Is Grace Sufficient in the Mormon Church? I recently had a sweet family member who I love dearly email me to kindly point out to me that she thought my views on the subject of Grace in the Mormon church are inaccurate. She sent me an article to explain her point – link here: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/brad-wilcox_his-grace-is-sufficient/. The article is a speech by Brad Wilcox who serves as a member of the Sunday School General Board of the LDS church. She pointed out to me that because this speech was printed in the Ensign (a Mormon magazine) that it is considered doctrine of the LDS church. While I’m very happy that the Mormon church seems to be beginning to teach its members that Grace is sufficient through articles such as this one, this still does not change my mind on my original statement that the Mormon church does not teach that through Grace alone are we saved. The reason the Mormon church does not teach that Grace alone is sufficient is because in the LDS church both baptism and temple ordinances are required to live in the presence of God through eternity. If the church requires faith in Jesus plus works of man such as baptism and temple ordinances, then it is not through Grace alone, but it would be through Grace plus works. Therefore, Grace is not sufficient according to what the LDS church teaches is required for salvation.
There is a series of Bible commentary books that I read often which are just fantastic books. They really make the bible come alive for me. Dr. J. Vernon McGee wrote the Thru the Bible books and he really just goes all the way from Genesis to Revelations scripture by scripture and comments on each scripture helping to explain their meaning and give insight into what the customs of that day were and how the people of that day thought of things and he even describes the scenes of where events took place in Jerusalem and surrounding areas as he has visited most of these places several times. McGee has a real gift for helping the modern day reader understand the Bible at a deeper level. The Thru the Bible commentary has been invaluable to me. So I just wanted to cover some great things McGee points out in Galatians. Paul’s message to the Jews in almost all of his letters was about the importance of putting aside the old Mosaic Law, as it was no longer needed because Christ fulfilled any need for a Law. The epistle to the Galatians is a very long letter from Paul to the Galatians who have been caught back up in the Law again, and he is reprimanding them for this. This letter in particular is the perfect way to address this topic about redemption through faith alone, not through works. So below I’ll just quote Bible verses in red, I’ll quote McGee’s commentary in blue, and then my comments will remain in black. I tried to keep it as concise as possible, only including the most relevant points, however if you want to read more you can check out the Thru the Bible podcast and actually listen to McGee give the same commentary as you read in the Thru the Bible books….the books are simply a written record of McGee’s Thru the Bible radio broadcasts. So here we go with Galatians and McGee’s very insightful commentary:
In Galatians chapter 2 starting in verse 11, Paul is telling the people of Galatia about a time he was in Antioch with Peter. Again, McGee’s comments in this section will be in blue and the Bible verses will be in red, and my comments will remain in black. “The church in Antioch was a largely gentile church, although it was a mixture of Jew and Gentile….They had a feast which was held in connection with the Lord’s Supper….When Gentiles were saved, a problem was raised. In the congregation were Jews who had never eaten anything which had been sacrificed to idols. The Gentiles had been idolaters, and they were accustomed to eating meat that had first been offered to idols. They also ate pork and other animals designated as unclean in the law of Moses….What was going to be done to keep form offending the Jewish Christians? Well, in Antioch two tables were established. One was the kosher table; the other was the gentile table. Paul ate at the gentile table. Although he was a Jew, he ate with the Gentiles because he taught that whether you eat meat or you don’t eat meat makes no difference-meat will not commend you to God. When Simon Peter came up to visit Paul in Antioch, it was a new experience for him because, although converted, he had never eaten anything unclean. Remember what Peter told the Lord on the roof in Joppa before he went to the home of Cornelius. He had a vision of heaven opening and a sheet being lowered in which were all kinds of unclean animals. ‘And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:13-15). Peter had been a believer for some time when he came to visit Paul in Antioch, but he had still followed the Jewish eating pattern. When Peter came to the church, he found there a gentile table and a kosher table. Now notice Peter’s reaction:”“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles; but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.” Galatians 2:11-12McGee explains in his commentary that Paul is saying that before the elders from the Jerusalem church came to visit, Peter was eating at the Gentile table and enjoying unclean foods, but then as soon as those elders from the Jerusalem church arrived Peter stopped eating at the Gentile table and went back over to the kosher table “and sat down like a little whipped puppy” LOL. (McGee has a great way of saying things!) Paul saw him do that and this is what happened:“And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all. If though, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” Galatians 2:13-14“It was all right for Peter to eat at either table, kosher or Gentile. But after he had been etaing at the gentile table for fear of the brethren from Jerusalem goes back to the kosher table, he is saying by his action that the gentile table is wrong and the kosher table is right. Now these brethren were austere legalists” (meaning the Law was important to them)…moving down the paragraph McGee goes on:…“The nature of Paul’s rebuke shows, first of all, the inconsistency of lawkeeping. If it was right for Simon Peter to live as the gentile believers lived, why should he desire the Gentiles to live as the Jews? That is what he was saying when he left the gentile table for the kosher table…. This brings us to the doctrinal section of this marvelous epistle, which deals with justification by faith. In this section Paul takes his position as a Jew.”“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles.” Galatians 2:15“The Jew in that day looked upon the Gentile as a sinner. In fact, Gentile and sinner were synonymous terms. Therefore, the rebuke that Paul gave shows the folly of lawkeeping-how really foolish it is.”And here comes probably the most important verse in this letter to the Galatians, in my opinion:“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16“This is a clear-cut and simple statement of justification by faith. Believe me, the legalist (modern day believer who believes in adherence to law…legalists believe salvation is gained through works in addition to faith) has trouble with this verse….This verse will upset every legal system there is today. To say that you have to add anything to faith in Christ absolutely mutilates the gospel. Notice what Paul says here. If a Jew had to leave the Law behind-that is, forsake it-in order to be justified by faith, Paul’s question is, ‘Why should the Gentile be brought under the Law?’ That was the great argument at the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15…the answer, guided by the Spirit of God, was that the Gentile was not under the Law for salvation- not for his daily living, as he was called to a much higher plane. Could the Gentile find justification under the Law when the Jew had already proven that it was impossible? The Jews had had the Law for almost fifteen hundred years and had not been able to keep the Law at all. Why force the Gentile under that which had not saved even one Israelite? Gentile believers were already justified by grace. It would be folly for the Gentiles to turn from grace to the Law which had been unable to justify the Jew….Now let’s pick this verse apart….’Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law’ – the word the is not in the original; so it should read ‘not justified by works of law.’ This includes the Mosaic system, and it includes any legal system. This is what I mean; if you say that you have to join a certain church or that you have to have a certain experience, or that you have to be baptized to be saved, you are contradicting this verse. ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law’ -any law. Paul embraces the whole legal system that is found in every religion. This makes Christianity different from every religion on topside of the earth. Every religion that I know anything about–and I have studied many religions of the world –instructs us to do something. Christianity is different. It tells us that we are justified by faith; that is, faith is an accomplished act of fact for you. Christianity says done, and we are asked to believe it.“This verse is so clear it is impossible to misunderstand it. ‘Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.’ It is not faith plus something; it is faith plus nothing.“The verse continues: ‘even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.’ Who does Paul mean by ‘we’? He includes himself, meaning we Israelites. He is saying that he and his fellow Jews had to leave the Law, come to Christ, and trust Him in order to be justified by the faith of Christ rather than by the works of the law.“The conclusion of this verse is so clear I feel that anybody can understand it: ‘for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Let’s not depreciate the work of the Lord Jesus by saying that we didn’t get everything from Him.“Now the next verse, I am frank to say, is a little more difficult to understand.”“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.” Galatians 2:17“The word justified is Greek dikaioo, which means ‘to declare a person right,’ or ‘to make him right.’ We are declared to be right by our faith in Jesus Christ. It means that a sinner who is guilty before God, who is under condemnation and judgment, is declared to be right with God on the basis of his faith in the redemption which we have in Christ. It is not only forgiveness of sins, which is subtraction; it is the addition of the righteousness of Christ. He is declared righteous. The righteousness I have is not my own righteousness, because my righteousness is not acceptable; but I have a perfect righteousness which is Christ.“The sense of this verse seems to be this: Since the Jew had to forsake the Law in order to be justified by Christ and therefore take his place as a sinner, is Christ the One who makes him a sinner? Paul’s answer is, ‘Of course not.’ The Jew, like the Gentile, was a sinner by nature. He could not be justified by the Law, as he demonstrated. This same thought was given by Peter in his address before the great council at Jerusalem: ‘Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they’ (Acts 15:10-11). You see, Peter and Paul were in agreement on the doctrine of justification by faith.“For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” Galatians 2:18“In other words, Paul is saying, ‘If I go back under law, I make myself a transgressor.” However, he is free from the Law. How did he become free from the Law?”“For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.” Galatians 2:19“Paul is saying, ‘When Christ died, He died for me. He died in my stead because the Law had condemned me.’ You see, the Law was a minsitration of condemnation; a ministration of death is what Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians 3:7. It condemns me. Even under the legal system, God would have had to destroy the nation of Israel. but He gave the sacrificial system- five sacrifices – all of them pointing to Christ. God, in His marvelous grace, was able to save. Therefore the mercy seat was a throne of grace where a nation could find forgiveness of sins. The Law, therefore, condemned me. The Law has accused man. We stand guilty before the Law. So the Law actually is responsible for Jesus’ dying for us. The Law condemned us- said we had to die. All right now, if I am dead to the Law, then I am no longer responsible to the Law. The Law has already killed me. It has executed me, and I am dead–dead to the Law. Therefore, the Law could not do for me what Christ has done for me. He not only took my place and died for me, but He also did something else. He was able to give me life. He came back from the dead. You see, the Law arrested, condemned, sentenced, and slew us–that is all the Law could do for us. If you want to come by the Law route, you’ll get death. Only Christ can give you life.”And then I’ll just jump down to verse 21:“I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” Galatians 2:21“The main thought in this verse is simply that if there had been any other way to save sinners, then God would have used that method. If a law or a religion could have been given that would save sinners, God would have given it.”I’ll just add my own comment here, that if any legalistic view such as a requirement to be baptized or temple ordinances were required for salvation, like verse 21 says, it simply makes Christ’s death in vain. If we believe baptism or ordinances contribute to our salvation, it diminishes what Jesus did. All that was required was His sacrifice. Period. Baptism is a public display of becoming a follower of Jesus, not a requirement for salvation. Receiving the Holy Spirit is not an ordinance that can be given by the laying on of hands by men who hold the “authority” as the LDS church teaches. Only God can give His Holy Spirit to a person when He believes the time is right for that person to receive it, at the moment they receive Christ as their savior in their heart. (1 Corinthians 12:13, Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13-14). Look at the way the early church received the Holy Spirit in Acts on the day of Pentecost and throughout the New Testament. It was not by the laying on of hands. It is a natural result of truly believing. We do not receive the Holy Spirit by any modern day law and through men who are worthy to hold the priesthood. We receive the Holy Spirit directly from God himself with no middle man. Does God really need to use men to perform the ordinance of laying on of hands to give the Holy Spirit? No, he does not need men for this. He does it on His own and does not need men to make it happen. The Holy Spirit is simply evidence of conversion. And here this is covered more in Chapter 3 of Galatians:“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you.” Galatians 3:1“‘Who hath bewitched you?’ Let me translate that in good old Americano: What’s gotten into you?“This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Galatians 3:2“Nowhere–not even in the Old Testament– did anyone ever receive the Holy Spirit by the works of Law. He is received by the hearing of faith. The Galatians never received the Spirit by the Law. The Holy Spirit is evidence of conversion. Scripture tells us, ‘But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:9). ‘In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13). They received the Holy Spirit by believing.”“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Galatians 3:3“Paul is asking: ‘If the Holy Spirit is the One who converted you, brought you to Christ, and now you are indwelt by the Spirit of God, are you going to turn back to the Law (which was given to control the flesh) and think you are going to live on a high plane?'”“Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain” Galatians 3:4“Paul asked the Galatians, ‘Are you going to let all of the things you have suffered come to naught?’ He reminded them that they had paid a price for receiving the gospel. Was it all going to be in vain, without a purpose?”“He therefore that minsitereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Galatians 3:5“Paul reminded the Galatians that he was the one who had come into their country, preached the Word of God to them, and performed miracles among them. He did not do it by the works of the Law…”Then Paul gets into a wonderful analogy about Abraham believing God and it being accounted to him for righteousness. Just believing alone accounted Abraham to righteousness, not Abraham’s works, but his faith made him righteous. “Abraham was not justified by Mosaic Law because the Law was not given until four hundred years later. Neither can it be said that he was justified by circumcision because he was justified before God gave the commandment of circumcision. Circumcision was the badge and evidence of Abraham’s faith just as baptism is the badge and evidence of a believer’s faith today. Neither circumcision nor baptism can save. In fact, they make no contribution to salvation. They are simply outward evidences of inward work.” Paul goes on with more about Abraham which I’ll skip over, but if you decide you want to read more of this commentary by McGee then I strongly suggest you purchase his Thru the Bible books or check out the Thru the Bible podcast of the old radio show which gives all of the same information as the books. McGee gives some fantastic insight into what Paul is saying about Abraham which he links to other bible verses. It’s really very informative and helps you understand what Paul is getting at.“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11“Even the Old Testament taught that man was saved by faith. It does not say that anyone was saved by keeping the law. If you find that somebody living back under the law was saved by keeping the law, let me know.”“And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Galatians 3:12“This also is an important verse. Faith and law are contrary principles for salvation and also for living. One cancels out the other. They are diametrically opposed to each other. If you are going to live by law, then you cannot be saved by faith. You cannot combine them. They are contrary.”“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of the mediator.” Galatians 3:19“It is very important to see that the Law was temporary ‘until the seed should come’ – and that Seed is Christ. The Law was added ‘because of [for the sake of] transgressions. It was given to reveal not remove sin. It was not given to keep man from sin because sin had already come. It was to show man himself as being a natural, ugly, crude sinner before God. Any man who is honest will look at himself in the light of the Law and see himself guilty. It was not given to prove that all men were sinners, nor was it given as a standard by which man becomes holy….You would never become holy this way, because, first of all, you can’t keep the Law in your own strength…..Paul refuses to accept law-keeping. The Law cannot save; it can only condemn. It was not given to save sinners but to let them know that they were sinners.” I’m going to jump way ahead now:“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1“He is saying here that not only are we saved by faith rather than by law, but law is not to be the rule of life for the believer. We are not to live by law at all….Grace supplies the indwelling and filling of the Spirit to enable us to live on a higher plan than law demanded…..We have liberty in Christ. He does not put us under some little legal system. We do not use the Ten Commandments as a law of life. I don’t mean we are to break the Ten Commandments…Certainly Christians do not break the Commandments, but we are called to a higher level to live….I have liberty in Jesus Christ, and that liberty is not a rule, but a principle. It is that I am to please Him. My conduct should be to please Jesus Christ – not to please you, not to please any organization, but only to please Him. That is the liberty that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”“Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if he be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:2“Now notice carefully what Paul is saying. If you trust Christ plus something else you are not saved. If you go so far as to be circumcised, which is only the badge of the Law, or if you go through some other experience and rest your salvation on that, ‘Christ shall profit you nothing.’ How can He profit you anything when you have made up a bottle of your own concoction rather than trusting Him alone for you salvation….I want to trust Christ that when I come into His presence and He asks me, ‘Why are you here?’ I can say, ‘I am here because I trusted You as my Savior.’ If He asked me, ‘Well, that is commendable, but what have you done? I happen to know that you were president of a seminary, and that you were baptized. You were also a member of a church. You did many fine things during your ministry,’ then I would reply, ‘It is all true, but I never trusted in any of it for salvation. I trusted only You, my Lord,’ …Is that the way you are trusting Christ? Paul makes it very strong when he says, ‘if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.'” If you trust anything other than Christ, including baptism, membership to a particular church, temple endowments, or anything else, you are profited nothing.“For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Galatians 5:3“You cannot draw out of the Law just those things that you like. You cannot leave out the penalties and a great deal of the detail. You must take the whole Law or nothing. I am delighted that I am not under law. I have liberty in Christ!”“Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” Galatians 5:4“If you have been saved by trusting Christ, then go down to the low level of living by the Law, you have fallen from grace. This is what “falling from grace” actually means.”Continuing to speak of living by Law, Paul says, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Galatians 5:9“…We need to be warned today of the leaven of legalism. It is an awful thing. Legalism says that when Christ died on the cross for you and me…He did not give us a full package of salvation, but that I have to go through a ritual of baptism or seek something else from the Holy Spirit to get the rest of it….I received it all when I accepted Christ. Now I may have experiences after I am saved, but that does not add to my salvation. Christ is the One who wrought out our salvation. The Lord Jesus said that the woman would take the leaven and hide it in three measures of meal, symbolic of the gospel. In other words, leaven has been hidden in the gospel–and that makes it palatable to the natural man…..there is a lot of leaven being put in the gospel today to make it more palatable. Natural man likes the leavened bread. It tastes good. However, we are warned not to do that.”“But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18“The Holy Spirit of God brings us to a higher plane….then Paul makes clear the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21…“They which do such things do not inherit the kingdom of God.” “…Now having listed the works of the flesh, Paul will list the fruit of the Spirit. Notice the contrast: works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. The works of the flesh are what you do. The Ten Commandments were given to control the flesh. But now the Christian life is to produce the fruit of the Spirit.”“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. ” Galatians 5:22-23“The Lord Jesus Christ talked about the fruit of the Spirit in John 15. He said that without Him we could do nothing. And fruit is what He wants in our lives….Now the fruit is produced by the Lord Jesus using the Spirit of God in our lives. He wants to live through us. That is the reason I keep saying that you are never asked to live the Christian life. You are asked to let Him live through you. No believer can live the Christian life himself. The old nature cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit….Paul makes it clear in Romans 7:18 that the new nature has no power to produce the fruit of the Spirit. He said, “…to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.’ That is the problem with many of us. How did you do it? This is not a do-it-yourself operation. But how are we going to let the Spirit of God produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives? …I have observed [on the fruit trees on my ranch] that fruit is produced by the tree, not by self-effort. As far as I can tell, the branches never get together and say, ‘Let’s all work hard and see what we can do for this fellow, McGee, because he likes fruit.’ I do enjoy fruit but, as far as I can tell, these branches that bear fruit just open up themselves to the sunshine and to the rain. Bloom appears, then the little green fruit forms, grows, and then ripens. Another thing I have noticed is that the limbs never leave the trunk of the tree.–they don’t get down and run around. Our Lord said, ‘…As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me’ John 15:4….We are to abide in Christ if we are to produce fruit. Paul is stating the principle of fruit-bearing so that we can understand it. The fruit is produced by yielding—by yielding to the sweet influences that are about us. I am not talking about the world and neither is Paul. We are to yield to the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The Holy Spirit wants to produce fruit–it is called the fruit of the Spirit. …It is a manifestation of the Spirit to all believers.” I’ll add that this is SO important. When I left the Mormon church I had to completely change my thinking on this and I still struggle with it. This illustration by McGee and writings of Paul really helped me understand this concept. The fruit of the Spirit is a manifestation of the Spirit and happens naturally on it’s own, not through our own efforts, but as a result of Christ living through us. Natural man thinks of the process backwards and upside-down. We must try hard to be good and do all we can do. The gospel of the Bible preaches the opposite…by faith, the Spirit comes to live within us and as we yield our lives to God and give Him total control the fruit is the natural by-product requiring no effort from us as long as we submit ourselves entirely to God. “There is no law against them, and no law which will produce them [speaking of the fruits of the Spirit] You cannot produce any of these by your own effort. Have you ever tried being meek, for instance? If you tried being meek, and accomplished it, you would be proud that you became meek, and then you would lose your meekness and humility….The third fruit is peace, the peace of God. Religion can never give this to you. Only Christ can give you deep-down peace–‘…being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’. Romans: 5:1.”