The lesson in gospel doctrine this Sunday was called, “Being Reconciled to God.” The reading in 2 Corinthians (all chapters) was very clear that Paul was advising the early saints to come into the presence of Christ, so that Christ could make you into “new creatures.” However, the teacher of the lesson redefined Paul’s words, changing confidence into comfort.
Confidence: The reconciliation that Paul taught the people of Corinth places the presence of Christ in the flesh at the center, …before the trials. Paul says that after he was reconciled, he was beaten three times with a rod, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, and spent over 24 hours in the deep waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by his own countrymen, in the wilderness, on the sea, hungry and thirsty, naked and cold, and he could bear it. Because he was reconciled to Christ, Paul said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Reconciliation produces “that confidence” that Paul offers in his advice to the Corinthians, and to all who have ears that can hear the voice of the Lord. Becoming a “new creature” in Christ is what happens to all men who are properly reconciled, and return into Christ’s presence. Once they are reconciled, then their mission (if they choose to accept it) is called “the ministry of reconciliation.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
“17. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
18. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;”
This process is the same process as the two great commandments: love God (reconciled), and then love your neighbor (the ministry of reconciliation). The grandness of the message Paul offered the Corinthians, often gets lost in our ignorance of the words of Christ.
Confidence Reduced to Comfort: While the words themselves said one thing, the teacher had a different message that he planned to deliver. The message generated by the teacher was:
- Baptism is the beginning step, but it isn’t “being reconciled”
- As we work out our salvation by following the living prophets and magnifying our callings by doing our church assignments, line upon line we will gain greater confidence in our trials
- Reconciliation is final when men come into the presence of Christ in the flesh “after we die.”
Although the teacher meant well, he was a perfect example of how someone can innocently and ignorantly “wrest” the scriptures. He twisted Paul’s words to make confidence sound like comfort.
The teacher told me of a tight financial situation, where he owed taxes, but didn’t have the finances to cover the taxes and the tithing. He paid the tithing, and claimed that he trusted in the Lord’s law of tithing, that all would be well. Many have the same story. But, in so teaching this, the teacher just equated our “perilous” situation of paying tithing to Paul’s trial of being beaten 3x, shipwrecked 3x, starving, naked, and imprisoned falsely. For some reason, looking at the teacher’s peril and Paul’s trials, something significant is lost. And what Paul is offering gets reduced to doing our home teaching on time, every month. How does that make us into new creatures in Christ? It doesn’t!
The Aftermath: The lesson was doomed from the beginning, as the content of Paul’s advice was wrested. The tension was thick, and the teacher was offended. There was a point in the lesson in which it was obvious that the teacher was frustrated. So, rather than continue to make more comments, I waited to speak to him after class, one-on-one.
I apologized that we did not agree. He thought we were saying the same thing because I agreed with most of what he said. We clarified that the difference between what he was saying and I was saying was the point at which a person “enters into the presence of Christ in the flesh.” This is were we commonly find a separation between those who seek Christ, and those who follow the prophet. We both agreed that the presence of Christ in the flesh is the same as being “reconciled to Christ,” but he feels like that only happens when we die, and I believe it is offered to us now.
He asked me, “Was Paul reconciled to Christ?” I said, “Yes! Paul was made into a new creature in Christ, and what we are reading in 2 Corinthians is Paul teaching us to do the same.” He shook his head in disagreement, and refused to believe that Paul was reconciled. We shook hands and hugged it out, then went to priesthood. After priesthood, to avoid it being odd, I went to him, hugged him and expressed that I loved him, and apologized that we did not agree. There was a small change in him as he confessed, “I think you’re right, Paul was reconciled to Christ.” And that’s where we left it.
Conclusion: The teacher told me that he was a “simple man.” Somehow being “simple” has become so simple that we aren’t required to ask, seek, and knock anymore. All that a “simple” person has to do is don’t question the officers, and do as I’m doing. When he claimed to be a simple man, I told him that he cannot lay claim that I am not a simple man, just because I have spent more time in the scriptures than he has. And, besides, when did being simple become equated with being ignorant? (I didn’t ask him that).
The teacher also told me that there are people in church who don’t read the scriptures, and for that reason, we need to keep our comments simple, so that they don’t get lost. I don’t understand it, I thought that as we all read the assignment, then we can add greater clarity to understanding the words of Christ. Then all can be edified and enlightened of all. And besides, if you have a team player that does his duty, in what sport do we think that’s a bad thing, and kick him off the team for doing his part? That makes no sense.
The teacher used two out of the three rejections I often hear. The third is when they say that they are only following the prophet. Being simple doesn’t mean being ignorant. It is when the words of Christ are spoken that those who seek further light and knowledge can recognize Christ’s voice and answer the call to return. There’s no benefit to watering down the words of Christ. And no one will answer to the Lord for your salvation, but you. You can follow the prophet if you like, but be certain that the path you choose brings you back into the presence of Christ. That is “your” responsibility. You cannot delegate your salvation. Consider Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians, and let Paul teach you how to be reconciled with Christ in confidence.