Evangelicalism has . . . always expressly denied that any good works or sacraments have any merit before God or any instrumental efficacy for justification. So the stress in historic evangelicalism is properly placed on the primacy of faith over works. Evangelicals have always resisted the pressure to elevate good works over sound doctrine, insisting that truly good works are the fruit of faith, never a valid substitute for it. But the evangelical movement isn’t really very evangelical anymore. The typical evangelical leader today is far more likely to express indignation at someone who calls for doctrinal clarity and accuracy than to firmly oppose another self-styled evangelical who is actively attacking some vital biblical truth.
– John MacArthur
Tower To Truth Question:
20. Since the word grace means a free gift that can’t be earned, why does the Book of Mormon state “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2_Ne. 25:23)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes the same thing about grace that the earliest Christians believed. Modern Protestant ideas are different from earlier teachings, which is fine, but it doesn’t make Mormon ideas “false” if we agree with how the earliest followers of Jesus saw the matter.
One Evangelical Christian author wrote of his sudden discovery that his previous beliefs about salvation were very different from those held by the early Christians:
If there’s any single doctrine that we would expect to find the faithful associates of the apostles teaching, it’s the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. After all, that is the cornerstone doctrine of the Reformation. In fact, we frequently say that persons who don’t hold to this doctrine aren’t really Christians…
Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there’s an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience. They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the “false dilemma,” by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it’s either (1) a gift from God or (2) it’s something we earn by our works.
The early Christians [and the Latter-day Saints!] would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it’s conditioned on obedience….
The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses. And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey him.
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today’s Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999), 57, 61–62. ISBN 0924722002.
The Latter-day Saints are pleased to be in the company of the earliest Christians. And, the LDS cannot be excluded as Christians because they have not embraced the modified doctrines adopted later.
Further, the phrase “after all we can do” must be interpreted in light of other Book of Mormon passages which define “all we can do” as repentance and being forgiven of sin and cleansed of guilt (see Alma 24:10-12).
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, on of the present day apostles, spoke on these issues and doctrines thoroughly:
Dallin H. Oaks, “Have You Been Saved?,” Ensign (May 1998): 55. off-site
To learn more:
Grace wiki articles
Does the Church neglect the doctrine of grace?
Early Christian views on salvation
Relationship between works and grace [needs work]
Salvation by faith alone
This is one of the core issues that separates the LDS system from true followers of Christ–the same question asked by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30—“What must I do to be saved?” So, what is the answer to that question? Well, the LDS believe that the Bible–and the Ante-Nicene Fathers–taught salvation by works. This is a total misinterpretation of what has been written. Good works are the mark of a true believer, and as James said, faith without works is dead (James 2:20). But we are not saved by our works.
And by appealing to the Early Church Fathers, they once again take the focus off of what the Bible says. We will address the word of God in a moment, but let’s just look at some of the quotes listed at the link entitled “Early Christian views on salvation.” First, the first quote from Justin Martyr, a quote that is taken so far out of context it may never find its way back:
Justin Martyr (110-165 A.D.) said “works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:249, chap 100, Dialogue with Trypho)
Let’s look at the ENTIRE quote:
And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho 100)
This is just one more way that FAIR continues to lose crdibility. If they are going to quote someone, at least quote them fairly (pun intended). But nah, they would just rather find a quote with the words “work” and “salvation” and throw it to people who won’t take the time to do research about the actual quote. Because, after all, it’s us “anti-Mormons” who are the liars. Well, here, Justin was talking about Mary, who as a virgin conceived the body of Jesus by the Holy Ghost. This Jesus is the one who “works deliverence…” Next quote from Justin:
“by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:185, chap. 65, First Apology of Justin)
But Justin is not talking about being saved by our works. He is emphasizing the point made by James in James 2:20 (quoted above) and by Peter in 2nd Peter 1:10—Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. In other words, show the world that you are saved, and do the good works that remind you of the salvation brought to you by Christ Jesus.
The other quotes they use, from such men as Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Theophilus, are of the same type. They are not saying that we are saved by our works, but that doing good works proves that we are saved. You see, salvation by faith does not just mean “I believe the facts.” And that’s what James says when he writes You believe there is one God? You do well! Even the demons believe and tremble (James 2:19).
Let’s look at the word “salvation.” To Christians, this is a term that refers to our being forgiven of our sins, and having, even now, eternal life with Christ. But what do the LDS believe about “salvation?” Well, they have a very different view of what salvation is than do Christians.
See, the LDS teach that all people will be resurrected, and their spirit, soul, and body reunited after death. This was made possible by Christ’s work, which they believe began in Gethsemane and was finished on the Cross. But when the Mormon talks about salvation, they really mean “exaltation”–receiving the highest glory in the highest “Celestial” kingdom. This they receive because of their works. The more works they do, the more points they earn, and the closer to “exaltation” they get. So, contrary to FAIR’s above claim, they are NOT “in the company of the earliest Christians.”
So, what does the Bible say about “salvation by works?” Well, if you go to a Southern Baptist church, you have no doubt had Ephesians 2:8-9 stamped into your forehead. By grace you have been saved through faith and that is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, and not of works lest any man should boast. But see, FAIR sidesteps the whole issue of what exactly grace is. Which is what they do with all of their “answers.” They do not address the issue directly, but rather (a) smear God or his prophets, or they will (b) send people down a side road that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
So, what is the sequence? Well, first, when we are born, we are born into sin. And it is only by being quickened by the Holy Spirit that we can see that. Ephesians 2:1-3—1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. We were dead. Our spirit was dead to God. And only HE can bring it to life, because we were too busy chasing the things of this world.
Why? Because we are sinful creatures. Romans 5:12—Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 3:10, 23—There is none righteous, no, not one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So, how are we justified? Well, we find the answer in the very next verse. Romans 3:24—being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. In fact, go through the entire New Testament. Try and find one place where it says that it is our works that save us. Nah, don’t bother. You won’t find it.
So, what is grace? Grace is this: God created everything, gave Adam everything he would ever need, but Adam wanted more. He wanted to be like God–in fact, wanted to BE GOD–and he rebelled against God’s command, plunging all of humanity into sin. Thus, we are all born as sinful, rebellious creatures who have no desire to know God. But God, because of His GRACE, sent His Son to pay the penalty and the debt that we owed, so that all who accept that sacrifice will be forgiven of their sins, and will be accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:6). We are saved by the grace of God, through our faith in Christ–not because we somehow “earn” that grace, nor is it conditioned on anything we can do. We only repent because God gives us the ability to do so.
Finally, let’s look at the Mormon idea of “grace.” In the LDS teaching manual “Gospel Principles,” they talk about a man who owed a great debt, which was paid by another who gave him an eternity to repay him. Elder Boyd K. Packer related a “parable” about this refinancing in Gospel Principles, pp. 75-77.
But let me tell you the way it really is: You see, to a Mormon, grace is nothing more than Financial Aid. God stands far away, and says, “You have a debt to pay. You pay off as much of it as you can, and I’ll make up the difference.” But that’s not how it is. Salvation by the grace of God means this: That we owed a debt–A 3 BILLION DOLLAR DEBT–and there was no way we could even begin to pay it with our own righteousness. Because the little trinkets of our “good deeds” are nothing more than filhty rags (Isaiah 64:6). No, my frined, God does not command us to “do good works,” and then promise to save us “after we have done all that we can do.” He pays off the debt completely, wiping it out with the blood of Christ.