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How are we saved?

What does the Bible say?

David W. Allan

Are we saved by grace? YES! 

Are we saved by works? YES!

How can this be?  Which is it, GRACE or WORKS?  Can it be both?

David W. Bercot has researched the writings of the early Christians (the first three centuries of the Church’s existence) and has documented in his excellent book, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, that they believed in both.  These writings are from people who were taught by Peter, James & John, and by Paul or by people who knew them.  He says:

The early Christian universally believed that works or obedience play an essential role in our salvation.  This is probably quite a shocking revelation to most evangelicals.  But that there’s no room for doubt concerning this matter, I have quoted below... from early Christian writers of virtually every generation... to the inauguration of Constantine .

In a section of his book, entitled, Are Faith And Works Mutually Exclusive? he shares a very enlightening historical perspective:

You may be saying to yourself, “I’m confused.  Out of one side of their mouths they say we are saved because of our works, and out of the other side they say we are saved by faith or grace.  They don’t seem to know what they believed!”

Oh, but they did.  Our problem is that Augustine, Luther, and other Western theologians have convinced us that there’s an irreconcilable conflict between salvation based on grace and salvation conditioned on works or obedience.  They have used a fallacious form of argumentation known as the “false dilemma,” by asserting that there are only two possibilities regarding salvation: it’s either (1) a gift from God or (2) it’s something we earn by our works.

The early Christians would have replied that a gift is no less a gift simply because it’s conditioned on obedience.  Suppose a king asked his son to go to the royal orchard and bring back a basket full of the king’s favorite apples.  After the son had complied, suppose the king gave his son half of his kingdom.  Was the reward a gift, or was it something the son had earned?  The answer is that it was a gift.  The son obviously didn’t earn half of his father’s kingdom by performing such a small task.  The fact that the gift was conditioned on the son’s obedience doesn’t change the fact that it was still a gift.

The early Christians believed that salvation is a gift from God but that God gives His gift to whomever He chooses, And He chooses to give it to those who love and obey Him.

Interestingly, Bercot shares his own struggles and paradigm shift as he read these early writings:

When I first began studying the early Christian writings, I was surprised by what I read.  In fact, after a few days of reading, I put their writings back on the shelf and decided to scrap my research altogether.  After analyzing the situation, I realized the problem was that their writings contradicted many of my own theological views.             

He had the integrity to continue his research, and he came to the profound realization that the reformation actually introduced some heretical teachings; hence, the title of his book.  No denying that the reformation did a great amount of good in helping Christianity correct many of the false teaching introduced during the great apostasy that occurred during the dark ages.  Saved by grace alone is one of them.   This doctrine was unknown in Christian teachings before Augustine and Luther.  It came in primarily through the translations and interpretations of Paul’s writings as part of St. Augustine ’s works and that of the reformers – especially Luther.

If we are to believe that the early Christians had it correct, who were taught personally by Paul, then we must conclude that salvation is by grace and works.  Bercot clearly documents this.  Paul was confronting those who believed that the works of the Mosaic Law were necessary.  Christ’s atonement fulfilled the law, and those works were no longer applicable.  This is what Paul meant in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

As the Apostle Paul so succinctly says later on in Ephesians, there is only “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Eph. 4:5) There is only one gospel of salvation.  It is not only the “good news” by the very meaning of the word, but it is the best news.  It was introduced to Adam, and has been on the earth whenever there have been true prophets to teach it.

Because of these doctrinal distortions that occurred during the dark ages and during the reformation, the Lord came to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 to commence the restoration in its purity of the fullness of the gospel and called him as a modern prophet.  That restoration included the coming forth of the Book of Mormon – a record of the fullness of the gospel as given to the ancient inhabitants of America .  It beautifully teaches grace and works, e.g. 2 Nephi 25:23.

Ironically, with the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls, as they were being translated, a real conflict arose because 200 years before Christ, here were Christian teachings.  Most Christians believe that Christ and the Apostles introduced Christian doctrines.  This Qumran society was a break off from the Hebrews, and the Jews do not want to accept that these Christian teachings were part of their tradition.  The Book of Mormon peoples had the fullness of the gospel before the first advent of the Savior with significant similarities to the Qumran society.  The gospel taught in the Book of Mormon is totally consistent with the Bible and with those teachings of the early Christian Church as documented by Bercot.

Another profound message of the Book of Mormon is that this land of the free (America) was raised up by the Lord through our founding fathers and mothers to provide a place for this restoration of the fullness of the gospel and for it to go forth to all nations in preparation for the great and glorious Second Advent of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Somewhat like the finding of the Dead Seas scrolls, this is profoundly documented in a recent book by Dr. Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum, Prophecies & Promises; The Book of Mormon & The United States of America.

Coming out of the Ancient American Archaeology Foundation, Edwin G. Goble and Wayne N. May have documented in a four volume set, entitled, This Land, a prolific number of photos and archaeological artifacts that are consistent with the Book of Mormon religious record of these peoples.  The above books are similar to the large amount of paleontological and archaeological evidences that we now have authenticating the Bible.

If we can set aside the paradigm bias coming out of the reformation that we are saved by grace – not of works – we find the Bible is clear in teaching that we are saved by grace (faith) and works.  There aren’t different gospels for Paul, or James, or John, or Old Testament prophets.  As Peter was profoundly taught by the Lord, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” (Acts 10:34-35)  We have the following scriptures as examples:

          Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew 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?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.  Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.  Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:17-26)

          ¶ 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:... (Matthew 7:24-29)

          ¶ For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

          ...I am the light of the world: he that followeth me [believes in me and abides by my teachings – doing works of righteousness] shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)

          ¶ If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)

          He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. (John 14:21)

The logical conclusion from these most meaningful scriptures is that to love is to obey and to obey is to love; they are equivalent, which raises obedience to a celestial level and out of the duty (do it or else) level.  The saved by grace belief coming out of the reformation has lead to the protestant common doctrine, “Believe and be saved; otherwise be damned,” which gives a totally different feel to their gospel, as compared with the truth as clearly taught in the Bible passages above.

Other relevant scriptures include:

          I call heaven and earth to record this day… that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:  That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days… (Deut. 30:19-20)

          ...he considereth all their works. (Psalms 15:33)

          Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work. (Psalms 62:12)

          ...and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works? (Proverbs 24:12)

          Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.  They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.  (Titus 1:15-16)

          Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12)

Finally, as the Lord – speaking apocalyptically through John – “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” (Rev. 22:12)

As we look at the trend in the world – and in our own great nation – away from those most important teachings of our Savior to both have faith in Him and to walk the Christian walk, we can see the need for a full return unto Him and for massive repentance.  In Bercot’s perspective, modern Christians are – for the most part – in the camp of the heretics.  Are we then, as most would believe, truly a Christian nation?  Do we worship the works of men’s hands or the God of Israel (Jehovah and Jesus).  As He taught, do we believe Him and do His will?  Do we love all including our enemies? (See )

Interestingly, we have direct evidence that the early Americans here – living 100 to 200 years A.D. -- lived in peace with no enemies in proximity.  In addition, they had total harmony between science and religion, which is a total contrast to our time where science and religion are in conflict.  Truth is truth, whether in science or religion, and they should be in harmony.  These ancients have shown that that is the case, and it is a inspiring example before us:  

The Lord has promised that exciting truths will come forth in our day to bring again a harmony between science and religion. (D&C 121:26-31)  A recent book Signature in the Cell by. Stephen C. Meyer is a great example of that as he proves scientifically that behind DNA is Intelligent Design (ID).  George Gilder, author of Wealth and Poverty and Telecosm, commenting on Dr. Meyer’s book exposes the following great insight:

Meyer demolishes the materialist superstition at the core of evolutionary biology by exposing its Achilles’ heel: its utter blindness to the origins of information.  With the recognition that cells function as fast as supercomputers and as fruitfully as so many factories, the case for mindless cosmos collapses.  His refutation of Richard Dawkins will have all the dogs barking and the angels singing.

Having read the book, I fully concur with Gilder’s comment.

We live in the most exciting time in the history of the earth in anticipation of the glorious return of our Lord and Savior.  Now is our opportunity to truly come to Christ – believe and hearken – then we have the promise that we need not fear (worry, doubt, hate, envy, fear, discouragement, and anxiety are tools of the adversary and he is very real – knowing it is his last hour).  Christ promises love, joy, and peace as we fill our lives with faith and trust in Him.  He knows what is coming, and He will help us through it all to receive Him, if we will but totally turn to Him with all of our hearts, might, minds, and strength.  This purging time coming has its Divine purpose and will purify His people and the earth.  We can look forward to the most glorious day this earth has ever seen when He comes again and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.  May we exercise pure faith in Him and hearken to His voice I pray.

See also

Spiritual writings index


Page posted by SDA February 20, 2011
Last updated: February 20, 2011
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