Passages in the Gospels Related to Salvation by Grace Alone through Faith Alone

Bethel | Book | Communicating Grace to the Religious Mind | I'm a Christian Too | Sharing Jesus with the Cults

Every single one of the groups discussed in this book is different from Christianity in that they teach that individuals have to do something in order to earn their salvation. They have to work alongside of Jesus, as if he is co-Savior. Below are several passages in the gospels that teach that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and not by works.

Author and Finisher

But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)

How does this fit in with this idea of faith alone, Jesus being the one who saves us, and not our efforts? Is this really teaching that we have to keep ourselves saved and in good standing with God, or else one can lose their salvation. I don’t think so.

Jesus is saying that one can tell the true believers from the false believers because false believers fall away. They weren’t really trusting in the right things to save them or weren’t believing for the right reasons. When hard times come, some fall away. When false teachers come, some fall away. When different things in life come, or the cares of the world come, some fall away. John, in his epistle, says if some went out from us to show that they were never really of us. And he was talking about the false teachers. That is what Jesus is getting at in this passage. In the midst of persecution, the one who endures to the end, will be saved. Another way of looking at this is to hear him say, “If I have a hold of you, you will endure to the end. I have you in the palm of my hand,” as he said in John 10.

Boast in Jesus

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20)

The names of the apostles, and by extension, anybody who believes, are already written in heaven. We have eternal life.

Faith Alone

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. (Mark 16:16)

Is Jesus telling us in this verse that we have to be baptized in water in order to be saved? I don’t think it is. There are some who would debate whether or not this was in the original manuscripts of Mark. I personally believe that it was. I think there are reasons to believe that it was. I don’t want to get into that here. But this verse does not seal any case that you have to be baptized in order to be saved. On the positive end, Jesus says, “he who believes  and is baptized shall be saved,” but on the negative side he says, “he who does not believe will be condemned.” So belief is the thing that is emphasized, and baptism is the thing one does out of the answer of a good conscience as Peter says. It doesn’t save you. It doesn’t forgive sins.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; (Mark 16:17)

Is Jesus saying that we need to speak in tongues in order to be saved? No. Jesus is referring to something that will be happening with believers, but Paul’s writings clearly tell us through rhetorical questions that not all believers have the same gifts or speak in tongues. Each is given gifts according to where God placed you in the body. Not all need to speak in tongues in order to fulfill the opportunities that God gives them. Others do need to speak in tongues to take advantage of opportunities that God gives them to preach the gospel.

And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace. (Luke 7:50)

I have to confess that when I was going through the gospels, this was a gem that I had yet to discover. This is Jesus proclaiming to this woman that her faith, and faith alone, has saved her. That is awesome!

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:9-13)

Matthew’s gospel talks about how we know how to give good gifts as humans. We know that a gift is not earned, but rather is given because we love that person and simply want them to have what we are giving them. In order for them to make it theirs, they simply have to receive the gift we are offering them. They aren’t trying to figure out what they did to earn the gift, or try and figure out how to pay us back.

Luke ties this idea into the giving of the Holy Spirit, and says that it is available for the asking. The Holy Spirit is given the moment one believes. It’s the empowering force by which everything in the Christian life happens, and the Holy Spirit is available for the asking.

Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:10-14)

I can’t think of something that Jesus could have taught that would have been more to the point when it comes to the LDS. If one substitutes an LDS person here in the place of the Pharisee, it fits like a glove. They fast at least once a month. They give tithes of all they possess. And they very much are looking, even to their fellow LDS people, and saying, “God, thank you that I’m not doing all the stuff that guy over there is doing.” And they definitely look on everybody else with an attitude of superiority because they are a part of the one true church. I like how it says, “He prayed with himself.”

Then there is the tax collector, despised of society, who is simply asking, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” And he went away justified, meaning just as if he had never done the crime. He is now right with God.

And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. (Luke 18:42)

Jesus says, present tense, “Thy faith has saved you.” At that moment, Blind Bartimaeus was saved. And that wasn’t even what he was asking for.

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:39-43)

The thief on the cross had no opportunity to speak in tongues or be baptized, yet Jesus said that he was saved. Jesus said, “You will be with me in Paradise.”

The LDS teach that Paradise is where the righteous go after this life, and that we go there we wait until the final resurrection of the dead, when we are assigned to one of the three levels of glory. From that perspective, they would say that Jesus went to Paradise that day, and the thief on the cross went with him to that place, and this passage doesn’t necessarily say that he was guaranteed a place in heaven. I don’t think a case can be made for that. If one examines all of the places where Paradise is spoken of in the Bible, it is equated with the presence of God. Paradise is implied in the Garden of Eden narrative. Paradise is mentioned in the new Eden in Revelation. Paul was caught up to Paradise in 2 Corinthians 12 and equates that with the third heaven.

This is also a great way to get the LDS to see this, because in the LDS mind, the Third Heaven is the Celestial Kingdom. Going back to this verse, in order to be consistent, they would have to believe that Jesus said to this thief that he was going to the Celestial Kingdom. There is no way to reconcile that from Mormon theology. He wasn’t baptized, didn’t receive the laying on of hands, didn’t receive the Holy Ghost, didn’t receive any callings, didn’t go through the temple, wasn’t sealed as a family unit, or anything meriting the Celestial Kingdom from a Mormon perspective.

Where did Jesus go when he died? This is another interesting question, and one that I’m going to have some fun with here.

People debate about this, even within Christianity. Where did Jesus go? There are Scriptures that insinuate that he went into the heart of the earth. Then there’s Scriptures like this that insinuate that Jesus went back to his Father. He went to heaven. Then there are passages that talk about him releasing righteous believers from the Old Testament through his righteous death. Then there are verses that insinuate that Jesus was proclaiming his victory to evil spirits. My point is this. Something that has gone untouched from anything that I’ve seen, is that Jesus’ spirit was set free from his body while he was in the grave for three days. His Spirit, being God, is omnipresent. So Jesus could have been in all of those places doing all of those things at the exact same time.

That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:15-17)

What does one have to do to get eternal life? They have to believe. Jesus doesn’t list anything else. On the other side, if they don’t believe, they don’t have eternal life.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (John 4:10)

The gift of God is Jesus. Sometimes we get confused and think that the gift of God is eternal life. We receive Jesus, and everything God has to give he gives with Jesus. If one receives Jesus, they have received everything God has to give. There is nothing left to earn.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

If one doesn’t have Jesus, they are condemned already. The wrath of God abides on them. God doesn’t look at progress. He asks if we have his Son or not. He who believes on the Son “has,” present tense, eternal life. Once a person has Jesus, there is no giving away or taking away of eternal life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

If a person believes in Jesus Christ, they have everlasting life, and they shall not come into condemnation. This is present tense, not some future thing that we can look forward to only if we have done enough to have been counted worthy.

Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:28-29)

For those who want to emphasize works, Jesus tells us what the work is, and it’s belief in him. However, when one emphasizes the words on the front end of this passage, they will find that Jesus is even taking this a step further and saying that it’s God’s work that we believe. We are told elsewhere by Paul that faith is a gift of God. When we exercise faith, it is God’s work, not ours. Who’s faith is it? It’s the faith of Jesus that is given to us so that we might come into a relationship with God.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:30-31)

John tells us that he wrote his gospel for the express purpose that we would believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And through that belief, we might have life through his name. Again, that’s present tense life. Eternal life. Through our belief in Jesus Christ.

Forgiven More, Love More

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that [he], to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. … Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little. (Luke 7:41-43, 47)

Religion teaches that the more one does for God, and the less they sin, the better standing they are going to have with God. Jesus flips this around completely in this scenario. He says the one who has more sin forgiven will love him more. Those who think they are already okay could care less about Jesus.

Grace as a Model for Life

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)

Jesus is saying that the way that God forgives us is the same way we are supposed to forgive others.

Imagine one has a friend that has offended them and that friend apologizes. Imagine if one approached this situation the way that the LDS and other groups teach we obtain forgiveness from God. They would have to tell that friend when they apologize, “The only way I would know that you are truly sorry is if you never do that again, and I will only know that when you die. Before you die, you still have the ability to do it again. After you die, then I will be able to forgive you.” Even under these circumstances, you would never actually know whether they repeated the act. They might have done it, but just decided to find another friend because they didn’t find forgiveness.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)

God is the model gift giver. Christmas is a great time to emphasize this idea of gifts. Think about a father who pays good money that he has earned for gifts for his children. He puts them under the tree. The kids are all excited. On the gift is a note saying, “As soon as you mow the lawn, you can have this gift,” or “As soon as you do the dishes, you can have this gift.” That’s not a gift anymore, is it?

We know what a gift is. We know how to give good gifts. Jesus says that if we know how to give good gifts, how much more does the Father know how to give good gifts to us. That gift is his son.

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

This verse is the basis for my ministry, People of the Free Gift. “Freely you have received. Freely give.” Again we see God modeling salvation and forgiveness for us. We are supposed to be like him, give like him. The way we do that is by giving freely, which is only possible if we have received freely.

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took [him] by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (Matthew 18:23-35)

There are a couple of things to point out in this very, very powerful parable. First, the slave owed a far, far greater debt. An insurmountable amount of money. And he was forgiven completely. And notice it was after he made the offer, “Please don’t throw me into prison. I promise I’ll pay you back.” But he was forgiven the debt. God does not accept offers of repayment. He only forgives the debt that we owe before him. You can’t do it by trying to earn it. He only gives it as a gift.

Second, the first debtor found the guy who owed him a small debt, and exacted it of him. And when the second debtor offered to pay back a far smaller amount, he denied him, and threw him into prison.

Then the man who was owed the original debt came back and said, “Really?” This shows where his heart was. To not forgive the debt that others owe to us is really showing that we don’t understand the debt that we were forgiven by God. We don’t need to make too much out of the condition of forgiveness because it really just shows a heart of humility and a knowledge of who we are before God. To truly repent of our sins and be forgiven by God, and then to turn around and not forgive the offense that they have done to us, shows that we don’t understand the grace that was shown to us.

God’s forgiveness is the model. It would be ridiculous to implement a works righteousness mentality in our interpersonal relationships. If God didn’t forgive us until the final judgment day, and do so upon conditions of repentance, then Jesus would be telling us to not really forgive anybody because one never really know until the end whether others have repented.

Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor [thy] rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus is saying, “Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to not do things for people who are able to do them back for you. I want you to do things for people who don’t have the ability to do them back for you. I want you to forgive people who don’t deserve forgiveness. I want you to love people who don’t deserve love. I want you to give to people who can’t give back. I want you to include people who can’t repay you.” That is the model that Jesus gave us. That’s because that is exactly what we has done for us. What gets us rewards in heaven is when we allow the Spirit of God to live his life out through us. When we do, what we do will be in his will, his timing, his strength, done in his motives, his desires. That’s what gets us rewards. Ultimately, when we stand before God and get rewarded in heaven, it is because Christ is the one who is getting rewarded. It’s all about him. There’s nothing about what is going to get rewarded that is ours or we can lay claim to. Nothing.

Lost and Found

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to [his] father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth [to me]. And he divided unto them [his] living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put [it] on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on [his] feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill [it]; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to [his] father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:11-32)

So many things going on in this passage, but I just want to point out a couple of things. The son asks for his inheritance, and he wasted it. This whole scenario would have been repugnant in Jewish society. Completely disgraced the father. The son comes to an end of himself, and says, “Even the servants in my father’s house are doing better than this.” He prepares a speech which revolves around him not being worthy to be called his father’s son, but begging him to make him a servant. He goes home. His father sees him and runs to him. Fathers didn’t run in that day. It was a sign of disgrace and disrespect. The father runs to him and embraces him. The son started into the speech he had prepared, and the father didn’t even listen to his speech or respond to it. He just said that he wants the best party thrown for his kid. He was lost, but now he’s found. The father didn’t know whether he was dead or alive.

Then there is the older son, who had not left, who didn’t waste his inheritance, who was there the whole time and was doing what the father said. Notice the son said, “I haven’t broken any commandments that you’ve given me.” That’s probably not true. But that aside, the father says, “Rejoice with me. Come into the party.” The son absolutely refused to come into the party. He won’t come into the party, showing that he is not willing to follow this command, which contradicts the claim he has just made.

What the father said is, “All I have is yours.” What we see in this older son is a model of Christians, who are saved, but they don’t take advantage of the gifts that God has given them. They don’t really care about the things of God. This is a sad case because this was an obedient son. One who was doing what he was supposed to do. But he wasn’t enjoying any of it. He wasn’t taking advantage of anything that was available to him. And he wouldn’t join in the party to celebrate what his father was doing. This is such a sad state, and one that legalism ultimately breeds. A contempt for those who aren’t good enough. A pride or despair.

Not as the World Gives

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

One of the things that really helped me understand grace was to contrast the way that the world gives from the way that God gives. Jesus said very clearly, “I don’t give the way the world gives.” The world gives, but they’re not really giving. They expect repayment. They say it’s going to be free, and it’s not really free. There are always strings attached. There’s always a commitment that’s down the road. There’s always an exchange of goods. Jesus doesn’t give the way the world gives. He gives without thought of repayment. In fact, if one tries to earn what God desires to give, or pay for it, they can’t receive what he wants to give. He gives exclusively as a gift, and he gives to people who have no ability to repay him.

Our Inability to Do Good

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither [can] a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Matthew 7:17-18)

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)

What Jesus is saying is that there are good trees and bad trees, and good fruit can’t be obtained out of a bad tree, nor can bad fruit be obtained out of a good tree. Before we accept Jesus and the gift that he gives us, we are bad trees. We cannot bring forth good fruit. We cannot say that we are a good person. That is not true. Everything that we do is tainted by sinful desires, sinful motives and it’s tainted by sin that hasn’t been dealt with. We need Jesus. He makes us and calls us good, and then we bring forth good fruit.

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none [is] good, save one, [that is], God. (Luke 18:19)

In reference to whether it is possible for humans to save themselves, or play a part in their salvation, Jesus answers very clearly, “There is only one who is good, and that’s God.”

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (John 3:27)

A gift cannot be received unless it is given. Salvation, Jesus, eternal life, repentance, faith. All of these things are described as a gift. In other places, God says that if one tries to earn a gift, they can’t receive it because it’s only given as a gift.

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. (John 8:34)

Anyone who desires to earn salvation and try and get in by their absence of sin or their abundance of good works? Jesus says that if we sin, we are a servant of sin. That’s our identity. That’s our status. That’s our eventual destiny. Where do servants of sin go when they die? They get judged and go to hell.

And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. And [some] of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. (John 9:39-41)

There is a contrast given in this passage. Jesus came to save sinners. A huge requirement is that one has to know that they are sick. They have to know that they are not well in order for a doctor to treat them. So Jesus told the Pharisees that if they were able to acknowledge that they were sinners and they were blind, he would be able to cure them and save them. But because they insisted on saying that they see, their sin remained.

I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

The question is, “Do we really believe this?” When it comes to our status before we come to Christ, we believe it, but I don’t know if we believe it as Christians after we accept Jesus. Jesus said that apart from him, we can do nothing. There is no good work that we can claim. Nothing. From start to finish, all of the resources that were involved. All of the situational happenstances that were involved. Everything, from start to finish, was him and only him.

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15:10)

A great question one can ask members of the groups discussed in this book is,  “Can you keep his commandments? Really?” If one is depending upon themselves and their efforts as a means of getting them to heaven, I have bad news for them. Nobody can. As good as a person tries to be, as many self-help things as they do, as much behavior modification, as much accountability as they have, they cannot, and will not, fully keep his commandments. And even if they manage to, what are they going to do about all of the commandments that they broke before they reached that point? Honestly, are they really going to trust in themselves, or are they going to trust Jesus?

Pictures of Salvation

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. (Matthew 14:30)

This verse describes Peter’s statement after he saw Jesus walking on the water. He said that he wanted to walk on water too. Jesus told him to step out of the boat. And at first, Peter was walking on the water. But then he looked at the waves and the storm, and he started to sink. And he cried out one thing. “Jesus, save me!” He didn’t say, “Jesus, teach me how to save myself,” “Jesus, help me save myself.” He said, “Jesus, save me.” Sometimes, when we talk about salvation, we forget that the verb form of that word is save. Somebody only cries out, “Save me” when they can’t save themselves. That is the job of the Savior. Not to help save, but to save.

The Call to Rest

Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

When I dug into the Greek on this one, I found something really fascinating. When you take those words “for I will give you rest” in the Greek, the fuller translation would look something like this: “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will cause you to cease from any movement or labor in order for you to collect your strength.” And I would encourage you to compare what I just said with Hebrews 4:10, where it talks about Jesus being our rest and entering into his rest.

The Least is the Greatest

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:1-4)

This is the opposite of what these groups teach. These groups teach that one has to advance to a certain level of spiritual maturity, or even perfection, before they can become worthy or have counted themselves as having repented. Jesus is saying to all of the adults in the room who were caretakers and trusted by God with taking care of these little children to humble themselves. And when they humble themselves, then they can go to heaven.

When thou art bidden of any [man] to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 14:8-11)

All of the works righteousness groups discussed in this book base this teaching on becoming more worthy, becoming more able to be exalted. All of them sit at the higher seats and presume to hold authority and priesthoods and roles and offices and functions within their churches. Or they participate in certain rituals that others aren’t able to participate in, they learn secret knowledge, handshakes and tokens. They commit oaths and covenants before God that they are trusting in to get them to that higher seat. Jesus said, “Sit at the lowest seat.” Realize who you are. All of our works are as filthy rags. Become poor in spirit. Then comes exaltation to the higher position.

The Mission of Jesus

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

One can read this as almost a prophetic word. Jesus is going to save his people from their sins. The job of Jesus is to save people from their sins. There is not need to save people who are able to save themselves, or better their situation. People who need saving and know they need saving are those who are saved.

And when the Pharisees saw [it], they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard [that], he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Matthew 9:11-13)

Here again Jesus clarifies and says that it is not those who think they are doing okay, that believe they are a good person, that he came for. He came for those who realize they have a need, that know they are sinners, who have a need for a Savior.

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:11)

Did Jesus accomplish his mission, or did he not? Is Jesus the one who saves, or is it really us, or some kind of mixture or combination? Jesus came to save that which was lost. That was his mission.

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28)

Jesus’ life is the ransom, not our life, not our works, not our effort. We aren’t even playing a part in the ransom. The picture of a ransom is that one has been held captive and there is a price that is hanging over their heads. God is the one who pays that price. Not us. He sets the captive free. We didn’t free ourselves. The picture is very clear.

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matthew 26:28)

Jesus’ blood is the New Covenant, and is for the remission of sins. That is the basis of the New Covenant. It’s never an agreement, like many of the other covenants in the ancient world, where there would be two parties and both parties would have to make promises and have to keep those promises. Our part in the New Covenant is receiving the gift. In fact, it is emphatically stated that receiving a gift is the only way you will ever receive anything from God. (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6) Some of the groups discussed in this book de-emphasize the cross. The LDS teach that Jesus atoned for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane when he shed his blood. And that’s not at all what the New Testament says. It never points to the Garden. It always points to the cross.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses change the cross into a stake. It sounds minor, but they are diminishing the cross. By doing so, they can start de-emphasizing what Jesus did on the cross, and his ability to pay for all of our sins. And from that point it makes sense that they would teach a Jesus who is not able to save them from all their sins.

For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save [them]. And they went to another village. (Luke 9:56)

Legalism, trying to live by the law, trying to have enough good works, actually ends up destroying lives. Because nobody ever knows when they have done enough or they are good enough for God to save them. We’re all held in suspense until judgment day. And when you look at the standards, nobody is going to make it. The law brings death, but Jesus came to give live and to save us.

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:9-10)

This is Zaccheus, the tax collector. Once again we have the tax collectors as the heroes. This day salvation has come to this household. Zaccheus was seeking Jesus. Furthermore, Jesus says he’s going to be at work within Zaccheus’ household for salvation.

Jesus also repeats that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. Are we going to allow him to save, or keep trying to save ourselves?

The Necessity of Relationship

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)

This has been a troubling passage to many, and the LDS love this verse because they think that it’s saying that one has to do, do, do to get in to heaven. That’s actually not what this passage is saying. It’s not emphasizing the do. It’s actually emphasizing the know. Do you have a relationship with Jesus? There is a verse that clarifies exactly what Jesus meant. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:3 “But if any man love God, the same is known of him.” So what Jesus was saying is, “You never loved me.”

Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five [were] foolish. They that [were] foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, [Not so]; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. (Matthew 25:1-13)

This is another passage where the key phrase is “I know you not.” The key is relationship, not what they did or didn’t do. Again, we have to go to Paul’s statement in the middle of his letter to the Corinthians, where he says:

But if any man love God, the same is known of him. (1 Corinthians 8:3)

If we love God, then we are known by him.

The Prayer of Jesus

Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots. (Luke 23:34)

Was the prayer of Jesus answered? When Jesus says, “Father, forgive them,” he’s praying to the Father sincerely that those who crucified him would be forgiven. We have to ask the question as to whether the prayer of Jesus was answered in the affirmative or not for those who were willing to receive God’s forgiveness?

The Priority of Heaven

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. (Luke 15:7)

This is a priority statement. Jesus is saying that he will go after the one instead of the ninety-nine. Granted, the ninety-nine who don’t need to repent probably refers to the Pharisees, who were saying that they were fine and didn’t have need of Jesus. But it’s still a priority statement. Jesus says that there is more rejoicing in heaven over the one who repents than the ninety-nine who are already there.

The Requirement of Moral Perfection

But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. … But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. … Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:22, 28, 48)

I want to emphasize the standard Jesus was laying out to escape judgment. In other words, Jesus would take two different routes in his teaching. The first was to lay out the full standards of the law and bring people to an awareness of their sin, their inability to save themselves and their need for a Savior. Then he would point to himself as the source of salvation and rest through faith in the work he came to accomplish, and that was his death and resurrection as a payment for our sins. For believers, who have been filled with the Holy Spirit, we look back to the teachings of Jesus as a basis for how we are to live because we love Jesus, not to earn salvation.

The Book of Mormon includes the Sermon on the Mount almost verbatim. The only difference is that Jesus was supposed to have been preaching this sermon to the inhabitants of the American continent. The Sermon on the Mount with the absence of Jesus’ other teachings would lead one to believe that their only hope was sinless perfection, and this is what the LDS church teaches as the only means of obtaining celestial glory and dwelling again with Heavenly Father.

Let’s take a few verses and lay out what the standard actually is if one is trying to obtain salvation by the keeping of the law or sinless perfection. Have you ever called somebody a fool? Have you ever lusted after somebody who was not your spouse? Jesus says that if we have, we are in danger of judgment and hell fire. Then Jesus says that one needs to be perfect as their father in heaven is perfect.

The LDS love verse 48 and teach that one has to reach sinless perfection. But most individual LDS try and water this verse down to mean “if you try to be perfect,” or the the Book of Mormon version in 2 Nephi 25:23 which says, “we are saved by grace after all we can do.” This view sees Jesus as extending his grace to fill the gap between our best effort and sinless perfection. But that isn’t what Matthew 5:48, or several other LDS scriptures actually teach. You can’t have it both ways. One either tries to obtain salvation through sinless perfection, or they accept Jesus’ payment for their sins as a free gift.

While LDS want to believe that one needs to obtain sinless perfection, none of them believe they have done this, or know anybody who has, or have even heard of anybody who has. That is why some have called this the “impossible gospel.” We can use this as a springboard to assure LDS that they can “know” that they’ve been forgiven and have eternal life.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this [is] the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)

This is the first commandment. To love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If one was asked if they could do this, or if they are doing this, if they say yes, there is definitely a problem with pride.

The Wages of Sin is Death

There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1-5)

Jesus is saying that the whole idea of categorizing sins as greater than other sins is not right. We are all sinners who deserve to die and suffer the wrath of God. Jesus is saying that we all need to repent and come to hm so that he can forgive us of our sins, no matter what they are.

We are All the Same Before God

For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, [that] shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them [their] hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that [were hired] about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received [it], they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? Take [that] thine [is], and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen. (Matthew 20:1-16)

This parable deals with a couple of different issues. One of them is harsh feelings that those who are in religion, or legalism, or works based righteousness systems, feel about so-called death bed conversions, like the thief on the cross. That kind of scenario isn’t one that these groups believe in, much less embrace, as do biblical Christians. Some of these people who the master hired at the very end of the day got paid the exact same amount as those who had been working all day.

This parable also teaches that it’s not about when one gets saved, how much work they’ve put in, how much they’ve done that plays into the ultimate prize or plan, which is salvation. It has to do with the vineyard owner being intrinsically good, and him calling us to work in his vineyard. God is clearly the owner of the vineyard. Jesus is the Son of the landowner. That interpretation would fit the other parables as well.