THE CROSS UNVEILED
Last Update: 12/2014
But don't we have to follow the Commandments?
Mormons will say though we must keep the commandments to please Heavenly Father. This is a belief most whom are unfamiliar with the gospel would think is a requirement or recommendation for good Christian living and growth. To answer this we must first understand the context and application of why the law was given and how, as Christians, we are motivated to use the law today. Until this occurs, we will never appreciate the Gospel of grace and liberty it provides.
Why was the Law Given?
Galatians 3:18-19 says, “For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise. 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 a mediator“.
The law was given by God to show what people of God look like as a bridge until Christ would come and fulfill the promise God made to Abraham. Our natural, prideful flesh wants to play some part in our salvation so we misuse the law as a measuring stick. This is self-salvation and running from Jesus, not to him. Paul informs us God did not intend for the law to be used to "give life" or righteousness would have been by the law (Galatians 3:21) and a Savior would have not been necessary. But Paul is clear in that the law was provided not for the removal of sin, but to reveal our sin (Romans 3:20; Galatians 3:24). It's like a mirror which displays to us our sin, not the path to salvation. Scripture teaches us we are all imprisoned by our sin (Galatians 3:22). As prisoners of sin, our best obedience, morality and works are a hopeless cure; we need a complete rescue. The law is a curse for anyone who uses it in any manner as a system of salvation (Galatians 3:10) because it enslaves us, holding us hostage to its unattainable requirements. Jesus became a curse for us so we can have freedom and the free gift of his righteousness (Galatians 3:13).
Paul is an excellent teacher. He corrects the Galatians in that the Gospel plus any law added to it is perverting the gospel and is really no gospel at all. He teaches the application of the law as God intended - to expose our sin and desperate need of a Savoir so what was promised to Abraham might be given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Galatians 3:22). The law guarded and tutored us until the promise by faith had come (Galatians 3-24). Now Christ has come and fulfilled the perfect requirements of the law, we are no longer under the law, but under faith in Christ (Galatians 3:25). The law reveals the depth and breadth of our sin pointing us to our need for Christ and his work on our behalf. Until we acknowledge the scale of our sin debt through application of the law, we will not comprehend and acknowledge how significant Christ's payment on our behalf was. This is what radical, life-transforming grace is all about. Christ received what he did not deserve, punishment for our sin so we could have what we do not deserve, his perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we transfer our trust from our various methods of self-salvation to rely completely on Christ and his work for us, we are credited with the perfect righteousness of Christ...forever!
In the beginning of Galatians 3, Paul is extremely blunt and clear with his message to the Galatians. He tells them they are "foolish" (twice) and being "bewitched" (deceived) for trusting in the truth of the gospel for their salvation, but trying to draw closer to God and his acceptance through "works of the law." Also notice Paul's message is focused in Jesus' work for us and not our work for God (Jesus Christ...crucified). At the heart of Paul's letter to the Galatians is we are both justified and sanctified by faith in the gospel. Human effort, morality, obedience to laws, etc., are not part of the gospel formula for salvation.
Motivation for Obedience
In the end, both Christians and Mormons are obedient to the commandments of God. The difference, however, is the motivation of the heart driving the obedience. As a Mormon, my motivation was to try and clean myself up as best I could to be more acceptable to God in hopes my obedience would help me merit blessings and a higher level of heaven. I was naive in being taught and believing this is what pleased heavenly Father. Through studying the truth of the Gospel, I realized deep down in my heart I was obedient out of fear of the consequences; I was obedient ultimately for the love of me, not God. Because I did not see what God had completed for me in Jesus Christ, I never knew where I stood before God. Everything I did was driven by guilt, fear and shame. Because of this, I was on a see-saw of pride and despair. When I was doing great, my pride soared but when I was not doing all I could do, I was in despair.
Now as an adopted child of God by faith (Galatians 3:26), I recognize the importance of the law in that it convicts me of my sin and points me to Christ. To the praise and glory of His grace, Christ's work has made me accepted by God in whom we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace he has lavished upon us (Ephesians 1:6-8). I heard the word of truth, believed the gospel of my salvation, and was sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise a guaranteed passport to heaven as I am just awaiting its redemption after I die (Ephesians 1:12-14). Until then, my motivation for obedience is out of the same pure and selfless love Christ demonstrated in doing for me what I could never do for myself. To the praise and glory of him (not me) and his gospel of grace forever.
Is this Consistent with Jesus' Teaching on the Law?
Jesus had much to teach about the law from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). As the Pharisees looked to follow the law and good works for their salvation, Jesus had an eye-opening sermon which turned upside down their interpretation. Jesus taught the spirit of the law to help show us the perfection the law required; even though you may think you are following the law, you break it. The real meaning of the Law of Moses gets not only at your actions, but the issue of the heart. Our hearts commit murder by hating others, even though we do not actionably commit murder. Our hearts commit adultery by looking at another with lust even though we do not actionably commit adultery. Our hearts commit idolatry by putting anything before God even though we may not have a statue of a false god to worship. It reveals the sin in our hearts and convicts us all guilty of breaking God's perfect holy standard. We are dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5), meaning there is nothing we can do to improve our situation, which is why God was manifested in the flesh and did for us what we could never do for ourselves. Jesus perfectly followed the law, becoming the perfect sacrifice for humanity.
The law was fulfilled with Christ’s sacrifice (Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). The Law of Moses and prophets are now hung on two great commandments regarding love (Matthew 22:40). Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. This does not mean we can go break the Ten Commandments and commit murder or adultery. But if we love God and our neighbor, we will not commit murder or adultery. Remember, the Law of Moses was not given to follow for the removal our sins, but to reveal our sins (Romans 3:20, Galatians 3:24) because the real issue is within our hearts.
The prophet Jeremiah prophesied the Lord would write the law on our hearts in Jeremiah 31:31-33, which was fulfilled by Jesus through His death and written in Hebrews 8:10 and Hebrews 10:16. This new covenant the Lord brings is not regulation by obedience through the law, but having the law written on our hearts so it transforms us from within. Again, this is exactly the way Jesus taught the law from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Striving to keep laws and ordinances in an effort on our part to merit eternal salvation will never make us righteous because obedience to laws and ordinances does not change our hearts.
The Pharisees followed the laws and ordinances more than anyone besides Jesus, yet it never changed their hearts because they did not use the law in the way it was revealed by Jesus. They were filled with self-righteousness because they felt they were earning their inheritance by obedience to the law. Had they used the law as Jesus taught, it would have revealed to them the sinful nature of their hearts. This is why we realize only receiving the free, unmerited gift of the atoning work of Christ can make us righteous before a holy God, because if righteousness came through obeying laws and ordinances, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).
As Christians, we must be born again by placing our faith in Christ alone for our righteousness which is called justification (John 3:5-6; Romans 4:2-8, 5:1; Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9; Titus 3:5-7). Next, the sanctification process starts where through the power of the Holy Spirit which indwells in us, the old us dies as we become dead to sin and it is Christ that lives in us (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:19-20, 5:16-26).
In the beginning of John 15, Jesus tells us He is the vine and we are the branches. We bear fruit only by abiding in Christ as His work is accomplished in and through us. Good deeds and moral conformity we bring forth from “extending our best effort” in an attempt to “qualify” for eternal life are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). Being a Christian is a dynamic and vibrant relationship with Christ as He changes us to become more like Him as we glory in His work and not in our work (2 Corinthians 3).
How can you go out and effectively share the good news of the gospel without the peace Jesus promises us through the knowledge of your eternal salvation? You cannot truly have peace and liberty in Christ to share this good news if your eternal salvation depended upon anything you can do plus grace, because you become too focused on trying to clean yourself up through your own personal righteous efforts and obedience to laws and ordinances. When you know your eternal salvation is secure as 1 John 5:13 promises, not because of anything you do, but based on what Jesus Christ alone has already done, then you have this peace and are free in His grace and can serve and glorify Him in all you do. This is the message of grace and "good news" of the gospel.
But I'm a Good Person so God won't send me to Hell
In discussing salvation with Mormons and the issue of adding anything to what Jesus already accomplished, I have heard comments out of frustration such as "but I'm a good person, so God will not send me to hell," or "God knows my heart." I understand why they might say things like this as when I did not know what God had to say on the matter, I to felt these were justified comments. Please understand when you think like this, you are taking God’s holy standard of judgment out of His hands and being your own judge based upon your own standards. You are creating an idol god in your mind who is acceptable to you and one who will see you as what you feel you are. This is a false god and not the biblical God who is the only God who has the power to save us. God even tells us people create their own gods by changing the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made by man who changes the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1:23,25).
The Bible tells us none of us are good, not one. Romans 3:12 states, "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." Romans 3:23 states, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." This gets at the sin nature that we all are born with and inherited from Adam.
Romans 5:12 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
And since all have sinned death is the penalty. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
When you think you are "good," that is based on your own opinion or others opinions and not the opinion of the one who matters - God's. If we were to be judged based on our own standards there would be a lot of disagreement and confusion as to what should and should not be punished. That is why we have a perfect, holy and righteous Judge who will require much more than our own righteousness.
No matter what we do or think, the very best we could ever do would still fall infinitely short in terms of what the holy Judge requires, which is absolute perfection. This is why works in attempt to earn our salvation are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
A perfect and spotless lamb was required to take away sin so we may be reconciled to God. God came down in the flesh as Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life, became sin for us so those who believe will be clothed in His righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). If we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, then God does not see our sin, He sees the righteousness of Christ, which is the only level of righteousness that will inherit eternal life.
Mormons, please do not create a false god in your head and become judges yourselves thinking Christ plus all the obedience to laws, ordinances, works and moral effort you do to please God is what earns the righteousness of Christ. The gospel proclaims we are dead in sin, which means there is nothing we can do about it, meaning no obedience to laws, works etc. (Ephesians 2:5, Galatians 3:21). That is why Christ was sent to the cross to die for our sins, because if it were not, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21). If we have been washed of all sin by the blood of Christ and no one can rip us from the hands of Christ, then we are declared righteous and become sons and heirs with eternal life.