I happened to read Matt Lemon’s blog article – You aren’t “Saved” today. His article comes from a Latter-day Saint background and understanding of salvation. The focus and intent is not on the debate of whether we are saved by grace alone (Sola Gratia) or by Grace and Works. His focus seems to come from an understanding of the nature and premise of how Christians come to faith in Jesus Christ and are in the process of being saved as a means to obtain salvation. His first assessment is summed up in this statement:
“I’m saved” that also is a lie. I am in the process of becoming saved.
Lemon asserts that while confessing Christ as one’s Savior, confesses one’s sin’s and commits their life to Jesus Christ is an important and early step, the process of salvation does not mean one is “saved”: He concludes that this devalues Jesus Christ who is the one that will stand to judge us. He continues with an analogy that while he is accepted into the nursing program, he has not become a nurse until he completes all educational requirements. Another analogy he uses is that of a student attending a university, they are not fully graduated from their university of choice therefore, they cannot say that they are a Graduate – they are in the process of graduating. Lemon finally shares his thoughts on grace by equating God’s Sovereignty as that of a parent paying their child’s tuition. Something a child will never pay back. However, for that child to graduate, they must put forth the effort and invest in their studies and academic performances. In essence, he equates the death of Jesus Christ and his Resurrection as the payment of our tuition here in mortality. However, it is up to us to work through the necessary steps to obey the commandments and endure to the end.
While the nature of God’s grace, obedience, and the accountability of humanity is an ever ongoing discussion – the attempt of Matt Lemon fall’s short to the reality of God’s Grace and whether our salvation is up to us to maintain. In essence, are we saved by the Grace of God or are we in the process of being saved through God’s grace and then our own effort and abilities? The answer to this question is a resounding no – it is always God’s grace that moves us through the process of sanctification. Meaning, it is not left up to our own ability to maintain and work toward our salvation. We are saved from the moment of acceptance of the divine grace of a merciful and Sovereign God. We are saved through the grace of God to move forward in sustaining and growing spiritually in Christ, Jesus.
Latter-day Saint doctrine teaches that we are saved “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). Their emphasis is that salvation is contingent on how we perform in this life. According to the third article of faith:
“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
According to Lemmon’s article and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salvation is unmerited favor of a Sovereign God in where an atonement for our sins was provided by Jesus Christ. Something we could never pay or even repay. However, that is as far as the atonement of Christ affords – forgiveness of our sins. At the point of salvation, it is up to the individual to prove their worth and reason Christ’s atonement may apply to us in order for us to obtain our own salvation. This is not what the scripture teaches.
While I agree that those who come to faith through Jesus Christ and accept the atoning sacrifice, there are those scriptures that speak of how we ought to follow in obedience, salvation is not contingent upon our own effort and willingness. The grace of a sovereign God does not end at our confession and asking of Christ to cleanse us. The Grace of God continues through our lifespan as we turn our will over to Christ and learn of Him and his ways. In this way, the Grace of God is continually saving us as we continue to be living sacrifices and transform our thoughts, our being and reliance on Jesus Christ. We are both saved and continually being saved through the Grace of God.
How we are saved – Justified and created anew
At the point of conversion, an individual turns to God and confesses their sin, allowing the atonement of Jesus Christ to cleanse them, and by and through the Holy Spirit, become a “new creation” in Christ. Here is what Charles H. Spurgeon taught:
There are three stages of the human soul in connection with Christ: the first is without Christ, this is the state of nature; the next is in Christ, this is the state of grace; the third is with Christ, that is the state of glory.
Spurgeon continues his sermon by defining the three stages of the human soul in connection with Christ. In the first connection, while we are born of natural means – we are not born again in the sense that we have been regenerated into a new creation. This new creation is referenced in how our natural self is put to death and we are created with a new hope and new desire. This is the pre-eminence of God’s Sovereign Grace – we are saved and born again in the sense that we are created with a new heart. We change from being natural enemies to being friends and adopted sons and daughters of God. Spurgeon continues and discusses the other two states as the second “in Christ” leads to the third being with Christ in a state of Glory.
Spurgeon’s sermon focuses on how the Believer is a “new creation in Christ” and based this sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Turn we now to the expression itself, “in Christ.” I never heard of any persons being in any other man but Christ; we may follow certain leaders, political or religious, but we are never said to be included in them. We may take for ourselves eminent examples and high models of humanity, but no man is said in that respect to be in another. But this is a grand old scriptural phrase in which the disciple and the follower of Christ becomes something more than an imitator of his Lord, and is said to be in his Master. We must interpret this scriptural phrase by scriptural symbols. We were all of us in the first Adam. Adam stood for us. Had Adam kept the command, we had all of us been blessed. He took off the forbidden fruit and fell, and all of us fell in him. Original sin falleth upon us because of the transgression of our covenant head and representative, Adam the first; but all believers are in the same sense in Christ, Adam the second, the only other representative Man before God, the heavenly Man, the Lord from heaven. Now, as in Adam we all fell, so all who are in Christ are in Christ perfectly restored. The obedience of Christ is the obedience of all his people; the atonement of Christ is a propitiation for all his people’s sins. In Christ we lived on earth, in Christ we died, in Christ we rose, and he “hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places” in himself. As the apostle tells us that Levi was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedec met him, so were we in the loins of Christ from before the foundation of the world; faith apprehends that blessed truth, and thus by faith we are experimentally in Christ Jesus.
The take away here from Spurgeon’s comments is this: We are all condemned because of the nature and purpose of the Fall. Through Adam came sin and death. Sin separates us from God. To this, both the Christian and Latter-day Saint (Mormon) come to agreement on. Death also separates us from God as well and both agree on this teaching.; Where the Christian and Mormon separate themselves is on the purpose and premise of the fall. Going back to Spurgeon’s original comment, we see that without Christ, we are outside of the Grace of God. We are spiritually dead because of our sinful nature. Even the Mormon Scripture states:
17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. 18 For behold he judgeth, and his judgment is just; and the infant perisheth not that dieth in his infancy; but men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. 19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
Prior to our conversation to the Christian life, one is outside and already condemned. We are not in Christ and therefore are not redeemed. We are dead to God, spiritually at first and then physically if we do not come to know Christ as our Savior and redeemer and taste of the redemption that is by and through Christ alone. In other words, unless we partake of the Grace of God and receive salvation from our sins, we will remain enemies to God. John 1:9-13 teaches:
9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Even Christ himself taught Nicodemus:
Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
All this teaches that a person is saved by the power of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are saved from our sins. We are not in the process of being saved. Salvation is not contingent upon us accepting Christ, then proving our worth in order to be saved. Therefore, the analogies Matt Lemmon uses fall short in explaining the nature and power of God’s Sovereign Grace and how we are Saved through God’s Sovereign Grace. What this means is that we are saved by being Justified in Jesus Christ and called out of our sinful nature. We have become a new creation in Jesus Christ.
We are being Saved – Sanctified through Jesus Christ
The other aspect of this rests upon understanding those scripture passages where obedience in following Jesus Christ become relevant. Most Latter-day Saints miss the point of the passage of the Biblical text as it talks about Obedience to the commandments of God. First, and foremost, the commandments hang on two simple truths: (1) We must love the Lord our God with all of our might mind and strength; and (2) Love our neighbor as ourselves (See Matthew 22:34-44).
Christians do not discount the reality that one must follow Christ. However, the difference is this: Latter-day Saints place the emphasis on our own ability and moral agency to follow Christ and walk in obedience. The Christian accepts the reality that without the power of God’s divine sovereign Grace, we are not able to fulfill and walk in obedience. Meaning, the grace of God is constant in the life of the Christian believer who recognizes that being obedient to Christ is not based on their moral agency, it is based on the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we are kept in the Grace of God. We are essentially sustained through the process of sanctification. Spurgeon illustrates this in relation to how the Christian is “in Christ”:
In the New Testament the Lord Jesus explains this phrase of being in himself …. . He represents us as being in him as the branch is in the vine. Now, the branch derives all its nourishment, its sap, its vitality, its fruit-bearing power, from the stem with which it is united. It would be of no use that the branch should be placed close to the trunk, it would be of no service even to strap it side by side with the stem, it must be actually in it by a vital union. There must be sap-streams flowing at the proper season into it, life-floods gushing into it from the parent stem; and even so there is a mysterious union between Christ and his people, not to be explained but to be enjoyed, not to be defined but to be experienced, in which the very life of Christ flows into us, and we by the virtue that cometh out of him into us, become like unto him, and bring forth clusters of good fruit unto his honour and unto God’s glory. I trust you know what this means, beloved, many of you. May you live in the possession of it daily! May you be one with Jesus, knit to him, united to him never to be separated for ever. As the limb is in the body, even so may you constantly be one with Jesus.
Like Spurgeon, those who understand the true nature of Grace come to realize that we are sustained by the Grace of God and become Like Christ through our being “in Christ” always. We are one with the redeemer and savior of the World. Through Christ, we exist. Through Christ, we walk in obedience. Without being “In Christ” we are unable to fulfill the necessary ability to love God and our Neighbor. It is by learning and growing that we move from Faith to Faith from Grace to Grace. The more we grow and mature “In Christ” the more we are filled with God’s Sovereign Grace. The more we are filled with God’s Sovereign Grace, the more that this outpours toward others because we now become living testimonies of what Christ has done and is doing. We are being changed, shaped and transformed daily by constantly putting to death our sinful self and sustain the new creation that only happened through Jesus Christ and the atonement he provided.
The reality is that Christians are saved by and through the power of Christ’s atonement – it is not a lie, it is scriptural truth. The lie is that we are not saved and must conform to prove our worthiness in order to receive the gift of Salvation at the end of our journey. This is the deceptive Doctrine that goes against the Scriptural truth and teaching.
Yes, we are saved and we are sustained in being saved through the Grace of God as provisioned by the cross our Savior was crucified on. As arose on the third day with a newness of life, so to have we become new creations by and through the power of Jesus Christ.