Monday, July 13, 2009

Faith and Obedience

The God of heaven, who created this earth and placed his children upon it, gave unto them a law whereby they might be exalted and saved in a kingdom of glory. For ... all things are governed by law throughout the whole universe. Whatever law anyone keeps, he is preserved by that law, and he receives whatever reward that law guarantees unto him D&C 130:20–21. It is the will of God that all his children should obey the highest law, that they may receive the highest glory that is ordained for all immortal beings. But God has given all his children an agency, to choose what law they will keep. No man will receive a celestial glory unless he abides a celestial law. Wilford Woodruff

God does not disregard his own laws and justice requires that a debt be paid for laws that are broken. Because as mortals we are incapable of the perfection that God's law requires and without His mercy, all mankind would be lost. By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Rom 3:20, 23 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10 And men are instructed sufficiently that they know good from evil. And the law is given unto men. And by the law no flesh is justified; or, by the law men are cut off. 2 Ne. 2:5 Paul continues, however, with the good news which is that we are, "justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." Rom 3:24 The way is prepared from the fall of man, and salvation is free. Behold, [the Holy Messiah] offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered...and they that believe in him shall be saved. 2 Ne. 2:2,7,9 Alma explains that, "mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them [who shall believe on his name] in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption." Alma 34:16 Paul goes on to explain in verse 31 that faith does not make the law void, but establishes it. Christ does not abolish the law. He upholds God's law and provides a way that we, through submitting ourselves to him, may be justified before the law. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom. 6:23

We do not truly have faith if we defy God's laws. Nor does obedience to God's laws bring his promised blessings if we act without faith. Without faith, works are dead, for nothing we do can save us; without obedience, faith is also dead, for we cannot be justified before a law that we have not tried to live. James explains very clearly that, "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." James 2:24The two are inextricably tied together. To try to separate them is, I feel, to deny the power of Christ to justify us before the law. It would seem, in effect, to destroy God's law and make his commandments void; or to destroy Christ's mercy and leave us helpless before the demands of divine justice.

The teachings and practices of the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the ages have been designed to keep people focused on Christ and the salvation He offers. This was as true in the time of Adam, as in the time of Moses, as true in the days of Abraham as it was in the days of Christ, and as true in times past as it is today. The doctrines and ordinances that God has established are designed to bring people to Christ. This central purpose has never changed; the essential principles of faith, repentance, baptism and reception of the Holy Ghost have been common to every era in which there has been someone on earth who is authorized to teach the gospel.

The Israelites were given a law of carnal commandments and performances in addition to the basic requirements of the gospel to help keep their attention focused on Christ. Before Christ's coming, his followers in ancient America observed the law of Moses and understood its purpose:

And now I say unto you that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law; for they were ... slow to remember the Lord their God; Therefore there was a law given them... to keep them in remembrance of God and their duty towards him. But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come. And now... they did not all understand the law; and this because of the hardness of their hearts; for they understood not that there could not any man be saved except it were through the redemption of God. Mosiah 13:29-32 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal. And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance. Alma 34:14,15 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. 2 Ne. 25:25-26 And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them. And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. Mosiah 3:13,17 Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah. 2 Ne. 2:8

When Christ fulfilled purposes of the law of Moses, He put an end to the performances associated with that particular law. The fundamental laws of His gospel did not change. Faith in Jesus Christ, sincere repentance of our sins, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are the constant, basic requirements for entry into the kingdom of God. They have been taught by the prophets of God in every era. They set us on the course to eternal life. God promises the blessings of eternity to all who faithfully serve him. We cannot do it alone. Whatever our capacities, whatever our inadequacies, Christ has the power to make us equal to the task that he has set before us. Each of God's commandments is given for our benefit and blessing. It doesn't matter what we can or cannot do, what matters is that we have faith in Christ and trust Him enough to try.

Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; My joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God. Alma 26:11,12

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