SALVATION BY GRACE AND OBEDIENCE
The belief that one could receive ultimate salvation by grace, without obedience to the principles and ordinances of the Gospel, did not originate with Jesus or his apostles. Jesus and his apostles taught that ultimate salvation was attained by grace and obedience.
Those who use the Bible to teach "salvation by grace alone" often take things out of context. For example Galatians 2:16 says, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." When the historical context of this and other similar verses is considered it becomes apparent that when Paul talked about "works" and "the works of the law" he was often referring to the "works" of "The Law of Moses." (see Galatians 5:1-6) In fact, the five books of Moses comprise the Torah which was specifically called "The Law." (see Acts 13:15) Taken in context, Paul consistently taught that salvation came through obedience to the gospel of Christ, and that the ceremonies and traditions of the Hebrew elders were not necessary for the salvation of "Jewish or gentile" Christians. (see reference list below)
Some other verses which are often used out of context to support the "grace only" doctrine are surrounded by verses requiring obedience. For instance John 3:16 correctly tells us that we must believe in the Son of God to be saved, but five other verses in the same chapter require baptism and righteous deeds. (see John 3:5,19-22)
Those who use out-of-context interpretations to justify a lack of obedience to the commandments of Christ are in danger of wresting the scriptures unto their own destruction. (see 2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:14-18) There are some wonderful verses in the New Testament which teach the necessity of grace. The New Testament references listed below help verify that obedience is also necessary.
Matt. 3:1-17 Repentance, baptism, and bringing forth good fruit required
Matt. 4:4 Man shall live "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God"
Matt. 5:13-48 Christ gives many commandments including "Be ye therefore perfect"
Matt. 7:13-29 Not those who say Lord, but those who do his will shall enter heaven
Matt. 15:1-9 Those who transgress commandments "in vain they do worship me"
Matt. 19:16-30 "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments"
Matt. 25:14-30 He who increases his talents is blessed, he who does not is cut off
Matt 25:31-46 We are judged according to our deeds as if they were done to Christ
Luke 6:46-49 "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say"
John 3:5 Unless we are baptized and receive the Spirit we cannot enter heaven
John 3:19-22 Those who do the truth come to the light and are baptized
John 5:28-29 We are blessed or damned in resurrection according to our deeds
John 14:15, 21-24 "He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings"
John 15:1-14 "If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love"
Acts 26:20 Paul taught "that they should repent ... and do works meet for repentance"
2 Corinthians 5:10 Christ judges us according to whether we have done good or bad
2 Corinthians 10:5-6 We are to bring "every thought to the obedience of Christ"
Galatians 6:7-10 "Be not deceived" for as "a man soweth, that shall he also reap"
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 "Vengeance on them .. that obey not the gospel of Christ"
2 Thessalonians 3:6-14 Commanded to withdraw from those who obey not
Philippians 2:12-16 Obey and "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"
2 Timothy 3:1-17 Turn from wicked "who have a form of godliness" but resist truth
Hebrews 5:9 "He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him"
Hebrews 12:1-2 Lay aside sin and run with patience the race that is set before us
James 1:19-27 "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only" deceiving yourselves
James 2:14-26 "Faith without works is dead"
James 4:4-17 To know good and do it not is sin
2 Peter 2:9-22 The unrighteous promise liberty, but are turned to wallowing in the mire
1 John 1:8-10 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive our selves"
1 John 2:1-6 "He that saith, I know him and keepeth not his commandments is a liar"
2 John 1:6-9 "And this is love that we walk after his commandments"
Revelation 22:11-15 "My reward is .. to give every man according as his work shall be"
It is not scriptural or reasonable to accept Christ and reject his commandments. There is no historical documentation that the doctrine of being saved without keeping commandments was accepted or taught by any significant Christian group or sect until after 1500 AD. So if "salvation by grace alone" is not scriptural, not logical, and not an early Christian doctrine, where did it come from and why do so many believe it?
After 1500 AD it became obvious to Martin Luther, John Calvin and many others that the leaders, teachings, and ordinances of the Catholic Church were corrupted. Many efforts were made to reform the church to conform with scripture. Failing to bring about significant reform, various religious and political leaders began organizing other Christian movements, sects, and churches. Many recognized that they could not claim apostolic or historical authority to preach or administer the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Therefore it became expedient for some reformers to believe and teach that authority to speak and act for God was unnecessary, that obedience to God's law was not required, and that grace alone was sufficient for salvation. These man-made doctrines became a part of some of the new churches. It should be noted that there is no historical evidence that any of the prominent Protestant sects or churches existed prior to 1500 AD.
The doctrine of "salvation by grace alone" has proven to be very popular and it's easy to see why. This doctrine does not require anyone to heed and obey the words of Christ and his apostles. The promise of salvation without obedience is pleasing to the carnal mind. But how do you suppose Christ feels about those who use his name to teach that it is not necessary to do what he says?
Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:19)
Jesus also said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity ... Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (Matthew 7:21-27)
Rather than resisting the laws and ordinances of the gospel in order to honor the traditions of men, we need to heed the words of Christ. He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15) He also said, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
James said, "What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? . . . Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:14,17-20)
John said, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2:1-6)
Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every [branch] that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast [them] into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and [that] your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John 15:1-14)
The doctrine of salvation by grace and obedience is also taught in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, written in the western hemisphere between 600 B.C. and 421 A.D. The last three verses of the Book of Mormon say, "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 again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen." (Moroni 10:32-34)
A concise summary of the doctrine of salvation by grace and obedience is also contained in four of The Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which are listed below:
"3 We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
"4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. "
"5 We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof."
"13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
© 1997 by Ancient Message Keeper™ All rights reserved. This document is the result of personal scholarship and does not represent the official position of any church.