to do with the procreation of Jesus, but with the resurrection of Jesus.
Something special did happen on a particular day – the first day of the week. God the Son defeated death, and came back from the dead in His glorified, resurrected body.
Psalm chapter 2 is not talking about Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, but his resurrection in Jerusalem.
What about another verse – Colossians 1:15. “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.”
The Mormons teach that Christ was the first spirit son of God the Father and his wives. This verse says that, right?
It could. In fact, centuries ago a man named Arius, who founded a movement known as Aryanism which is basically repackaged in Mormonism. Aryanism taught, “Christ was the first creature God ever made.”
The Greek word for “first-born” can refer to temporal sequence. The first of more to come. I could use this word in referring to my son Benjamin – he was the first born son, followed 2 minutes later by his brother Seth. Two very long minutes.
However, this same Greek word can also mean first in rank, first in prominence. Jesus Christ is the prominent One over all of creation.
That would be consistent with Romans 8. Paul is simply saying in Colossians that Jesus Christ ranks higher than anything that has ever been created.
And, by the way, while we’re at it, John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten (monogenes) Son.”
The Greek word is monogenes – and you could render that adjective “begotten” as “the one and only; the only existing” Son.
One more key passage – a passage that declares that Jesus Christ had no beginning is John 1. You may want to turn there and underline some key words. (I’ll put it up here on the screen).
John 1:1; 14 declares, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . and the Wordbecame flesh and dwelt among us.”
Three times you see the verb “was”.
The English language doesn’t communicate the volume of truth in that little verb. Its tense is imperfect which expresses an ongoing state. The verb tense literally reaches back before time ever began and then reaches ahead to eternity future
You could expand that literal translation to fully express what that Greek verb expressed to correctly amplify the text to read:
“In the beginning was, and is and always will be the Word;
“And the Word was and is and always will be with God”
“And the Word was and is and always will be God.”
There is another truth John introduces about Christ - it appears four times - "Word" from the Greek word "logos". (I’ve italicized the term).
It could be translated "reason" or "explanation".
Insert that word into verse one to read, "In the beginning was the explanation, and the explanation was with God and the explanation was God."
To the Greek mind, a literal word or explanation from an invisible God was ridiculous. Xenophanes said, "Guesswork reigns over all." Apuleius said that men could catch a glimpse of God as a lightning flash lights up a dark night - one split second of illumination and then the dark.
Plato, several hundred years before Christ, said to his Greek philosophy students, "Maybe one day, a logos - a reason or word will come from God who will reveal the mysteries and make things plain."
John selects under inspiration that word and says - "The reason has come - the explanation has arrived in the flesh."
We’d better summarize . . .
The Mormon may say, listen, we believe in the same Christ – but do they really? They may use the term, Savior of the World, but do they know Him as their own personal Savior; as the Biblical Savior/God who never had a beginning.
They will say, “But listen, Joseph Smith was visited by an angel – there were witnesses to that fact.”
Paul wrote in Galatians 1:8, “But even though an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which I have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Could you handle that deception – what if an angel came and stood by your bed tonight and said, “I’ve come from God to tell you that you are Divine like Him . . . believe in yourself.” What would you say?
I don’t doubt that an angel did appear to Joseph Smith – but it was a deceptive angel – like the angel of light, Paul warned us about, Satan, who transforms himself into an angel of light in order to deceive.
And Joseph Smith was deceived. And instead of magnifying the Savior he magnified Himself.
Listen to Joseph Smith speak . . . a man who bought the lie that he was equal to Christ – and in fact, better than Christ. He said, “I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. Neither Paul, Peter nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I? The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me.”
Twice Joseph Smith says, “I boast – I boast that no man ever did such a work as I”
I think of another man who also claimed to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ – his name was the Apostle Paul – and how differently he sounds when he writes, not under deception, but under inspiration . . .
“But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 6:14)