One thing I have wanted to discuss for a while now which is probably one of the most debated and misunderstood doctrines with evangelical Christianity, is the doctrine of salvation coming from faith and ultimately grace alone. This is a discussion where bible verses are thrown around, past LDS leaders quotes are thrown around and in this setting without referencing at all to the LDS side of things I want to present as fully as I can the biblical teaching of being saved by grace alone, and nothing of works and what this should mean outwardly for the believer.
So LDS readers please relax, for once this post is here to talk about my perspective and not yours, and is hopefully going to communicate something of the amazing love I believe God has for you and the whole world. However please do comment and say what you think.
So firstly what are we saved from?
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
Everyone has sinned no exception, what does this mean?
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Our iniquities or sin has turned Gods face from us so that He does not hear us, this sin separates us from a perfect and holy God.
This also applies to any righteous acts we would attempt to carry out in this position.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
So as sinful humanity we are separate from God and are in such a position as He does not hear us and recognise any righteous acts we commit as good in His sight. This leaves us in a state of needing forgiveness and ultimately salvation.
Salvation in my understanding means being forgiven, accepted and righteous in Gods eyes so that our sin past, present and future would not keep putting us back in this position.
So how do we obtain salvation?
Ultimately we need to come to Christ, through His work on the cross and His resurrection we can be saved.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
1 Peter 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Humanity being in this position of separation from God, with no righteousness of their own to demonstrate, could not be saved by works therefore it is by faith that we receive that righteousness.
Romans 4:5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
When we receive this salvation not only do we become righteous in God’s sight we become a new creature with new desires and a new heart of love for God and the world.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Ezekiel 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
When we are in this position we are righteous, we are no longer in a position where our sin seperates us from God, we are righteous when God looks at us He see’s Christ and His righteousness.
Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Romans 4:7-8 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
v8 here is otherwise worded “Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” (NIV)
So rather than salvation being about producing works to obtain it, it is more like God doing a work in us that saves us and changes us into the people He wants us to be, this why being born again is a one time event that changes us within.
So what about works?
For those who have a different view to this the question will be “So can we receive this salvation and then do nothing?”
In theory if salvation is by no works at all the answer has to be yes, you can be saved and if you have genuine salvation this will not be shaken by whatever measure of works you produce no matter how much or how few. However is this possible?
If you imagine humanity being like a battery operated toy that when in sin we are dead, we have no batteries no capability or producing fruit or doing anything good. However when we come to Christ and become this new person we are given a whole new set of batteries would it be possible for a toy with new batteries to sit there and do nothing with all if this power flowing through it?
However James says this:
20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Do we have a contradiction, I would say no, in fact I would say James was a supporter of salvation by faith as much as anyone however He was saying that if you have genuine faith you will display it by your works. What good is it if a kid goes around with this battery toy saying look guys its full of power but he never turns it on, who is gonna believe him and in fact what is the point of that power? (I hope the toy analogy works for you 🙂
So faith without works is dead faith, its useless its not real and its not gonna save anyone. If you have put your faith in Christ and you have no desire to worship or serve Him or change the world in His name I would have to say your faith is dead. However if you have alive faith in Christ then your salvation is real and secure and will be displayed by your acts of faith. What will those acts be? That can be different for any believer.
So why is salvation by grace so important?
You might ask why do we evangelicals speak up for salvation by faith so much? Would it be that bad if we could do something towards it? You might prefer the idea that you can contribute something towards your eternity and feel kind of cheated without being able to.
The reason is that God is the one who deserves ALL of the glory for our salvation, no human person can say look I did this towards my salvation.
Phillipians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
He has started a work in you and will complete it!
This is why in Ephesians 2:9-10 it says
Not of works, lest any man should boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
In biblical salvation we are His workmanship and we have no room to boast as our works do nothing towards gaining our salvation, however these verses say we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, what does that mean?
I think the big gap we often see in this debate between Evangelicals and LDS is that evangelicals never get around to explaining Why we are saved?
God saves us in this way that glorifies Himself firstly out of love for Himself and His glory and He saves us because He loves us but also to glorify Him and bear fruit. We are actually saved for good works just not by them, God does not want us to prove ourselves to Him as when we are seperate from Him our good works are filthy rags, however He pulls us in and saves us by His work so that we can then declare His greatness and glorify Him.
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Ephesians 1:11-12 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
We that are saved and in Christ bear fruit unto Him, however even when we do this we are doing it out of His strength as without Him we can do nothing.
True Christianity in a lot of ways is the opposite of self-reliance. This is because as you develop as a Christian you become more aware of your need for God’s strength to work through you and you become more dependant on Him as you know you can do no good thing without Him, thus bringing glory to Him.
So summing up the bible says it is grace or works there is no middle ground.
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
But God to glorify Himself saves us by His work so that we then produce fruit or Good works unto His name.
5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
So my finishing message is if you believe that you have to perform or produce any level of work to earn any part of your salvation then you are in bondage, Christ died for you so that you would have freedom from all things law and be freed to do good works. In Christ we should be free from sin and the pressure to perform and be freed to do good. Not because we must but because He changes us in such a way that these things become a joy.