I've seen four LDS definitions of salvation. One is resurrection (comes to all); one is the gaining of ANY of the levels of glory (see in D & C 76:36-38,43); one is the gaining of celestial glory, and the last is exaltation or eternal life (actually becoming a god).
The initial problem with the above is that the Bible, start to finish, speaks only of one salvation (in the spiritual sense). We never read of salvations (plural).
The second problem is that NONE of the places where we are told how to be saved give instructions that fit with the "resurrection" salvation. LDS say we are "saved by grace" and that means we do nothing, yet are ALL resurrected. This is inaccurate. The Bible ties grace to faith as that which saves us (Eph. 2:8-10). Yet atheists will be resurrected. To say Christ died to resurrect us is inaccurate. God and Christ, as our creators, have every right to do whatever they will with us, and there had to be no sacrifice in order for them to have the right to resurrect us and judge us. People were resurrected before Christ died. So the first LDS definition is inaccurate. Beyond that it is insignificant. The generic meaning of salvation is rescue, and for those evil people who are allegedly taken from a spirit prison to face God and be JUDGED, this will be a rescue they would rather not have! To be resurrected is to be brought to judgment...I don't call that salvation. The RESULT of that judgment may or may not be salvation.
The second definition - gaining any level of glory - is disproved by my main article (Mormons in Shock), so I will not elaborate on it further here.
The third definition is to gain celestial glory. This one is the closest one to Biblical salvation (defined below) and the one I wish to focus on. The problem issue is how we gain it - discussed below.
The fourth definition is Godhood (See my article on "The Godmakers). If (as my article on Mission Impossible Salvation maintains) the requirements for celestial glory are impossible to attain...then a discussion of exaltation is certainly a waste of time.
I would call it a package deal in which, by faith in Christ's shed blood, one receives, at the time one first believes, forgiveness of all sins, justification (a permanently clean record with God), the presence (permanent) of God's Spirit in our life, and the assurance that we will be with God eternally in his new heaven and earth. In the Bible the word salvation is used interchangeably with these words and phrases: redemption, sons/children of God, justification, eternal life, spiritual birth or born again; also to be a saint, elect, and "in Christ" is to be saved. The scripture list below covers these aspects. The reason we know these are all a part of the package deal is because we are told that we are "saved by faith" (or believing), and in other places we read that we are redeemed by believing, justified by faith, and that by believing we receive sonship and eternal life, etc. Biblically, there is just one basic salvation -- it comes by faith when we first believe, and includes all the above.
POINT OF DIFFERENCE: Mormon salvation (celestial glory & godhood definitions) is a future hope. (II Nephi 25:23 says first you must do all you can do.) Biblical salvation is a present possession. (Luke 18:9-14, John 3:16, 5:24, Romans 4:16, I John 5:13, and many others could be cited. Eph. 2:8 in the Greek says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith.")
POINT OF FOUNDATION:
If there is one thing that the Bible establishes, it is that salvation is by faith. I have listed below about 125 verses in the Bible that speak of this! Yet, if one looks at the 4 Mormon definitions, there isn't one of them that we can gain just by faith! One could be a deceived atheist (no faith), and have an opportunity in the afterlife to spend time in hell and then be released to a level of glory (thus "saved"). So technically, NONE of the Mormon definitions fit with the Biblical pattern of salvation now by faith.
Here is a partial list - check concordance under faith, believe, believing, etc. to get a complete list. Mark 1:15, Luke 8:12, John 1:7,12, 3:16,18,36,5:24, 46, 6:29, 35, 40, 47, 68-69, 7:31, 38, 8:24, 9:38-39, 10:26, 11:26, 12:36, 46, 16:27, 17:8, 20, 20:29, 31, Acts 2:41-44, 4:4,24, 32, 5:14 6:7, 8:12-13, 37, 9:42, 10:43, 11:17, 21, 13:39, 48, 14:27,15:5, 7, 9, 11, 16:1, 5, 31, 17:4-5, 19:2,4,9, 18, 21:20, 25, 22:19, 24:24, Rom. 1:8, 16-17, 3:3, 22,25,27,28,30, 4:5, 9,11-12, 16, 24, 5:1, 9:30, 10:4, 6,9-10,14, 17, 11:20, I Cor. 1:21,3:5, 14:22, 15:2, 11,17, II Cor. 1:24, 4:4, 13:5, Gal. 2:16, 20, 3:2,5 (whole chapter), 5:5,6:10, Eph. 1:12-13, 19, 2:8-9, Phil. 3:9, Col. 1:4, I Thess. 1:7, 2:10,13,3:5, 4:14, II Thess.1:10, 2:13, I Tim. 1:16, 4:10, 12, II Tim. 1:12, Titus 3:5, Heb. 2:13, 4:3, 10:10-14, 23, 39, 11:6, I Peter 1:9, I John 3:23, 5:1, 4.
Lest I be labeled wrongly, please let me clarify that faith in Christ is more than just "easy-believism". Scripturally, I believe it includes 3 things.
At this "point", I find it difficult to continue. Why? Because no Mormon can tell me which of the 4 definitions fits the above list of verses! What do Mormons believe they can gain just by believing? As far as I can tell... Nothing! Mormon "salvation" is not Biblical salvation!
But let me try to find some common ground. Doctrine and Covenants 88:4 equates eternal life with celestial glory. I'll buy that! Now look at what the Bible says about eternal life:
Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Gifts aren't earned - they are freely given.) John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." I John 5:13 "These things are written that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
Does any Mormon KNOW that he/she HAS (present tense) celestial glory "in the bag"? Of course not. If it depends on our performance we could never know. But I know I have eternal life because it depends on Christ's performance, not mine. (Romans 4:16) It's God's promise. Does any Mormon claim he/she can gain celestial glory by believing (alone)? Of course not. But that is what God offers! It is my prayer that Mormons may understand these things and accept what it is that God is offering them
This article is a subpage of an article entitled "Are Mormons Christians?" It can be seen at http://www.jefflindsay.com/faith_works.html
First, let me give a bouquet. I found this article to be the best and most thorough I have seen in the way of an attempt to prove the Mormon position. It deserves attention. If I did not really know the scriptures, I'd buy Jeff's line in a minute. But I have a far different "interpretation" than Jeff's, and for good reason -- he breaks some all-important 'rules'.
When the Mormon "interpretation" and the Baptist (for example) interpretation of salvation conflict we need not throw up our hands and say, "Guess we'll find out who was right on the judgment day," or "I know I'm right because I feel it in my heart." There is a common sense, objective way to know who is carefully interpreting the scriptures and who is twisting them. It has to do with some common sense rules that one would logically apply to the study of any book. The main rules are these:
Now if any who are reading this feel there is something wrong with these rules, there would be no point in wasting your time reading further. But if we can agree that they are sound and worthwhile, and the pathway to sound interpretation, then we have a basis for seeing whose interpretation of salvation is correct.
Jeff's first Biblical proof text is II Peter 1. He ignores the context and presumes this is to tell us how to be saved (ultimately). The fact is that in I Peter 1 these people were described as people who had been begotten again "to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith (not enduring to the end, or obedience, by the way) unto salvation..." And II Peter 1 speaks of these people being given great and precious promises. The text begins by telling them to add to their FAITH (the means of salvation) these other virtues. So it is talking to people who, according to all the other scriptures on salvation, were already saved. He misses the point on verse 9. It doesn't say their sins aren't purged if they don't grow in these ways, it just says they would have FORGOTTEN that their sins are purged (big difference). And the comment about people who lack these things being blind is true, for it starts with one who has faith. Faith will indeed lead to life changes and the adopting of these other virtues, and one who doesn't have a faith that leads to these things is spiritually blind (and dead!). The comparative passages rule tells us that when a few passages SEEM to say one thing, but many say another, we should look for a second interpretation for the few passages. In this case, there is another interpretation. In verse 10 it speaks of never falling. There are 2 Biblical words for fall, one refers to a trip up (used here) and the other of a total, unchangeable fall (not used here). So one need not presume this passage is speaking of losing salvation. It tells us to check up on the reality of our faith by seeing whether it has produced life-changes.
The next proof text is Romans 8:14-18. Again, a little study of word meanings teaches us a lot. There are two different concepts for sons or children in the Greek. One is a reference to newborn or baby sons/children (teknon), and the other a reference to mature, full-fledged children (huios). The two are used in this passage, and I'll indicate which is which.
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the (mature) sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (adoption is the placing of a son into full-fledged mature status - note it says we have received - past tense - this Spirit). The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children (babies) of God: And if children (babies), then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ (isn't this exaltation?), if so be that we suffer with him...." The beauty of the usage of these two words is that God is telling us that any who make it to the newborn stage will also make it to the adult, full-fledged stage, for it says that if we are babies we will be heirs if (it is the idea of since) we suffer with him. Other scriptures tell us that all who are Christ's WILL suffer, so it isn't so much a condition as what will be the natural result of being saved. Galatians 4:1-6 tells us the same thing. Because we are newborn sons, we are heirs, adopted (full-fledged) ones. Note that these verses are LDS proof-texts regarding exaltation. Think about it. It is saying if you make it to the baby stage, you'll be exalted!!
Next he cites Heb. 12:9-10. He again ignores context. The earlier verses tell us all who are God's children will be chastised - it goes with the territory. It isn't that we become God's children (saved) after the chastisement - it is that we will have it to endure because we ARE sons. Rev. 3:21 and 21:7 are cited next, which say that overcomers will inherit all things and rule with Christ. I have no problem with that. It doesn't speak of salvation, but how much we inherit, and our ruling with Christ. I John 3:2 is cited next, but it states no qualifications for salvation. Romans 2:4, 10 and 13 are cited out of context. That God will reward us depending on whether or not we seek him is a true generalization, but the specifics of HOW to seek and find him are spelled out in Romans 1:17, 3:22-24 and 28, and on through chapters 4 and 5. These chapters form the hallmark study on justification (salvation) by faith! Next he cites Rev. 22:12-14, which speaks of doing the commandments to be able to enter the city. There is a translation question here... modern translations say, blessed are those who wash their robes...etc. (and we do that in the blood of Christ, Rev. 1:5). Even if we choose the other translation, I would simply say that such obedience is the RESULT of faith, and not the cause of salvation. It must be so or Ephesians 2:8-10 is a lie. God doesn't doubletalk himself.
Now note this odd quote from Jeff: "...for we are saved by grace, not by works, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2:8, but it is by doing our part of the two-way covenant that we gain access to that grace." Now think about that, keeping in mind that grace refers to unmerited or undeserved favor. He is saying that what is ours even though we don't deserve it becomes ours when we deserve it. Do you buy it? Sorry, but such doubletalk is a denial of the principle stated in Romans 11:6 - namely that you don't earn something unearned - it is one or the other, not both (grace and works) as the cause of salvation.
Matthew 13's parable of the sower and seed is a poor way to prove a doctrinal position because Christ does not spell out at what point people in the figurative story are saved. It could be when the seed sprouts, or it could be when it produces fruit. One must rely on comparative passages that are more specific to determine that.
Next he cites the scriptures that speak of enduring to the end, ignoring the fact that all of them are in contexts which speak of "enduring" a period of earthly tribulation when it is physical life that is threatened (i.e. the salvation may be from physical death). Again, the best that can be said for these passages are that they are inconclusive, and must be interpreted by other passages.
I Tim. 4:16 is an example of another passage than may be using the word saved in its more generic, general preservation sense. Look at 4:10. If we insist that both of these refer to spiritual salvation, then none of us have anything to fear, for God is going to "save all men". I Tim. 4:16 is good advice - one can save themselves a lot of trouble in this life if they stick to the doctrines proclaimed in the word of God (rather than the philosophies of men).
Heb. 3:14 is really a verse I love to quote to Mormons. Note here that the requirement isn't obedience, but holding fast our confidence. Confidence in what? The book of Hebrews is written to Jews who didn't think Jesus did enough to save them (they lived in the transition period between the covenants) and so they felt they should trust in Christ AND continue with the Old Covenant animal sacrifices. In other words their confidence wasn't completely in Christ! The same is true of Mormons. If you don't do your part, then Christ can't help you. The problem is that your part (according to LDS revelations) is more than you can do! Give it up! Put your confidence in Christ to save you - 100%.
Now, Philippians 2:12: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." That sounds pretty scary, but it is written to those who are already addressed as Christians, and in Philippians 1:6 we are told that Paul was confident that Christ's work in them would be performed in them until its completion at the day of Christ. There is a big difference in working FOR one's salvation, and working OUT the salvation that God has already put into us (as Phil. 2:13 describes).
Philippians 3:12-14 speaks of striving to obtain a prize associated with a high calling. Paul did have a high calling and there was doubtless a reward involved in successfully fulfilling that calling. But is this speaking of salvation or reward? Look at verse 21. It would appear that Paul wasn't worried about his or the Philippians' salvation. There are no if's in this verse.
James 2 is cited, and I have addressed that in a FAQ link cited in my home page. (Faith CAUSES salvation; good works are the RESULT, meaning one is saved now, not later.)
So far, I believe I have touched on all the scriptures from the Bible that were given. And we are left with no clear-cut verses which can only be interpreted to say one must keep the commandments to be saved.... so far. But, on the other hand, we have a list (above) of 125 verses spelling out the fact that salvation is just by faith...eternal life is by faith, ...forgiveness is by faith...justification is by faith. But let's continue.
Jeff is intent on putting down the idea of "once saved always saved" and asks if there are scriptures that teach this. The answer is yes. Here are some: Eph. 4:30, John 17:11, Phil. 1:6, Heb. 12:1, Romans 8:30-33, 35-398:1, II Cor. 5:19, Heb. 8:12, Phil. 1:29, Eph. 2:8, Acts 13:48, John 6:65, 10:26, Heb. 10:10-14, Rom. 6:23, I Cor. 1:8, I John 5:10- 13, Heb. 13:5, John 8:35, Romans 11:29, Rom. 4:16, Heb. 6:19-20, I John 3:2, Phil. 1:20- 21, I Cor. 15:57-58. If your spiritual life isn't ETERNAL life...it isn't the brand God is offering!
I am offended by Jeff's reference to "cheap grace". That is not what the Bible, or Baptists teach. It cost Christ his all, and the result of grace entering my life is that it changes me (Titus 2:11-12). We never tell anyone they don't need to obey the commandments - we tell them it is not to be done to earn salvation, but out of thankfulness for having received it. Christians DO perform good works!
Matt. 7:21-23 is cited and then he says Christians can fall from grace. The verses, however, don't indicate the ones referred to were EVER Christians -- it says, "Depart from me... I NEVER knew you."
Several verses are cited that supposedly speak of falling from grace (as if it refers to losing salvation), but none of them refer to that. I Cor. 10:12 speaks of a fall, but whether it has to do with losing salvation isn't indicated. Heb. 2:1-3, 3:12-14 and 4:1-11 are all addressed to Jews who were in the unique position of the transition period between the two covenants, and their unique situation of first believing in Christ and then turning back to the shadow (of which Christ was the reality), namely animal sacrifices brought them some unique warnings. To apply this to all would mean that we should all be careful not to add anything to what Christ has done for us, or we will incur God's wrath. Interestingly, the one passage in the Bible that DOES refer to falling from grace was avoided. Why? Because in Galatians 5:4 we are told that it is those who feel they can be justified by the law (rather than by faith in Christ, verse 5) who fall from grace. Did you get that? It is lawKEEPING rather than lawBREAKING that is described. In other words, one who feels they must live up to some law-system is the one who has their faith misplaced. One may say that refers only to the Mosaic law, but the 10 commandments are a part of what Mormons are told they must obey. So they are not off the hook here. Further, Galatians tells us that if there was ANY law-system that could save, Christ would not have needed to die.
It is interesting to me that so many of the LDS proof texts are taken from a book addressed to the Jews who simply did not understand the full benefits of what Christ did on the cross. Heb. 12:15 warns them not to fail of the GRACE of God... in other words, don't substitute obedience, works, for faith in CHRIST's atonement as sufficient! Heb. 3:12-14 likewise isn't warning about disobedience or sin, but rather warns against a heart of UNBELIEF! Verse 14 speaks of maintaining CONFIDENCE in Christ. (My confidence in Him is that He is my perfection - Heb. 10:10-14, and that He is no longer remembering my sins, 10:18.)
II Peter 2:20-22 is, in my opinion, the only passage that stands up as a possible statement about those who lose out on salvation with God, but I don't form my doctrinal views on the basis of one passage alone...and it is not talking about people who don't live up to obeying the commandments -- in context it is talking about apostates from the faith. And there is a question in my mind as to whether such people just went through the motions of knowing Christ and the truth, or whether Christ really did enter their life. I John 2:19 is a parallel passage, and tells us apostates go out from the church because they really aren't "of us" (saved), because if they had been saved they never would have left!
Matthew 19:16-22 and Luke 10:25-27 are held up as prime examples of the salvation requirement. He even cites the requirement given for this man to sell all he had and give it to the poor. I would like to know if this is the requirement for celestial glory for all (Mormons) now? You can't have it both ways. Either Christ was giving this man a personalized object lesson to prove to him he underestimated his own sinfulness -- he wasn't really obeying the commandments (i.e. love your neighbor as yourself), or he was telling all people everywhere how to have eternal life. Which is it? How many Mormons, by this standard, will enter celestial glory? How many of us give (as the Samaritan) real hard cash to those who are our social enemies? Jesus said, "This do, and you will live."
Now I want to know...is this the REAL requirement for ALL people, or was this Jesus' way of showing us that we can't even come close to the real meaning of the commandment to "love others"? I say it is simply that Jesus was illustrating to us that "Plan A" (be perfect in your performance) doesn't work, and he chose people who thought they were going to make it work for them to prove it! How sad that the Mormons have yet to catch on to Jesus' subtle point -- "Plan A" won't work for them either (obey ALL the commandments)! (Again - I'm NOT advocating disobedience - I obey as a RESULT of being saved, not to gain or maintain salvation.)
Heb. 5:9 speaks of God being the author of salvation to them that obey him. Such obedience is a generalized reference... it may mean we obey by believing, as John 6:29 says, or it may refer to the general pattern of obedience that is the RESULT of our faith. Either way, one is adding to what it says if we think it says we MUST obey ALL the commandments to be saved. Hebrews 4:11 also speaks of not the sin of disobeying commandments, but the sin of unbelief. I appeal to Mormons to forsake the sin of not believing Jesus paid it all for you! Hebrews 10:29 has a strong warning in it about not insulting (doing despite to) the spirit of grace. When the holy, sinless, almighty God of this universe says, "I have a gift for you -- take it (by faith)" -- and you say, "No, it can't be that easy, I'll work for it," you are insulting the spirit of grace. I love you enough to warn you...not to "fall after the same example of unbelief." (Heb. 4:11)
So we see that upon close examination, there isn't a verse in the Bible that (in context) makes obedience to all God's commandments the requirement for "eternal life" (celestial glory). But at least 125 times the almighty God of the universe has indicated we are to "believe and be saved." How many times must he say it before you will believe? Will you accept the gift of forgiveness by faith in Christ alone?