Sunday, September 7, 2008

Good Works: God Hath Ordained That We Should Walk In Them

The majority of thinking Christians of all stripes have recognized the tension between the saving grace of the Savior Jesus Christ and the necessity of good works and have made their peace with the issue. It is quite obvious that both grace and works play an important role in salvation. Two key scriptures from the New Testament are cited:

1. Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

2. James 2:14, 17 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

To me it is very apparent from the New Testament scriptures that there are at least two essential components of salvation. We learn that sin has caused a situation where mankind will be eternally separated from God. No amount of working on the part of the human can change this. But through the atonement of Christ, humans are offered an opportunity to return to the presence of God and have eternal life. If we would like to accept this opportunity, we must first believe that Christ's atonement can save us. Then we must try our best to follow the commandments that he asks of us. Faith comes as a response to the grace of God and must have content. If one has faith, there will be evidence of it in deeds of obedience. Or in other words, "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:21)

If seekers for salvation will read the New Testament scriptures which proclaim this glorious doctrine, they will see that interspersed with the promise of grace is the exhortation to works. Let us return to Ephesians 2. Following the assurance that we are saved through faith, verse 10 states: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." 2 Timothy teaches of the importance of the scriptures in teaching us the relationship between faith and works. Says Paul, they are "able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. Hebrews 5:5-10shows the relationship of the obedience that Christ learned through his submission to the Father's plan for him to the obedience he asks of us: "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him."

Addressing a different but related issue, the Bible teaches that the outward "works" or performances of the Law of Moses are not effective in gaining salvation. In Hebrews 10, the believer is told that sacrifice and burnt offerings of the Mosaic law are done away in Christ. These sacrifices can never take away sins, and we are "sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." In our day the law shall be put in our hearts, and we should perform good works (vv. 24-26), "for if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins."

The Book of Mormon makes it even more clear that the performances of the Mosaic law were for the purpose of pointing Israel's minds toward the coming Messiah, and that salvation can not be achieved by obedience to this law. The Book of Mormon prophet Abinadi explained that a time would come when the people would no longer be expected to keep the law of Moses.
"And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses. And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were a stiffnecked people, quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him. But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. And now, did they understand the law? I say unto you, Nay, they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved bexcept it were through the redemption of God."

Alma 25 speaks of a people who had learned the proper relationship between the law of Moses and the atonement of Christ:
...they began to be a righteous people; and they did walk in the ways of the Lord, and did observe to keep his commandments and his statutes. Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them. Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a hope through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come. (Alma 25:14-16)

This is the same doctrine that Paul endeavored to teach throughout the entire book of Romans. We see it especially in chapter 3. "For all have sinned," Paul explains, "and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus...Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law [of Moses]." But Paul concludes the chapter with the same thoughts as the prophets of the Book of Mormon: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."

In this vein, we encounter one of the better-known Book of Mormon scriptures on faith and works. It is found in 2 Nephi 25:23, and reads: "...for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." The passage is found in the middle of Nephi's sermon on the scattering and gathering of Israel and the law of Moses. "There is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved," Nephi proclaims. The law of Moses was given to help the people look forward to Christ. But for Nephi's people, this event is still in the future. So they are instructed to continue to keep the law of Moses while recognizing its purpose: to lead them to Christ. They know that when Christ comes, the law will be fulfilled and done away with. Thus, after all the ordinances and burnt sacrifices of the law of Moses which they do, they know that in the end it is by grace that they are saved.

Over and over, the Book of Mormon preaches the necessity of being saved through grace and faith in the Savior, meshing perfectly with the teachings of the New Testament. A quick glance at the following representative scriptures is enough to demonstrate this:

  • And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. (2 Nephi 9:23)

  • And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)

  • And he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. (Alma 11:40)

  • And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. (Alma 34:15)

  • ...remember that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, who shall come; yea, remember that he cometh to redeem the world. (Helaman 5:9)

  • ...nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people. (Helaman 13:6)

  • also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. (Moroni 7:26)

  • And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. (Moroni 7:41)

The Savior invites us to come unto him and partake of his atonement. This we do by making a sincere effort to obey his commandments and follow him. We do not rely on our good works for salvation. Neither the Book of Mormon nor the Bible teaches this. If we seek to repent of our sins, the Savior forgives us, cleanses us, heals us, and gives us power to return to the presence of the Father. "Yea, come unto Christ, Moroni urges, "and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ." (Moroni 10:32)

Christ's atonement and our faith make it possible for God and man to be reconciled. As we engage in the sanctification process that makes us holy and prepares us to enter his presence, good works will become more and more manifest in our lives. Ether 12:4 puts it like this:
"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."


Maraiya said...

I read an interpretation of 2 NE 25:23 that I really like. The verse was cross-referenced to Alma 24:11, "And now behold, my brethren, since it has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain..."

I believe that all we can do is repent and turn to God, everything else comes as a gift from Him and the two of us working together.

I did like your statement about the "after" referring to the time line of events.

Anonymous said...

While I digest the fodder that you have provided, may I ask a question... As an LDS Christian, can you be saved if you do not go through the Temple?


Bored in Vernal said...

Well, David, here is a canned statement from the Church:

"Mormons believe salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ. This begins, but does not end, with a personal conviction that Jesus is your personal Lord and Savior. Mormons believe that there are two deaths to be saved from. Physical death will come to everyone because of the Fall of Adam. The Atonement of Jesus Christ overcame this death and all will rise from the dead with an immortal, resurrected, physical body. The death that is spiritual is a separation from the glory and dwelling place of God. Salvation from this death is achieved through faith in Jesus and the performance of the ordinances of Salvation. Baptism is the first ordinance, which is received after faith and repentance. There are also higher ordinances received in the Mormon temple. Through these ordinances a person enters into covenants with God the Father and Jesus Christ. The reward for obedience to these covenants is eternal glory. Mormons do not believe that salvation can be earned, it is granted by the mercy of Jesus Christ to those who follow Him. He has commanded His disciples to repent and receive these ordinances. Those that do will be saved."

Personally I do not believe that the ordinances are strictly necessary in salvation, but if there are things that God has asked us to do, such as obey commandments and receive ordinances, and we have accepted Christ as the Lord of our lives, why would we not want to do our best to obey?

Anonymous said...

You realize that cutting to the chase as you have that you have just perfectly outlined the fatal differences between the "Traditional" BIblical Christian and the LDS Christian in a nut shell, and the reason why Hinckley stated that they are not the same Christ, therefore there is a difference between the two faiths that the Cross of the Biblical Jesus does not bridge.

From the fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet by Elder Ezra Taft Benson: Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer. I look to the following: "No man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p.289). OBviously this is not a condition in the case of of the Biblical Christians. THey only need to have faith in Christ and otherwise in no man.


Bored in Vernal said...

David, Brigham Young was a nutcase in so many ways. The theology of the Mormon church has very little to do with random statements that BY made. Actually, the more you quote him, the more mainstream Mormons will realize that you are not addressing our doctrine as it is presently constituted.

I haven't read ETB's Fourteen Fundamentals (link?) but it looks to me like he is giving fourteen suggestions for following the Prophet and not 14 paths to salvation.

Joseph Smith and the rest of our prophets can be helpful in leading us to Christ, but our salvation depends on his atonement and not the prophets' approval.

Bored in Vernal said...

David, I'm reading your comment again and I'm wondering why you think the cross of the biblical Jesus does not bridge our two faiths. For some reason you seem to think that Mormons are not offered salvation by Jesus, when you yourself said, "THey only need to have faith in Christ and otherwise in no man." If we only need to have faith in Christ, why would it matter what church we choose to belong to, or what commandments we choose to follow, or who baptizes us?

Anonymous said...

You are correct in that you are a Christian if you put faith in Christ alone. I am trying to stress the importance of making sure that you are saved by Grace through faith in the Biblical Jesus. Works come only after true faith, and not out of fear of losing salvation. I am not saying that any individual in the LDS Church is not a Christian. No man sits in the judgment seat. I am saying that the Christ depicted in the official LDS Doctrine is not the Biblical Christ. To say it is, is to be made blind. How could I know what is in your heart however? There is hope for you. I think Brigham Young drank the Kool-aide, but it is not just BY. (There is) "no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation vol. 1, p.190).And there is Apostle Bruce R. McConkie who stated the following:

"If it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation" Mormon Doctrine, p.670).

This is pure Blasphemy! This is saying that the blood of Christ is worthless without Smith.

Matthew 16:18 "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it".

John the beloved remained on the Earth, there was nothing lost to be restored. If you believe in the BOM then what about the 3 Nephites? They had the priesthood did they not? Why would John the Baptist, who did not have the priesthood by the way, have to come. If it was for the keys then it should have been John the Beloved who was still on the Earth I suppose with the keys.

Perhaps it is not you that needs to repent but rather the Church itself. If there are doctrines in the Church that are off the mark, why does the LDS Church not purge them? It is not what we see of the Church that bothers me. It is what we do not see. You cannot say that you came out of the Temple for the first time and went, "Yea I feel good about all of this"

The Bible teaches in Mark 4:22 Nothing is hidden except for the purpose of having it revealed, and nothing is secret except for the purpose of having it come to light. It is time to expose the things that are not right in the LDS Church, not so that the Church will be destroyed, but rather so that it can be saved.

Look at Revelations 3:1-6 It should be a beacon for the Church.

Who would not want to take the best of both faiths and unite them in Spirit and Truth? I sat in the LDS ward week after week as my testimony crumbled as I read the bible and the Spirit of God witnessed to me. I stayed for a time in hopes that the things I loved about the CHurch would outweigh what I had come to know to be false. The Church spends far too much time covering up past mistakes instead of purging and moving forward. The more I came to know the harder it was to sit and say nothing. But nothing was what I had to say. I was under the authority of the Church. Romans 13 gave me no option but to leave.


Anonymous said...

I have to say a word or two about Baptism because you brought it up.

The LDS Church is a stickler for detail. IF even a hair from your head is out of the water you have to be baptized again, however, why do they not baptize into the proper name?

Matthew 28:18-20
18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name (Singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

The name of all three is Christ.

John 14:6
6Jesus said "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Christ had the sole authority over us to Give Life.

Colossians 2:9-23
9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

Christ is therefore the Head (Representative) over every power and authority. We know that he represents the Godhead.

Deity- The rank or essential nature of a God

Christ is the rank of and essential nature of God; He is the embodiment of The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. Which forms the Deity. So to be baptized in the name (Singular) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, we are to be baptized in the name representing the Deity, and that is in the name of Christ.

When Christ was asked of the Apostles how they should baptize, he told them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, knowing that they would understand that he is the representation of all three. THey then went out and baptized in the name of Christ.

38Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

Romans 6:3-4
3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death

Acts 19:3-5
3So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied.
4Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 8:16
16because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 2:38
“Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ

With that said, there is also the matter of all that you have to believe in to be baptized is Christ, so why do you have to attest to believe that the Church is True, Joseph Smith is a Prophet, there is a living Prophet today... and so on. The fact is that you are not baptized into Christ, you are baptized into a contractual membership in a Church that can take a away that membership and that baptism at will. Christ closed a door no man can open and that is the Old Law. He then opened a door that no man can close and that is Salvation. So how can the Church close that door.


Bored in Vernal said...

that is a lot to respond to.

So Baptism.
That's just dumb. If it says in the Bible "go and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost," and we say in our baptismal ordinance "Having authority, I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost," how is that wrong? Isn't baptism a "work?" I googled some other churches' baptismal rites and I found:

1. "[Child's Name], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

2. "We baptise this person [given name] by authority of and into your Name and into the Body of your Son the Messiah, by and into the power of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Father, we request that the Holy Spirit is placed in this person in the name of your Son Jesus Christ. Amen."

3. "In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I baptize you into the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

4. Even if no words are spoken over you during your water baptism, it is still a picture of burial and resurrection. Specific words are not what is important, but the attitudes and faith of the people involved are what matters.

What are the exact words you think should be used? I would think authority would be a bigger issue than the specific wording.

Bored in Vernal said...

David, I am interested in your personal story and I realize that some people have to step away from the Church because it becomes toxic to them. This is not to say that Christ cannot be found there. I have found it a good place to be for my own spiritual progression. (BTW, I did feel great about the Temple the first time I went. I've had some issues in recent years, but they are mostly feminist issues, and that's another story.)

I have a hard time with you comparing the Mormon way unfavorably to some "Christian" way. As we know, Christian churches have many different points of view. I've heard pastors and ministers of the various churches say things equally as strange as men on the moon. Why would their false doctrine be preferable to what you get from Mormon authorities? Spiritual leaders can be wrong. We have to work out our own relationship with Deity, no matter what church we belong to.

Anonymous said...

I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ. All Christians men and women hold the priesthood so any Christian man or any Christian women can baptize. Although baptism is not necessary for salvation (case in point: thief on the Cross) it is a commitment to Jesus and a rebirth. What is dumb is that women are excluded from the priesthood when the bible is clear that we all belong to a royal priesthood that is not subject to race or gender. What is dumb is that if you stutter you have to do it again. What is dumb is that if a hair is out of the water you have to repeat it. What is dumb is that the "Seers" of the Church do not know who the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost is. Follow the BIble. Who cares what other "Christian" Churches on the internet are doing. Tell me I am wrong in what I am saying from the Bible. I have to ask you to read Isaiah 42 and tell me who is talking, then read Isaiah 43 and tell me who is talking. Without knowing who is talking, you cannot understand the Bible. The Bible does not contradict itself. You will not know this until you come to understand these two chapters. That is a key I give to you my friend. Good reading.


Anonymous said...

When they say having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, it leaves me hanging. It is like saying I baptize you into the name of he who has all of the authority of all three.....Drives me crazy, Like someone who does not finish a sentence.

On Baptism your

1. {Child’s name} I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost……Kind of leaves you hanging. What name, what name?

2. These guys are baptizing into God the Father. Oops!

3. These guys in the name of Christ are baptizing into the name of Christ. Huhh?

4. You are giving them a bath.

David’s Baptism prayer

I baptize you in the Name of Christ, (If it is an individual with understanding) or sometimes I will say: I baptize you in the name of Christ whose holy name is the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. (If it is a person with less understanding). Kind of similar to the faith mentioned in your bathing ritual:)


Bored in Vernal said...

you are giving them a bath

David, I am sorry, I shouldn't have used the word "dumb" in my comment. I don't have time tonight, but I will talk to you some more about baptism. But first, how long were you a member of the Mormon Church (what ages) and how long have you been out of it? (Just so I can know where to go with my response.)

Also, I am looking forward to reading the chapters you gave in Isaiah. I love the OT, especially Isaiah. And it's great to be able to look at things from a biblical perspective.

Anonymous said...

If I said I was twelve would you still respect me?

More later. Mommy is calling me to dinner! Let me know about Isaiah.


Bored in Vernal said...

David, earlier you wrote: "I sat in the LDS ward week after week as my testimony crumbled as I read the bible and the Spirit of God witnessed to me. I stayed for a time in hopes that the things I loved about the CHurch would outweigh what I had come to know to be false." If you were 12 I'd say you didn't try long enough. Either to learn it in the first place, or to discover what was wrong with it in the second place. But I don't believe that you are 12. Why don't you want to answer my questions?

Anonymous said...

That was a joke. I am 23 and I want to tell my story but it is complicated. I am writing it down. I just get interrupted so many times just like now, at this very moment! I am unable to get it done or to proof read what I am sending. I am working on it. The weekend is looking good.


Anonymous said...

Oh, yea, and I was born into the covenant, baptized at 8 and I resigned from the Church a few months ago.


Bored in Vernal said...

That's good. I think your story would be very interesting. I hope I will get to read it.

re: Resigned--did you have your name removed from the records? oh well, I'll stop asking questions and let you write about it.

jhorn said...

I can very much appreciate your emphasis on salvation and the seeming tension between faith and works. To me the issue is all about assurance. I would say that the Bible and the BoM make it clear that there is a salvation by simple faith in Jesus' atonement. Would you agree that this is something that is received by faith and not just universally applied to everyone? That is a key point.

The next question would be, so what assurances do I receive when I have faith? 1 John 5:13, John 20:31, John 6:47, John 3:16, all point to an assurance of salvation (justification) by the content of belief. So there is an aspect of salvation that can be spoken of in the past tense (note that both Eph 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5 have the word "saved" past tense). In what way can salvation already be accomplished for us and we have full assurance of it? I think it's clear there has to be some way, and yet this does not negate the many references to present salvation (sanctification) and future salvation (glorification).

KingOfTexas said...

I’m assuming you know what true faith is, not belief, or hope or “I think it is true so it is“. Faith only comes from God as a gift. After loosing faith, I would ask what sins were I committing that would cause me to loose faith.

“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2nd Tim 4:14

Don’t let your lust cheat you out of your place in the Celestial Kingdom. The things we do in this life is a mere moment of eternity.