Doctrine: There is only one way to access a fullness of grace and that is by seeking to BECOME GODLY. Becoming godly requires both WORKS and FAITH. These two spiritual items are welded firmly together and cannot be separated to serve our particular brand of righteousness.
Grace is not a topic that any one of us can claim to truly understand completely. Why? Well, because it’s God’s gift, not ours. God is the one who designed it. God is the one who has set its conditions on it. And God is the one who gives it.
However, when it comes to making sense of grace personally, most people tend to fall into two categories of understanding grace. You have the WORKS team and you have the FAITH team.
The WORKS team is under the impression that:
Good works = grace
In other words, keep the commandments, check everything off the righteous list and you get grace. It’s something you earn by being “good.”
The FAITH team is under the impression that:
Confessing Christ = grace
In other words, love Christ, believe in Him, and admit that you can’t get back to God without Him and you get grace. It’s something you get because of your “belief.”
Here is the sad reality. There aren’t two teams. There is only one team. It is the BECOMING GODLY team. If there is another team, it is the NOT BECOMING GODLY team. Which, would, in effect be the team that Satan presides over; not necessarily because he’s wanted as a coach, but because he’s the only coach available for those who don’t want to become like God. There are only two coaches: Christ and Satan. Stinks to not have a third choice, but there you have it.
The reason there is only one team for getting grace is that the purpose of grace is to become like god. It has no other purpose. So, if you’re only checking things off a list (WORKS) but your heart isn’t changing into something godly through faith in the process, then you are like a “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27).
Or, if you are saying you love Christ, believe in Him, and can’t get back to God without Him (FAITH team), but you have no desire to, or intent to, change your life too much (especially where it’s uncomfortable and difficult to change) to be more like Him, then you are in the group the Lord was referring to when He said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Faith that doesn’t lead to good works is not true faith.
I find it simply ridiculous that people study the scriptures, or Christian religion, until they find the sayings and scripture verses that support their beliefs and then leave off. It’s like they don’t want to know the whole truth, or they only want to know the truth they like, because it’s easy to keep doing what they are doing. Or, they are too lazy to make a study of the spectrum of God’s commands, covenants, and instructions regarding grace because it requires effort and change. They don’t really want to “know” God. Because you can’t throw yourself into becoming godly and getting to know Him without being prompted to start becoming so.
As we seek Him, God will give us more and more light and knowledge until we become like Him (Doctrine and Covenants 50:24; Alma 12:9-11). That’s why so many people stop. It’s scary! To stare grace in the face—real grace—and realize what God is asking is terrifying. To try and boil it down to WORKS versus FAITH is laughable, selfish, and prideful. While God has created us to experience joy (2 Nephi 2:25), He didn’t send us to earth to clown around and simply have a good time. A lot of people don’t want to know that.
People who count themselves as good commandment keepers (WORKS team) will quote WORKS scriptures all day and take joy in finding others have fallen short of grace; or at the least they will congratulate themselves that they have earned it when others are still hopelessly unenlightened. On the other hand, people who count themselves as good confessors of Christ (FAITH team) do the same thing in the opposite manner. They quote only faith scriptures all day long and hold enmity in their hearts for the WORKS team who acts so high and mighty. Both are exhibiting selfishness and pride.
God has asked not only for our acts, or body, but for our heart, mind, might, and strength –which I think covers just about everything (Doctrine and Covenants 59:5).
If grace is about becoming godly, then we need to think about what God has that we are trying to get.
- God has eternal family
- God has a resurrected, perfected body that cannot die
- God is perfectly just
- God is perfectly merciful
- God is all-knowing and omniscient
- God is perfectly obedient and sinless
- God is all-powerful (to the extent that He remains 1-6)
As a free gift for stepping into this mortal life we will all get #2. Wicked or righteous, it’s ours.
However, the rest of the things we need come through grace.
To get #6 we have to develop a nature that repents immediately and loses all desire to sin. We exercise faith when we act to repent and work toward change. The Holy Ghost takes that faith and work and uses it to put our soul in the furnace of grace and bend our desires to God’s.
To get #1 we have to receive specific ordinances and covenants (several) that one by one lead us to this great privilege of being bound to our spouse and children forever.
To get #3-#5 we have to have faith that by acting in obedience to God’s commands that over time we will become these things. We have to take the time to learn, ponder, and figure out how God does these. We have to seek the Holy Ghost for the knowledge we can’t get on our own. This requires faith and lots of work.
To get #7 we have to receive all the ordinances and covenants of God’s gospel plan so that as we receive power in this life, and in the eternities, that this power is controlled by our covenants and natures of righteousness. We have to have faith that as we receive these ordinances and receive these covenants that God, through the furnace of grace and the power of the Holy Ghost, will slowly alter our souls to become like His, so that He can share all He has with us–that includes His power.
The NOT BECOMING GODLY team looks the exact opposite of all of this. I’ll let each of you read through the above again in the negative. It has an incredible impact. We often fail to do this and we miss out.
So, you’ve seen the “BECOMING GODLYL team’s” viewpoint, and, the case in point is this. Why did anyone ever create two limited teams for grace at all? Why aren’t we all on the same team? A team divided cannot stand!
Advocates for WORKS, who are themselves usually great commandment keepers, are so afraid that others will get the same glory without all the same effort. They are so afraid that by not preaching WORKS that others will take grace for granted and sit around in laziness expecting to be saved. What these WORKS advocates don’t realize is that they are just as lazy as those who advocate FAITH. They are lazy in the aspects of the law that are not visible to others. They have left some stuff undone!
Did not Christ say, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Yet, if you look closely, this verse also instructs the FAITH team that though judgment, mercy, and faith are weightier, the other more “worksy” commandments are still not to be left undone. The FAITH team needs to stop being lazy in the more visible aspects of the law.
BOTH FAITH and WORKS are synonymous with BECOMING GODLY. You can’t become godly without both. So, it’s time to get rid of the delineation and animosity between the teams.
Could you have faith in a God whose works you couldn’t trust, who didn’t adhere to law? Could you have faith in a God who only had good intentions but never carried them out? Imagine God saying to you, “Well, I meant to bless you, and I believe I should and that it’s a good thing, but I’ll get to it another day, unless something more important comes up.” I can’t. So also, we should not expect to become godly with only good intentions and invisible faith.
On the other hand, none of us can imagine a God who cared only about works and not about faith, hope, charity, and mercy. Indeed, if God were not merciful and didn’t love us despite our lack of good works, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all.
The reality is that those who truly love God will attempt with every mortal breath to emulate Him (John 14:15) both in WORKS and FAITH. That requires faith and works.
Now, when it comes to others we have to stop judging who has access to grace and who doesn’t. We cannot judge others to be outside of grace only because they sin differently than we do (whether visible or invisible). We cannot treat them as if they are outside of grace. They are not. We can postulate and estimate and guess all day long what other people need to fix and do better, but it will still never give us a sum of grace for them that is accurate. And, if we do so, we are sitting in the same hot pot that the scribes and Pharisees sat in which wasn’t so great. So, if I were you, I’d get out.
All of us are eternally bound within Christ’s grace to the extent that we meet its many and varied conditions. Grace is how we live and breathe. We all have access to it in differing amounts based on the light and truth we are willing to receive and honor. But, when it comes to others, we should always treat them as God does-with grace. Accept all the good they can offer, and let them and God work out the other details we simply will never be good enough to see. It’s not your job to carry their burdens, to make them feel guilty, to forgive their sins, or to cast judgment upon them. Christ has taken all that. So, let it go.
As a final thought on the oneness of the terms FAITH and WORKS, Let’s look at one example. Prayer. We get on our knees to pray (WORKS) because we have FAITH that God is there and He is listening. Then, add our real intent to do as He asks (WORKS) believing that if we do it He will bless us (FAITH). How could anyone ever separate FAITH and WORKS of any kind, ever?
I could go on and on. The evidence is there in the scriptures (all of them) as clear as day. FAITH and WORKS have never been separate. They have always been welded firmly together. One validates the other. One leads to the other. One inspires the other. Only humanity has been unsuccessful in trying to separate them. And look at the damage it’s done.
WORKS without faith is useless in accessing grace. FAITH without works is useless in accessing grace. God demands both as the condition of receiving salvation and exaltation.
As well, conditions for grace that require WORKS and FAITH do not keep people from godliness (or a specific heaven, as some might say). Such conditions, requiring WORKS and FAITH are what protect godliness, or a specific heaven. Godliness isn’t for everyone. It is only for those that choose it. And, to get such great glory and power requires—through grace—FAITH and WORKS.
So, if you’re good at works. It’s time to buckle down and get better at charity and the weightier matters of the law, which requires prayer, faith, and hope—stuff that’s hard to measure. If you’re good at charity and forgiveness, it’s time to buckle down and get better at keeping laws, ordinances, and covenants. You can’t forever be of two opinions. “If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Don’t sit around and “answer not a word.” There is no middle ground. There are only two coaches.
At some point you either have to choose the BECOMING GODLY team or the NOT BECOMING GODLY team. As for me and my house, we choose the BECOMING GODLY team (Joshua 24:15).