On a plane trip awhile back, I got into a conversation about spiritual matters with the person sitting next to me.  Once he found out that I believed that I didn’t have to do anything to work myself back into God’s favor but that Jesus did everything for me, he responded with the well-worn argument:  “If you tell people they don’t have to do anything, then people will just run amuck in sin.”

     My response caught him off-guard.  Earlier I had noticed the wedding ring on his finger and from our previous small talk I had learned he was on a business trip.  So, in response, I asked him:  “Does that mean that tonight you are going to hire a prostitute to come to your motel room?  There’s no way that your wife will ever find out.”  Before he became too upset with me, I quickly continued:  “I don’t think you are going to do that.  But I was just applying your logic to your relationship between you and your wife.  Love is stronger than law.  I love Jesus for all that he has done for me.  The last thing I want to do is hurt the person who rescued me.  Love is stronger than law.”

     That man, at least, saw my point, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  And even though some might consider my illustration crude, I think it makes my point.  Just as offensive as it was to that man for me to even suggest that I could assume that he would be unfaithful to his wife because there was no “law” restraining him, so also it is offensive to Christians to suggest that because we don’t think that we have to do anything to be saved, that then we will feel no restraint in sinning.

     With minor variations, that is what many Mormons have told me.  Spencer W. Kimball made this point in his book, Miracle of Forgiveness.  After describing the teaching that man is saved alone by the grace of God and that belief alone in Jesus is all that is needed as “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan”, he goes on to say:  “It could give license for sin.” (p.207)

     But that is not what genuine faith produces.  Faith creates a tremendous love in people – a love that doesn’t want to go against God.  In fact, I would submit that people who believe that they are saved alone by the grace of God are more restrained.   They are more restrained because love is stronger than law.     


  1. October 28, 2008 at 2:20 am

    I agree with the point you are trying to make about what the Bible teaches Mark.

    But then, why is there a hell? And why is it preached both by people today and by the Bible?

  2. 2 Stephanie
    October 29, 2008 at 1:24 am

    I really like the point of this post. I guess I have never thought much about it. But this post really shows just how much more powerful love is, compared to law. Pretty cool!

  3. 3 markcares
    October 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    The Bible talks about hell and others, including myself, talk about it because that is where, according to Jesus himself, the majority of people are going. “For wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” (Matthew 7:13)
    What is so tragic about that is that it is so unnecssary because Jesus sacrificed himself for all people. By giving his Son (John 3:16) God demonstrated how much he loved the entire world. There,out of love for us, God appeased his wrath and satisfied his justice. There love was stronger than law.
    But as John 3:16-18 also states it is only the ones who believe who benefit from it. Unbelief is comparable to telling the Judge that you don’t want to have Jesus’ sacrifice presented as evidence on your behalf – that you want to stand before God on the basis of your own merits. See how Jesus protrays that in Matthew 7:21-23. Instead of pointing to what Jesus had done for them, those people pointed to what they had done – even in the name of Jesus. But that was pointing to the wrong thing. Therefore Jesus cast them away.
    Presenting in evidence anything else than Jesus’ perfect death for us is an act of foolishness. That is why the Bible describes unbelief as foolishness.

  4. October 29, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Yes, but isn’t the essential motive behind preaching hell an attempt to encourage good behavior via fear of punishment?

    I’m just saying this motivation by fear is an essential component of Christianity – even if love is a nicer motive.

  5. October 29, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    I agree with the theology. But how can love be stronger than law? Isn’t love the fulfillment of the law?

    “Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10). “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

    Love is a better motivator than fear or greed. Our sinful nature reacts to God’s Law with fear and/or greed. Fear and greed are the only reactions we can have to God’s law. Yet if we do something “right” because of fear or greed, then we do it with the wrong motivation and our actions are still sinful. That is why we are dead in sin and can do nothing to save ourselves.

    God want’s us to do what is right because it is right out of love for Him. Just as pure water comes only from a pure source, so also pure behavior must have a pure motivation. That is why Jesus set us completely free.

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:18-19).

  6. 6 latterdaysaintwoman
    October 30, 2008 at 6:36 am


    You wrote “Yes, but isn’t the essential motive behind preaching hell an attempt to encourage good behavior via fear of punishment?”

    No, you have it all wrong!!! The entire motive behind preaching hell is NOT an attempt to encourage good behavior. That’s what false Mormon Prophets do. The motive behind preaching hell is an attempt, literally, to scare the hell out of you! To show you that Hell is a very real and horrible place and that many people will go there. (Unlike what Mormon prophets teach) The motive behind preaching hell is an attempt to show you the truth. That hell is where Heavenly Father will send ONLY those who reject His Son as their substitute for good behavior!

    That is one of the most awesome aspects of being a Christian. It is God’s love that compels me to do anything good. I have no fear of punishment because I trust that Jesus is my proxy. Kind of like how Mormons believe in proxy baptisms for the dead. They are baptized, in proxy, for someone they believe is unable to be baptized themselves. Jesus, in proxy, kept all of God’s commandments for me because i was unable to do this myself. Because He did this for me I am motivated to serve Him with every breath I breath!

  7. October 30, 2008 at 6:54 am


    I think that’s what I said – a coercive method to scare people into the sort of behavior you want.

    And don’t give me that “we aren’t trying to promote behavior” shpiel. You guys most certainly are trying to get me to behave a certain way. So is the Bible. I’m just saying that fear seems to have a place in the scheme of things.

  8. 8 latterdaysaintwoman
    October 30, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Please explain how we are “trying to get you to behave a certain way”?

  9. 9 markcares
    October 31, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Being concerned about the behavior of those who aren’t totally trusting in Jesus for their salvation is putting the cart before the horse. They are spiritually dead – therefore their behavior will always be rotten (in God’s eyes). Before they can change their behavior, they will have to be made alive in Christ. Therefore when I talk to them about hell, I am not thinking of changing their behavior at all. Rather I am pointing out to them the grave danger they are in without Christ.
    I don’t know what personal experience you have had with Christian preaching, but I and many others, when preaching to believers, don’t use hell or law as motivation. At the Seminary I attended it was rightly pounded into me that those are not proper motivations. At the pastoral conferences I attend, motivation is regularly discussed and how the only proper motivation for a Christian is a sense of gratitude and love to God for being saved.
    Seth, I’m not trying to make you behave in a certain way. I’m trying to warn about the dnagers of Mormonism – how it says that a person’s work is needed alongside Jesus’ work. The Lord has revealed that tose who follow that formula will spend all eternity in outer darkness.

  10. May 23, 2009 at 4:30 am

    any changes coming ?

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