Posts Tagged ‘Ephesians 2


Is Faith a Work?


     A couple of months ago (August 8th), I talked about the relationship of faith and works.  There I made the point that the Bible says good works are fruits of faith – that they result from faith.   Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone.  Some Mormons feel that this is a distinction without any meaning – that it doesn’t really matter if we see works as part of faith itself or as a result of faith.  To Christians, however, there is a huge difference between the two – the difference between works being part of the cause of salvation compared to them being the effect of salvation.  It’s important to keep clear the difference between causes and effects.

     Now, however, I want to address the question posed in the title of this post, namely, is faith itself a work?  More than once it has been stated by Mormons that just by our saying that we have to believe, we are saying that we have to do something to be saved.

     But that’s not what the Bible says.  It describes faith, not as something that we ourselves produce but rather something God creates within us.  For example, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says:  “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  A little bit earlier in that same letter, Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  (1 Cor. 2: 14)  From the context, it is evident that the spiritual things Paul is talking about is nothing less than the fact that Jesus died for our sins.  Without the Holy Ghost we cannot know that – or believe that.

     Another way that the Bible shows that faith itself is not a work is by making works and faith mutually exclusive.  “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.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The rule of grammar is that the “it” refers back to the complete concept of “grace are ye saved through faith”.  Included in the gift of God is faith.  Salvation and faith is not of ourselves. 

     Or look at how Romans 11:6 makes grace and works exclusive of each other.  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.”  If faith was a work then we are not saved by grace because works and grace don’t mix.

     Faith in Jesus’ saving work is not a work we must do in order to be saved.  Faith that Jesus saved us is something God creates in us.


Mormonism’s Interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9



    It is revealing to see how Mormonism views Bible passages that say we are not saved by works.  Probably the most familiar of these passages is Ephesians 2:8 -9 which says:  “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.”

    The LDS manual that addresses the New Testament most thoroughly is the 500 page manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles.  Following is the only treatment it gives of this passage.  It is quoted in its entirety.

     “I am not unmindful of the scripture that declares: ‘by grace are ye saved through faith; and this not of yourselves:  it is the gift of God.’ (Ephesians 2:8) That is absolutely true, for man in his taking upon himself mortality was impotent to save himself.  When left to grope in a natural state, he would have become, and did become, so we are told in modern scripture, ‘carnal, sensual, and devilish, by nature.’ (Alma 42:10)  But the Lord, through his grace, appeared to man, gave him the gospel or eternal plan whereby he might rise above the carnal and selfish things of life and obtain spiritual perfection.  But he must rise by his own efforts and he must walk by faith.

     “’He who would ascend the stairway leading upward to eternal life must tread it step by step from the base stone to the summit of its flight.  Not a single stair can be missed, not one duty neglected.  If the climber would avoid danger and delay and arrive with all safety and expedition at the topmost landing of the celestial exaltation.’  The responsibility is upon each individual to choose the path of righteousness, of faithfulness and duty to fellow men.  If he choose otherwise and as a result meets failure, misery, and death, he alone is to blame.” (David O McKay in CR, Apr. 1957, p. 7 Italics added.)”

     Notice how McKay (who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets) equates the gift of Ephesians 2:8 with the Lord giving the eternal plan – a plan that depends on man’s own efforts.  The manual even emphasizes this by putting it in italics.  “But he must rise by his own efforts and he must walk by faith.”

     The “this” of verse 8, however, grammatically refers back to “by grace are ye saved” or salvation itself.  Salvation is not of ourselves – something that is reinforced by verse 9:  “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  It is striking that McKay doesn’t even mention verse 9.  That is striking especially because, even though, it is a separate verse, it is still part of the sentence.  It completes the thought.  Standing alone it makes no sense. 

     It also shows that McKay’s interpretation is wrong.  God’s gift to us is not a plan of salvation which requires us to tread the stairway step by step.  God’s gift to us is salvation itself.

May 2020

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