6 thoughts on “New Testament Gospel Doctrine lesson 39 – Ephesians

  1. Rame, I substitute teach Sunday School about once a month, and I find your lessons very helpful, so you have at least one satisfied customer.

  2. Thanks, Geoff. I also post my lessons on LDS.Net. I average at my blog over 5000 views per month now, so I hope that the studying I do is helpful. I have heard from several Sunday School instructors who use the background material I provide. Unlike the Old Testament, my New Testament lessons are tied more directly to LDS doctrine. There are not as many useful teachings in the Nag Hammadi (Gnostic Christian writings) as there are in the Dead Sea Scrolls (Old Testament period writings).

    It has been fun to go through the writings of Paul. I learn quite a bit along the way, and find new ways in which to see the teachings in the scriptures. I find the official lesson manual sometimes lacking in how it is set up. It picks little concepts to discuss. However, Paul’s letters are written as a letter, usually with all portions combining into one or two thoughts throughout the letter. We lose a lot of Paul’s intention if we just follow the piece-meal approach of the manual.

    Another way in which the manual could approach such writings (although it is much more technical, and probably could not fit into the 45 minutes), is to take apart a few verses, word by word. It really opens ones eyes to what is going on to do so. On the LDS-Herm email list, Joe Spencer is breaking apart D&C 98, and is spending several emails in discussing just verse 5! Recently, he did a wonderful series on FmH regarding Abish and the Lamanite Queen, as well.

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if we taught the Saints how to both study from the big picture format I often do, and also to microscope down on each word or phrase in a critical study of the text, so that we can truly begin to see what is being said? We miss out on so much by strictly following the manual, rather than teaching from the scriptures….

    Several years ago in a stake leadership meeting I was in, Elder Holland said we need to learn to set the pulpit ablaze. I think that our current manuals are extinguishing much of that fire. Our teachers rely on the manual for the lesson, rather than the scriptures themselves. I’d rather the manual gave the general theme(s), verses to use, and background information.

    Then let the teacher decide from the scriptures themselves what is the message to be given. The manual only needs to be 1/2 page long per lesson, allowing the teacher to follow the Spirit, rather than reading everything straight from the manual.

    Joe Spencer’s first post at FmH: FmH study on Abish

  3. I think you’ve captured the essence of what Paul is saying in these chapters regarding grace, and perfection coming not through works, but sanctification by the spirit.

    But don’t you think that Paul’s view is a bit too idealistic? What Paul seems to be saying is that deliberate works will not be necessary for us to become Saints, because the works that we do will be a natural outgrowth of the reception of the spirit after repentance and acceptance of Jesus.

    I can see how this might work in theory. But in practice, I find that even in stages of deep penitence, the Spirit of the Lord does not strive with me, and I find myself left to my own devices, to try to demonstrate my faith through works, rather than having my works be a natural outgrowth of the spirit within me.

    “Pass through any Christian congregation that is filled with the Spirit and you will find a united people with compassion, love and kindness.” Does this congregation really exist? I haven’t found it, except perhaps on a superficial level. When I dig a little deeper, I see that behind every stone there are worms.

    I love Paul’s view, as something aspirational, as a reminder that ultimately, it is all about the heart and it’s desires. But while there is so much darkness in my heart, and the hearts of all around me, I think we stumble and struggle to obey, to keep up, alone, and without God.

  4. Nate,
    Such a congregation does not exist perfectly. But they do exist to the level of spiritual grace they have embraced. While they may not always be united, in the moment when they are all working within the confines of the Spirit, they will be united.

    Paul is an idealist. Yet, we must remember that he is seeking a balance of understanding between extremes. On one side, he is fighting against Jewish-Christians that are intent on circumcising every Gentile-Christian and making them live all 613 laws of Moses. On the other side, he has Gentile Christians, who are trying to bring their old pagan beliefs into the Church. So, we have Paul preaching against the law in one breath, and explaining that we must keep the commandments in the next! See Romans 1 as an example of this: we live by faith, but then those who commit grievous sins will suffer God’s wrath. A big difference is in the commandments. Jesus does not give his children commandments regarding what knots to tie or how far they can walk on the Sabbath. But he does command them to keep the 2 great commandments.

    Paul seems to be over the top, but only when we focus on one side of his message or the other. But in viewing it all as one consistent whole, we see that he really is a centrist in regards to faith and obedience.

  5. That’s a good point. I think modern Evangelicals fall into this trap because they don’t understand that Paul was reacting, in a perhaps overstated way, to the Jewish-Christians who wanted to retain the Law of Moses. But I also agree with you that his idealism is important, beautiful even, when understood for what it is.

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