Short Take: Paul, Agrippa, Grace

Author's Note
My neighbor and I, among others, are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the New Testament in 2015. Here’s my “short take” for October.

Paul tells King Agrippa what he did at Jerusalem and elsewhere: “Many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests. And when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them” (Acts 26:10).

He was devout, faithful, zealous. “After the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” (Acts 26:5). He thought he was doing God’s work.

We want to excuse Paul’s legally-sanctioned murders, because of what he became. But he had Christians killed for believing in Christ – and he thought God wanted that. There’s no way – and Paul didn’t try – to explain or excuse that grave crime down to a mere misdemeanor.

Two thoughts.

First: No wonder Paul speaks so often and so gladly of grace. He knew the limits of Law and works; he knew his own need for “the grace of God that bringeth salvation” (Titus 2:11). The zealous former Pharisee bid his own people, “Come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16). He did not dismiss obedience (see Titus 2:12), but he knew that our best, while necessary, is not even remotely enough. We are saved by grace – by the gift of unearned mercy.

Second: If God could, would, and did make Saul the murderous Pharisee into Paul the apostle, then my own flaws and sins – and yours – are certainly within the scope of God’s grace, love, and power.

Therefore, with Paul: “Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1).

Short Take: “Our Daily Bread” – The Source of All Life

Author's Note
My neighbor and I are writing short columns for our monthly ward (congregation) newsletter, focusing on the New Testament in 2015. Here’s my “short take” for the month.

In the scriptures Jesus both prays and teaches prayer. His best-known instruction is what we Christians call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4; 3 Nephi 13:9-13).

In this model prayer Jesus praises his Father and acknowledges his own subordinate place – as we might well do from our lowlier position. He asks for big things: “Thy kingdom come,” and so forth, showing that he knows and is committed to the big picture. Then he turns to daily needs: forgiveness, protection from evil, and food.

“Give us this day our daily bread,” he says. But why should I ask for it? Don’t I buy it – and the minivan and fuel I use to haul it home – with money I earn by working?

I might feel independent, but in truth our dependence on God is total.

Paul said, “He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things. . . . In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:25, 28).

King Benjamin said, “[He] is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another” (Mosiah 2:21).

Much later, the Lord himself explained that the power of God “is in all things [and] giveth life to all things” (D&C 88:13) and “enlighteneth your eyes” and “quickeneth your understandings” (D&C 88:11).

By asking – or thanking – God for my daily bread, I acknowledge him as the ultimate source of all life, including mine.