March 27-April 2
Matthew 14; Mark 6; John 5-6
What could have inspired Peter to leave the safety of his boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a boisterous storm? What led him to believe that if Jesus could walk on water, he could too? We can’t know for certain, but perhaps Peter understood that the Son of God came not just to do wonderful things for the people but to empower people like Peter to do wonderful things too. Jesus’s invitation, after all, was “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). Peter had accepted this invitation once, and he was willing to accept it again, even if it meant facing his fears and doing something that seemed impossible. Perhaps the Lord will not ask us to step out of a boat in the middle of a storm or contribute our meager supply of bread when thousands need to eat, but He may ask us to accept directions even when we don’t fully understand them. Whatever His invitations to us may be, they may sometimes seem surprising or even frightening. But miracles can happen if we, like Peter, will set aside our fears, our doubts, and our limited understanding and follow Him in faith.
This could have been written by an Evangelical Christian. The introductions to these weekly chapters are often within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. This week the heresy is not so much what was written about the Gospels but rather what was left out. I’ll explain below.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
Jesus Christ honors His Father.
The relationship between Heavenly Father and each of His children is meant to be a sacred one. In these verses, Jesus Christ gave us an inspiring model to follow in our relationship with Heavenly Father. Read John 5:16–47, and mark or note each instance of the word Father. How does the Son honor the Father, and how can you follow His example? What do you learn about how the Father feels about the Son? What are you inspired to do to strengthen your relationship with your Heavenly Father?
There are some nuggets in this passage that are glossed over. Let me provide those:
John 5:18: “For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”
Notice how the religious leaders took what Jesus was saying (calling God His own Father) as “making himself equal with God.” This is an important statement, as Jesus was not just saying He was “a” god or someone lesser than God, but He said He was equal with God. Mormonism teaches that Jesus was not fully God during His time on earth. For instance, tenth President Joseph Fielding Smith said,
“CHRIST GAINED FULNESS AFTER RESURRECTION. The Savior did not have a fulness at first, but after he received his body and the resurrection all power was given unto him both in heaven and in earth. Although he was a God, even the Son of God, with power and authority to create this earth and other earths, yet there were some things lacking which he did not receive until after his resurrection. In other words he had not received the fulness until he got a resurrected body, and the same is true with those who through faithfulness become sons of God. Our bodies are essential to the fulness and the continuation of the seeds forever.”Doctrines of Salvation 1:33.
According to Joseph Fielding Smith, how could Jesus be considered Himself equal with God if He “did not have a fulness at first” and this didn’t place until after the resurrection. Then he says Jesus was just “a God.” This idea does not make sense in lieu of John 5.
Current President Russell M. Nelson agreed with Smith when he told a general conference audience:
“That Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited but with one very significant addition. He said, ‘I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.’ This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously he had not.”“Perfection Pending,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1995, 87.
Moving on through John 5, consider verses 22-23:
22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.
Jesus says He is responsible to judge and that honoring Him is the same as honoring the Father. In the next verse, he says,
24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Mormonism teaches that there are two types of salvation: General and individual salvation. Smith explained,
“Salvation is twofold: General – that which comes to all men irrespective of a belief (in this life) in Christ- and, Individual – that which man merits through his own acts through life and by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”Doctrines of Salvation 1:134. Italics in original).
“Do you desire to enter into the celestial kingdom and receive eternal life? Then be willing to keep all of the commandments the Lord may give you”The Way to Perfection, 207
Doctrine and Covenants 101:65-66 says:
“Therefore, I must gather together my people, according to the parable of the wheat and the tares, that the wheat may be secured in the garners to possess eternal life, and be crowned with celestial glory, when I shall come in the kingdom of my Father to reward every man according as his work shall be; While the tares shall be bound in bundles, and their bands made strong, that they may be burned with unquenchable fire.”
But notice what Jesus said: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
That is, a person who hears and then “believes” has (present tense, not future tense) eternal life and crosses from death to life. In Mormonism, it’s all about keeping the commandments. Only those who keep all the commandments all the time will receive eternal life.
For more on this topic, visit CrashCourseMormonism:
- The Gospel
- Sin / Transgression
- Covenants / Commandments
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I must be willing to believe and accept the truth, even when it is hard to do.
When Jesus referred to Himself as the “bread of life” (John 6:48), many found this to be a “hard saying” (John 6:60). How can Peter’s words in John 6:68–69 help you during times when the Savior’s doctrine seems hard to accept or live by? What impresses you about Peter’s testimony? What are some “words of eternal life” (John 6:68) that help you stay committed to following the Savior?
“Eternal life” is exactly what we were talking about in the previous section. Jesus said in John 14:6 that He alone is the “way, the truth, and the life” and that nobody comes to Father except through Him. It’s the message repeated over and over again throughout the Gospel of John.
Meanwhile, there are some verses here that the lesson does not discuss. While it’s hard to cover much in just two paragraphs, the missing verses are quite important. For instance, when it comes to the issue of how a person is “saved,” the Christian responds “by grace through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9). Christianity teaches that a person must confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and then they will be saved (Rom. 10:9-10). And Acts 16:31 says that belief in Jesus is what is required to be saved.
What about works? If we return to Ephesians 2, justification and the forgiveness of sins does not take place “by works.” However, John 6:29 depicts Jesus as saying, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” We need to be clear that this is not talking about “our” work but rather “the work of God.” Nothing we can do can effect the justification by faith (Rom. 5:1). This is God’s job.
Consider the richness of these verses from Ephesians 1:
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Paul adds in the following verses,
11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
This is in line with what Jesus taught later in that chapter when he said in verse 65, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
Going on in chapter 6, Jesus said this in verses 39 and 40:
39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Verse 47 adds, “Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.”
Here we go again, as the same old song is played. According to Jesus, it is whoever “looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” How does a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reconcile that with the interpretation of eternal life as provided by the LDS leadership?
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
Your family might enjoy reenacting the story in these verses. Why would the disciples have been scared? Why was Peter able to overcome his fear and leave the boat? How did he show faith even when he began to sink? How are we sometimes like Peter?
We get scared just like Peter. But let me take it one additional step. There may be a Latter-day Saint who is reading this review (and perhaps the entire series), which is quite a risk on their part. And I congratulate them for seeing what an Evangelical Christian perspective is on their church’s lesson.
Yet how many Latter-day Saints have I met who are fearful of looking at any sources (especially on the Internet!) that could contradict what they believe to be true? They probably wonder what would happen if they took such a risk and got caught by a spouse or religious leader. Sometimes we need to take risks and determine the extent of our faith. If you are that Latter-day Saint, I tip my hat to you. It may feel like you are sinking, but Jesus is there and won’t let you down. Discover the truth and follow it with all your might.
Invite family members to note instances of the phrase “made whole” in these verses. In what ways can Jesus Christ make people whole? When and how has He made us whole?
Jesus can make us whole because He is the one who reaches out to us. Faith in Jesus by submitting your will to Him is all that is needed. Not religion. Not mere formalities. Not trying to live a life of do’s and don’ts. When a person fully reaches out to Jesus, He is the one in charge who effects the change in the person’s heart.
Generally, the writing in this week’s lesson was not overly heretical (as some other lessons have been). On the surface, in fact, it was fine. It is what wasn’t written that is very telling. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of trying to cover the entire New Testament in a year by using a 30-minute-per-week study is that a lot of substance will be missed. I think today the authors missed those passages in John 5 and 6 where Jesus said over and over again that belief alone is what justifies a person before God. It’s not about what is done or how much is accomplished–that is trying to gain salvation with our own righteousness, which is impossible. What the Bible teaches is that the work in salvation has already been done–it’s now up to the person to receive that free gift and enjoy what God has provided.