Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Saved By Grace
I approach this subject with a desire to do it justice, while at the same time, keeping reverence for the great sacrifice of our Savior. This is a subject that is discussed by many Christians, but many of us differ in our understanding. I hope I can give a clear explanation of our view of this great subject.
Of the Savior's atoning sacrifice, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:4-5 When the Savior was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He took upon Himself the sins of the world. This was a task that no mere mortal could do. But Jesus Christ was the literal begotten son of God, and therefore had divine characteristics that enabled Him to perform this great sacrifice on our behalf. He himself was without sin, being the one true sacrifice without blemish. In modern day scripture the Savior said of that suffering, "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit— and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink— Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18,19)
The Prophet Alma, in the Book of Mormon had this to say about this great sacrifice willing given by Jesus Christ. "9 For it is expedient that an atonement should be made; for according to the great plan of the Eternal God there must be an atonement made, or else all mankind must unavoidably perish; yea, all are hardened; yea, all are fallen and are lost, and must perish except it be through the atonement which it is expedient should be made.
10 For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice.
13 Therefore, it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice, and then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall be all fulfilled, every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal." (Alma 34:9-14) In Old Testament times, the Children of Israel offered sacrifices of animals as a symbol of the sacrifice Jesus would later make for all mankind. His was the last and ultimate, and atones for the sins of all the world.
Many Christians today debate about the principle of being saved by "grace" or saved by "works". We believe that without the atonement of Jesus Christ, no one can be saved. No amount of repentance, no amount of good works could ever save a man without the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. It is only through that grace that we can be saved. Faith in the atonement Jesus Christ is the fundamental basic principle of the gospel. We must believe if we are to be saved.
But I think the question must be asked, "What are we saved from?". Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are saved from death. Because of Him, all mankind will be resurrected, whether they be good or whether they be evil. We are all saved from death. In addition, the atonement of Jesus Christ can save us from sorrow. In the Book of Mormon the prophet Alma prophesied of the Savior, "11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11,12) Because He has suffered for us, He understands our pain and can comfort us in our troubles.
Secondly we are given the opportunity to be saved from sin. Some say that belief alone qualifies us for that redeeming power. But I submit that as James taught, "faith without works is dead". (James 2:20) Our actions are an extension of our faith. If we say we believe, but then do not follow what the Savior has asked us to do, is our faith indeed true faith? It is only when we conform our lives to what He has taught that we actually demonstrate our faith.
James went on to teach, "shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." (James 2:18) We demonstrate our faith by our actions. The Savior commanded, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) To "be" connotes more than just a thought. It is more than just a belief. To "be" connotes an action, a "becoming". Repentance allows us the opportunity to change incorrect behavior, and become more Christlike. In addition, repentance brings great joy and growth to the soul. What a blessing it is in my life to be able to correct the wrongs that I have done. It not only helps free me from guilt, but helps me to learn so that I won't commit the same error again. Sometimes this is a life long process, but it is a process that brings great spiritual growth in to my life.
Elder James E. Faust taught, "The Atonement and the Resurrection accomplish many things. The Atonement cleanses us of sin on condition of our repentance. Repentance is the condition on which mercy is extended. After all we can do to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, the Savior’s grace is activated in our lives through the Atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us. Christ’s Resurrection overcame death and gave us the assurance of life after death. Said He: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” 27 The Resurrection is unconditional and applies to all who have ever lived and ever will live. 28 It is a free gift. President John Taylor described this well when he said: “The tombs will be opened and the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and they shall come forth, they who have done good to the resurrection of the just, and they who have done evil to the resurrection of the unjust.”
The Prophet Nephi taught, "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do."
(2 Nephi 25:23) It is crucial that we do all we can do to demonstrate our faith by keeping the commandments and repenting. But in the end, it is the grace of Jesus Christ that saves us.