The work of God in bringing to pass the immortality of man is a free gift by the grace of God. Christ's resurrection saved all mankind from Death and Hell, two of the conditions that came upon mankind because of Adam's transgression. No man could save himself from Death and Hell, and the grace of God, the work of God (Moses 1:39) saved all mankind from Death and Hell.
Even after all this, had Elijah not have come back and brought the keys of sealing in heaven what is sealed on Earth, it all would have been a waste -- even Christ's resurrection, and the Earth would have been smitten with a curse. And that is because while being saved was a great thing, without taking advatage of the chance to restore the binding covenant of the Father, in which Adam was created, like a child who is born in the covenant and doesn't have to go to the Temple to be sealed to his Earthly parents, none of us could glorify the Father by returning to His presence and glories. For the glory of the Fatheris attained unto covenants that sanctify man and prepare him for that glory.
I am joyed to read articles like these attempting to fairly consider the differences in doctrines by searching the scriptures. I will give a response from my perspective as a Lutheran.
First, a distinction should be made about how we use the church fathers. When we talk about people like Augustine and the distinctions he made and the doctrines he spoke against, we do not hold them as having merit because Augustine said them. We honor Augustine or other church fathers because they pointed to Scripture in wholesome and beneficial ways, and applied it to specific troubles of their times from which we may take the advantage of hindsight. Specifically, it is because we believe he was *not* speaking a "different gospel" that we use his words. If we study the scripture and find any of his words to be in error, then we treat them accordingly and further learn from that.
You also, in this article, are attempting to explain Scripture and apply it to a certain context. You should not argue that we should not use Augustine unless you also argue that we should not read or quote your article, :) for you also do express your own explanations of the subject matter. It is the same sort of use for us. Yes, we do also respect the early church fathers for having been on the front lines and within a few generations of Christ and the apostles, but that is not chiefly why we respect them. (Roman Catholics would say differently though.)
Second, a quick Google search will confirm that the "epistle of straw" quote as you use it is not a fair picture of Luther or how he viewed James. Individual verses from James was/are often quoted out of context to promote a Roman Catholic view of works, but Luther himself often praised James when used in the context of itself and the rest of Scripture for rightly upholding the law of God. James has always been antilogomena in the church, one of the 7 books of the New Testament that some regions in the early church didn't originally use or know where they came from. So the church has recognized that there is an interpretational hierarchy in the NT: First are the four gospels, which relate the eye-witness testimony about Christ himself and His Word. Then are the epistles of Paul, who was himself an apostle, speaking about the subject of the gospels, and then come the spoken-against antilogomena (Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2/3 John, Jude, Revelation). We accept all these as Scripture, but interpret the books that are lower on this hierarchy in the context and light of the higher. James does not disagree with the gospels or epistles, but it could be read with different meaning if you set it on a pedestal trying to pit it against the gospels rather than in the same context. Therefore it is called an "epistle of straw" when wrongly used to *combat* the rest of scripture. Luther himself redacted this comment of his from being used in the introduction to James because of the quote being misused.
On the matter itself:
Faith without works is dead. But that does not mean that works make the faith alive. You know a tree by its fruits, but the fruits do not make the tree alive. But a good tree must bear good fruit, and so also faith that saves cannot be alone. Similar is the analogy that we are adopted as sons of God (Rom 8, Gal 3). A child, whether made through adoption or birth, never contributes or cooperates with becoming a child, but the child obeys his Father *because* he is his child. The child can disobey the Father and reject His headship - and run away from home into the outer darkness. Continuing in a lifestyle of thievery and sin without regard for the Father's will is open defiance, and essentially is running away from Him, and I agree with you that unrepentant evil works do separate us from God in this manner. But obeying the Father and contributing to the family does not therefore make the child part of the family. Not even after running away from home as a prodigal son squandering his inheritance can a son buy back his place in the family by working as a servant under the Father's direction, but instead the Father kills the fattened calf on His child's behalf and welcomes him home anyway (Luke 15). Our works and cooperation are the result of being brought into the family while we were still "dead in our trespasses and sins". (Dead people don't cooperate very well.)
So we are saved (given faith and rebirth apart from ourselves) by "the gift of God, not by works so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works..." (Eph 2:8-10) Paul says we were *created for* the good works, that's what being born into God's family means. But doing good works is not what makes us part of the family (is not what saves us and gives us the inheritance on the last day). Only the Head of the family can make that happen.
The words of Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer were the beginning of their message, not the end-all and be-all of his salvation.
They continued: "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
— ( Acts 16:26-33 )
So we see that belief was only the first step. As Christ’s servants “spoke unto him the word of the Lord” the jailor and his whole family were baptized “the same hour of the night”. Thus Paul and Silas were fulfilling our Savior’s Great Commission where he said “he that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved”. (Mark 16:16)
Our works are the only evidence we have that we have received Grace.
In John 5: 36 we read:
"But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me."
Our works are "the greater witness" of whom we have become. Hence the saying, we are judged by works, but saved by grace
The Bible uses the word "saved" five different ways. The problem is purely a matter of semantics. When Paul talks about saved by grace, not by works he is talking about justification, or the expiation, or forgiveness, of our sins by Jesus Christ's mercy. Our repentance, or works, does not earn us forgiveness of sins, it is only his mercy. Please see D&C 20:29-31. Justification is by grace, sanctification is by works, and if we endure to the end we can be exalted. When evangelicals talk about being saved, they are almost always talking about justification, when LDS talk about being save they are almost always talking about exaltation. Get past the semantics, define your terms, eliminate contention. The LDS observe classic Biblical soteriology, we just need to understand it better and stop contentiously quoting 2 Ne. 25:23 at evangelicals.
read Gospel Doctrine and take Primary 101
Why are we so caught up in the "salvation by grace" argument? For some reason we want to mollify the Evangelical types. Finding common ground is good, watering down our own revealed knowledge is a step on the way to becoming apostate.
We seem to be afraid of them saying we aren't Christian. It is they who are not Christian. The idea of all being saved in the highest degree, was Satan's plan, not that of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The answer is really quite plan and simple. "For it is by grace ye are saved, after all you can do.
Consider the statements by Joseph Smith: "When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top: and so it is with the principles of the gospel - you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation. BUT IT WILL BE A GREAT WHILE AFTER YOU HAVE PASSED THROUGH THE VEIL BEFORE YOU WILL HAVE LEARNED THEM. IT IS NOT ALL TO BE COMPREHENDED IN THIS WORLD; IT WILL BE A GREAT WORK TO LEARN OUR SALVATION AND EXALTATION EVEN BEYOND THE GRAVE." History of the Church 6:306-7
Excellent article. However, I promise you it is just a small taste of the faith building, testimony strengthening material you will discover in Robert's book, "Really Inside Mormonism: Confessions of a Mere Latter-day Christian." I have known Robert for close to 3 decades. I have shared experiences with him during presentations in other churches as he has powerfully testified of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of HIS Gospel and church. For whatever it's worth, I highly recommend his book to add to your library. As a convert to the church for more than 40 years I own and have read, to my knowledge close to every book written on this subject found in Deseret Book store. Coupled with the fact I have hundreds of books, pamphlets and movies from our critics that I have read and studied, and today, I know from the spirit of revelation that God our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ His Son appeared to Joseph Smith in that Sacred Grove. The Book of Mormon IS another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the World. There are living Prophets and Apostles on the earth today. Why wouldn't there be? We are all Children of our Heavenly Father and He loves US as much as any of His Children in ancient times.
The apostle Paul, who saw the resurrected Jesus, and wrote 2/3 of the New Testament, and was the greatest itinerant missionary who ever lived, told the Phillippian jailer: "Believe on the lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved". If it is good enough for Paul, then it is good enough for me. (I am LDS)
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