How the apostolic “elites” talked

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”
— Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
— 1 Peter 3:18

“We love because he first loved us.”
— 1 John 4:19

More from Paul:

His “importance”: “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

While stressing his apostolic legitimacy and direct authority from Jesus: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)

Expressing desire to come to the Romans: “I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” (Romans 1:11-12)

Counting himself among the apostles: “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

After showing his Jewish creds: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

After boasting of his sufferings: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” (2 Corinthians 11:30)

While speaking of his ministry of proclamation: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:29)


“All that I have commanded you”

I talked to a young man last night who had just returned from his LDS mission to Idaho. “Tell me about your mission.” He said that he shared the teachings of Jesus, and that families could be forever. I asked him, “What did Jesus teach?” “You mean like in the Four Gospels?” “Yeah.” He paused. “Well I spent most of my time reading the Book of Mormon. I really don’t know the Four Gospels that well.”

So I shared with them the Great Commission in Matthew. Jesus said to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28) Everything he commanded.

Then I shared Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 of the four soils. The seeds that took root in healthy soil bear a ton of fruit: “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Jesus tells us how to be like this soil: “He who has ears, let him hear.” Be careful how you listen.

Then I shared Jesus’ words in John 15: Jesus said that if you abide in him, and he abides in you, you will bear much fruit. Not only that: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

So I pleaded with this 21-year-old: Your LDS mission did not equip you to truly know the words of Jesus. Here is your challenge, your new mission. Don’t arrive at 30-years-old without knowing the words of Jesus. Become obsessively acquainted with them. Like a man who loves a movie and can complete its quotes.

Jesus said in Matthew 24, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” His words will last longer, and always be more important than anything your church, your heroes, your leaders, or your family tells you.

Know these words, not to be smart, not to be better than others, not to be puffed up with knowledge, but to build on a solid foundation. I told this young man: The older you grow, the more you will find your Solomon-like endeavors failing, the more you will ache to build something that lasts. A legacy, a productivity, an ambition that matters, a fruit that is satisfying, a house that stands. Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7)

“Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor”

“Imagine that your prayer is a poorly dressed beggar reeking of alcohol and body odor, stumbling toward the palace of the great king. You have become your prayer. As you shuffle toward the barred gate, the guards stiffen. Your smell has preceded you. You stammer out a message for the great king: ‘I want to see the king.’

“Your words are barely intelligible, but you whisper one final word, ‘Jesus, I come in the name of Jesus.’ At the name of Jesus, as if by magic, the palace comes alive. The guards snap to attention, bowing low in front of you. Lights come on, and the door flies open. You are ushered into the palace and down a long hallway into the throne room of the great king, who comes running to you and wraps you in his arms.

“The name of Jesus gives my prayers royal access. They get through. Jesus isn’t just the Savior of my soul. He’s also the Savior of my prayers. My prayers come before the throne of God as the prayers of Jesus. ‘Asking in Jesus’ name’ isn’t another thing I have to get right so my prayers are perfect. Is it one more gift of God because my prayers are so imperfect.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress 2009), 135

From this little mustard seed

To help myself understand the significance of the “mustard seed” in Matthew 13…

He plants it in an existing field alongside massive fields and farm machinery and silos and grain elevators and genetically engineered crops.

No, this little seed, Jesus says, is his kingdom. The others will eventually die. Everything else will burn. Nothing else will last. It doesn’t how matter how big their crops are, their buildings are, their money is, how rich their tradition is, how confident their laborers are…

This little seed, these little ones, the least of these, this little flock, this remnant, these little children, these humbled ones, from these, from this little seed the kingdom comes.

“Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?”

We had just moved to Utah. We were living in a basement apartment. My wife was pregnant with our son.

BYU professor David J. Whittaker came to where we lived because our host wanted him to talk to me. I had talked faith/Jesus with her. David was in her ward.

I asked him about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, and he conceded flippantly that Smith had little honeymoons (i.e. trysts) with at least some of his plural wives. We got to talking about “eternal marriage.”

Stacie and I were sitting on the couch together, and he was sitting across from us. He asked Stacie, “Don’t you want to be married with your husband in heaven?” And she said matter-of-factly to him, “No.”

He was dumfounded. Stacie explained what Jesus taught in Matthew 22: there would be no marriage in heaven. We will be as the angels. She will worship Jesus. Jesus has joy in store for us at the resurrection that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Marriage is an old-Earth reality. We trust Jesus for this.

I felt so deeply in love with Stacie. This was a romantic moment. I knew exactly what she meant. I felt closer to her in her very affirmation of not needing our marriage or even wanting it in heaven.

I love you, Stacie.

“Let those who have wives live as though they had none… For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29, 31)

“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” (Matthew 22:30)

The least of these


“I am a special kind of Christian, the elite kind; not like *those* other Christians. I am defined by how I stand out among them, and I have no affection for their weak. I have nothing but embarrassment over them, and I am not eager to be one in mind with them, nor am I willing to be publicly shamed by association with them.”


“The least of Christians are my equal brothers, coheirs of the same inheritance, better men than I in blind spots of my own, especially to be loved when weak, all the more worth associating with when lowly, to be served with loving wisdom when ignorant, and not characterized by their worst. God distributed gifts to them that I do not have, and I am mutually encouraged by their faith. God chose the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and those are my people, since their savior is my savior, their God my God.”

“A plausible harmony of the accounts and sequence of events” of the resurrection

From Craig Blomberg’s Jesus and the Gospels, p. 413:

(1) A group of women come to the tomb near dawn, with Mary Magdalene possibly arriving first (Matt 28: 1; Mark 16: 1-3; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1).

(2) Mary and the other women are met by two young men who in reality are angels, one of whom acts as the spokesman and announces Jesus’ resurrection (Matt 28: 2-7; Mark 16: 4-7; Luke 24: 2-7).

(3) The women leave the garden with a mixture of fear and joy, at first unwilling to say anything but then resolving to report to the Eleven remaining apostles (Matt 28: 8; Mark 16: 8). Mary Magdalene may have dashed on ahead, telling Peter and John in advance of the arrival of the other women (John 20: 2).

(4) Jesus meets the remaining women en route and confirms their commission to tell the disciples, with the reminder of his promise of meeting them in Galilee. The women obey (Matt 28: 9-10; Luke 24:8-11).

(5) Peter and John meanwhile have returned to the tomb, having heard the report by Mary Magdalene, and discover it to be empty (John 20: 3-10; Luke 24: 12).

(6) Mary also returns to the tomb after Peter and John have left. She sees the angels and then Jesus, although at first supposing him to be a gardener (John 20: 11-18).

(7) Later that afternoon, Jesus appears to Cleopas and his unnamed companion on the road to Emmaus and, in a separate incident, to Peter (Luke 24: 13-35).

(8) That same Sunday evening, Jesus appears to the Ten (the Eleven minus Thomas) behind locked doors in Jerusalem (Luke 24: 36-43; John 20: 19-23).

(9) A week later he appears to the eleven at the same venue, with Thomas now present (John 20: 24-29).

(10) Further appearances take place over a forty-day period, including in Galilee, with over five hundred seeing him altogether (Acts 1: 3; John 21; 1 Cor 15: 6).

(11) A climactic commissioning in Galilee instructs the disciples to spread the news throughout the world (Matt 28: 16-20).

(12) Perhaps only shortly thereafter, Jesus gives his parting instructions to await the coming Holy Spirit and ascends into heaven (Luke 24: 44-53; Acts 1: 4-11).