Saturday, 21 March 2015

Sermon:- God and Christ are Two Separate Persons

"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work" (John 5:17)
 
I wish to express to you at this time the churches teachings concerning God and what we believe. In answering the following question "Are God and Christ two persons, or are they only one person?" My opinion is of no importance, but rather it is what Christ himself said on this matter that is important and which frames our belief in this church. Jesus Himself appealed to certain standards of evidence when He said, "It is written." There is no doubt that the Scriptures present God and Christ to us as two persons, before, during, and after the brief life and mission of Christ on earth.
 
We have the word of God in the beginning of revelation to us in the first chapter of Genesis; however because of the plain and precious things lost from the scriptures we are left with the following from the King James Version of the Bible: "God said, Let us make man" (Genesis 1:26). Now I ask to whom was God speaking? Certainly to some person separate from Himself in identity and capable of working with Him in the creation of man. The matter is cleared up for us through the revealing work of or prophet Joseph Smith and the Inspired Version of the Bible where it states: "And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man" (Genesis 1:27).
 
Here we have the Father speaking to His Only Begotten Son who had been with Him from the beginning, again let us look at the following verse it says "I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten (another person), Let us make man." There is no recorded evidence that at any time after this event the Son became merged into the personality of His Father and lost His own identity, I must be stressed that is not the doctrine of our church. Christ's ideas of oneness, unity, is different to our own mortal understanding. It is written of the city of Enoch, "The Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind" (Doctrine and Covenants 36:2). It is true that Christ said, "My Father and I are one." He also prayed earnestly to His Father that His followers might become one "even as we are one." God and Christ are one in the same sense that He wished His followers to be one. We are told in the Book of Mormon that "plain and precious" things had been taken from the Scriptures which were to be restored. We have noted that one of them (as restored in the Inspired Version) is a very plain statement concerning the creation of man. God said to His Son, "Let us" make man.
 
In the third chapter of Genesis in the Inspired Version of the Bible, we have another of those very plain and precious things restored to us. The ultimate salvation of man was under consideration in the life before this and we see Satan appear before God and he said, "Behold I, send me, I will be thy Son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost ... wherefore, give me thine honour." After this another person appeared before God, of whom it is written, "But behold, my beloved Son, which was my beloved and chosen from the beginning, said unto me; Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine for ever" (Genesis 3:1–4). Here we have the word of God that His Only Begotten Son talked with Him as to another person and volunteered to do the will of the Father, not demanding glory for Himself. As we all know the Father rejected Satan because Satan planned to "take away man's agency" and become the first great dictator, saving men whether they wished to be saved or not. God, the Father, chose Christ, the Son, to come to earth with a gospel of persuasion and love and show us the greatest love of all for it says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his Only Begotten Son." Thus we find the Father and the Son, two distinct personages, planning together with each other the creation and salvation of man.
 
The origin of confusion for a lot of people seems to have grown out of the fact that some of the prophetic writers have given to Christ, the Son, certain titles that are reserved for God, the Father and him alone. In an introductory note to the Book of Mormon the statement is made that one purpose of the book is to convince Jew and Gentile that "Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." The title, "the Eternal God," may be modified by the preceding words that "Jesus is the Christ." The title, "Christ," as we know this title is always reserved for Jesus. This statement in the preface seems to embody one by Nephi which is much more explicit in its reference to the Christ: "And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also, that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God." Let us stop for a moment and take note that in the very same connection Nephi speaks of the Father and the Son as two persons, for he says: "...until they [the Jews] shall be persuaded to believe in Christ, the Son of God;... and when that day shall come, that they shall believe in Christ, and worship the Father in his name ... the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state" (2 Nephi 11: 26–28). And again: "...according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (2 Nephi 11: 36). Therefore it is without doubt that Nephi clearly understood that one was the Father, the other the Son.
 
Certainly the Book of Mormon has no new and mysterious doctrine on this point that is drastically different from that in the Bible. However the Bible can be confusing on this matter if one approaches it from a single mind set, and has not the revealed voice of God. For example, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah there is a wonderful little prophecy concerning the coming of Christ, it says: "...his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." This statement may be modified by the ensuing verse which says that He shall reign upon the throne of David and be called a prince. Probably the one passage of scripture that most lends itself to support of the argument that the Father and the Son are one person is the following from Luke 10:23 of the Inspired Version: "...no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it." However it must be noted that even in that passage it is still Father and Son. There is no doubt that though Father and Son were two persons(as represented in the first chapter of Genesis in the Inspired Version of the Bible), yet in their work they were one to an extent that we cannot comprehend except it be revealed (and this oneness we also are to attain). This passage must be interpreted to harmonise with the overwhelming number of scriptural statements which clearly present Father and Son as two persons; yet one in the sense Christ had in mind in His great prayer for His disciples, "Holy Father, ...that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:11, 22). Father and Son are one in the same sense that Christ wished His followers to be one, and He certainly did not expect or desire that they should all become one person. As Latter Day Mormons we remember that Jesus himself said, "I am come in my Father's name" (John 5:44). Since He did come in His Father's name and with His message and authority, it is not surprising that some of the prophetic writers gave to Him titles commonly reserved for the Father, thus causing some confusion.
 
Jesus sometimes spoke of Himself as "the Son of Man," sometimes as "the bridegroom". On a memorable occasion He put His stamp of approval on a title which recognised the relationship of Father and Son. He had said to the apostles, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God". Then Jesus with very evident pleasure voiced His approval of that statement, in these words, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 16:16, 17, 18). The Father in heaven had revealed to Peter that Jesus on earth was His Son. This sonship is all important that Christ said, "upon this rock I will build my church" meaning the gift of revelation that Peter was given to reveal unto him the title and office of Christ.
 
In the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon there is a record of an address by Abinadi containing a remarkable prediction of the coming of Christ. In one part of the discourse Abinadi attempts to explain the theology of the oneness of the Father and the Son which had troubled people at that time, very much like today. However with all due reverence we must state that this should not be made the basis of any radical conclusions not in harmony with many plain statements in other prophetic utterances. Abinadi's sermon might be mistakenly taken to evidence a belief that the Father and the Son always were one person; however, again and again he speaks of them as two separate individuals persons, Father and Son, and of the will of the Son and of the will of the Father. There can be no will without personality. Christ had a will of His own, free agency, and He chose to bring His own will into accord with that of His Father. Here, as many times in the Bible, these two wills of two persons are mentioned, one only in their complete agreement.
 
Anyone who is familiar with the scriptures alone will know that they abound in definite statements indicating the separate personalities of God and Christ, no matter where they are found they testify of two persons.
 
From the Bible: A
 
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)
 
He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).
 
If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. (John 10:37)
 
As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)
 
And I will pray the Father. (John 14:16)
 
I send the promise of my Father upon you. (Luke 24:48)
 
I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. (John 17:4)
 
And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. (Luke 23:47)
 
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
 
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)
 
Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3:22)
 
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
 
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
 
The following statement is found in the King James translation of the Bible, John 1:18: "No man hath seen God at any time." That singular declaration is in conflict with testimonies found elsewhere in the Bible. Isaiah saw the Lord "sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up" (Isaiah 6:1). Jacob declared, "I have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:30). Moses, Aaron, and seventy of the elders of Israel "saw the God of Israel" (Exodus 24:9–10). The statement, "And no man hath seen God," found in the King James Version, is clarified in the Inspired Version as follows: "And no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son; for except it is through him no man can be saved" [John 1:19].
 
That is in accord with the Master's own statement, "no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).
 
Indeed as seen from the many verses in the Bible alone we have been given direction on the nature of Christ and the Father, and as Latter Day Mormons we have truth revealed through other sources as well but I say to you have we forgotten the final testament of  Stephen when he was killed by a mob, do we not remember the vision of the man, he had this vision: "But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts 7:55–56). This was after the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. He saw God and Christ as two persons, Stephen was filled with the Holy Ghost, which would scarcely have given him a false and utterly misleading vision. The substance of Stephen's vision is confirmed by unimpeachable scriptures. After Christ had given to His apostles His last commission to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, He was received up into Heaven and the scripture records: "So then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:20).
 
These visions of old all come full circle when we remember the vision of our prophet Joseph Smith. The first vision and the revelation it contained opened up this last dispensation and also set upon the road the course for the Restoration. When the young Prophet had gone to the forest to pray, his first vision came to him gloriously, he said: "I  was enwrapped in a Heavenly vision and saw two glorious personages who exactly resembled each other in features, and likeness surrounded with a brilliant light which eclipsed the sun at noon-day. They told me that all religious denominations believed in incorrect doctrines, and that none of them was acknowledged of God as his church and kingdom. And I was expressly commanded to "go not after them," at the same time receiving a promise that the fullness of the gospel should at some future time be made known unto me".
 
Thus in the very beginning of the Restoration the young Joseph who would latter go on to become the Prophet, saw in vision saw two personages, he saw God and Christ as two persons, separate and apart. I ask you brothers and sisters was the Prophet seeing double and under a delusion concerning such a vital matter, his first great spiritual experience? Was God giving him a deceptive vision? We will not and we can not ever give credence to either of those positions. No! we state here today in full vigour of our belief that the Prophet actually saw two persons. Both spoke to him, this experience was so convincing that the Prophet wrote that though he were slain he could never deny it. He was slain, and thus with his blood sealed his testimony to the truth of that sublime experience. Let nothing therefore shake your faith in this anymore than it did Josephs. After the many testimonies which have been given of Christ, "this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him, that he lives; for we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:3)
 
In conclusion I wish to remind you of the last days of our Saviour, just before He went out from the "last supper" into the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord offered up a wonderful prayer. More than once in that petition He prayed for His disciples and for all those who might believe their message that they might be "one". He used these very explicit words, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are" (John 17: 11). It is obvious to us that Christ did not pray that those present with Him, and the hundreds of thousands who would believe on their testimony, might become one great big man, one person. They were to be one even as He and His Father were one, or, to transpose the thought, God and Christ are one in the same sense in which He wishes His followers to be one. It is said of Christ that "he loved righteousness and hated iniquity". Since He and His Father desire always to do the right thing, the righteous thing, and since all truth is known to them both, they are eternally one in their choices and in their work. As we "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth" we come nearer the time when His prayer shall be answered and we shall be one, as He and His Father are one.
 
It is my fervent prayer that we his church, The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ and we as Latter Day Mormons may live to understand the nature of the two great influences in the universe God the father and His Son Jesus Christ. I pray with all my heart that we as Latter day Mormons will strive to understand that relationship more than any another for without this understanding we can never, ever, fully understand the nature of the work that we are about. I pray that our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of our Father God, be with you forever and for always. Amen.
 
Prophet Matthew P Gill

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