I just got home from my mission. It was a great experience, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. God has been so gracious to me in giving me the opportunity to go on this mission to share the gospel; I shared the message of the forgiveness of sins, and of salvation leading to eternal life with Heavenly Father, with so many people.
The only thing is, I’m not a Latter-Day Saint. But everything I just said sounds pretty LDS doesn’t it? If you don’t know, or if you think it doesn’t, then you don’t know a lot about talking to Latter-Day Saints. They use all the same words as we do, as I did above. And yet, can you spot the lexical issues with anything I said? I believe the things I said above. I believe in our Heavenly Father, and I often preface public prayers with an address to our gracious and wonderful heavenly Father. I did go on a mission trip to Utah, and I did share the gospel of forgiveness of sins, and salvation that brings us to our heavenly Father. But what do these things mean? What is the gospel? What does it mean to be forgiven of your sins?
I want to use one of the highlights of my experience out in Provo, Utah as a way to talk about the LDS doctrine of forgiveness and why I believe it leaves the Mormon in perpetual want for their struggle with sin. The things I say in this article are in no way meant to bash or leave the Mormon destitute of any hope for grace; my heart’s greatest desire is to see Mormons come by this article and realize their gospel cannot save, and that they would come to Christ in the true gospel, to know that Jesus truly is enough, more than enough, and is, as Paul says, “The end of the law for righteousness to all who believe” (Romans 10:4). This article is also to help my fellow Christians show their LDS neighbors and missionaries how they have no true gospel, but a very dark, and impossible task. After all, gospel means “good news”. Is the LDS gospel really what it claims to be?
As I said, I want to use primarily one conversation I had in Provo, but I will use various conversations that took place with my team and I, not simply just me, with LDS people to convey my point. Although I mentioned above the lexical problems, that is not my primary focus here; explaining lexical differences between LDS theology and Protestant theology will be offered only insofar as it is necessary to the discussion.
The Principle of Examination
The main subject we want to discuss in this article is forgiveness in LDS doctrine, and hence we will go into their Scriptures to show it. We will begin with the Book of Mormon itself, the very first published work of LDS canon. In the conversation with the two LDS sister missionaries I had, one of them said to me that her standard was the Book of Mormon. She understands all of revelation, therefore, in light of the Book of Mormon. The Bible itself, she said, is interpreted with the Book of Mormon, and that the Book of Mormon makes the Bible more complete. The assumption that we both agree on, then, is that the Book of Mormon ought to line up with what the Bible teaches, such as monotheism (something that the Book of Mormon actually does teach, which I show in this article here).
I think her position is completely reasonable, and in fact, I’m glad it was stated. Being upfront and forthcoming about our essential assumptions (presuppositions) is key to an honest, meaningful and clear dialogue. When we obscure or do not take a specific stance on a position, and lay out our presuppositions, we are the proverbial pinning jello to a wall scenario, where one is able to shift, shape and turn without being held accountable to any standard, because we reject standards. But this sister flatly said she has a standard, and it’s the Book of Mormon. That’s good!
The Apostle Orson Pratt, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said this about the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon claims to be a divinely inspired record, written by a succession of prophets who inhabited ancient America. It professes to be revealed to the present generation for the salvation of all who will receive it, and for the overthrow and damnation of all nations who reject it.“Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” Introduction.
Notice how he claims it is “divinely inspired”. It’s important to understand these words in their historic context. As I said to the sister missionaries, who both agreed with me, we must always be honest with history, and read it in its essential context, not read backwards our modern-day concepts into it. I mention this because many LDS apologists will get around difficulties with LDS history by reinterpreting particular words from men of the past. This has been done so many times, and was demonstrated in a debate many years ago by Dr. James White (Christian) and Martin Tanner (Mormon; LDS), when Tanner insisted that the early church believed that we can indeed become gods.
Disregard the fact that according to LDS theology, the Church went apostate after the apostles died, and therefore, there should be no proper gospel theology in the apostolic and patristic writings which Tanner is evidently finding, what Tanner is citing in the early church is a doctrine called “theosis”. Tanner didn’t call it theosis, but that’s what it is. Why didn’t Tanner do that? Because Tanner is reading backwards into church history ideas and concepts that those men did not by any stretch of the imagination believe.
Likewise, many will try and change the term “divinely inspired” to mean that the Book of Mormon is a very ‘spiritual’ book, not completely literal or doctrinally concrete. As Alma Alred once said, the Book of Mormon is not primarily to teach doctrine, an assertion I think is quite untrue given my own studies into the Book of Mormon. But again, what did Orson Pratt mean by the words “divinely inspired”? Given his historic context in America, which at the time was largely Protestant, it is safe to assume he’s operating on some form of the words and phrases found in the Protestant confessions, like the Westminster Confession of Faith, a very common confession for the churches in America in that time. The Westminster Confession’s doctrine of sacred Scripture is found in chapter 1 of the confession, and it is patently clear that Scripture is not simply a spiritual, mystical, abstract idea that is meant to ‘inspire’ you to do good, but that it is truly from the mouth of God (2 Timothy 3:16) through His prophets and apostles, just as in LDS theology, the president and prophet speaks revelation from God. I imagine none of that’s meant to be taken in any abstract, subjective way, right? We shouldn’t treat Scripture in the same manner. Pratt goes on to say:
This book must be either true or false. If true, it is one of the most important messages ever sent from God to man, affecting both the temporal and eternal interests of every people under heaven to the same extent and in the same degree that the message of Noah affected the inhabitants of the old world. If false, it is one of the most cunning, wicked, bold, deep-laid impositions ever palmed upon the world, calculated to deceive and ruin millions who will sincerely receive it as the word of God, and will suppose themselves securely built upon the rock of truth until they are plunged with their families into hopeless despair. The nature of the message in the Book of Mormon is such, that if true, no one can possibly be saved and reject it; if false, no one can possibly be saved and receive it. Therefore, every soul in all the world is equally interested in ascertaining its truth or falsity.“Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” Introduction.
Pratt seems very unmistakably clear about the purpose of the Book of Mormon. He treats it with the same reverence as the Westminster Confession does of the Bible, as any and all believers should of all of their Scriptures. It is either true or false. But what of the testimony of the Book of Mormon? The burning in the bosom, as it were? The two sister missionaries I talked to testified to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that it was absolutely true, and that they knew God told them this in their hearts. What’s being implied? What Moroni 10:4 says, that if we ask God the Eternal Father with a sincere heart that the things written in the Book of Mormon are true, and if we are sincere, God will reveal it to us as true. In other words, all you need to do is pray hard and earnestly, and the truth that the Book of Mormon is true is revealed to you. That’s what these two sister missionaries did with me. It was true because God told them.
In other words, and I say this in all the love and respect I can, they know it’s true on a subjective experience, one I simply cannot share. You cannot will yourself to a feeling, I’m afraid, and I don’t share the same feelings as they do. Even when I do pray in such dry seasons to God, there are days where my feelings don’t match what I know, as the psalmist numerous times says, befuddled as to why his heart is so cold and is not being lifted in the joy of the Lord. Thankfully, my faith doesn’t depend on how I’m feeling at any given moment. Nevertheless, is this how Orson Pratt said we should examine the Book of Mormon’s truth? Let’s look:
In a matter of such infinite importance no person should rest satisfied with the conjectures or opinions of others: he should use every exertion himself to become acquainted with the nature of the message: he should carefully examine the evidences of which it is offered to the world… If, after a rigid examination, it be found an imposition, should be extensively published to the world as such; the evidences and arguments upon which the imposture was detected, should be clearly and logically stated, that those who have been sincerely yet unfortunately deceived, may perceive the nature of the deception, and be reclaimed, and that those who continue to publish the delusion, may be exposed and silenced, not by physical force, neither by persecutions, bare assertions, nor ridicule, but by strong and powerful arguments–by evidences adduced from scripture and reason. Such, and such only, should be the weapons employed to detect and overthrow false doctrines–to reclaim mankind from their errors, to expose religious enthusiasm, and put to silence base and wicked impostors.“Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon” Introduction.
I think we get the idea. Orson Pratt says the Book of Mormon should be examined not in light of a subjective experience that cannot be falsified, but by clear, documented evidences and logical argument. And if the work is found to be false, contradictory to the truth, even if it is believed with a sincere heart, it should be rejected with firm, good and sound arguments. In other words, the Book of Mormon is not to be put on a special pedestal from every other work, but that it be examined like anything else, even the Bible. That’s what we are going to do. We are going to examine the standard of Mormonism–the Book of Mormon–the first work of the Church, and hence use it as our standard, while also holding it to the same scrutiny we do with anything else. God is not a God of confusion, nor contradiction; He never lies, He never distorts, and He never makes error. Therefore if the same God who gave us the Bible gave us the Book of Mormon, the two should, as one of the sister missionaries boldly said to me, not only be in perfect harmony, but the Book of Mormon would more greatly fulfill the Bible. Since our subject is on forgiveness of sins, this will be our focus.
1 Nephi 3:7
There are a number of passages in the Book of Mormon we can start with, but I’ve decided to begin here, and work towards the one I think is the most revealing. In 1 Nephi 3:7, we read:
… for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.1 Nephi 3:7
The three dots in the beginning are to indicate that this is a part of the verse, but not the full verse. I encourage you to read it in its entirety, but I left the first part out for the sake of time. Here in the final part of the verse, the Book of Mormon tells us that God gives no command unto man, except those He believes we can and ought to keep. The assumption therefore is that when God tells you to do something, you ought to be able to do it, with no excuses. God doesn’t give you any command that He knows you can’t keep.
I’ve talked to Mormon missionaries who, when this issue is raised, will typically say, especially when asked if they are keeping the commandments, that they are trying to keep them. But as Spencer W. Kimball (12th president of the Church) said in his book, Miracle of Forgiveness, trying is not enough. And I would agree with him, trying is not the same as doing. When you say you tried to win, what’s the automatic assumption from the one you said it to? That you didn’t win. You don’t try to win and then win. The question needs to be asked, why is it that this small word ‘try’ is always invoked, and will continuously be invoked when our LDS friends are confronted with this and many other passages, and works from the LDS Church are shown? There is no excuse, then; a command presupposes the ability to keep the command, and hence, not keeping a command is not excused by the mere intent, or desire to keep it.
Our next text is one in which I opened a conversation with a pair of sister missionaries in Provo, Utah. They were very friendly young ladies, and I pray that the conversation we had with them will lead them to the true gospel, the true good news that God has done all of it, and we rest in that one hope. The verse I raised was this:
And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins.Alma 11:37
I opened with this verse because I wanted to setup the reality that in Mormonism, to be saved, you must be without sin. This text teaches this very clearly. When can God save us? When we are no longer in our sins. And in connection to 1 Nephi 3:7, a command unkept must be a sin; anything contrary to what God has ordained must be a sin. Can the LDS keep the commandments? Have they, as 2 Nephi 25:23 says, done all they can do? What is all they can do? Is it to do simply their best? But your best is not getting you out of your sins. Your best isn’t keeping the commandments. You have to keep them all, and according to 1 Nephi 3:7, you can keep them, so why aren’t you? According to Alma 11:37, if you aren’t keeping the commandments, then you are in your sins, and if that is so, how can you be saved?
The two sister missionaries I and my fellow laborer talked to responded to this by saying that we do what we can in this life, and can, after this, finish our work, finish our self-perfecting. It will be harder, but it can be done. The problem with this, is it runs up against what the Book of Mormon teaches. I won’t quote the whole section (though I encourage you to read it in its entirety) but here is Alma 34:32 which sums up the rest:
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.Alma 34:32
That certainly sounds troubling, but it’s not so bad. After all, all it says is that this life is the life to prepare to meet God, but it doesn’t specifically say there isn’t hope if you fail to meet that preparation. Except, the rest of the passage specifically says otherwise. The rest of the passage (go read it) says explicitly “do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end”, because this is all we have. There is no chance in the next life. Either repent now or “then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed”.
No labor? When? The context is clear: after you are dead. Now the sisters I spoke to said that the Book of Mormon was their standard, even so far as to read the Bible by the Book of Mormon–the Book of Mormon is held on a higher degree than the Bible. Hence I would say to them, treat it with such reverence, and recognize that the idea that you can finish your perfection in the next life is simply rebuked by the Book of Mormon. There is no next life; if you die today unperfected, you will not have the next life to finish. There is no procrastination, there is only eternal separation from God. You might say, well there isn’t a Celestial Kingdom attaining, but we’ll still go to heaven. I again ask you to read this whole section, because it gets worse. The author nowhere mentions degrees of the heavenly kingdoms. He explicitly says that either repent now, or outer darkness forever. That doesn’t even sound like third, lowest-kingdom attainment.
The author says in the passage that procrastinating the day of repentance until death leads to “being sealed by the devil” and the Spirit of God will “withdraw from you, having no place in you”, as the “final state of the wicked”. So the question again to ask is, are you keeping the commandments? Are you perfecting yourself? If you’re in a process of perfecting yourself, then you are in grave trouble, as that assumes you haven’t reached it! You could die at any moment and end up in outer darkness! Is this gospel? Is this really good news? The good news is that you now have to work and work and work to earn God’s everlasting favor? Without stumbling, without fail, with utmost perfection, and if you don’t, God turns His back on you? How is any of this good news?
The last passage is the one I like to use most often because in my experience, there is no way around it, and it explicitly militates against what the Bible teaches. Let’s cite the passage, and then discuss it:
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…Moroni 10:32
The three dots towards the end once again indicate there is more to the verse, but for time, we’ve left that section out as it isn’t relevant to our current discussion. We read in this section above that what is required for salvation is to come to Christ. That’s very Christian, isn’t it? Everyone agrees that we must come to Christ, and when we come to Christ, we are being perfected in him, as Hebrews 7:25, a beautiful text on the absolute power of Christ to save anyone who has him as their Advocate and High Priest, tells us. But as a Christian, I say, that’s it. There is nothing else. But this text starts to add to that. What else do you have to do according to Moroni 10:32? Deny yourself of all ungodliness. Again, the Mormon says, “I try my best”. Is that what this says? Try to deny yourself? No, it says you must, and 1 Nephi 3:7 says that you can. All ungodliness must be denied, and you must not try to love God with all your might, but you must love God with all of your might and strength. What do you get after this? Grace.
But wait a minute. Isn’t grace the thing that’s supposed to be what helps us? Such as what Brad Wilcox said in his well-known talk “His Grace is Sufficient“? Grace is like your parents paying for your piano lesson. Now be grateful for it, and learn to play. Is that what Moroni 10:32 is teaching? How can it? Grace, in Moroni 10:32 comes not as a helper, or an unfailing aid to your works, it comes as a result of your works, and not your trying to work, but your full, unadulterated strength, which ought to be able to keep all the commandments. Now the obvious question we should ask after we follow this to its logical conclusion is this: If I was, theoretically, able to do this (as well all know, no one can), keep the commandments perfectly, need not therefore repent of anything, why do I need grace at all? I’m doing it perfectly. But it gets even worse: Why do I need Christ? What’s Christ saving me from? If I’m so perfect, I don’t need to be saved. As Christ himself said, he has not come for the righteous, but for the unrighteous (Luke 5:32).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ
I have written an article titled “A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving” that is far more focused on this subject, but here I’d like to offer as brief as I can what the gospel is. I encourage you, however, especially if you are a Latter-Day Saint, and if you have serious doubts and questions regarding the LDS gospel, to read that article. My desire here is not simply to leave a Latter-Day Saint in total ruin and despair. In a paradoxical way, I am trying to make you feel lost, but it’s because only when you realize how hopeless you are that the true gospel found in the Bible will become alive to you.
Something that has stuck with me some years ago that I heard from the late R.C. Sproul, is that throughout the whole Bible, no matter how distant one event seems from another, there is something that brings that distant story into a connection with another distant story. There is something that always connects Genesis with Romans, despite them both coming into time at completely different moments and eras of history. There is always a single thread, or a theme that connects them all. Have you ever taken the time to find it?
There is so much to say, and yet so little time to put it here, and so I must be brief. This is why I always go to Romans, because Romans provides for us the all-encompassing truth woven throughout all of biblical history. It begins in Romans 3, where Paul indicts the whole world of sin. Every single one of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. What must God do with sinners? He must punish them, and the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). Therefore, we are all guilty. As the Psalmist says, if God were to count our iniquities, who could stand (Psalm 130:3)? This is why the psalmist pleas not for justice, but for mercy from God (Psalm 130:2). This very theme we see Jesus echo in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee was emphatically righteous, and yet the story tells us he was not justified, while the sinful, and contemptable publican was the one who received mercy. How could this be? Why would God justify the sinful man rather than the religious one? Especially given that the former is more likely to cause harm to society, while the ladder is more likely to be beneficial to society?
It is because, as Jesus says, it is not the outward man that is truly changed, but the inward man. Anyone can put on an external appearance of well-being, and righteousness. This, I truly believe, I see in the Mormon world, and I say this in all due respect. I’ve met many Mormons who were well-dressed, groomed, and simply gave off a kind attitude. I appreciate all of this, I truly do. It’s one of the reasons I like to talk to Mormons. But sadly, I wish they would read the Bible more, and see this theme throughout that the outward man is, as Jesus said, a white-washed tomb. It is cleaning the outside of a used cup, while the inside, the part that actually matters, remains filthy, containing so many germs that will simply harm others. What sins do you hide? We all hide certain sins, for whatever reason (some are good reasons), but have you read, for example, Ezekiel 8, where the Lord brings Ezekiel, through a vision, into the inner-most parts of the temple to show Ezekiel the abominable sins that the religious leaders hide from public? The frightening thing is that these men believe they are hiding even from God Himself, but He sees all, and all that sin will be put upon the one who commits it.
Justification by Faith Alone
So what is the hope then? What is the gospel? It’s found in Romans 3:19-26:
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Romans 3:19-26 (ESV)
This right here is the gospel. Paul begins by telling us that there is nothing we can do to inherit the kingdom of God, because we must approach the gates untainted by sin. Joseph Smith was indeed right, God cannot dwell where sin dwells. But what did Smith miss? He missed this important element, that through faith, not through works, God justifies the ungodly. Paul goes on in Romans 4 to teach his doctrine of justification by faith:
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”Romans 4:1-3 (ESV)
Paul doesn’t give us any gray areas–either it is by faith, or by works you are justified; you cannot have it both ways. If you believe that your works, your missionary work, your temple work, marriage in the temple, having a family, and your keeping of the covenants and ordinances is gaining you the ultimate Celestial experience with Heavenly Father, then what are you trusting to get you there? Christ? Or your good works? Because if it is your works, then you are saying to God that you’ve done your part, now you’re owed your wages. This is what Paul is saying. It is no longer a gift, but wages. You are, as Isaiah says in Isaiah 64:6, bringing your filthy rags to God. You are saying to God you do not trust His promise to save you, and you are taking the part of Savior into your own hands, an action that exclusively belongs to God alone. That is blasphemous, my friends, and it’s why Paul adamantly opposed such an idea.
The word Paul uses for “counted” is in the idea and expression of an account. Think about your bank account, and you owe an immeasurable sum that you have no way of paying (Jesus expresses this in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant). What God does, by the grace found in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ, is He takes the account of Jesus, and pays your debt with it. That is, the value of Christ’s sacrifice is added to your account, and my friends, if Christ’s account is yours, what more could you possibly hope for? Do I really need to answer that? Do you see then how blasphemous the idea is that you still need to do your part to make the atonement work for you? No, my friend, you simply need to place all your hope, your entire investment in that one atonement.
Thus, Paul concludes in Romans 5:1 his doctrine:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 5:1 (ESV)
Do you have peace with God? Not a temporary peace, as that is no true peace. This is an eternal peace, a full exoneration. Peace with God–why? Because we worked? No! Because we were justified by faith, through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is all by faith, all by what the Bible calls, belief or trust in Christ’s work, not ours. Can you say you have peace? I haven’t met a Latter-Day Saint who said they did. They always answered, “I hope so”. Friends, if that’s your answer, you missed it. You missed everything Paul said. You might say it is arrogant to assume we have peace with God simply by believing. Let me ask you to really think that through. Is it arrogant to rest upon that one sacrifice, regardless of my own works, and regarding my works as worthless garbage before a holy God? Or is it rather arrogant to believe that God couldn’t possibly justify you unless you brought Him something of value in exchange for eternal peace? Which is actually the most arrogant view?
God Saves Sinners
Thus, contrary to what the Book of Mormon teaches, God does save you in your sins, while you are a sinner! This is His grace, my friends! This is grace!
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—Ephesians 2:4 (ESV)
Notice, where does Paul put any burden on our part to keep our end of the bargain? There is none. It’s all of God’s doing. The grace, contrary to Moroni 10:32, comes before the works, not after. I encourage you to do a word study of the word “grace” in the New Testament, and be marveled at how often it is used, and not used as simply a help, but it is used as an activity of God to bring a wretched sinner to faith in Jesus Christ. Notice also, Paul says that we were “made alive”. This is important, because often the charge is brought to us that we believe in a “once saved always saved” idea that you just say you trust Jesus and can therefore do nothing pleasing to God, live a life of utter debauchery and be okay. That’s not what we believe! Paul says we are made alive, and he repeatedly in the New Testament exhorts us to live righteous lives, to live as those who have been raised with Christ.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:1-3 (ESV)
See the connection? When does the repentance from sin come? Does it come before or after we believe? It is after! Paul just got finished with his doctrine of justification, and now he moves on to what this entails for the one who has been born again–newness of life! That is, we are now being sanctified by God the Holy Spirit, who cleanses us from sin, and is growing us in holiness. The true believer goes to war with sin, not to be saved, but because salvation and regeneration has come to them. Remember Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus?
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.John 3:5 (ESV)
What prerequisite is offered by Jesus to be born of the Spirit? There is none. The prerequisite exists for entering the kingdom of God, and what is that prerequisite? Being born of the Spirit. That is, being regenerated unto newness of life. Salvation comes first, before we enter the kingdom, not after. And once we are born again, the kingdom of God becomes a present reality, even though we do not see it physically.
The true Christian repents, not to be saved, but because they are saved, they are trusting in that one sacrifice, that one work, not their own. Notice Jesus’s usage of fruit over and over again. A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. What is the fruit? It is the works, it is that which makes the tree useful and valuable, because the tree is providing nourishment and goodness to others. Those are good works. But have you ever thought, does the fruit give life to the tree, or is it the tree that gives life to the fruit? It is obvious, the tree does. Therefore, what must come first? The life of the tree, and so it is with all of us. We must be born again first, and then we are given newness of life.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
Here once again, where does the Apostle give as a prerequisite to being in Christ? Nothing. He simply says if we are in Christ, we are a new creation, not be a new creation, turn from your sin to be in Christ. No, the turning from sin comes after you have entered into the Resurrection of Christ and have thus passed from death to life.
Jesus is Enough
I will end with this final statement from Jesus:
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.John 6:40 (ESV)
Jesus does not here anywhere tell the inquiring people that their part in this relationship is to keep working to maintain their eternal life, or to earn their eternal life. Again, as we have seen in the woven themes throughout various books of the Bible, the simple truth of the gospel is to look upon the Son, and believe in him, and what comes? Eternal life. Are you looking to the Son? Is He your only hope? Is He enough for you? I have heard it said by several LDS leaders that Jesus isn’t enough. You still have your part to play. Friends, if your leaders are saying this, you’re in the wrong church, and you have the wrong gospel. Is that what Jesus is teaching us here? No. Jesus is teaching us here that he is enough, and that the simple truth of the gospel is that you believe in him, the one whom God the Father has sent. Trust that he has lived the life you were to live and couldn’t, and died the death you deserved and didn’t by the grace of God. He took your sin, all of it, upon himself, and the gift you receive is the eternal life he attained on your behalf.
My friends, that’s what the resurrection is about. It’s not about coming to life in order to earn your heavenly reward. It’s being raised because you have been justified, and sealed forever by the Spirit. What Jesus said here sums it all up. If you believe in him, you have eternal life. It’s that simple. It’s the simple message of the cross. Believe upon him. That’s what the Bible is teaching from Genesis to Revelation; believe in God, and what He has done in Jesus Christ on your behalf. If you grasped this one simple thing, you have eternal life, and you can say that you have peace with God, and you will know you have that everlasting peace not because of a burning in your bosom, but because you know Him, and you see His work in your life, to lead you into greater degrees of holiness and repentance of sin that never fades away. I pray my LDS friends especially, but anyone who reads this, would find the true Jesus who truly saves, not makes salvation possible. He really saves, and he is fully capable of saving to the uttermost, not those who offer their works as their bargain, but those who come to him empty, and in full trust of what he has done for them.
The word “gospel” means “good news” which comes from the idea of a soldier returning from the battlefield to tell the people that there was ‘good news’ to report on the battlefield, that the battle was won. How does it make sense to believe that the “good news” is that the battle is won, if you all take up arms and fight? If a general needs his people to fight, that’s normally not a good sign. It means his own army isn’t going to cut it. And how is it good news to be told that you must take up arms and fight? You could end up dead. And you still wouldn’t know if you’ve won the battle. Friends, that’s not good news. It doesn’t give me good pleasure to be told that I, a poor, weak man, has to pull myself up from my own bootstraps. I can’t do it.
God has won the battle, my friends. He has defeated sin in Jesus Christ. This is the good news, and the messengers have come to tell you this. You didn’t win the war, God did. Now, go and rest in that, and tell everyone you can!