Throughout Christendom the question of how one can be saved is addressed with great interest and concern. Many sermons have been preached from the pulpits of various denominations on this very subject. Although most will agree that faith and grace are two important key elements in the process, the role of each of these elements may differ depending on which religious denomination is addressing the subject.
There are some who believe that becoming saved is a one-time event that is as simple as believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and accepting Him in your heart. As far as they are concerned nothing more than that is required. One problem with that way of thinking is that, if not careful, a person could get the misconceived notion that they brought about their own salvation simply by displaying faith and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and based on that belief alone, they are now a Christian and are forever saved. But what about God’s amazing grace? What part does it play in this way of thinking?
There are others who teach that not only do you have to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, but that “the deal” is not solidified until you have stood or knelt at their church altar and repeated a “prayer of salvation” that is led by the officiating authority. This way of thinking could almost lead one to believe that regardless of their faith, and regardless of God’s grace, it is the prayer that brings about the real salvation.
Still, there are others who teach and believe that salvation is wrought through works. They believe that you must do enough good works to merit being saved. But who determines the amount of “works” that you have to do, and which “works” are acceptable and which ones are not?
And what happens after one is saved? There are those who teach and believe that once a person is saved, they are always saved. There is absolutely nothing that could contravene their salvation. This teaching opens up a virtual door and gives a person a poetic license to go through life doing whatever he wants without ever having to be concerned about consequences for his actions, because after all he is saved and already has his seat reserved in Heaven.
The truth of the matter is that “there is none righteous, no, not one” for “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (see Romans 3:10,23,24). We are further taught in the Book of Mormon, in 2 Nephi 9:41:
O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name.
It is true that through the process of repentance God will forgive us of our trespasses, but let us not forget that there is one sin that if committed will not be forgiven and that is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. We learn of this in Matthew 12:30-32:
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
What is “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”? From my study and understanding of the scriptures, I believe that “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” occurs when a person willing rejects Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation – His free gift of eternal life – and thus, rejects forgiveness from his sins which was wrought through the atonement of Christ for all mankind. If a person does not accept the free gift, he cannot be forgiven. If a person denies the entrance of the Holy Spirit into his life in order that he may be sanctified, he cannot be cleansed from unrighteousness.
The Master Himself offers further commentary for greater understanding and clarification in the preceding verses recorded in Matthew 12:22-29:
Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, this fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
So, how then can we be saved? Is it by faith alone? Is it by faith and grace? Is it by works alone? According to the scriptures we are saved by grace, through faith.
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). [emphasis added]
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work (Romans 11:6).
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9). [emphasis added]
Therefore, should we exclude “works” altogether? If not, what role do our “works” play in our salvation? Doesn’t James teach us that “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17)? We will discuss that topic in detail in a follow-on article.
For now, the summation of our present discussion is that we are saved by grace, through faith, and not by works or any merits of our own. Grace is the unmerited favor of God – meaning that God did something for us that we rightfully did not deserve. God sent His only Begotten Son , Jesus Christ, into the world to become sin’s last sacrifice – the sacrificial lamb for the slaughter. His Son willingly and lovingly accepted what He was sent to do, and He who knew no sin, became sin for us. He paid a debt that He did not owe and one that we could not pay on our own.
That amazing grace was a free gift from God which we accept through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That gift of grace was exemplified through the Atonement when our precious Savior was crucified on that cruel Roman cross on Golgotha’s lonely hill. When He cried “It is finished!”, the work that He had been sent to do was finally complete, and the gulf that existed between a sinful man and a loving Heavenly Father was bridged providing a way for us to return home to the loving arms of the Father who awaits us.
I welcome your thoughts on this matter.