Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Merits of Jesus Christ

In my last post, I commented on the justice and mercy of God and that it is only through the mercy of God that we can be saved. In conjunction with that theme, the Book of Mormon also teaches that it is by Christ's merits alone, and not our own, that we are saved.

"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, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise" (2 Nephi 2:8).

"And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save" (2 Nephi 31:19).

"And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king" (Alma 22:14).

"And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son" (Alma 24:10).

"And if ye believe on his name ye will repent of all your sins, that thereby ye may have a remission of them through his merits" (Helaman 14:13).

"And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of their faith" (Moroni 6:4).

These scriptures teach us that it is the merits of Christ that save us, not or own. Fallen man cannot "merit anything of himself." Even after baptism we are to rely "alone upon the merits of Christ" and not our own merits for our salvation. Truly, it is Christ and his merits that save.


chad said...

This plays I think to what I am learning is a very broad/liberal understaning of the afterlife among LDS

i.e. The three kingdoms of glory & the notion that most everyone will inhabit one of the three except for the very wicked.

Now does this mean that it is the 'merits of Christ' that provides entrance into these kingdoms...or is the salvation merited by Christ the ressurection and opportunity to enter a kingdom...which kingdom being determined ultimately by receiving ordinances and obeying the commandments etc?

I know this is oversimplifying the matter...

Andrew Miller said...


Thanks for your questions. I think in this context the Book of Mormon is simply pointing out that it is not by our own merits that we are saved. If it were left completely up to our merits, we all would go to hell eternally. It is because of Christ and his merits that we can be saved.

Generally speaking, when the scriptures speak of "salvation" and "saved," we interpret that to refer to the highest degree of glory or reward after this life, what the LDS refer to as the "exaltation" in the "Celestial Kingdom."

As far as those being saved in lower kingdoms of glory, all must accept Christ and repent of their sins. Some of these will suffer in hell before the resurrection, but will eventually "pay the utmost farthing," confess Jesus is Lord, and be redeemed from hell. Others will never repent and never be redeemed--these will be cast out eternally after the resurrection. Some members have speculated that there will be very few that fall into this category. Some others (such as myself) are not so quick to say how many will or will not be cast out into hell forever.

I think, if I understand your question correctly, we are not only resurrected because of Christ's merits, but any salvation anyone attains in any kingdom is made possible, ultimately, only because Christ has paid the price for their sins.

However, the timetable when a person repents and to what extent he keeps his covenants made at baptism to keep God's commandments may determine what level of reward he receives. If I have accepted Christ, been baptized and made a covenant to follow Jesus, there are four basic categories of reward:

1)If I am valiant in that testimony, celestial glory is my reward.

2) If I am not valiant in my testimony of Jesus and keeping my covenants but am basically good, I will inherit a terrestial glory and not a celestial.

3) If I do not fight against God, but I live wickedly in many ways, I will suffer in hell until the resurrection for my sins and inherit a telestial glory.

4) If I turn against God and fight against him purposefully, there is no forgiveness of sin. After the resurrection, I would be cast out forever in hell never to be redeemed. (Hebrews 10:26-29; 2 Peter 2:20-22; D&C 76:31-37)

On the other hand, most people never receive the gospel in this life. They fall into three basic categories:

1) If a "just" person in this life had no such opportunity but would have accepted the gospel in the right circumstances, according to God's omniscience he may receive the gospel in the next and still receive a celestial glory. Please read D&C 137 for information on this category.

2) If a "just" person refuses to accept Christ when given ample opportunity (according to God's omniscience) but has a change of heart in the next, he can receive a terrestrial glory. See D&C 76:71-74

3) The telestial kingdom is reserved for those who live wicked lives, do not accept the gospel or repent, but then later suffer for and repent of their sins. See D&C 76:103-106

After all is said and done, however, no salvation for anyone, whether just or wicked, would be available without the expiatory atonement of Jesus Christ. All those who are saved in any degree of glory are saved by Jesus(See D&C 76:40-45). It is only because of his merits that a person can be saved in any level of glory.

I'm not sure I completely understood or answered your question correctly. Let me know if you need more clarification.

I'd highly recommend you read D&C 76, known as "the Vision" and also D&C 137 and 138.

chad said...

Have indeed read 76, 137 & 138 but will read them again. I think your response clarifies what I was wondering - you understood me well enough I'm not sure I worded the question very well though...

Anyway...your numbered section is of great help...I will aso re-read the D&C passages as I probably didn't look at them 'long' enough.