Sunday, March 1, 2015

Definition of Grace

There is a difference in the definition of grace between what the Scripture teaches  and what Mormonism teaches.  Let’s look first at what Mormonism teaches about grace and then do what the Holy Spirit says through Paul the Apostle in Galatians 4:30 and Romans 4:3 and discover for ourselves,  “What does the Scripture say?”

First, before we reveal Mormonism’s definition of grace, let’s consider something the Holy Spirit tells us through the Apostle Paul in Romans 3:21, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.”  What does this Scripture verse tell us?  A true prophet of God will testify that there is a righteousness that does not originate with us, but is a gift from God.  As we look at Mormonism’s definition of grace, let us learn where they believe righteousness originates from and whether it lines up with what Scripture says.  Does Mormonism testify about the righteousness that originates with God and is apart from law or do they teach a righteousness that comes from the law.

In 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon we read about grace in this way, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”  And in Moroni 10:32 we read, “Yea, come unto Christ, 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; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.”

And in the LDS Bible dictionary grace is defined as, “It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by His atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life. It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”

And at we go to the following lesson and read the excerpt:

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1 Lesson 30: The Plan of Salvation

Have the young men read again Abraham 3:25.

•According to this scripture, why is earth life so important? (We are being tested to see if we will obey the Lord’s commandments.)

•If we obey the commandments, what will happen?

Emphasize that this is the way we obtain our return ticket home to our Heavenly Father.

So, according to Mormonism grace can be yours only under the following conditions:

1.You cannot be saved in your sins, (The Book of Mormon, Alma 11:37).

2.By grace you are saved, after all you can do, (2 Nephi 25:23).

3.You must give your best, (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.354.)

4.You must deny yourselves of all ungodliness, (Moroni 10:32).

5.Turn from all former sins and commit them no more, (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, pp.71-72).

6.If you commit any past sin again, the former sins return, (D&C 82:7).

7.Therefore, in order to remain forgiven you must never commit the sin again, (Mormon Missionary Discussion F, Uniform System for Teaching Families. 1981, p.36).

According to Mormonism you could say you are saved at this very moment if you are no longer in your sins, if you’ve done all you can do, if you’ve given your best, if you have denied yourself of ALL ungodliness, and if you’ve turned from your former sins and will never commit them again.

I don’t know about you, but I know this could never be true of me. 

So why don’t we find out what the Scripture says first about the law and works and see if it is possible to be saved by them, and then see what the Scripture says about grace.  Remember, the Scriptures, the Bible, is the Standard God has given us by which we can grade everything we read, hear and think.  The Bible God has given us is the final word on the matter.

Can a man be justified or declared righteous by observing the law?

Romans 3:20a, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law…”

Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified (declared righteous) by faith apart from observing the law.”

Romans 4:2, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified (declared righteous) by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.”

Romans 4:13a, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world…”

Galatians 3:10-11a, “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”  Clearly no one is justified (declared righteous) before God by the law…”

We see by the Scriptures that God will not declare anyone righteous by their observance of the law.

Is it possible to mix works and grace (grace after all we can do)?  The Holy Spirit says in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

If I were to offer you a gift with a value of one hundred dollars and then demanded payment for that gift, it would no longer be a gift would it?  So if God offers you the gift of eternal life and then demanded you earn it, it would no longer be a gift.

So let’s talk about real grace, unearned favor, unmerited love, the infinite love of God shown to us in what Jesus did on the cross and what that can mean for you:  Reconciliation to God, adoption as His child,  the guarantee of eternal life and never being afraid of God breaking His promise to you.  What was it the Apostle John wrote in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.”

You can know right now that you have eternal life…not a life you have to earn, but a life freely given to you and guaranteed to you by a gracious God.

Let’s find out the Scriptural definition of grace.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace (unearned favor) you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

It is by grace (unearned favor) that a person is saved from judgment.  This happens through faith (believing).  And this ability to believe God doesn’t originate with us, but the ability to believe God comes from God.  And we are not saved by works.  No one will boast before God.

If we look at ourselves honestly we can agree with God that we are not righteous, but sinners.  Romans 3:23, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But God demands righteousness:

Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  And He says in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

But we’re not perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect.  Our righteousness does not exceed that of the Pharisees.  Where are we to get this righteousness?  Mormonism says we have to obtain this in order to be saved, but when we look honestly at ourselves we see this goal is unrealistic.

Romans 3:21-26, “But now a righteousness FROM GOD, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness FROM GOD comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified (declared righteous) FREELY by His grace through the redemption (the action of saving from sin, error, or evil) that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement (the reconciliation of God and humankind as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ), through faith in His blood.  He did this to demonstrate His justice, because in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—He did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies (declares righteous) those who have faith in Jesus.”

By God’s grace there is a righteousness that originates with Him and is imparted to us when we believe that Jesus went to the cross to satisfy the justice of God, save us from sin and evil by His suffering with the purpose of reconciling us to God. Our sins separate us from God, causing Him to hide his face from us and not hear us.

Isaiah 59:2, “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

Jesus paid the penalty for those sins, to take them out of the way.  Isaiah 53:11b, “…by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify (declare righteous) many, and He will bear their iniquities.”

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and take them out of the way, and become the fulfillment of the law in you.  Romans 10:4, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

This free gift of righteousness that originates with God comes through faith and is credited to those who believe Him.

Romans 3:28, “For we maintain that a man is justified (declared righteous) by faith apart from observing the law.”

Romans 4:3, “WHAT DOES THE SCRIPTURE SAY?  ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:5, “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies (declares righteous) the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:9b, “We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:13, “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”

Romans 4:16a, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring…”

Romans 4:23-25, “The words ‘it was credited to him (Abraham)’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (that we would be declared righteous).”

Isaiah 53:11b,  “…by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify (declare righteous) many…”

Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, since we have been justified (declared righteous) through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we NOW stand.”

This sounds like a grace we can have now, not after all we can do.

It is through faith (believing that Jesus was delivered over to death to pay for your sins and was raised to life for your justification) that you are declared righteous and reconciled to God.  You don’t wait until after all you can do, but as a result you will stand in God’s grace NOW.

Romans 8:1-4, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do in that is was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.”

A person who is reconciled to God stands in His grace now, not after all he can do, and is no longer under ANY condemnation.  His sins are remembered no more.  And nothing in all of creation can separate him from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 4:7-8, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will NEVER count against him.”

Paul the Apostle asked the children of God in Galatia this question in Galatians 3:2, “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?”

This is a rhetorical question he asks.  We know by reading the above Scriptures that the Galatian believers received the Spirit of God by faith (believing what they heard).

Will you today be reconciled to God and receive the Spirit of God by believing what you have read in His Word?  We have compared Mormonism’s definition of grace to the Biblical definition of grace and have seen they are different.  God has given you the Standard to test what you have heard.  Does what you have heard line up with Scripture, or does it contradict Scripture?

Romans 3:4, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”

When testing a teaching, the Word of God is always the final say.  God’s grace can be yours now, it will never happen after all you can do.  Salvation from judgment doesn’t happen by works, but by the grace of God shown to you through the finished work of Christ on the Cross.  “He was delivered over to death for your sins and was raised to life for your justification.”

You have sinned, I have sinned, we have all fallen short of the glory of God.  And the wages of sin is death, both physically and spiritually (the lake of fire).  Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ask God today to apply what Jesus did at the cross to your life…to forgive you of your sin, to credit the righteousness of Christ to your account, to reconcile you to Himself and give you the free gift of eternal life, and He will do it.  Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  He will then adopt you as His child and seal you with His Holy Spirit and guarantee you eternal life with Him. 

Ephesians 1:13-14, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.  Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit GUARANTEEING our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”

My hope and prayer is that today you asked yourself, “What does the Scripture say?”  I hope you understood that whenever you hear a teaching that is contrary to Scripture that the Scripture is always right.  I hope you made the decision to follow the Scriptural teaching on how to be reconciled to God and asked God to save you from judgement, not based on your merits, but on His grace shown to you.  Jesus understands you can’t do it and that the burden has been too heavy, that’s why He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Let Jesus give you rest today.  Let Him forgive your sin, credit His righteousness to your account.  Let God reconcile you to Himself, adopt you as His child, seal you by the Holy Spirit and give you the sure hope of eternal life, and the promise that NOTHING will ever be able to separate you from Him.

Romans 8:37-39, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

God bless you.

For more information on what Mormonism really believes, watch the following two commentaries, each about an hour in length:

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