Monday, June 09, 2008

"After All We Can Do?"

LDS believe we are saved by grace 100% but we also believe that no unclean thing can dwell in the prescence of God. So it is not enough that our sins are covered or swept under the rug. They have to be paid for, and then they have to be pruged from our souls. Our sin-nature has to be changed. We have to become new creatures because although Christ's atonement will pay for past sins, we must get to the point were we no longer sin going forward. So, by Christ's atonement, our past sins are paid for. Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, and our past sins are not mentioned or remembered and we are admitted into the presence of God. But then what. If our sin-natures have never been changed, then what is going to prevent us from sinning in the presence of God after getting into heaven. We must be quickened in the inner man and we must be changed. And it is the spirit, light, love, and grace of Jesus CHrist which changes and quickens us.

Christ promised to save us from our sins and not just in our sins (Rev. 1:5). It is not enough that we are clensed from sin, and freed from the consequnces of sin only. The good news of the gospel is that God is also powerful enough to turn us away from sin completely.

Matt. 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

But when does this process of quickening and sanctification begin? It begins at the moment we have accepted Christ as our Savior. See it is the Holy Ghost which quickens and changes us, and sanctifies us. But just like no unclean thing can enter into the Kingdom of God, the Holy Ghost cannot enter into unholy temples. Or in other words, we cannot recieve the Holy Ghost if we are unclean. But all men are unclean. So how do we merit the Holy Ghost? We don't merit it. Christ merits it for us. Therefore, we recieve it through the merits of Christ Jesus who justifies us in the eyes of God and the Holy Ghost. But we don't receive all the light, glory, grace, and love of Christ all at once. Justification is just the beginning.

So, sanctification is a process. And as part of the program of sanctification God has said that He Himself has established certain institutions (using us as intruments in his hands) to bring about our eventual sanctification. And by receiving these things, we will be empowered to recieve more light, grace, spirit, and love of Christ until the perfect day. I have gone through the Bible and listed several "works" God has established for our sanctificatoin and perfection. In recieving them, it is not that we contribute one iota to our own salvation. It is God who is working through us and we are just witnesses to the application of Christ's atonement in our lives. WE are eye-witnesses to the power of Christ's atonement as we see ourselves change, our desires purified, our sin-natures destroyed as we recieve them. But again, it is not us doing it. We submit ourselves to God and the influence of the Holy Ghost.

Holy Ghost (Rom. 15:16)
Baptism (John 3:5)
Sacrament (1 Cor 11:24)
Prayer in Adversity (James 1:4)
Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Organization of the Church (Eph. 4:11-12)
Preisthood (Heb 5:8-9)
Everalasting Temple Covenant (Ezek 37:26-28)
Marriage (Eph 5:25-27)
Love of Christ (1 Jn. 4:17)

Now, we will not reach literal perfection in this world. But we still have the Millennium to complete the process of sanctification. And it doesnt really matter where on the path of grace and sanctification we are. It only matters that we are on it. And if we are when we die then our calling and election is made sure. But, because it is possible to fall from grace, we need to keep the faith, and finish the course like Paul.

The LDS church does not claim that man can contribute even one iota to our salvation. What the scripture means "we are saved by grace after all we can do" in context of the Book of Mormon means that we are saved by grace even after all the works God works in us for our sanctification as instruments in His hands.

Remember the words of Ammon and the sons of Mosiah who went on a mission to the Lamanites. They spoke in humility and wonderment about God who choose to send an angel to save them as they went about trying to destroy His church. They knew they deserved eternal punishment. But God had given them hope of Eternal Life in Christ. So, they gloried not in themselves, but they gloried in God. And they talked about their sucess with the Lamanites. But it wasn't due to their efforts, but 100% by the power and grace of God. And they likened their missionary success with their ability to be changed and repent and turn away from sin. And they gave God 100% of the glory.

So, someone claims that "after all we can do" means that man can contribute one iota to his own salvation, that is taking it out of context. I admit, I have heard people not really articulate it correctly, and I have always corrected them. And it may seem that the LDS church teaches works, but that is just a misunderstanding of our focus on faith in Jesus CHrist but also on repentance and sanctification ("perfecting the Saints" is one of the 3 missions of the church). But we receive all the ordinances and do all that we do in the name of Jesus Christ becasue we know that it is God working in us by the Holy Ghost, and it is by virtue of Christ's grace that any of what we do is possible.

The Doctrine and Covenants teaches, "In the ordinaces is the power of God manifest." because they are only recieved by the empowerment of the Holy Ghost. Also, every member of the LDS church when they recieve the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost are commended to "Recieve the Holy Ghost" because it is only by the empowerment of the Holy Ghost that any sanctificatoin is possible. And if someone were to just "go-through-the-motions" like baptism, or marriage, or priesthood, without Christ and His Spirit, the Doctrine and Covenants says "Amen to the power and authority of that man." Amen to His marriage without the Holy Spirit of Promise, Amen to your salvation. None of the "works" of the LDS church do anything without Christ and His light, grace, spirit, and love.

There is another misunderstanding about the phrase "After all we can do." Most people try to interpret it out of context. It says in context:

2 Ne. 25:23-24 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, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

The "after all we can do" was making reference to keeping the Law of Moses only. Nephi knew that salvation did not come by the Law of Moses, but salvation came by the grace of Christ, and the "after all we can do" part was only in reference to observing the Law of Moses until Christ would come and deliver the everlasthing covenant. So, it was only in the sense that he would observe the Law of Moses out of love and obedience to Christ. But, Nephi knew it didn't save, and that only Christ saves.

Abinidi taught the same. Abinidi asked "Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye?" (Mosiah 12:31-32). But then he taught:

Mosiah 13:27 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the law of Moses. I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the law of Moses.

Mosiah 15:1,7-8 And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. . . Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father. And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the Son power to make intercession for the children of men

Mosiah 16:14-15 remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved? Therefore, if ye teach the law of Moses, also teach that it is a shadow of those things which are to come—Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.

But, what about baptism? Baptism is a physical work. So, how can a physical work be necessary for salvation if it's Christ alone who saves. Baptism is necessary because Christ instituted baptism as the means that we recieve Him and open ourselves up to allow God to sanctifies us. And sanctification is required to dwell in the presence of God.

There is another example in the scriptures which illustrates this concept. God says he doesn't dwell in temples made with hands. But He and His prescence was in the Jerusalem Temple, yet it was a physical object. The Jerusalem Temple was not built by man's inspiration, but was inspired by God. Israel was only empowered to build it, and set it aside as Holy by the hand and grace of God alone. Similarly, God will make bare his arm in the Last Days and will rebuild His temple. And the temple is scaleable, and starts in the soul and then extends to a holy building, then a holy city, then a holy nation, and then the Earth itself until there is literal Heaven on Earth and there is no more temple. It is the stone cut out of the mountain "without hands" that became a "great mountain" (temple) and will fill the whole Earth. So, in the same way God can build a house to himself using men as instruments in His hands, God can empower men to be baptized, but it is God who is doing it.

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