Challenge: Works Are Required

Posted: July 10, 2012 by Amy Hall in Choosing My Religion, Weekly Challenge

It’s Mormonism month at STR Place in honor of the upcoming release of Brett’s new booklet, The Ambassador’s Guide to Mormonism. So here’s the next challenge for you:

Traditional Christians believe that all you have to do is believe in Jesus, and it doesn’t matter what sins you commit because your faith is all that matters. But in Matthew 19:17, Jesus says, “[I]f you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The Bible simply does not teach “salvation by faith alone.”

I used the term “salvation” in this challenge as we would use it (being forgiven and reconciled to God here and now, and then being together with Him in the afterlife), but technically, a Mormon would deny “exaltation by faith alone.”  He would agree with you that “salvation” is by grace, through faith, but when Mormons use the term “salvation,” they’re usually referring only to our resurrection (which doesn’t require works) or the idea that Jesus gave us a plan of salvation by which we can progress through our works. They do believe that works are required to make it to the highest level of heaven to be with the Father. When you’re in conversation with your Mormon friend, always define the terms you’re using to be sure you’re talking about the same thing!

Our special guest this week to help answer this question will be Keith Walker of Evidence Ministries.

  1. Dawn says:

    I think this is where “Never Read a Bible Verse” comes into play. Reading the whole passage in context reveals that Jesus is doing what he often did: using the Law to show people their sin. This particular man believed he had kept the Law perfectly until Jesus used the Law to show him he hadn’t (he had a heart problem – he loved money more than God).

    Paul talks about the purpose of the Law and the impossibility of keeping it perfectly in Romans 7 and concludes the chapter by crying out “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Then in Romans 8 he says that having the righteousness of Christ (who is the only one who ever kept the Law perfectly) applied to us, and being indwelt by the Spirit, is the only way we can be capable of doing anything good. So it seems that good works follow from having received eternal life and are not what earns it for us.

    Incidentally, I would disagree that it doesn’t matter what sins you commit. The struggle with sin is something we deal with for our entire lives and un-confessed sin hurts our fellowship God. (But I would need to figure out the proper way to explain this to a Mormon, making sure that we are using the same definitions for our terms.)

  2. Great answer Dawn!

    The first thing I would add is that it is very important to clarify your terms when talking with Mormons. They often use terms like “faith,” “grace,” and “salvation” the same way we would. The problem is that Mormons have redefined what all these terms mean. For example, salvation by grace doesn’t carry the same connotation in Mormonism because everyone is going to some level of heaven (they have three I think). To go to the highest level of heaven, you must be Mormon and it requires works.

    Dawn hit it right on the head when she referenced STR’s policy of “Never Read a Bible Verse.” You read the whole passage in context and then determine what it means. Another example, besides the one in the challenge would be in the book of James. Some say that in James 2:24 teaches that works are necessary for salvation. However, if we look at the whole passage in context, we find that in fact he is teaching that works are a natural byproduct of salvation. Through a person’s works, we see that they are saved, it is not the works themselves that cause salvation. If a person is truly saved, it is evidenced in their works, but works themselves could never merit salvation.