Sunday, February 12, 2012

Saved by Grace

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 Nephi 2:8
Last night, I attended the adult session of stake conference. The visiting general authority concluded the meeting with a sermon on grace. He said that in the church, we don't preach grace enough. I agree. I wish we heard more about grace; it's the central point of the Gospel. More than that, it is the Gospel. We can't save ourselves. Only God can do that.

When grace is mentioned at church, 2 Nephi 25:23 is the most often quoted scripture, focusing on the phrase "it is by grace we are saved after all we can do." Most often, people interpret this as chronological, i.e. once we have exhausted everything in our power, only then will grace step in and make up the difference. I think this is a misreading of that scripture that misses the majesty of the Atonement. I think there are two plausible readings of that verse that show just how expansive grace is. We truly have a merciful God.

The first interpretation is that the word "after" is being used roughly as a synonym for "despite". Meaning that even if we do everything to the best of our abilities and exhaust ourselves in attempting to attain perfection, we can't do it, and it's grace that saves us.

The second interpretation hinges on just what the phrase "all we can do" really means. Instead of being a directive to exhaust ourselves in a futile quest to work our way into heaven, it's an invitation to partake of God's mercy. All we can do is repent. All we can do is come to Christ and drop our burdens at His feet. When we do that, we are saved by grace.

God promises that "my grace is sufficient for all [people] that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27) That's all we can do - humble ourselves before God and have faith in Him. His grace is sufficient.

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