A Rope of Sand

All religions that I know of—except one—say that if you do good deeds, you will be rewarded, and if you do evil deeds, you will be punished. Biblical Christianity says that your good deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and in spite of your deserving hell, you can go to heaven (Romans 5:6–11) because Jesus paid the price of your sins.

Jehovah’s Witnesses say, “Good works are necessary for salvation” (Studies in the Scriptures, volume 1, pages 150, 152).

Mormons say that good works are necessary for salvation (Third and Fourth Articles of Faith, Articles of Faith, page 92), and “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

Roman Catholics say, “If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified … let him be accursed” (Council of Trent, Canon 12).

Muslims must follow the five pillars of Islam and hope that Allah forgives them and lets them into heaven (Surah 5:9).

People faithful to these religions have at least some respect for the Bible. But although the Bible continually emphasizes the point that salvation is a gift from God, they insist that they must earn their way to heaven by doing good or religious deeds (such as baptism, praying to Mecca, going door-to-door witnessing, etc.).

Here’s a partial list of the verses that mention that our salvation is solely a gift that cannot be earned with good deeds.

Verse Means of Salvation Verse Means of Salvation Verse Means of Salvation
Matthew 26:28

Jesus’ blood

Acts 10:43


Galatians 2:20–21


Luke 7:50


Acts 13:38–39


Galatians 3:26


John 3:14–18


Acts 16:31


Ephesians 1:7

Jesus’ blood

John 3:36


Romans 3:20–28

Faith, Grace

Ephesians 2:8–9


John 5:24


Romans 5:1


Philippians 1:6


John 6:40


Romans 5:9

Jesus’ blood

Philippians 3:9


John 6:47


Romans 10:4


1 Thessalonians 5:9


John 6:63

Holy Spirit

Romans 10:9


2 Timothy 1:9


John 8:24


Romans 11:6


Titus 3:5

God’s mercy

John 11:25–26


1 Corinthians 6:11

The Holy Spirit

Hebrews 7:25


John 20:31


Galatians 2:15–16


1 John 1:7

Jesus’ blood

If you add in baptism or good deeds into what is required for salvation, are you really trusting in Jesus alone for your salvation, or are you trusting in your own goodness?

In the final open-air sermon before his death, George Whitfield cried out in a tone of thunder, “Works! works! A man gets to heaven by works! I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand.'”


48 Responses to A Rope of Sand

  1. Shirley says:

    A rope of sand indeed would be a sketchy support.

    Is a belief a work? Doesn’t someone have to do something–work at it–to believe?

    Blessings to you and yours,

    Shirley Buxton

  2. dougrogers says:


    Please remove the Buddhism tag. There is nothing in your post regarding it.

  3. billphillips says:


    In Mark 16:16-20, Peter says he believes Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus tells him that it isn’t men who have revealed this to him, but God. Also, in Acts 11:18, it says that repentance is a gift from God. Repentance and faith are required for salvation, but they are a gift, just as salvation is.


    So sorry to bore you with eternal truths from God’s word. Buddhism was alluded to as a works-righteous religion. If anything, I should add tags for Wicca, Judaism and Hinduism, and probably several others.

    If you were to die today, and stand before God, and He asked, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’ what would you say?

    Thanks for your comments,

  4. Shirley says:

    Hi, again Bill.

    But Acts, chapter 2 verse 38, say, “Repent…and be baptized…” Surely you agree that repenting and being baptized are works…yet they are commanded. Certainly repentance is a gift of God, every good thing is a gift of God, but repentance is something a person does–a work.

  5. kip says:

    What Bill means is that “salvation” isn’t a Buddhist problem. In fact, the majority of the world doesn’t much worry about going to a place invented by a few unscrupulous men long, long ago.

  6. billphillips says:


    Baptism is a work, but it isn’t required for salvation. We can go to heaven without baptism, even though we are commanded to do it, and should do it out of gratitude.

    If a man had an affair on his wife, and he went to her, and said, “I’m so sorry, I’ll never do it again,” and she took him back, would you say that his repentance is a work, and he earned her forgiveness? Absolutely not. She gave him forgiveness. Repentance is not a work.

    I’m curious where you’re going with this.


  7. billphillips says:


    Buddhists worry about being good people, just like Mormons, Muslims, and Catholics. The problem is that they’ve broken God’s law, just like everyone else, by lying, stealing, and lust. They’re going to stand before God on Judgment Day, whether they believe in it or not, and give an account for every lie they’ve ever told. The Bible says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).

    If you genuinely believe that gravity isn’t real, and jump off a bridge, you’ll face the consequences, regardless of the sincerity of your belief. You and everyone else will stand before God and you will be judged regardless of what you believe. God has done something fantastic so that you can be forgiven, and you can accept that as a gift, or you can reject it. It’s up to you.

    Thanks for commenting,

  8. Eric Nielson says:

    I would encourage you to believe the whole Bible, and not just a handful of verses that appear to go along with your beliefs. I feel it is a mistake to take a few verses as absolute, and then dismiss others. All this is over simplification, but hopefully you get the idea. It seems anyone can pick a few isolated verses, ignore everything else, and justify anything they want.

  9. billphillips says:


    How is 33 verses a handful? Why do you disagree with those 33? Even if you reject those 33 (and probably 100 more like them), there aren’t any that contradict them. Are you born again?


  10. Pilgrim says:

    This was a great post. I really liked the chart too. I am going to link to it on my blog. Thanks Bill!

  11. Tom says:


    Excellent points. Works based salvation is completely contrary to what is taught in the Bible. In fact, if we could earn (through good works) our way to Heaven Jesus would not have had to come and die. Salvation is all of God, from God, for God, and by God. Anything else is less than true salvation.

    I think it is quite telling that every other major religion in the world teaches a works based salvation. There can be no middle ground…either it is all of God or it is not. Anyone who claims to believe in a works based salvation needs to examine themselves and their relationship with God against the teachings of the Bible. If they do so honestly they will see works come after salvation and are proof of it but not necessary to receive it.

  12. Pilgrim says:

    Eric doesn’t like those verses because he’s a Mormon and it contradicts everything he’s been taught up to this point in life.

    Every false religion in the world has one thing in common… they are all works based. Buddhists, Catholics, Mormons, etc. are all going to stand before God one day and try to offer their “filthy rags” to a holy God to pay for their sins. And He will turn to His Son and you will then realize that Jesus paid the price, in full, and to have attempted to add to that perfect sacrifice with your deeds was not only in vain, but gross error. Of course by then it’s too late.

    Ephesians 2:8-9

  13. Shirley says:

    Hi, Bill. Sorry it took me so long to get back over here.

    In no way do I believe I can work hard enough to be saved. I certainly cannot get good enough to be saved. It’s just impossible. My nature is too sinful, as is yours, and as is all of mankind. It is through the shed blood of Jesus that I will be saved, and through His continuing grace and mercy.

    Scripture does bear out that there are things we must do to have the blood of Jesus applied. If there is nothing to do–believe, be baptized, etc. would not everyone in the world be saved, since the blood of Jesus has been shed already for them.

    I appreciate your sincere attitude and your work here on the internet and elsewhere God bless you.

    Shirley Buxton

  14. billphillips says:


    Faith isn’t a work. Repentance isn’t a work. Baptism isn’t required for salvation. If baptism is required, all of the above verses are wrong, and we can throw the Bible away. Check out Acts 10; Cornelius was saved, started speaking in tongues (clearly had the Holy Spirit), and was baptized later.

    God saves us. We have nothing to do with it. Why He saves one person over another, I have no idea.


  15. steffielynn says:


    I wrote a comment on Tim’s blog and it was in response to the comment you made there. It also goes along with this blog so here it is…

    “Hasn’t the faith vs. works issue been addressed by LDS folks on here before????

    Faith without works is dead…. the two (faith and works)go hand in hand. Mormons do not believe they can “earn” a spot in heaven.

    Christ did many things while He was here. Before He died for us He taught the people. He taught them to be obedient, and to serve others, and to be kind and take care of the sick and the widows. Then He died for us.

    So I would say (and this is MY opinion) That if you do good works you are following Christ’s teachings. If you do not do good works, and you think you will go to heaven just by believing then you are telling Him that everything He said and did doesn’t matter. That basically His life and teachings didn’t matter and all that mattered was His death.

    “Even so faith without works is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith and I have works: Shew mw thy faith without thy works and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” James chap 2 verses 17-18

    verse 26 “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

    So, I find this to be quite simple, will this end the faith verses works quarell????? probably not :( ”


  16. billphillips says:


    Let me present an analogy, and let me know what you think.

    If God saving us (making us born again) is a fire, the natural result is smoke. Some people provide smoke, expecting God to give them fire. Some people go around talking about their fire, but have no smoke. Those people can talk all day about their fire, but everyone knows they’re a hypocrite, because they don’t have smoke.

    Ephesians 2:8-10 says our salvation is a gift. We can’t earn a gift. If we could earn it, it’s no longer a gift. Ephesians 2:10 talks about the works God will prepare for us to do.

    I think your understanding on this topic (as far as I can tell) matches what the Bible says. You have to determine whether your understanding matches what the LDS church teaches. I don’t think they leave much room for interpretation with articles of faith #3 and #4, and 2 Nephi 25:23.

    Do you think your beliefs line up with Eric’s (who is a Mormon, and commented above)? I think Eric’s beliefs match up with the articles of faith, and conventional LDS doctrine.

    Thanks for your comment,

  17. steffielynn says:

    Eric didn’t really state a specific belief above, (or am I missing it) . He’s just saying there are a whole lot of scripture verses that some christians do not consider (like the book of James).

    I feel my beliefs go right along with typical mormon doctrine. In church we are not taught to do good works so we can earn our way into heaven, we are taught to follow the instructions that Christ gave us. And part of what he lived and taught was good works.

    Salvation is a gift, but once saved you WANT to help bring others to Christ (which is a work) and feed the sick and elderly etc.

    Bill, you stated above that God saves, and why He saves some and not others you do not know. Do you really believe that???? I don’t really understand that comment. We are ALL His children and we all can be saved.

  18. billphillips says:


    We can all be saved, and God wants to save all of us. For some reason, He doesn’t. Even Mormons believe that some people are going to outer darkness, right? We aren’t all His children. Some of us are children of the devil (John 8:42-44, 1 John 3:10). We become His children when we repent and put our faith in Jesus (John 1:12-13).

    You’re right. I read into what Eric was saying. I think it’s probably safe to say that he’s rejecting my 33 verses for the Mormon doctrine of salvation by works.

    I’m very familar with the book of James, and believe it is the inerrant word of God. However, you have to read the whole thing, and not take any verses out of context. I thought my analogy explained what James was saying pretty well. “Faith without works is dead” would correspond with “fire without smoke isn’t fire.” There are a few other verses that muddy the waters if you choose to take them out of context, but when you really study them, none of them contradict John 3:16, or any of the other verses I put in the table. They all say smoke is the result of fire. Fire is a gift that cannot be earned.

    It’s great to do good works. We’re commanded to do good works. The question is whether we do good works to earn our salvation, or out of gratitude for savlation. If you read the LDS articles of faith, you will see that you have to do good works to earn your salvation.

    Do you believe Ephesians 2:8-9 or 2 Nephi 25:23? It can’t be both; they contradict each other. Ephesians 2:8-9 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.”

    Do you believe articles of faith #3 and #4, or Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”


  19. steffielynn says:

    People will go to outer darkness by choice, not because God refuses to save them.

    I do believe what is says in the bible, I also believe what it says in the book of mormon. I don’t believe either are inerrant because they were translated and written by imperfect men. We just won’t understand everything until we stand before God.

    I believe EVERYONE has the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father, and if we are “children of Satan” it is because we have chosen that path. To be literal children of Satan, wouldn’t that have to mean that he created them??? He is not the creator.

    No where in the articles of faith does it state you have to “earn” your way to heaven.

    Your analogy is good but it is not really the same as saying “Faith without works is dead.” It is very clear. There is no room for misunderstanding.

  20. billphillips says:


    I agree that people go to outer darkness by choice. We all choose outer darkness when we break God’s law by lying (#9), stealing (#8), blasphemy (#3), or looking at someone with lust (Matt 5:27-28, #7). When we choose to do those things, we make ourselves enemies with God (Colossians 1:21), and children of the devil. Those who choose to reject Jesus will take the just punishment for their sins (John 3:36).

    LDS Articles of Faith (http://www.lds.org/library/display/0,4945,106-1-2-1,FF.html)
    #3 We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

    #4 We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    How do you reconcile the 33 verses (I can provide more if you like, but I thought 33 was plenty) I cited with “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel?” How do you reconcile those verses with baptism being required for salvation? I’m really trying to understand. It seems to be a clear conflict to me.

    When you quote “faith without works is dead” what do you mean? Do you mean you need to do good works to be saved?

    I think it clearly means that someone who claims to have faith, but doesn’t have works is either lying or confused.


  21. steffielynn says:

    bill, i’ll be gone for a few hours, but i will respond to your questions tonight! until then :)

  22. Aaron says:

    Bill, do you think you are building trust and love in the way you responded to Doug’s comment? A different tactic would be to ask him why he is interested in Buddhism and where his faith is currently at.

  23. Aaron says:

    Steff, that’s really interesting that you said the Book of Mormon isn’t inerrant. If that’s the case, then would it be possible for Mormons to make an updated version of the BOM with modern language and verbaige? I might actually be able to read it then.

    Also, just curious why you trust it if it isn’t inerrant. Thanks.

  24. steffielynn says:

    BILL, Sorry that it has taken me so long to respond! I have had a busy week.

    Faith with out works is dead. Anyone can say “I BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST” It also says in James 2:19 “tho believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

    Just believing is not enough. Christ came here for one purpose. To save us. But He did more than die for us. He lived for us. He spent His life teaching us HOW to return to our Father in Heaven. In Matthew it tells us He was baptized by John the baptist to “fulfill all righteousness.” (check out Matthew 3:13-17)

    Works will not save you. Faith will not save you. Faith PLUS works will. We are saved by grace after all we can do. It means we must FIRST have faith and SECOND we must “shew our faith BY our works.” like James said, even the devils believe.

    I am so thankful for my Savior Jesus Christ. He lived for me and He died for me so that I may live!

    Aaron, good questions! I do not think they will rewrite it but we do have study guides that break it down for you! The bible is a divine book as well as the BOM. They are inspired but may have human error in them. You may have heard LDS say that the BOM is the “most correct” and they say that because it has only been translated one time, the bible has been translated MANY. We trust in it as we believe they are the word of God. But we also have modern prophesy to help us understand.


  25. billphillips says:


    I guess that clears it up. You’re rejecting the dozens of verses that are so clear, and rejecting my explanation for “faith without works is dead” (an explanation that has been accepted for almost 2000 years) for the Mormon doctrine of earning your way to heaven with good works.

    I agree that when Jesus commanded us to believe in him, it was more than just an intellectual belief, like the demons have. It was a belief that He will judge us all, which would cause us to live a life of submission to him. You can look back on this blog to see a discussion on that topic in the post about “Don’t Ask Jesus into Your Heart.”

    Also, the New Testament was written in Greek, and we have Greek copies from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. It doesn’t get translated over and over. It gets translated from Greek to English.

    You have a different gospel than Christianity. A gospel that is in clear contradiction to the Gospel of the Bible. Galatians 1:8 says, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” Does getting a gospel from an angel ring a bell?


  26. steffielynn says:

    Bill you are so very incorrect.

    “Like many ancient works, the oldest parts of the Bible were passed along orally before they were ever written down, Though the Bible’s earliest origin may always be a matter of faith, it remains a fact that after the Bible was recorded, many different versions existed. It wasn’t until the first century B.C.E. (Before the Common Era, aka B.C.) that Jews settled on the canon of their scripture, and it was around 400 C.E. (Common Era, aka A.D.) that Christians agreed on all the books of their New Testament. Today, countless translations and interpretations of the Bible exist in English and many other languages.
    The oldest written parts of the Bible found were transcribed in three languages. What scholars call the Hebrew Bible (the same books Jews call the Tanakh or Written Torah and Christians call the Old Testament) was first written in Hebrew with a few chapters of the books of Ezra and Daniel recorded in Aramaic. Hebrew had long been the language of the Jewish people, so their scriptures were passed down in Hebrew. Some of the books of the Hebrew Bible may have been written as far back as 1,400 B.C.E., although most of the text was probably written between 900 and 400 B.C.E.

    Aramaic is a Semitic language that was widely spoken from 600 to 200 B.C.E. in the near Middle East. It was one of the common languages of the region until the 13th century, when Arabic became more prominent. Many people believe Jesus and his apostles spoke Aramaic.

    The Christian New Testament was written in the first century C.E. in the common Greek of the Mediterranean area and parts of the Middle East at the time. This form of Greek is called Koine Greek. It developed from classical Greek spread by the conquests of Alexander the Great. As different people began to use the tongue, it evolved and changed into Koine Greek between 300 B.C.E. and 300 C.E. This form may have been the second language of Jesus and his apostles — after all, the gospels note that Jesus spoke with Pontius Pilate, who would have been more likely to understand Greek than Aramaic. The New Testament was probably written in Greek because it was the most common language around the Mediterranean at the time.

    After the Roman Empire itself was Christianized and Latin become the common language, the entire Bible was translated into Latin. The first Latin version is called the Vulgate. In the mid-15th century, when Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, the Latin Vulgate edition of the Christian Bible was the first work he printed.” http://ask.yahoo.com/20030227.html

    Bill, It HAS infact been translated multiple times. So how is it without error?
    Also i’m not rejecting anything, you have a very different interpretation of these things then I do. I also believe that EVERYONE can be saved. And I believe in God who is our Father and LOVES His children and wants them ALL to come home to Him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. billphillips says:


    You might want to reread that info, becuase it confirms what I said. I was speaking specifically about the New Testament, but we know the Old Testament is reliable as well. The New Tetament was written in Greek. We can look at the Greek manuscripts, and translate it into any language we want. There can be translation errors, however there are people who speak Greek, and can check other people’s translation. If you don’t trust the KJV, you can learn to speak Greek and read very early manuscripts of the New Testament. Take a look at http://www.carm.org/bible/p1-p76.htm for the manuscripts and their dates.

    There are two books in the New Testament that are passed down orally. Luke wrote Luke and Acts. The rest of the gospels are written by eye witnesses.

    You reject Ephesians 2:8-10 for 2 Nephi 25:23. You can do that; this is a free country. But you should be honest with yourself and others about doing it. I agree wholeheartedly that God is the Father, and wants no one to perish, but all to come to repentance. He also is infinitely just, and can’t let sin into heaven. He has to punish sin. He has to punish lawbreakers. I’ve broken His law, and deserve to be punished. How are you getting your sins forgiven? Partly by your own good works, and partly by Jesus, right? I’m trusting in Jesus alone.

    If you say everyone goes to heaven, you’re rejecting another few dozen Bible verses. At least be honest with yourself, and say the Bible stinks and throw it out. You won’t hurt my feelings.


  28. steffielynn says:

    In my comment I was reffering to the bible the whole bible, NOT just a piece of it. The BIBLE has been translated MULTIPLE times.

    This is very simple. Jesus Christ has saved us by His atoning sacrifice. You are correct it IS a gift and cannot be earned. We BELIEVE this. Once you are saved and have faith in Jesus Christ you must follow His commandments. We do NOT believe you can “earn” your way into heaven!!!!! We are FIRST believing in Him and second, BECAUSE we believe in Him we follow what He has taught us. Believing in Jesus will not save you. Believing and following His commandments WILL. I do not believe EVERYONE will go to heaven, but I DO believe that we ALL have the ability to go to heaven.

    Now your last remark was silly. I love my scriptures. I LOVE my bible! Infact I am currently reading the new testament again. I find it sad that you have a “i’m right and your wrong” attitude!

    I love my Father in Heaven with ALL my heart. I love my Savior Jesus Christ with ALL my heart. Because I love them I want to follow what they have asked me to do, and I will do my best to do as they have asked of me!

  29. billphillips says:


    I agree completely with what you said here,

    This is very simple. Jesus Christ has saved us by His atoning sacrifice. You are correct it IS a gift and cannot be earned. We BELIEVE this. Once you are saved and have faith in Jesus Christ you must follow His commandments. We do NOT believe you can “earn” your way into heaven!!!!! We are FIRST believing in Him and second, BECAUSE we believe in Him we follow what He has taught us.

    But this statement is completely contradictory to the rest of the paragraph,

    Believing in Jesus will not save you. Believing and following His commandments WILL.

    How can salvation be a gift if you have to follow His commandments to be saved?

    True Christians will follow Jesus’ commands out of gratitude for being saved–not to be saved. Works aren’t what God uses to determine our salvation. We humans can’t tell that we are saved by whether we have good works (we can’t base that determination on that criteria alone; there are plenty of Buddhists with good works). But, we humans can tell that we’re not saved if we don’t have good works.


  30. steffielynn says:

    So the devils that know Him and believe in Him (as James speaks of) will be saved?????

  31. billphillips says:

    Jesus said, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “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).

    These verses are referring to a belief or a faith that will cause you to submit your life to Jesus. Not just an intillectual belief or a belief with rebellion. Furthermore they clearly contradict the Mormon idea of faith plus works.

    Even if the demons did have genuine belief and repentance, the Bible never includes the demons in the atonement Jesus provided. The Bible is clear where they’re going.

    The verse you’re referring to is James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Isn’t this just one more verse you have to throw out to maintain Mormonism, because it says there is only one God?

    Do you believe salvation is an instantaneous process or a life-long process?


  32. Eric Nielson says:

    Sorry I took so long following up.

    Bill, I do not think I disagree with any of the scriptures that you list. But what of James 2, and many others like it – (Romans 6 for example, if I remember right). If I get a chance I might pass along others.

    When I served a mission in Georgia, we often got in discussions about grace/works which is pretty predictable for a Mormon missionary in the southeast US. Anyway, I got together a similar list to yours which emphasized things like repentance, baptism, and being judged by our works. I still have that list packed away somewhere, but anyone can find those verses if they want to.

    I guess my point is that you can emphasize grace based on Bible scriptures, while I could emphasize good works based on Bible scriptures. For me, this should not be a forced either/or. It is both. I think we can all get in trouble if we do not take the scriptures as a whole.

  33. billphillips says:


    Rest assured I’m familiar with the verses that would suggest that our salvation is based on works. However, when you really study those out, they don’t conflict with salvation being a gift that cannot be earned with good works. Repentance isn’t a work, and I wholeheartedly agree that it is required.

    I gave this analogy to Steffielynn, but I’ll rewrite it in case you didn’t read through all of that. Salvation/being born again/going to heaven is a fire. Good works are smoke that is the natural result of the fire. Some people provide smoke hoping that God will give them fire. Some people talk about their fire, but don’t have any smoke. We know those who claim fire without smoke are hypocrites. We know smoke doesn’t cause a fire. Fire is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

    It boils down to whether you believe Jesus’ sacrifice was adequate to atone for your sins, or whether you believe you have to make up for some of them yourself.

    Would you consider yourself to be a good person?


  34. Eric Nielson says:

    I agree that there is no conflict.

    I disagree that repentance is not a work. We must do it. God can not force us to do it. It is an act of our will. I guess it comes down to definitions.

    Whether or not I consider myself a good person is irrelevent to this discussion.

    I believe that the atonement of Christ is adaquate. But I must act of my own will to take advantage of this atonement. The atonement is not forced on me or anyone.

    I actually like your analogy, but I think it proves my point (along with yours). I often feel that these discussions are not really arguments at all. Some people tend to emphasize the smoke, others the fire. Big deal. Where there really is one, there will be the other. (And saying you can truly have smoke with no fire is a weakness of the analogy, not the gospel).

  35. billphillips says:


    I agree there is no true smoke without fire (Isaiah 64:6). If you are trusting in your good works, you don’t have enough good works, even with Jesus added in. If you’re saying that God is going to let you into heaven because you were baptized, you walked little old ladies across the street, and because of Jesus, you’re not really trusting in Jesus alone. You’re trusting in your own goodness.

    Ephesians 2:8-9 contradicts 2 Nephi 25:23. Which do you believe?


  36. Eric Nielson says:

    By your definitions Eph. 2:8-9 contradicts James 1:21-27, and James 2.

    Which do you believe?

  37. billphillips says:

    James is speaking to people who are already born again. He is encouraging them to put their faith into action. He is also saying that if you have no deeds you aren’t saved. He isn’t encouraging them to earn their way into heaven.

    There are tons of similar passages. 1 John in particular gives several tests that we should take to see if we are really born again. 1 John 2:3-4 says, “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

    This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10).

    This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. (1 John 4:2-3).

    There is no conflict between any of these verses, or the 33 listed above. However, Articles of faith #3 and #4 and 2 Nephi 25:23 clearly contradict all of those 33. Is salvation a gift, not by works, or is salvation a gift earned by works?

    Just for my own interest, how many gods do you believe in? Are you a polytheist?


  38. steffielynn says:

    I have read eric’s recent comments and he is right on. Please understand that we do not believe we can “earn”, or “work” our way to heaven! You are completly misunderstanding our beliefs.

    I’m going to say this again, and again and again if I have to. We as LDS DO NOT believe we can “earn” salvation. There is a BIG difference between, working or earning your way into heaven, and what we believe. We believe you are saved by grace, BUT Christ has COMMANDED that we obey and serve and be kind and repent etc, etc,. You CANNOT say “I believe” and because you believe get a ticket in. You MUST believe AND follow the commandments. He gave them to us for a reason. We can not pick and choose one over the other.

    Eric, I’m a convert of 2 and a half years, I love the gospel and I am so thankful for our awesome misssionaries! Thank you for serving!

    Steph :)

  39. billphillips says:

    You said you “MUST believe AND follow the commandments.” You probably already know this, but the commandments are also known as the law.

    Galatians 3:10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”

    If you are relying on obeying the commandments, you better keep them perfectly. If you fail to keep the whole law, you are guilty of breaking it all (James 2:20).

    Galatians 2:16 says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

    Justification happens in an instant when you repent and put your faith in Jesus. This is called being born again (John 3). It doesn’t take a lifetime of obedience to be born again.

    Galatians 3:24-25 says, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”

    It doesn’t say the law takes us to Christ and the law. It takes us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith, and we are no longer under the law. The law can only crush us, and show us how wicked we are. We have no hope of keeping the law. Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15). Lust is adultery (Matt 5:27-28). Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever desired something you chouldn’t have (coveting)? Has God always been first in your life?

    Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” It doesn’t say become perfect. It says be perfect. If you died right now are you perfect? If you die in 50 years will you be perfect then?


  40. Eric Nielson says:


    Your explanation of James is interesting, and I believe it is on the money. I would simply say that our claim as Mormons is that this fits us as well. We believe in Christ as the Savior. It is only through Him that we will be resurrected. It is only through Him that we can have a forgiveness of sins. There is no other way. We accept that. Now we are trying to live a pure religion like James describes. We are trying to live the admonisions of Paul. We are trying to follow Christs example.

    Whether or not anyone has sufficient faith in Christ is difficult for mortals to judge from the outside.

  41. billphillips says:


    So, you don’t have to get baptized to be saved? Salvation isn’t something that comes after all that you can do?

    If you believe that you have to be baptized, that is a good, religious deed you must do to earn your salvation. I don’t know how else to explain it. You can deny earning your salvation all day long, but it doesn’t hold water if you require baptism.


  42. steffielynn says:

    Bill, we try yo do the best we can and when we mess up we repent. That is why LDS have sacrament every week, to repent and renew our baptismal covenents.

    “I must explain that baptism does not save us, but is one of the steps required of us to follow Christ and access the grace that He offers us freely. Through baptism, we enter into a covenant with Christ and enter through the gate on the strait and narrow path that leads to life. This is the core doctrine of Christ that Paul refers to in Hebrews 6:1-2:”

    check this link out, he goes into depth about it and can word it much better then I.


  43. billphillips says:


    So you have to keep the law, but you can’t keep the law?

    Isaiah 64:6 says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”

    God sees our good deeds as filthy rags. It’s actually referring to bloody menstrual rags. He is so holy, and we try to offer Him the putrid, disgusting filth of baptism, good works, and shabby attempts at keeping the law.

    Jesus doesn’t see us as good people (Luke 18:19). In fact our hearts are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Like Galatians 3:10 says, all those who are under the law are under a curse. By your own admission, you have to keep the law. You’re therefore, under the curse.

    Seeing how your heart is desperately wicked, are you sure you are right about all of this? Are you sure you can keep the law perfectly? Are you sure you should be a polytheist? How do you know you’re right?


  44. Eric Nielson says:


    I think one of the things you are missing is the whole degrees of glory belief of the Mormon church. You are trying to force a saved/not saved or Heaven/Hell dichotomy on us, and that is not our belief.

    We believe everyone will be resurrected because of Christ and His atonement. Therefore we are all saved from death. So to ask if we are saved in this regard the answer is yes. We also believe that Christ’s atonement takes care of the effects of the fall. So in that sence we are also saved. If we wish to have greater rewards in the eternities we need to do those things that will help us have a positive experience when we are judged by our works – which the Bible speaks of frequently.

    So for basic salvation, baptism is not a requirement. If one wants a greater reward (what we would call the Celestial Kingdom) then it is.

    Forcing Mormons to answer oversimplified questions misses much of the Plan of Salvation as we understand it.

  45. billphillips says:


    Of course I’m missing the degrees of glory belief. It’s not in the Bible. I agree that everyone will be resurrected and have a physical body someday. On Judgment Day, Jesus will separate everyone into sheep or goats. Goats will be cast into the eternal lake of fire (Matt. 25:41), and the sheep will inherit the kingdom (Matt 24:34). There is no inbetween mentioned by Jesus. Certainly there is no indication that we can become gods; that is the first lie ever told by the serpent in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:5). The ideas of degrees of glory is contradictory to the Bible.

    If you want to have prophets, I think you’re on shaky biblical ground anyway, but you know you have a false prophet if he says something that contradicts the Bible. You can tell Joseph Smith is false, because he contradicted the Bible in doctrine, and he gave false prophecies. That’s the same way we know the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses) is wrong. They made several false prophecies about when Jesus would return. The standard for a prophet is perfection when he’s speaking for God (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). How many false prophecies must Joseph Smith give before he’s considered a false prophet?

    Your heart and mine are desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). How do you know that something that contradicts the Bible is true? Are you trusting your deceitful, wicked heart?

    I agree that asking you oversimplified questions misses much of your beliefs. But it’s not me that oversimplifies the questions. It’s the Bible. Why don’t you just admit that you reject the Bible, and you won’t have to try to reconcile your beliefs with it anymore?


  46. Eric Nielson says:

    1 Cor 15:40-42 gives a glimpse of the degrees of glory.

    Christ says in his house are many mansions.

    Many Christians of various types (not just Mormons) believe in some type of a reward system in the hereafter.

    Genesis 5:22 confirms what was said in 3:5.

    Prophets are mentioned all over the Bible. Ephesians 4:11-13 is just one of many examples of prophets, and their continued value.

    The Bible is a big book Bill. Big for a reason. There is no need for reconcilation. I believe all scripture.

    Why don’t you admit that your goal here is to criticize the beliefs of others? And to judge them for their lack of relationship with Christ – as you see it.

  47. billphillips says:


    1 Corinthians 15:40-42 is talking about our resurrected body. It certainly doesn’t mention anything about varying degrees of glory. Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 25 that there is heaven and there is hell.

    Are you saying Genesis 5:22 confirms the lie Satan told in the Garden of Eden? I’m seriously interested in hearing more about what you believe in this regard. Do you believe Satan was telling the truth? If men become gods, is that a loophole God didn’t want us to find out, but Satan revealed it?

    Prophets are all over the Bible. The question is whether Joseph Smith is a prophet. There is a test prophets must pass: perfection (Deut. 18:20-22). There are tests for apostles: signs, wonders and mighty deeds (2 Corinthians 12:12). Do you believe Joseph Smith passes these tests?

    My goal isn’t to criticize the beliefs of others. I have better things to do with my time. My goal is to preach the Gospel. Mormons have a different gospel (Galatians 1:8). I believe the consequences for polytheism, and relying on works is outer darkness/hell. The most loving thing I can do for anyone is to try to convince them of the truth. If I didn’t care, I would say nothing, right? I’m sorry if I’ve said something in a manner that offended you.


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