Monday, June 3, 2013

The Danger of Picking and Choosing Scriptures

The practice of picking and choosing scriptures one likes, and ignoring and avoiding the scriptures one does not like, is an ages-old problem with the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon. Consider the thousands of Christians who love to read Paul, but completely ignore James.
In the sectarian world today and for centuries, there are the overwhelming teachings that our salvation it is not up to us, and our works and efforts are meaningless—that is, as one theologian put it, “Christianity teaches that we are saved by grace alone. The word grace means an undeserved free gift. Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is receiving the opposite of what we deserve. And it is only on this basis that we can expect God to save us.” They claim this is strikingly clear in Paul’s writing, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
They understand Paul to be saying that God saves us by the faith we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in Jesus the Son of God who lived and died and rose again from the dead. Jesus—as our substitute—is offered to us as an undeserved, free gift. This is Grace! God shows grace to sinners by looking to Christ's work, not our work! "Good words do not lead to salvation,but rather salvation leads to good works. When we are saved by grace, we are made new in Christ and good works will follow. But these are never performed as an effort to gain salvation. They always are ther fruit of salvation that is given freely to us in Christ."
Still, good works are relegated to an unimportant level. Paul said, "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). The apostle Paul, we are told, was expressing the truth that there exists an absolute contrast between grace and work. He says, "If it is by grace," and the idea is salvation, if salvation be by grace, "then it is no more of works. And if it be of works," salvation is owed to human works, "then it is no more of grace." Grace is a word that means "unmerited favor." When something is said to be by grace, then one did not deserve or earn it. It was freely given to you without regard to your merit. The word "work" refers to that which has merit, or earnings. When something is by your work, you earned it, you merited it. You have it coming to you.
We are also told that “Paul warns the person who would say that he is saved by grace. He warns that person not to introduce the smallest element of works. The moment one does so, he says, one will deny the whole truth of his confession that he is saved by grace. If you say you are saved by grace, unmerited, entirely gracious, then you are not saved by works. Keep works out, then, as the cause of your salvation. Your salvation as to its cause has nothing to do with works if it is by grace alone.” As one reverend said, “The apostle is teaching that we are chosen from eternity by grace alone. God's eternal choice of His people unto salvation is by grace alone.” And another pastor adds, “Now, what was the cause of God's election to grace? Have you ever asked that question? Why me? Why would the Lord show His love to me? What was the reason? Was it my parents? Was it, perhaps, my decency? Was it simply that I happened to be born in the right time and place? To what must I look as the reason for my being chosen of God? The Bible answers: grace alone. If it be by grace, it is no more of works.” And still another minister adds, “But all of salvation, not only election but all of salvation, is of grace alone. The apostle means to say that not only the choice of those who will be saved is of grace, but the actual saving of them is entirely of God. The actual bestowing of that salvation is of grace alone.”
The conclusive thought among sectarian religions then is simply stated, “The Scriptures are clear that men and women are sinful by nature and cannot do anything to save themselves or even prepare themselves to be saved, the Scriptures are equally clear that it is God who saves by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone.”
Now, on the surface, this is basically all true—not a single man can save himself, not a single man can elevate himself beyond the grave, not a single man can make himself immortal. Only God can do these things, and he does them by his good grace. Nephi said, “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). Therefore, we are saved by grace, not despite all that we do, but after all that we do. As we find in Catholic doctrine, our living is to be an “active response in which we re-orientate our being to God, worship him and walk in his ways. This is achieved by a cooperation between the grace given by the creator and the dutiful response of the creature. Grace is participatory in nature and therefore we are saved by grace, but not grace alone.”
We see this throughout the writings of Paul where we are implored to 'be guided by the Spirit' (Galatians 5:25) and to 'put on the armor of light' (Romans 13:12). Paul constantly implores the churches to clothe themselves in Christ and to turn away from sin. Now these people are part of the Body of Christ and stand in grace but it is their participation in grace with which Paul is primarily concerned. Paul added, “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:11-13).
But it is to James, the brother of Christ, who was converted after Christ’s resurrection, and who wrote earlier than 49 A.D., which is one of the earliest writings of the New Testament. James made it clear that works are necessary: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” adding, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” He then asks the question, “Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” He then asks another question, “But wilt thou know, o vain man, that faith without works is dead?” And if that isn’t enough to understand his point, he adds, “Was not Abraham our father, justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” He then states that “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness” (James 2:14, 17-18, 20-23).
But that is not all, for James goes on to make it very clear that “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” and finally added, “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:24, 26).
However, you will not hear the sectarian world quoting James, for he does not agree with their singular view and their attitude of unimportantance toward works. “I have been saved,” they tell us, because they accepted Christ as their Savior—which is a very important thing to do—however, it is just the beginning of the road, not the end of it. After all, there is only one true gospel (Galatians 1:6-9) which will save a sinner (Romans 3:23) from their sins. Christians are called to be loving, bold proclaimers of the entire gospel of Jesus Christ in all aspects of our lives, not just those we agree with, but all of the gospel as contained in all of the apostles of old and the patriarchs before them. No one can save themselves—salvation that resurrects us is beyond our own doing and our grasp, it requires the Savior of all mankind, and in him and through him, all men are saved. And that is perfectly clear, for there is one and only one way to have eternal life (John 14:6, Romans 10:9-10). At the same time, James makes it quite clear that our salvation is justified by our works in the overall eternal scheme of things, the Plan of Salvation, through Christ, our redeemer.
Now one might ask what all this has to do with this blog, which is basically about the geographic setting of the Book of Mormon Land of Promise. And the answer is simply this—Mesoamericanists and just about every other theorist with a model, map, or belief about where the Jaredite and Nephite nations lived, do the very same thing. Though they claim otherwise, they pick out those scriptures that agree with them, and ignore those that do not. As an example, Mesoamericanists have long claimed that Mulek landed in the Land Northward, eventually migrated into the Land Southward to the city of Mulek along the east coast, than ended up in Zarahemla. They use Alma 22:30, though they mis-read it, to support this claim. However, they never quote Omni, which states clearly “And they journeyed in the wilderness, and were brought by the hand of the Lord across the great waters, into the land where Mosiah discovered them; and they had dwelt there from that time forth” (Omni 1:16).
If one is going to use the Book of Mormon as the basis for any belief or theory, that person must use all of the scriptural record—not just that part with which they agree!


  1. This was just awesome! I have heard this said so many times, that we are saved not just by grace, and not just by works, but by both. Being able to read about it this way and see the scriptures tied into it was just amazing! This is definitely something I'll be reading more than once! Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you for your kind words. There is much within the gospel that can be better understood when we apply scriptures to them rather than rely on memory or feeling. Again thank you for mentioning it.