|A series of articles on|
|Grace in Christianity|
In Western Christian theology, grace has been defined, not as a created substance of any kind, but as "the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it", "the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race". It is understood by Christians to be a spontaneous gift from God to man — "generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved" — that takes the form of divine favor, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God.
It is an attribute of God that is most manifest in the salvation of sinners. Christian orthodoxy holds that the initiative in the relationship of grace between God and an individual is always on the side of God.
In Eastern Christianity too, grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity.
The question of the means of grace has been called "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism, Calvinism from Arminianism, modern [theological] liberalism from [theological] conservatism." The Catholic Church holds that it is because of the action of Christ and the Holy Spirit in transforming into the divine life what is subjected to his power that "the sacraments confer the grace they signify": "the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through [each sacrament], independently of the personal holiness of the minister. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them." the Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants agree that faith is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8; "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God". Protestants almost universally believe that grace is given by God based on the faith of the believer. Lutherans hold that the means of grace are "the gospel in Word and sacraments". That the sacraments are means of grace is also the teaching of John Wesley, who described the Eucharist as "the grand channel whereby the grace of his Spirit was conveyed to the souls of all the children of God". Calvinists emphasize "the utter helplessness of man apart from grace." But God reaches out with "first grace" or "prevenient grace" that each person may accept or reject. The Calvinist doctrine known as irresistible grace states that, since all persons are by nature spiritually dead, no one desires to accept this grace until God spiritually enlivens them by means of regeneration. God regenerates only individuals whom he has predestined to salvation. Arminians understand the grace of God as cooperating with one's free will in order to bring an individual to salvation. According to Evangelical theologian Charles C. Ryrie, modern liberal theology "gives an exaggerated place to the abilities of man to decide his own fate and to effect his own salvation entirely apart from God's grace." He writes that theological conservatives maintain God's grace is necessary for salvation.
- 1 Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible
- 2 Roman Catholicism
- 3 Eastern Christianity
- 4 Protestant Reformation
- 5 Churches of Christ
- 6 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible
"Grace" is the English translation of the Greek χάρις (charis) meaning "that which brings delight, joy, happiness, or good fortune."
|Part of a series on the|
|Attributes of God|
In the definition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "grace is favour, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life". Grace is a participation in the life of God, which is poured unearned into human beings, whom it heals of sin and sanctifies. The means by which God grants his grace are many. They include the entirety of revealed truth, the sacraments and the hierarchical ministry. Among the principal means of grace are the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), prayers and good works. The sacramentals also are means of grace. The sacraments themselves, not the persons who administer or those who receive them, are "the means of grace", although lack of the required dispositions on the part of the recipient will block the effectiveness of the sacrament.
The Catholic Church holds that "by grace alone, in faith in Christ's saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works." Both the Council of Orange (529) and the Council of Trent affirmed that we are "justified gratuitously, because none of the things that precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace of justification".
Sanctifying and actual grace
According to a commonly accepted categorization, made by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae, grace can be given either to make the person receiving it pleasing to God (gratia gratum faciens)—so that the person is sanctified and justified—or else to help the receiver lead someone else to God (gratia gratis data). The former type of grace, gratia gratum faciens, in turn, can be described as sanctifying (or habitual) grace—when it refers to the divine life which, according to the Church, infuses a person's soul once he is justified; or else as actual grace—when it refers to those punctual (not habitual) helps that are directed to the production of sanctifying grace where it does not already exist, or its maintenance and increase it where it is already present. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Sanctifying grace is an habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether at the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification.
The infusion of sanctifying grace, says the Church, transforms a sinner into a holy child of God, and in this way a person participates in the Divine Sonship of Jesus Christ and receives the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Sanctifying grace remains permanently in the soul as long as one does not reject one's adopted sonship by committing a mortal sin, which severs one's friendship with God. Less serious sins, venial sin, although they allow "charity to subsist," they offends and wounds it." However, God is infinitely merciful, and sanctifying grace can always be restored to the penitent heart, normatively in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Sacrament of Penance).
Theological debate concerning the nature and exact role of actual grace has opposed Catholicism to Calvinism and occurred within Catholicism itself. Augustinism and Thomism asserted that efficacious grace (actual grace that produces its intended effect without fail) does not contradict human free will. They claimed that, although man always retains the willpower to resist divine grace, efficacious grace has the effect that he does not want to resist it. The question of "irresistible grace" led to important debates, first in the 5th century, opposing Pelagianism to Augustinism (see following section), and then again in the 16th and 17th centuries, leading to the creation of the Congregatio de Auxiliis: Jesuits denied the existence of "efficacious grace", while Thomists of the Dominican Order and Augustinians asserted its existence. This debate took place in the context of the Counter-Reformation, and was revived during the formulary controversy between Jansenists and Jesuits.
Augustine versus Pelagius
In the fifth century, a debate that affected the understanding of grace in Western Christianity, and that was to have long reaching effects on subsequent developments in the doctrine, took place between Pelagius and St Augustine of Hippo.
Pelagius, an ascetic who is said to have come from Britain, was concerned about the retention of man's moral accountability in the face of God's omnipotence. He strongly affirmed that men had free will and were able to choose good as well as evil. Pelagius denied that original sin had extinguished God's grace in Adam's heirs, and that consequently mankind had the power to do good, to convert themselves from sin by their own power, and the ability to work out their own salvation. Religion's purpose is to teach us virtue, from which we can expect reward from God. By great efforts, it is possible for those in the flesh to achieve moral perfection.
Pelagius's seemingly optimistic creed in fact burdens weak mortals with a burden too great to bear; or at least this was part of the response of St Augustine. More importantly, it does not clearly explain why Jesus Christ had to die for anyone's sins; if men can redeem themselves by their own efforts, atonement by Jesus on the Cross was at best a vague sort of moral example. The taint of original sin did extinguish God's grace in men's souls; no matter how righteously they conducted themselves, their virtues could never make them worthy of the infinite holiness of God. Men are massa peccati, a mass of sin; they can no more endow themselves with grace than an empty glass can fill itself. While we may have "free will" (liberum arbitrium) in the sense that we can choose our course of conduct, we nevertheless lack true freedom (libertas) to avoid sin, for sin is inherent in each choice we make. It is only by God's sovereign choice to extend his grace to us that salvation is possible.
Pelagianism was repudiated by the Council of Carthage in 417, largely at Augustine's insistence. The Eastern Orthodox Church, as expressed in the teachings of John Cassian, holds that though grace is required for men to save themselves at the beginning; there is no such thing as total depravity, but there remains a moral or noetic ability within men that is unaffected by original sin, and that men must work together (synergism) with divine grace to be saved. This position is called Semi-Pelagianism by many Reformed Protestants. A similar teaching is Arminianism, but Arminians believe in total depravity.
Catholic versus Protestant
In 1547, the Council of Trent, which sought to address and condemn Protestant objections, aimed to purge the Roman Catholic Church of controversial movements and establish an orthodox Roman Catholic teaching on grace and justification, as distinguished from the Protestant teachings on those concepts. It taught that justification and sanctification are elements of the same process. The grace of justification is bestowed through the merit of Christ's passion, without any merits on the part of the person justified, who is enabled to cooperate only through the grace of God The grace of justification may be lost through mortal sin, but can also be restored by the sacrament of Penance. The sacraments are, together with revealed truth, the principal means of the grace, a treasury of grace, that Christ has merited by his life and death and has given to the Church. This does not mean that other groups of Christians have no treasury of grace at their disposal, for, as the Second Vatican Council declared, "many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of (the Catholic Church's) visible structure".
Jansenists versus Jesuits
At about the same time that Calvinists and Arminians were debating the meaning of grace in Protestantism, in Catholicism a similar debate was taking place between the Jansenists and the Jesuits. Cornelius Jansen's 1640 work Augustinus sought to refocus Catholic theology on the themes of original sin, human depravity, the necessity of divine grace, and predestination, as he found them in the works of St Augustine. The Jansenists, like the Puritans, believed themselves to be members of a gathered church called out of worldly society, and banded together in institutions like the Port-Royal convents seeking to lead lives of greater spiritual intensity. Blaise Pascal attacked what he called moral laxity in the casuistry of the Jesuits. Jansenist theology remained a minority party within Catholicism, and during the second half of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it was condemned as a heresy for its similarities to Calvinism, though its style remained influential in ascetic circles.
Grace and merit
The Council of Trent declared that "none of those things which precede justification — whether faith or works — merit the grace itself of justification. For, if it be a grace, it is not now by works, otherwise, as the same Apostle (Paul) says, grace is no more grace."
It also declared: "Life eternal is to be proposed to those working well unto the end, and hoping in God, both as a grace mercifully promised to the sons of God through Jesus Christ, and as a reward which is according to the promise of God himself, to be faithfully rendered to their good works and merits. For this is that crown of justice which the Apostle declared was, after his fight and course, laid up for him, to be rendered to him by the just judge, and not only to him, but also to all that love his coming. For, whereas Jesus Christ himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified, — as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches, — and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God, — we must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace."
Citing the Council of Trent, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator. The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. the fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit. ... The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. the saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace."
In Eastern Christianity, Grace is the Uncreated Energies of God. The Sacred Mysteries (sacraments) are seen as a means of partaking of divine grace because God works through his Church, not just because specific legalistic rules are followed; and Grace is the working of God himself, not a created substance of any kind that can be treated like a commodity. There is no distinction made between mortal and venial sins, no doctrine of Purgatory — although there is a strong tradition of a period of "purification after death" and prayers for the dead,(this was a recurring controversy leading to the Great Schism between the West and the East), and no Treasure House of Merit. Instead, the Eastern Church has emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit in the Christian's life and has maintained ascetic disciplines such as fasting and prayer (the minimum fast obligatory on Orthodox faithful is two days weekly), not as a way to make satisfaction for past sins or to build up merit, but as a means of spiritual discipline to help reduce one's susceptibility to temptation in the future to exercise self-control, and to avoid being enslaved to one's passions and desires.
Orthodox theology rejects Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin and actively opposes any implementation or implication of John Calvin's concepts of total depravity or irresistible grace and of Thomist or scholastic philosophical theology, viewing philosophy and discursive theology as corruptions of the true theology of the Cappadocian and early Desert Fathers which lead the Western Church astray into heresy. It teaches that it is possible and necessary for the human will to cooperate with divine grace for the individual to be saved, or healed from the disease of sin. This cooperation is called synergism (see also monergism and semipelagianism), so that humans may become divine—a process called theosis—through merging with the uncreated energies of God (the "Tabor light"), especially through a form of prayer called hesychasm.
Luther and Lutheran theology
Martin Luther's posting of his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg in 1517 was a direct consequence of the perfunctory sacramentalism and treasury doctrines of the mediæval church. The act was precipitated by the arrival of Johann Tetzel, authorized by the Vatican to sell indulgences.
The effectiveness of these indulgences was predicated on the doctrine of the treasury of grace proclaimed by Pope Clement VI. The theory was that merit earned by acts of piety could augment the believer's store of sanctifying grace. Gifts to the Church were acts of piety. The Church, moreover, had a treasury full of grace above and beyond what was needed to get its faithful into heaven. The Church was willing to part with some of its surplus in exchange for earthly gold. Martin Luther's anger against this practice, which seemed to him to involve the purchase of salvation, began a swing of the pendulum back towards the Pauline vision of grace, as opposed to James's.
Luther taught that men were helpless and without a plea before God's justice, and their acts of piety were utterly inadequate before his infinite holiness. Were God only just, and not merciful, everyone would go to hell, because everyone, even the best of us, deserves to go to hell. Our inability to achieve salvation by our own effort suggests that even our best intention is somehow tainted by our sinful nature. This doctrine is sometimes called total depravity, a term derived from Calvinism and its relatives.
It is by faith alone (sola fide) and by grace alone (sola gratia) that men are saved. Good works are something the believers should undertake out of gratitude towards their Savior; but they are not necessary for salvation and cannot earn anyone salvation; there is no room for the notion of "merit" in Luther's doctrine of redemption. (There may, however, be degrees of reward for the redeemed in heaven.) Only the unearned, unmerited grace of God can save anyone. No one can have a claim of entitlement to God's grace, and it is only by his generosity that salvation is even possible.
As opposed to the treasury of grace from which believers can make withdrawals, in Lutheranism salvation becomes a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy, in which penitents acknowledge the inadequacy of their own resources and trust only in God to save them. Accepting Augustine's concern for legal justification as the base metaphor for salvation, the believers are not so much made righteous in Lutheranism as they are considered covered by Christ's righteousness. Acknowledging that they have no power to make themselves righteous, the penalty for their sins is discharged because Jesus has already paid for it with his blood. His righteousness is credited to those who believe in and thus belong to him.
Calvin and Reformed theology
Eager to dissociate salvation from human effort and give all credit to God's mercy, Lutheranism eliminated any active role for sinners in acquiring their own justification (see monergism). The Lutheran Augsburg Confession says of baptism, "Lutherans teach that it is necessary to salvation and that by baptism the grace of God is offered and that children are to be baptized, who by baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favor." The French reformer John Calvin expanded and further developed these Augustinian themes in his systematic Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536.
- Total Depravity (also known as total inability, which is inexorably tied to a strong doctrine of original sin as having enslaved the human will completely)
- Unconditional Election
- Limited Atonement (also known as definite atonement or particular redemption)
- Irresistible Grace
- Perseverance of the Saints (colloquially known as "once saved, always saved" or, as interpreted a distinct way among Reformed or Strict Baptists as well as non-Calvinist General Baptists, eternal security)
The notion that God has foreordained who will be saved is generally called predestination. The concept of predestination peculiar to Calvinism, "double-predestination," (in conjunction with limited atonement) is the most controversial expression of the doctrine. According to Reformed theology, the "good news" of the gospel of Christ is that God has freely granted the gift of salvation to those the holy spirit causes to believe; what he freely grants to some (the "elect" individuals), he withholds from others (the "reprobate" individuals).
Calvin sought to provide assurance to the faithful that God would actually save them. His teaching implied what came to be known as the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the notion that God would actually save those who were his Elect. The actual status and ultimate state of any man's soul were unknown except to God. When assurance of election was rigorously pressed as an experience to be sought, especially by the Puritans, this led to a legalism as rigid as the one Protestantism sought to reject, as men were eager to demonstrate that they were among the chosen by the conspicuous works-righteousness of their lives.
The relatively radical positions of Reformed theology provoked a strong reaction from both Roman Catholics and Lutherans.
In 1618 James Arminius departed from Calvin's theology and put forth a contrary position that sought to reaffirm man's free will and responsibility in salvation, as opposed to the immutable, hidden, eternal decrees of Calvinism. Arminius taught that God's grace was preveniently offered to all, and that all people have the real option to resist the call of the gospel. It is possible for a believer to backslide and abandon the faith, losing the salvation that believer truly once possessed. These positions came to be known as Arminianism. With respect to the Calvinist Reformed churches, they were firmly rejected by the Synod of Dort (1618–1619), and Arminian pastors were expelled from the Netherlands.
Wesley and Arminian theology
Later, John Wesley also rejected the Calvinist doctrine of predestination. His most comprehensive pronouncement on the subject was his sermon "Free Grace,"  preached at Bristol in 1740. In Wesley's position, the believer who repents and accepts Christ is not "making himself righteous" by an act of his own will, such as would alter his dependency on the grace of God for his salvation. Faith and repentance, rather, are the believer's trust in God that he will make them righteous. Wesley appealed to prevenient grace as a solution to the problem, stating that God makes the initial move in salvation, but human beings are free to respond or reject God's graceful initiative.
John Wesley believed that God provides three kinds of divine grace:
- Prevenient grace is innate from birth. "Prevenient" means "comes before." Wesley did not believe that humanity was totally "depraved." He believed everyone is born with a modicum of divine grace—just enough to enable the individual to recognize and accept God's justifying grace.
- Justifying grace today is what is referred to as "conversion" or being "born again." God's justifying grace brings "new life in Christ." Wesley believed that people have freedom of choice—to accept or to reject God's justifying grace. Wesley defined his term Justifying grace as "The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation, is FREE IN ALL, and FREE FOR ALL."
- Sustaining grace. Wesley believed that, after accepting God's grace, a person is to move on in God's sustaining grace toward perfection. Wesley did not believe in the "eternal security of the believer." He believed people can make wrong (sinful) choices that will cause them to "fall from grace" or "backslide." He said it is insufficient to claim God's salvation and then stagnate, return to sinning deliberately, or not produce any evidence (fruit) of following Christ. Wesley taught that Christian believers are to participate in what Wesley called "the means of grace" and to continue to grow in the Christian life, assisted by God's sustaining grace.
Wesley's opposition to Calvinism was more successful than Arminius', especially in the United States where Arminianism would become the dominant school of soteriology of Evangelical Protestantism, largely because it was spread through popular preaching in a series of Great Awakenings. The churches of New England, with roots in Puritan Calvinism, tended to begin to reject their Calvinist roots, accepting Wesley's expression of Arminianism, or overthrowing their historical doctrine entirely to depart into Socinianism or liberal theology. John Wesley was never a student of the influential Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609). The latter's work was not a direct influence on Wesley. Yet, he chose the term "Arminianism" to distinguish the kind of Evangelicalism his followers were to espouse from that of their Calvinist theological opponents. Many have considered the most accurate term for Wesleyan theology to be "Evangelical Arminianism." It remains the standard teaching of Methodist churches, and the doctrine of prevenient grace remains one of Methodism's most important doctrines.:p.100
The Protestant Reformation and ecclesiology
Protestantism in all three major schools of theology—Lutheran, Calvinist, and Arminian—emphasize God's initiative in the work of salvation, which is achieved by grace alone through faith alone, in either stream of thinking — although these terms are understood differently, according to the differences in systems. The Protestant teachings on grace suggest a question, however: what is the role of the Church in the work of grace? Such Reformation churches taught that salvation is not ordinarily found outside of the visible Church; but with the increasing emphasis on an experience of conversion as being necessary to salvation, Sola fide began to be taken as implying that the individual's relationship with Jesus is intensely individual; we stand alone before God. Since Protestants accept that men are saved only and decisively by their belief in Christ's atonement, they often rank preaching that message more than sacraments which apply the promises of the gospel to them as members of the Church. The sermon replaces the Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship. The church's authority comes from the message it preaches, practically to the exclusion of the sacraments. This is often reflected in the arrangement of the pulpit and altar at the front the church; as preaching becomes more important, the pulpit moves from the side to the center, while the altar for the Eucharist shrinks to the size of a small coffee table or is eliminated entirely.
Classical Calvinism teaches that the sacraments are "signs and seals of the covenant of grace" and "effectual means of salvation", and Lutheranism teaches that new life, faith, and union with Christ are granted by the Holy Spirit working through the sacraments. However, for a large portion of the Protestant world, the sacraments largely lost the importance that Luther (and to a slightly lesser degree, Calvin) attributed to them. This happened under the influence of ideas of the Anabaptists which were ideas also seen in the Donatists in North Africa in 311 A.D. (Jack Hoad, The Baptist, London, Grace Publications, 1986, page 32) and these ideas then spread to Calvinists through the Congregationalist and Baptist movements, and to Lutherans through Pietism (although much of Lutheranism recoiled against the Pietist movement after the mid-19th century).
Where the sacraments are de-emphasized, they become "ordinances," acts of worship which are required by Scripture, but whose effect is limited to the voluntary effect they have on the worshipper's soul. This belief finds expression in the Church of Christ believes that the grace of God that saves is the plan of salvation, rather than salvation itself. This plan includes two parts, 1) the perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, 2) the gospel/New Testament/the faith.
Concerning Ephesians 2:8 which states: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God", it is noted that the word "it" is a pronoun and refers back to a noun. As the word "saved" is a verb, "it" does not refer to "saved" but to grace, giving the definition of grace as "the gift of God". Furthermore, as the book of James distinguishes between a dead faith (a faith without works) and a living faith (a faith accompanied by works of obedience), it is believed that by God's gift operates through an individuals living faith resulting in that individual being saved.
- Grace is contrasted with the Law of Moses (Romans 6:14; Hebrews 10:4; John 1:17) and the church of Christ believes that Paul's contrast between work and faith is as described under the Efforts to resolve the tension section, a contrast between works of the Old Covenant and obedient faith under the New Covenant.
- Grace saves (Eph. 2:5); justifies (Rom. 3:24; Titus 3:7).
- Grace can not be added to (Gal. 5:4).
- Grace teaches (Titus 2:11); can be preached (Eph. 3:8).
- Grace calls us (2 Tim. 1:9; Gal. 1:15).
- Grace is brought by revelation (1 Pet. 1:13).
- Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (St. John 1:17)
- Grace is sufficient for us (2Cor. 12:9)
The Galatians were removed from the calling of the gospel (Gal. 1:6,7; 2 Thess. 2:14) unto another gospel (another message) which verse 7 says is not a gospel at all but a perversion.
The church of Christ believes that grace provides the following plan, which, if followed, results in salvation:
- One must hear the gospel/word (Rom. 10:17).
- Believe the gospel (Mark 16:15-16).
- Repent of their past sins (Acts 2:38).
- Confess their faith in Christ before men (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10)
- Be immersed in water into Christ for the remission of those sins (1 Pet. 3:21; Romans 6:3-18; John 3:3,5; 1 John 5:6,8; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; etc.)
- Live faithfully even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10; Rom. 11:17-22; James 5:19-20)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
The Book of Mormon declares: “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, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God,” (Moroni 10:32-33) illustrating the need for compliance with the laws and ordinances of the gospel and the need for the pure love of Christ in conjunction with the receipt of the gift of grace, which comes “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). It should also be noted that in the Book of Mormon there is a people therein which said, after being converted to gospel of Christ, that "it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain" (Alma 24:11). In addition, the apostle Neal A. Maxwell stated "The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” ... are actually the things he has already given or loaned to us." (Ensign, Nov 1995) Together, these suggest that "all we can do" entails of repentance and giving our will to God. The Book of Mormon prophet Nephi also emphasizes that after the law of Moses was "fulfilled in Christ," the Nephites "need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away," understanding that the law of Moses would be fulfilled through Christ's atonement and resurrection, as he also taught. (2 Nephi 25:24,27)
Latter-day Saint doctrine also emphasizes Jesus’ mention of the Final Judgment, where works will be a determining factor in personal assignment to degrees of glory, such as the Celestial Kingdom. Such works must be motivated by love for Jesus Christ and others, not focused on appearances for the sake of pride or trusting in the "arm of flesh" (2 Nephi 4:34), but focused on Christ's grace and his power to change men's hearts as they look upon him "with faith, having a contrite spirit." (Helaman 8:15) Nephi taught, "Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth." "And the way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free." (2 Nephi 2:6,4) "Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; ... all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden." (2 Nephi 26:27,28) Christ says, in effect, that he has given all men the gift of his grace as the opportunity to access his power to cleanse them, heal them, and make them whole (perfect), but to access that power, the divine law of mercy requires that they come unto him "with full purpose of heart" through faith and repentance (3 Nephi 18:32).
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- Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, 15
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