Thursday, June 11, 2009

Christ Is Our Rewarder

Some Evangelical criticize LDS Doctrine by claiming that LDS believe we can save ourselves by works. They claim we believe that salvation is not by grace alone. These claims are not true. Like most Christians, LDS believe in the concept of rewards. And like most Christians, we believe that to be saved from Hell, all a person must do is confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10: 9-10). However, this minimal acceptance of the grace of Christ does not guarantee the same rewards as another who has more fully accepted the full grace and gifts of God. Similarly, LDS also believe that salvation from Hell is by the grace alone of Jesus Christ, but we also believe that our rewards are based on our works. The greatest reward being eternal life and exaltation. Salvation from Hell is not the same as Eternal Life. Eternal Life is the greatest of all the gifts of God.

Some of these same critics would question the Book of Mormon. Nephi, a Book of Mormon prophet says, "We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do " (2 Nephi 25:23). On the surface, it seems like Nephi is saying we meet Christ partway, or can somehow contribute to our own salvation on our own. Unfortunately, this misinterpretation takes Nephi's words out of context. Historically, Nephi lived under the Law of Moses before the coming of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, Nephi was discussing why they bothered to observe the Law of Moses when God had already revealed to them that the Law was dead, did not save, and that salvation was only in and through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the "all we can do" part was actually in reference to their continued observance of the Law of Moses.

So, let me be clear on LDS doctrine. LDS believe that salvation from Hell is by the grace alone of Jesus Christ. But, LDS believe that works are necessary for the greatest reward of Eternal Life. But, even with works, it is still all grace. Because LDS believe that man could do no good work unless empowered by the grace of Christ. Good works are a manifestation of the love, grace, spirit, light, and power of Christ within us. Therefore, works do not deny grace, but are a manifestation of its operation in the believer.

Now a few Evangelical friends of mine seemed to argue that obedience and works might actually distance a person from God. Someone made the point that the LDS organization and ordinances are like the many Pharisaic rules and restrictions. All those many strict observances blinded their adherents such that they not only didn't recognize their God when He appeared, they crucified Him.

Unfortunately, I think this argument against works is an example of the pendulum swinging too far to the other extreme. The problem wasn't obedience, and works of themselves. The problem with the Pharisees was that God did not inspire those extraneous works and strict observances. Therefore, God wasn't in them or a part of them. Therefore, instead of attacking works as a whole, the better question is to ask what works God does require, has inspired, and will empower. And although most Christians believe in rewards, a better question is to ask is what rewards has God actually promised (i.e. eternal families).

Personally, I have felt God empower me to water baptism and to take the Lord's Supper weekly, and to receive covenant marriage. Experiencing God empower me in these works has strengthened my faith. Some may say they don't need these works to have faith in God. Some may say that a person can have faith in Christ without them. That's fine. But, for me and my house, these works have been a mechanism for God to gift to me stronger faith and a closer relationship with Him. After understanding that God strengthens our faith though the works he does in us and through us, I realized we really can't even boast of our faith, because even faith is a gift/reward of God.

Despite all this. several Evangelical friends of mine questioned LDS motivation for works. They claimed that it was somehow wrong for LDS to seek works for the purposes of eternal reward and not love for Christ alone. I can not comment about another person's motivation. But I know the Bible gives us many motivations to obey and bring forth good fruit. In some places the Bible says "fear God" and in other places it says obey because God will reward you, and in others, the Bible says obey because God loves you and you should "love God." Whatever your motivation, the Bible is clear that we will be judged by our works and not our motivation. So, are LDS partly motivated by a hope of a greater reward in heaven? Yes, Christ is our rewarder!

Ps. 31: 23. O love the Lord, all ye his saints: for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

Matt. 6: 19-20 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

Matt. 16: 27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

1 Tim. 6: 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

1 Cor. 12: 31 But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.

Heb. 11: 35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

Matt. 5: 12, 46 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

1 Cor. 3: 8, 14 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. . . If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

Rev. 2: 10 Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Rev 22:12-14 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.

Heb. 11: 6, 26 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

But what about these two verses? What is Paul saying about reward being a product of grace and not of debt?

Rom. 4: 4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.

Rom. 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 is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

Rom. 6: 23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul still is using the term reward, or wages, and not gift. What he means is that going through the motions of works does not guarantee any particular blessing. The temple is meaningless by itself. The temple is a teaching aid to teach a person what real fruit God expects.The real lesson of the temple is that God expects a person to accept God's gift of self-mastery over the flesh. God expects a person to allow God to work in them to care for our family responsibilities, and also the fatherless and widow and our neighbors. God expects a person to receive of Christ's countinance such that they are filled with His love, humility, patience, and faith. Going to the temple guarantees nothing. If a person doesnt receive the true meaning of the temple, they are like the unwise virgins without oil in their lamps. Consequently, there will be many LDS who don't receive the promised rewards. Remember in the invitation to the wedding feast in Matt 22:10 , both the bad and good were invited and the ones not wearing the wedding garment were thrown out. What are the the beautiful white garments of the Saints? John says the white clothing is the "righteousness of the Saints" in Rev 19: 8. Paul is just reminding us that it is God who me must allow to work in us. And if we do, we will be empowered to bring forth the real fruit that God requires.

Matt. 22: 10-12 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

Rev. 19: 8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

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