October 16-22, 2023
1 and 2 Thessalonians
This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)
In Thessalonica, Paul and Silas were accused of having “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Their preaching angered certain leaders among the Jews, and these leaders stirred the people into an uproar (see Acts 17:1–10). As a result, Paul and Silas were advised to leave Thessalonica. Paul worried about the new Thessalonian converts and the persecution they were facing, but he was unable to return to visit them. “When I could no longer forbear,” he wrote, “I sent to know your faith.” In response, Paul’s assistant Timothy, who had been serving in Thessalonica, “brought us good tidings of your faith and charity” (1 Thessalonians 3:5–6). In fact, the Thessalonian Saints were known as examples “to all that believe” (1 Thessalonians 1:7), and news of their faith spread to cities abroad. Imagine Paul’s joy and relief to hear that his work among them “was not in vain” (1 Thessalonians 2:1). But Paul knew that faithfulness in the past is not sufficient for spiritual survival in the future, and he was wary of the influence of false teachers among the Saints (see 2 Thessalonians 2:2–3). His message to them, and to us, is to continue to “perfect that which is lacking in [our] faith” and to “increase more and more” in love (see 1 Thessalonians 3:10; 4:10).
At the end of 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul says, “Don’t let anyone decieve you in any way.” I agree full heartedly with this statement. As verse 13 adds, “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” The key is “belief in the truth.” Every person ought to sell out for that which is true. If Mormonism is true, then what we as Evangelical Christians believe cannot also be true. And vice versa. The law of non-contradiction insists that something cannot be A and non-A at the same time. Thus, it behooves us to do our homework because eternity is at stake.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
1 Thessalonians 1–2
1 Thessalonians 3:7–13; 4:1–12
“Increase and abound in love.”
Paul rejoiced in the faithfulness of the Thessalonian Saints (see 1 Thessalonians 3:7–9). But he also wanted them to “abound more and more” in that faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 4:1). As you read 1 Thessalonians 3:7–13; 4:1–12, ponder ways you can “increase more and more” spiritually (1 Thessalonians 4:10). For example, notice that Paul used words like “holiness” and “sanctification.” What do you learn from Paul’s writings about the meanings of these words? How can the Savior help you become more holy and sanctified?
The Bible is filled with commands that God’s followers are supposed to be holy as God is holy. According to Mormonism, that holiness means keeping commandments. Ask a Latter-day Saint how many must be kept. He will answer, “All of them.” Ask, “How often?” The answer will be “all of the time.” The question I then ask is, “Just how are you doing at that?”
In biblical Christianity, it’s all about allowing Jesus to impute His righteousness into our accounts, something that is impossible on our own. It makes all the difference between our two faiths.
2 Thessalonians 2
An apostasy, or falling away from truth, was prophesied to precede the Second Coming.
All verses taken out of context (such as this) used by Latter-day Saints ought to be retired. Let’s consider 2 Thessalonians 2:3, which says, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first . . .” The context is not explaining that there would be a complete apostasy. As I Timothy 4:1 puts it, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” And in Matt 16:18, Jesus said, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
If Jesus promised that He would be with His people “always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), we must take Him at His word! Presuppositions to the contrary are just not supported by the Bible.
Amid increasing persecutions, many Thessalonian Saints believed the Savior’s Second Coming must be near. But Paul knew that before Jesus returned to earth there would be an apostasy—a rebellion or “falling away” from the truth (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1–4). You could deepen your understanding of the Great Apostasy—and your appreciation for the Restoration—by pondering some of the following:
Scriptures that foretold the Apostasy: Isaiah 24:5
Isaiah 24: 5 says, “The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.” According to some Latter-day Saints, this refers to an event called the Great Apostasy.
The everlasting covenant described here is certainly a reference to the Mosaic law, which would have been the understanding of the Jewish readers of Isaiah. This covenant is “everlasting” and is efficacious forever. However, because Israel disobeyed God, the Jews broke the covenant that God made with them. According to one commentary, “The reason for the judgment emerges (notice the double ‘therefore’ of v. 6) in man’s flouting of all laws and obligations” (The New Bible Commentary Revised, 604). To try to say this verse is a prediction of all Christian authority being taken off the earth is nothing more than a prooftext taken out of its context, which only leads to a false understanding of what was written.
Amos 8:11-12 reads, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.”
Many Mormons have used these verses to support the idea that there would be a Great Apostasy where all authority would be lost on the earth soon after the death of the apostles. Although he is a faithful Latter-day Saint teaching at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, Charles Harrell does not think this is a good passage to support the Great Apostasy:
Biblical scholars explain that, in its historical context, the “famine” alluded to in this passage refers to the imminent consequence of the wickedness and apostasy of ancient Israel as seen in the Assyrian conquest (see Amos 7:11). Similar mention of this state of spiritual depravity in ancient Israel can be found in other writings in the wake of the Babylonian captivity (e.g., Isa. 29:10). Amos is telling the Israelites that, although at present they have prophets to tell them the word of the Lord, “the days [will] come” (in their captivity) when they will no longer have access to God’s words. This prophecy was uttered around 760 B.C. and Israel was invaded by the Assyrians about 40 years later.
Echoing the view of other Old Testament scholars, BYU religion professor D. Kelley Ogden comments, “Amos’s mission was to warn Israel of its present disastrous state and forewarn it of impending captivity.” He further notes that “Amos’s prophecies [including this one] were fulfilled, soon by the Assyrians and then later by other conquerors.” While the language of these Old Testament prophecies may contain apt descriptions of the spiritual depravity of our modern day—and for that matter almost any other period of history—the scholarly consensus is that in their original context, these prophecies were expressly directed at ancient Israel’s apostate condition. (‘This is My Doctrine,’ ch. 2).
Scriptures that show the Apostasy was already beginning in Paul’s time: Acts 20:28–30; Galatians 1:6–7; 1 Timothy 1:5–7
These verses teach nothing about a “Great Apostasy.” Instead, they are talking about false teachers who were distorting the Gospel message. What a stretch to make these verses say that there no authority had been left on the earth, as the LDS leadership has consistently taught. For instance, Apostle Boyd K. Packer told a general conference audience:
“The Church you belong to, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the restored Church. When you know what restored means, you will understand why standards of conduct are as they are. Following the Crucifixion of Christ an apostasy occurred. Leaders began to ‘teach for doctrines the commandments of men.’ They lost the keys of authority and closed themselves off from the channels of revelation. That lost authority could not just be repossessed. It had to be restored by those who held the keys of authority anciently. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a remodeled version of another church. It is not an adjustment or a correction or a protest against any other church. They have their ‘form of godliness’ and their goodness and value” (Boyd Packer, “The Standard of Truth Has Been Erected,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2003, p. 24).
For additional citations like this, click here.
Observations about the Great Apostasy by Christian reformers
Consider the rich irony. Here the LDS Church writers cite men who, according to Mormonism, had been tainted by the “Great Apostasy.” So why should anyone trust what they have to say? (I wonder if the church writers ever thought about this when asking these quotations.)
Martin Luther: “I have sought nothing beyond reforming the Church in conformity with the Holy Scriptures. … I simply say that Christianity has ceased to exist among those who should have preserved it” (in E. G. Schweibert, Luther and His Times: The Reformation from a New Perspective , 590).
In context, Luther is talking about “reforming” the church according to the Bible. He didn’t feel the Roman Catholic church was dead, only that the church needed to be reformed. The Catholic church was teaching false doctrine that needed to be corrected. But Luther never taught that a complete restoration was needed. Notice, it was called the “Reformation,” not the “Restoration,” in hte movement by the “Reformers.” There is a big difference.
Roger Williams: “The apostasy … hath so far corrupted all that there can be no recovery out of that apostasy till Christ send forth new apostles to plant churches anew” (in Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom , 851).
Again, this quotation is out of context. He’s not talking about beginning a new church to restore God’s authority, which has never left the earth. Rather, Willaims was talking about using the biblical authority to bring forth churches that will teach truth. For more on this topic, see Crash Course Mormonism: Great Apostasy.
It’s very sad how the church’s representatives attempt to prop up the church’s claim to authority by citing Christians who would never have thought in the reality of a “Great Apostasy” where all of God’s authority was lost.
It’s amazing how the church writers make mountains out of molehills by finding out-of-context passages from the Bible and deceased Christians to support LDS unique teachings. I’ve said it many times throughout the series, but it is disheartening to think that Latter-day Saints think they are participating in a Bible study by studying this material. Nothing could be further from the truth.