Chapter Twenty-Seven

God’s Wonderful Grace
G od’s   Righteousness   At   Christ’s   Expense.


     Serving in the military aboard the USS Midway in the early 1980’s, this writer overheard the following story of interest. Somewhere far out to sea in the Indian Ocean, a sailor allegedly twice jumped overboard apparently attempting to find freedom from military duties aboard the ship. Recovered both times by the rescue team aboard the ships helicopter, the emergency divers had to render the swimming sailor helpless in order to safely get him aboard the rescue chopper. Hundreds of miles from land in any direction, not of panic but from sheer determination to be as far away from the ship as possible, the fleeing sailor refused to cooperate with the rescue divers. One must wonder if he truly thought he could swim to the safety of land from wherever he actually was. Whether he realized it or not, his situation was hopeless apart from the rescue efforts of the emergency helicopter and divers above him. Swimming as hard as he could while refusing the assistance of the rescue team, there was no chance that the safety of land would be realized by his own efforts. His only hope was to cease swimming and place his trust in the abilities of others. In much the same way, men must place their trust solely in the grace of God if they would find that eternal residence called heaven that so many seek through religious endeavors.  
     God’s grace seems to be one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the Bible in many religious circles. Joseph Smith’s version of grace blends nicely with all the rest of the world’s man made religious ideas. To Smith, God’s grace seems to be the Band-Aid at the end of a person’s life that patches up a person’s failure to keep all of the commandments. Consider the following verse from the BkM:

“ . . . for we know that it is by grace that we are saved,   after all we can do.”   246  

Please notice that grace follows all efforts. If this verse were true, then grace would only be available at the end of a person’s life and then only if that person had accomplished all that they could have done. With that thought in mind, one must ask a question. What happens to the person who does not do all they could do? It would seem that nobody would receive God’s grace if this verse were true because it is apparent that all persons could do more for God’s service in their lifetime. The moment a person goes to bed at night they have ceased to do all that they could have done. Even one more hour a day spent in meditation of God’s Word would add to a person’s spiritual resume. Individuals would have to stay awake each day continuously serving God until pure exhaustion dropped them in their tracks, or they will not have accomplished all that they could have. It is a certainty that no human other than Jesus has ever reached that goal. Grace that is dependent upon a person’s efforts is no better than an island one thousand miles away to a sailor overboard at sea.  
The question also arises about a person’s sin. From the moment repentance is first made, wouldn’t a person have to remain sinless for the rest of their life? If someone even committed only one tiny sin during the course of the rest of their life, is it not the case that that person will not have done all they could have done when they finally come to their judgment day? (The impossibility of a person only committing one tiny sin during the course of their life is as unfathomable as living on the sun. Please reconsider the Apostle Paul’s struggle with sin- the same struggle every true Christian has- in chapter twenty-four.) Even for one sin, it would appear that the person would receive no grace because they did not do ‘all’   that they could have done. Grace that is available only at the end of a person’s life would seem to be rather worthless after the first day a person sins or goes to bed prior to doing all that they could have done.   This same worthless type of grace is also seen in another verse from Smith’s story:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength,   then is his grace sufficient for you,   . . .”   247

This writer must ask, What does a person who has denied all ungodliness and loved God with every part of his or her being need grace for? He or she has become everything God desires humans to be. Perfection needs no grace!
     There is no argument from this author that God desires men to deny all ungodliness and love him with every part of our being, but it is only by God’s grace that this is even a remote possibility. Romans 5:5 in the Bible declares that “ . . . the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost . . .” This is an act of God’s grace. The truth of the matter is that without the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit no man would ever learn to love God at all. Humans are generally too busy loving themselves to care anything about God.  
     By God’s grace, he has provided his only begotten Son to be our Savior. Now, by his grace and through the work of the Holy Spirit, he convicts men of their sin and seeks to bring them to repentance. By his grace, he is willing to accept our plea for mercy when, by faith, we finally humbly admit with him that we are sinners in need of a savior, and we cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Then, by his grace, he places his Holy Spirit within us to begin a miraculous transformation from the inside out. By his grace, the Holy Spirit within the believer supplies the power for sinners to find victory over the sin that dwells within every human (See the Apostle Paul’s lament in Romans 7:14-25, Bible). God provides grace for us when we are in need, not after we have finally learned to love God with all of our being and turned away from all ungodliness. It is only God’s grace that gives us the power to accomplish anything for him at all.  
     What people need is God’s grace daily through the trials of life, which God has provided through Jesus the Savior. A drowning man does not need a savior once he has finally reached shore. He needs help while in his desperate situation.  
     Humans are a lot like sailors fallen overboard far out to sea. Each of more than 600 precepts (pieces of God’s laws)(  
248   ) are like 600+ huge waves looming above each person. Any one law broken will condemn each sinner on the final Day of Judgment just as any of the 600+ waves can drown the sailor independently. All laws need not be broken to make a person guilty of sin before God. Guilty is guilty, regardless which law a person breaks or how many. Failure to keep even one commandment will condemn any person:

“For   whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one   point, he is guilty of all.
For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.”  

     All sin is equally condemning before God because all sin is disobedience to God. God said “Thou shalt not steal.”  
250   He did not say, ‘Thou shalt not steal large items’. The person who steals a pencil disobeys God just like the thief who robs a bank. Both are equally guilty because each chose to disobey God’s commandments. They are both guilty regardless of the size of transgression. Men may place different values on greater or lesser sin, but God does not. The law condemns every human equally because all have sinned. All are sinners:

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”   251  

“For   there is   not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.”

     Because all men are sinners, no human can save himself from certain judgment. Many try to appease God’s wrath against their sin by doing good deeds. What they fail to realize is that good deeds do not pay for sin. Good deeds are what God has commanded us to do. When one does a good deed, they are obeying God’s instructions. When one sins, they are disobeying God’s instructions. One obedience does not cover up for one disobedience. It is because of disobedience that men will stand before God to be judged, and one disobedience is enough to condemn any person as a sinner.
     Like the sailor overboard far out to sea, many people are swimming against all 600+ waves of God’s law thinking that they can save themselves by doing lots of good deeds. A thousand miles from land in any direction, there is no hope that they will accomplish their own salvation. What they need is a savior, one who can lift them out of the ocean of laws that is threatening their eternal soul and deliver them to safety apart from their own efforts. Jesus, like the rescue diver in the Coast Guard helicopter, is near every person patiently waiting for humans to realize their need and turn to him for mercy. Jesus is offering forgiveness by his grace. He has already been punished for the sins of the whole world. His sacrifice in our place satisfied God’s anger against mankind. By his grace, he willingly took the punishment for all humans. Now he offers salvation by grace to all who will repent and turn to him. He is not a Savior waiting on the shore one thousand miles away. His grace is available the moment we cease trusting in our abilities to make God happy and turn to Jesus for mercy. We do not have to keep all of the commandments before his grace becomes sufficient. It will be his grace that gives us the power to follow his commandments.  
     If Joseph Smith’s version of grace was a bank account available to supply all of our needs through life, it would only be of any assistance once we have finally worked hard enough to supply all of our needs by ourselves. Once we no longer need it we can have it according to Smith. Joseph Smith’s lifeguard named grace merely stands at the side of the ocean and waits to congratulate the drowning swimmer for a job well done if they happen to make it, (they never do). It is worthless! Men need grace daily as they attempt to walk through this life in the light of God’s Word on the paths God has chosen and directed them to. Joseph Smith’s version of God’s grace cannot provide what men need because it isn’t God’s grace at all. When Joseph Smith wrote the BkM he knew many Bible words, but he didn’t really understand what the words meant. Grace is one of those improperly used words. Had he truly understood God’s grace he would never have written the BkM and pretended it to be another testament of Jesus. This is evident when a person honestly compares what Smith offered the world in his BkM against God’s Holy Bible. Men must turn to the Bible if they would ever find and understand God’s true grace.  
     Another verse from the BkM sheds light on Smith’s ignorance when we consider Moroni 8:25 which states:

“ . . . and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; . . .”

     When one considers that sin is the breaking of the law  
(253)   and that fulfilling the commandments means to keep the law, this verse becomes a contradiction of itself. If one fulfills the commandments they have no sin that needs to be pardoned. On the other hand, if one sins, then they have not fulfilled the commandments, therefore there would be no forgiveness of sins. People could never find forgiveness if this verse was true. The only option available would be to live a perfect life obeying all 600+ precepts to God’s law. Even if that were possible from the moment a person repents and comes to Jesus, that person would still have all the sins of his or her youth that need pardoned. Smith’s type of pardon would be dependent upon the person’s ability to keep all of the commandments perfectly for the rest of his or her life. According to the BkM, pardon would only come if that person kept every commandment. If one commandment was broken at any time in the person’s life, apparently there would be no forgiveness at the end. Since it is the fulfilling of the commandments that brings remission of sins, each sailor must swim to the safety of shore (fulfill all the commandments, i.e. dodge all 600+ waves/precepts.) before sins can be forgiven. Breaking the commandments along the way means they have not fulfilled them, therefore there would be no remission (forgiveness / pardon).
     It is apparent that Joseph Smith was confused about the redemption God offers men in the Bible. This author shouts hallelujah for the fact that God’s grace is not dependent upon men’s obedience to God’s laws. While it is true that God has commanded all men everywhere to obey his laws, and they are the standard of righteousness that men will be judged by on that final Day of Judgment, God’s laws were never given to make men righteous. They were given to show men their need of the Savior:

“Wherefore   the law was our schoolmaster   to bring us   unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”  

God’s purpose for the law is to show men they are guilty:

“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law:   that every mouth may be stopped, and   all the world may become guilty before God.”   255  

God’s Word makes it clear that humans will not justify themselves before him by attempting to keep his laws:

“Therefore   by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law   is   the knowledge of sin.”   256  

This is not to say that men should abandon God’s laws, for God has commanded men to continuously meditate upon them and obey them all:  

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night,   that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”

Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I   am   the LORD your God.
Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I   am   the LORD.”

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and   keep his commandments: for this   is   the wholeduty   of man.”   259

“If ye love me,   keep my commandments.”   260  

     The world would be a much better place if men would listen to God’s commands and obey them. This is what God desires, but men would have to keep every law perfectly for their entire lives if they would hope to enter God’s kingdom based upon their   own   righteousness. Men would have to be righteous, perfectly sinless, just like Jesus was. Righteousness does not mean ‘better than someone else down the street who is most certainly a sinner!’ Righteousness means perfect sinlessness! Jesus was righteous because he never committed one sin. Every human has sinned; every human is   unrighteous!  
     God is not looking for people who think they are better than everybody else, (self-righteous people). He is looking for people who realize they are sinners desperately in need of the Savior. When a person’s heart finally breaks over their sinful ungodly state and they are willing to confess with God what they really are, God’s Holy Spirit is there to save the repentant soul:

“The LORD   is   nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”   261

“ . . . but to this   man   will I look,   even   to   him that is   poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”   262

“HAVE mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For   I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin   is   ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done   this   evil in thy sight: . . .”

     God’s grace is available to all people who will come to Jesus humbly and admit that they can not be good enough to deserve his love and kindness. Those who will accept God’s gift of grace through Jesus by faith will receive it the day they soften their heart, admit their sin, bow their knee to Jesus, call out for mercy, and trust him to save them. When by faith that person confesses his or her sin before Jesus the Christ, Jesus will become their Savior, their intercessor before God, their advocate at the judgment throne, the one who pleads their case before the Almighty God who will judge every deed of men. Where once condemnation would have been the judgment, justification before God will be the standard. All because the one who bore the penalty for every man’s sin loves us so much that he is willing to stand in our defense before Almighty God. He has already paid the price on an old rugged cross. Every sin that has been or will ever be committed by men was punished that day nearly two thousand years ago. God’s anger against men’s sin was satisfied as seen in this Bible prophecy from Isaiah that predated Jesus’ sufferings:

He shall see of the travail of his soul,   and   shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”   264  
(Please consider the suffering of Christ in the entire 53rd chapter of Isaiah in the Bible!)

This was all accomplished through Jesus by his grace and because of his love for men.  
     Jesus is like the Coast Guard rescue team that hovers above every sinner waiting for people to realize they cannot save themselves by doing good works. Through the Bible and by his Holy Spirit Jesus is calling out to every man to look up to him for deliverance from the sea of laws and sin that surround us all. A thousand miles from land in any direction, good deeding men must cease their efforts to reach that shore of God’s mercy by their own goodness and call upon the only person who can save them, Jesus the Christ:

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for   there is none other name   under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”   265

“That if thou shalt   confess with thy mouth   the Lord Jesus, and shalt   believe in thine heart   that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.
For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

As seen in the above verses, this forgiveness is available to all persons who will come to Jesus by faith confessing their sin and believing on him for salvation. This salvation is available at any time a sinner realizes their need and will by faith call upon the Savior. This salvation is available by grace today, not at the end of a person’s life when they have done all they could do for themselves! It is by grace when grace is needed! It is the true grace of God that God offers through the Bible to all repentant men who will come to him seeking mercy. It is the grace that Joseph Smith misunderstood as he was writing his story. Smith’s type of grace directs people away from the true grace of God rather than to it.  
      How would a person define grace? Grace is an attribute of God and men that treats others better than they deserve. Grace gives gifts, things that have not been earned. Grace gives gifts solely because of the love for the recipient within the heart of the giver. It is not based upon how much the receiver deserves or does not deserve the gift;   wages   are based upon how much the receiver deserves them. Gifts are not wages! Birthday, Christmas and Wedding presents are examples of grace in action. People do not calculate how much the recipient has earned the gift before it is given because it is a gift, not a wage. Grace treats others better than they deserve. Grace gives gifts!
     God offers   the gift   of eternal live (eternity in his presence), by grace, not as a wage:

“For the wages of sin   is   death; but   the gift of God   is   eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.   267

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ,   (by grace ye are saved;)
And hath raised   us   up together, and made   us   sit together in heavenly   places   in Christ Jesus:
That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of   his grace   in   his   kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

Grace can never blend with works to determine a person’s position before God:

“For   by grace   are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:   it is   the gift of God:
Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

“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.”

Grace is undeserved; the wages of work are deserved. Grace is offered as a gift, not something to be earned. Work earns wages, not gifts. When people attempt to work for and deserve God’s grace they reject it as a gift and bring upon themselves a debt:

“Now to him that worketh is the reward   not reckoned of grace, but of debt.”   271  

The debt incurred when humans reject God’s grace as a gift is a debt to fulfill God’s entire law:

“For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that   he is   a debtor to do the whole law.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are   justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

Those who seek to be justified by keeping God’s laws will ultimately drown in their sin. God will hold them accountable to the whole law, not just a few commandments: