Doing and Believing Don’t Mix
Christians often are befuddled when Mormons say they believe that salvation is a gift while, at the same time, insisting that people have to do good works. It is not unusual for Christians to throw up their hands in despair and ask, “How can you talk about a gift and works in the same breathe?”
There are a couple of reasons why Mormons talk this way. One is that Mormonism defines salvation in a number of different ways. One of the more popular definitions is equating it with (and thus limiting it to) resurrection. In other words, when they say Jesus saved them they are, in reality, saying Jesus conquered physical death for them. But it’s the other reason I want to briefly address here. And that is that Mormonism includes works in its definition of saving faith rather than seeing works as natural consequences or results of faith. It regularly defines faith as “a principle of action and power”. (True to the Faith, p. 54)
The danger of doing that is seen in statements like the following that clearly reject the biblical teaching of salvation by faith alone. “You cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life.” (True to the Faith, p. 151-152).
As that quote demonstrates, making works part of the essence of faith, rather than something that results from faith, is not just a matter of semantics. It is a matter of life and death – eternal life and death. When it comes to the matter of salvation, doing and believing don’t mix. Instead of becoming a healing elixir, this mixture becomes the most deadly of poisons.
The Bible warns about this in many different ways and in many different places. One place it does that is Galatians 3:10-14. “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”
As you read these verses note especially Paul’s emphasis on doing. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” “The person who does these things will live by them.” The law is all about doing. And law-doing and faith are polar opposites. The heart of Paul’s argument is: The law is not based on faith.” Law and the works or doing of the law have no part of faith.
Pause and see how this clearly negates Mormonism’s definition of faith. Saving faith is all about believing, not doing. Faith doesn’t look to the laws of God to see what people are to do. It only looks at the promises of God and sees what God has done and will do. (By the way, this contrast between God’s law and promises is a theme Paul expands on in the verses immediately following this section.) When it comes to salvation, the only work that should be in the picture is Christ’s perfect work for us. Bringing in any other work ruins his masterpiece of grace.
Be clear on this yourself. Don’t ever wonder if God will reject you because you aren’t good enough. Don’t ever think that your sins might keep you from heaven. Don’t ever think that you have to do good to be loved by God. When it comes to your standing before God, don’t look at what you have done or haven’t done. Look only at what Jesus has done for you. See that he did continue to do everything written in the book of the law – for you. See that he redeemed you from the curse of the law by becoming a curse - for you. See that, because of Jesus, you will receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life.
Be clear on that yourself. And then clearly and joyfully share that wonderful news with others.