Monday, May 28, 2012

Saved By Grace After All We Can Do

2 Nephi 25:23 "for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."

Some of my Evangelical Christian friends criticize this verse in the Book of Mormon. They say that this verse is evidence that the Book of Mormon teaches a different Christ and a different gospel because "there is nothing good we can do without the grace of Jesus Christ." They rightly say, "man cannot contribute one iota to his own salvation on his own and by his own power".

While I agree with my Evangelical friends 100% that man has no power on his own to do good without Christ. I think their interpretation of Nephi's "after all we can do" is unfortunately taken out of context and misunderstood. Nephi is not saying man can meet God part way by our own power. What Nephi is explaining is why they (the Nephites) bothered to keep the Law of Moses despite knowing that salvation was in Christ Jesus and not by the Law. Nevertheless, Nephi taught that Christ gave the law, so they thought is imperative to observe the law first until it was fulfilled and Christ gave new commandments.

In other words, Nephi taught that we should 'accept and apply the grace Christ has already given us, before asking for more' or 'finish what's on our plate before asking for seconds'. To prove that this "finish whats on your plate' interpretation is exactly what Nephi means, I will turn to the letter of Captain Moroni to Chief Judge Pahoran who taught this very same principle:

Alma 60:21 "Or do ye suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we sit upon our thrones and do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?"

Captain Moroni in a letter to Pahoran discusses the conditions of deliverance. In this letter Captain Moroni explains Gods expectation that his children receive and apply the grace we have already been given before expecting more. In this way the children of Christ grow "from grace to grace"

This principle is again taught at the close of the Book of Mormon by prophet-writer Moroni who promised the followers of Christ that if we would first apply all our God-given faculties (might, mind, and strength) to deny ourselves of sin, that then by the grace of Christ we would become fully sanctified through both the grave and power of His infinite atonement.

Moroni 10:32 "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."

What sanctification and becoming "perfect in Christ" means is that, with Christ's help, we can first deny ourselves, put off the natural man, and keep the commandments of God over following after the appetites of the flesh. Then Christ promises that we will then go through the process of loosing any and all desire for sin but only desire to do good continually (Mosiah 5:2). Only then; in this forgiven, purified, and holy state will we then be prepared to enter in and dwell in the presence of our Father in Heaven.

When I was a child the Plan of Salvation was depicted as building a bridge over a deep chasm. Man standing on one side representing Earth and Christ standing on the other side representing Heaven. LDS do not teach that man can build any part of the bridge to Salvation. However, we must choose to stand upon and walk across the bridge. According to the Book of Mormon, Christ bridges our path to Salvation one plank at a time and will not extend the bridge until we are standing on the nearest plank. In this way, we are expected to use our God-given agency and accept the grace and choose the righteousness Christ has laid before us. And in this way, Christ walks with us every step of the way in our path to Salvation plank by plank spanning the chasm over death and hell towards Perfection and our Eternal Home.

So, what is "all we can do?" According to the Book of Mormon, all we can do is to "make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us". The means which the Lord has provided are the laws and ordinances of His Gospel which He has and will empower us to receive and obey. "After all we can do" is just another way of Christ saying, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)

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