Paranoid Paul?

Ever notice how many times Paul expresses concern about maintaining the blessings of grace that are offered by Christ? Have you noticed all the passages where he worries that he or other Christians might fall if they aren’t careful? Overly worried? Paranoid? If so, it’s healthy paranoia–the kind that helps people face the brutal realities of their current situation in order to avoid real disaster. In multiple passages of the New Testament, Paul pleads with us to be cautious and avoid the many ways to fall from grace–and with good reason.

Here’s one example from 1 Corinthians 9 where Paul expresses concern about maintaining self-control over his own body, recognizing that even though he is a preacher and an apostle, he could become a spiritual castaway if he neglects the Gospel and its teachings.

24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:

27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

May we too seek to keep the lusts and desires of our bodies under control lest we fall into serious sin that pulls us away from Christ. It’s a jungle out there and we need a little healthy paranoia about the dangers we face and healthy self-imposed restraints to keep us out of danger.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

13 thoughts on “Paranoid Paul?

  1. Thank you for your excellent blog. I am not LDS, but greatly admire this religion for the very reason you pointed toward in the passages from Paul. The LDS church seems to me to provide people with an amazing roadmap for maintaining excellent spiritual health- both through their precepts and through their customs.

    Thank you for sharing your faith and your journey with everyone. Obviously you are a busy man with many things to do and this blog represents a gift to the community.


  2. I wonder if Paul's thorn in the flesh was anxiety. That would put even more meaning behind his words to Timothy that God hasn't given us a spirit of fear but of love and a sound mind.

    It also makes the things he accomplished all the more amazing and inspiring.

  3. Paul's many warning to other Christians about how they (like he) could fall from grace if they were not watchful is an important reminder about our need to, as one religious writer said, "work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling." Can you guess who that writer is? Hint: he's often quoted by LDS people.

  4. Anything analyzing Paul's paranoia should probably also mention how he thought Christ's Second Coming was coming soon (and that everyone should start baptizing the dead 😉 ).

  5. What did Paul mean when he talked about avoiding a fall from grace?

    Did he mean to say that if we don't keep up with the race that we would end up in a state of torment and suffering?

  6. If grace is what gets us into heaven and the reward we received in heaven is one of the various levels of glory, then it would seem that a fall from "grace" would imply that we not only don't make it to the celestial kingdom, but we don't make it to any of the kingdoms, but are cast off altogether.

    So is Paul using the terms grace and reward interchangeably?

  7. For a lot of us, making it to the Terestrial (2nd level) or Telestial (3rd and lowest level) kingdoms would still take grace.

    Come to think of it, making to any of the 3 kingdoms is still by grace, because any glory, even the lesser glory of the Telestial Kingdom, is more than we _deserve_ according to law and justice. If not for grace, we'd all be cast off forever for our sins, and not be resurrected at all, and not be admitted to any kingdom at all.

  8. Bookslinger

    That still doesn't answer the question.

    If grace gets us into heaven, and all three of the kingdoms are a part of heaven. But we don't finish the race as Paul put it, then we end up in no kingdom at all?

    I believe that for Paul it was more a matter of a fall within grace not a fall from grace. But again he does not say that so I am putting words in his mouth that may not be correct.
    We are all covered by the atonement of our savior Jesus Christ. We will then stand before him in judgement, and he has told us that he will judge us based on the works that we do.

    As our new creditor he has told us that if we love him we will follow him and keep his commandments. He knows we can't do it perfectly, but he does expect us to try. He is not going to say "Try and keep my commandments" because we can then say yes I tried, so I did what you said.

    I like the way Brad Wilcox put it.

    Christ is like a parent who has paid for us to take piano lessons. In doing so he has the right to ask something of us, and that is to learn to play the piano through hard work and practice. All of our practice does not cover the cost of the lessons. It deos not pay the teacher or the parent back. But what it does do is help us to grow and learn and develop a very special tallent.

    Every time we make a mistake we are not cast off and told to quit because we just can't do it. We are asked to stick with it. Keep practicing. But if we get up and walk away from the piano and refuse to continue to learn, then we put ourselves at risk for loosing our reward. Not being cast off all together, but stopping our progression from becoming the piano player we were ment to be.

    On the day we leave this world we will still be learning to play the piano, and still hitting the wrong keys again and again. But if we have continued to try our best The savior will invite us to sit down with him, and he will play us a song so sweet and so pure, then invite us to learn it with him. That we may be like unto him at the piano of life everlasting.

    But if we find no joy in the piano in this life because we would rather enjoy the things of this world, then we will find no joy playing the piano in the next life and will be willing to settle for something less.

    Now I realize that all kinds of holes can be poked into this analogy, there is no analogy that is a perfect parallel to the actual atonement. But I think it does well to illustrate what is asked of us by him who has paid the price for us, and what we are capable of.

  9. Ken,

    Your analogy of the piano lessons is much like my analogy of the scholarship (from one of Jeff's previous posts) and is right on target, of course 🙂 .

    One aspect of the Telestial Kingdom that you may have missed is that one doesn't get there until one has spent a bit of time in Hell paying for one's own sins. So yes, falling from grace can mean torment and suffering.

  10. Analogies (as in the race analogy) only go so far, and are not meant to be all-encompassing definitions.

    The "grace gets us into heaven" line, through true, is not all encompassing nor is it an exhaustive definition of what grace is, nor of what "getting into heaven" is. Such a line is a simplification of just one part or aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Also, though all three kingdoms can be generically described as "heaven" or maybe even "Heaven", there are _three_ _distinct_ and separate heavens, plural, with definitive boundaries between them.

    The "Kingdom of God", or "my Father's Kingdom" as Jesus referred to it, is specifically the Celestial Kingdom, where Heavenly Father resides and rules, as per Section 76.

    According to Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Terrestrial Kingdom is _Jesus'_ kingdom (because Heavenly Father never goes there, but Jesus does). Section 76 specifically says Jesus rules or administers the Terrestrial Kingdom. The inhabitants there will recognize His presence.

    The inhabitants can withstand/abide/tolerate the glory of the Son, Jesus, but they cannot withstand/abide/tolerate the greater glory of Heavenly Father.

    Likewise, the Telestial Kingdom is the _Holy Ghost's_ kingdom, as he presides or rules there, and Jesus (and Heavenly Father) never go there. Those inhabitants can abide/withstand/tolerate the glory of the Holy Ghost, but they cannot abide/withstand/tolerate the greater glory of Jesus and Heavenly Father.

    Section 76 is here:

  11. So if we all die with sin (No one can escape that fact) then do we all spend time in hell paying for our sins for which we have not repented? And is hell a place we go to suffer for a while, or is it a state of mind? Do we suffer the realization that had we been more faithful to the commandments then our level of glory could have been greater, but then at some point we come to terms with where we are and enjoy the blessing that kingdom has to offer? Does this suffering take place before or after the resurrection?

    I don’t know if it is part of the official church doctrine, but I do recall either reader or hearing that those found worthy don’t just enter into the celestial kingdom at the resurrection. When we are resurrected we are still in the same state as when we leave this world, imperfect, and that perfection still takes progression on our part. The atonement of Christ removes the penalty of sin so we are no longer subject to the law. But it does not remove our free agency, nor does it lobotomize us giving us a new mind instantly. We are still the same person and still imperfect with much growth still ahead of us to become like the savior.

    Joseph Smith was given a vision of the lowest kingdom, and said that it was far better than anything hear on earth. So if those worthy of that kingdom, must first suffer for their un-repented sins, then it must be done prior to entering that kingdom, because it doesn’t sound as if that is a place one would be suffering in.

  12. Ken, in response to your question:
    "So if we all die with sin (No one can escape that fact) then do we all spend time in hell paying for our sins for which we have not repented? "

    I think the principle of intention or knowingly sinning comes into play.

    Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, so he'll be able to judge us righteously and perfectly.

    Joseph Smith also referred a few times to "spirits of just men made perfect." I take that to mean they were "made perfect" after physical death.

  13. Another thought to Ken's question.

    If even those who have their calling and election made sure can end up (through their later transgression) having to go through the "buffettings of Satan" before their resurrection and eventual exaltation, then yes, I would suppose that the rest of us who don't have our calling and election made sure in this life (and regardless of which kingdom we end up in) would also have to "go through hell" and suffer/pay for any sins we knowingly committed and knowingly did not repent of.

    IE, if there are conditions under which someone who is eventually going to be exalted has to go through hell, then I would expect that some who eventually receive other levels of glory (the lower two rungs in the CK, or the Terrestrial, or the Telestial) could have conditions under which they also would have to suffer similar justice/recompense/attitude-adjustment prior to entering their final destination.

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