John C. joined Steve F. and I for our meeting with a couple of Mormons in the afternoon. We met for an hour and a half or so . . . much to talk about. During our meeting, one of the mormons stated what the Gospel encompassed and looked to us for approval. We were not able to approve of his description of the Gospel, for he said the Gospel is a message centrally about faith, repentance, receiving the Holy Spirit, and perseverance. He taught us that there are 5 things man must do to enter into a right relationship with God.
I responded by telling him what I learned from John Piper (at T4G ’06), which is the Gospel in 5 parts (but NOT 5 things you must do). Here is the best explanation of the Gospel which I have heard: The Gospel is a message about 1) historical events – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; 2) Achievements – the good things that Christ accomplished as a result of his work – forgiveness of sins (for people), removal of the wrath of God, installation of his Kingship over all things, completion of perfect righteousness, the defeat of Satan and death etc.; 3) Way of Transfer – the way for sinners “to get” the benefits and achievements of Christ applied (transferred) to them is by faith alone (which includes repentance), not by works (at all); 4) New Identity – the good things that are now true about the believer as a result of true belief – sons and daughters of God, counted righteous, receive the Holy Spirit, sins forgiven, etc.; and 5) God – the message of the Gospel is the clearest display of the character and glory of God – his holiness, love, justice, faithfulness, righteousness, grace and mercy, etc.
The Way of Transfer was the point of disagreement. They insisted that the way to get saved is not by faith alone, but also by faith and works. We spent much time debating this most important point of doctrine (called justification – how a sinner can be declared “righteous” by God the Judge). We studied Ephesians 2. 4-10. Of special interest was their interpretation of Ephesians 2.8-10. They stated that when Paul says the way to get saved is “not a result of works” he really means “not by works alone.” In other words, they believe that the way to get saved is by faith and works. Herein lies the difference of eternal life and eternal death.
There are many reasons why this Mormon understanding of how to get right with God is not true. The most clear reason is because that is NOT what Paul wrote. He wrote that the way to get saved is by free grace, for it is a “gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” He did not say we are saved by faith AND works. His main point is to make a positive-negative statement (yes to grace – no to works). If Paul (who is a master of precision) wanted to teach on the importance of grace in addition to works, he would have written that we are saved “not only by works, but also by grace.” Furthermore, if we are saved by works even in the least bit, there is no place for free grace; we would have to earn our way to heaven. We could have something (even a little bit) to boast about.
The reason why we are not saved by works (at all) is, as Paul said, “so that no one can boast.” True believers have no ground for boasting; the only thing they can boast in is the work of Jesus (Gal 6.14). As Paul said to the Romans, “Then what comes of our boasting? It is excluded” (Rom 3.27). There is no room for boasting because we are not saved by our own efforts (not even in the least bit).
May the Lord have mercy on the Mormons as he has had mercy on me. It is only by God’s grace that I can see that the way to get saved from the wrath of God (which I deserve) is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
We plan to meet with these Mormons again. If you have any advice concerning how to best preach the Good News to Mormons, please let me know.