The Apostle Paul taught that we are saved by grace – it is the gift of God not of works. Nephi taught that we are saved AFTER all we can do. Joseph Smith taught that we are saved by obedience to laws and ordinances. Either Paul was right, or Nephi and Joseph were right. Only the Bible makes the truth clear for us.
Paul starts out in Chapter 2:1-3 reminding the believers in Ephesus that they were once spiritually dead in their sins before they met Christ. They were worldly, carnal, sinful, and alienated from God. “And were BY NATURE the children of disobedience.” Not born an innocent child of God – but born with a sin nature – day one. These first three verses present a hopeless humanity – trapped in sin, unable to save itself. Then Paul wrote the small but glorious words – Verse 4 “But God” Behind those two words lies a cosmic plan so huge in scope and so vast in love that the human mind cannot fully comprehend it – all we can do is humbly receive it. Let’s read Verses 4-7 “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great (agape self-less) love wherewith he loved us, Even when were dead (spiritually) in sin, hath quickened us (has given us new spiritual life) together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved); And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come (throughout the eternities) he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Christ defeated sin and death through His atonement – thus offering spiritual life to those dead in sins. The verb form “have been saved” refers to a past event with present and ongoing results. As believers, we have already passed from death to life. Salvation is not something to be waited for – but something that has already been delivered. This passage teaches that we are seated with Christ now “in heavenly places.” Meaning that we now belong to the heavenly kingdom of God and are one with Him. We now – while on earth – have an intimate relationship with God.
The next couple of verses were conveniently skipped over in the Sunday School and Individual/family manuals. As we cover them, I think you’ll understand why the Curriculum department of the LDS Church wouldn’t want to discuss them. These are powerful words written by Paul to emphasize God’s great love and special favor towards those who put their trust in Him alone. (Read Twice) Verses 8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith (in Christ); and that not of yourselves (you can’t earn salvation): it is the gift of God: Not of works (our works can’t save us), lest any man should boast (taking pride in thinking they are achieving salvation).” Paul is firm that absolutely nothing is of our own doing – not salvation, not grace – everything is the gift of God. It is a gift to be thankfully accepted. When you receive a gift at Christmas or on your birthday – you don’t offer to pay back or contribute towards that thoughtful gift – you simply receive and accept the gift with gratitude. It would be offensive and insulting to the giver of the gift for you to try and pay for it. In that respect – we can’t take credit for our salvation. It is not a reward for the good things we have done. People find it difficult to accept something so free – so willingly given – so available to anyone. We want to feel as though we did something – that we somehow earned our salvation by our merit. We think or – are told by false teachers – that there has to be a certain amount of law keeping, ordinance keeping, covenant keeping – in order for us to receive salvation. But Paul’s words are unmistakable – if salvation is by God’s grace and is accepted through faith – then it is not a reward. If salvation could be earned by good works, then by nature we would be boastful or prideful. The fact is – no one could ever be good enough to please a holy God. If righteousness was something men earn, then salvation would be something God owed them. But we can never put God in our debt. Salvation is a gift – not a debt.
In Mormonism, it is taught that you must do as much as you can – in order to qualify for God’s grace. In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 it says in part “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL we can do.” The Third Article of Faith states “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind MAY be saved, by OBEDIENCE to the LAWS and ORDINANCES of the Gospel.” This is in total opposition to everything Paul has written about the grace of God. “We are saved, after all we can do” means there is no way of ever knowing if you have done enough until after you die and go before God to be judged – then grace might kick in to save you. Establishing “obedience to the laws and ordinances” is not the Good News message of the New Testament Gospel. Mormons will ask – “then what part does good works play in our salvation.” Let’s read (Read twice) Verse 10 “For we are his (the Father’s) WORKMANSHIP, created in Christ Jesus (becoming a new person, born again and made spiritually alive through Jesus Christ) unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (which the Father planned in advance for us to do).” We are God’s “workmanship” – His masterpiece. People become Christians through God’s undeserved favor – His grace – not as the result of any good works or acts of service on our part. Out of gratitude for this free gift however, believers will seek to do good things – to help and serve others with kindness and love. We are saved not merely for our own benefit but – to serve Christ and to love others. We are saved FOR good works but not BY our good works. Works do not produce salvation – but are the evidence of salvation. (see James 2:14-26)
Verse 13 “But now in (through) Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off (away from God) are made nigh (brought near to Him) by the blood of Christ.” Verse 14 “For he (Christ) is our peace, who hath made both one (Jews and Gentiles into one people), and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” The “middle wall of partition” in the temple – portioned off the court of the Gentiles from the areas accessible only to Jews. It was symbolic of the social and religious separation that kept Jews and Gentiles apart. The “middle wall” also refers to the heavy thick curtain or veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies inside the temple. At the time of Christ’s crucifixion (see Matthew 27:51), the veil was rent or torn in two from top to bottom. Symbolizing that all Israel could now approach God – not just the high priest who would enter the holy sanctuary on Israel’s behalf. In Jesus Christ all spiritual privileges were now extended to every believer – Jew and Gentile.
Verses 15-19 “Having abolished in his flesh (by dying on the cross) the enmity (the opposition and hatred), even the law of commandments contained in ordinances (like temple ordinances); for to make in himself of twain one new man (two peoples – Jews and Gentiles – into one people), so making peace (between the Jews and Gentiles); And that he (Christ) might reconcile both unto God in one body (uniting them together) by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off (you the Gentiles), and to them that were nigh (the Jews). For through him (Christ) we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access by one Spirit (the Holy Spirit) unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens (equal partners) with the saints, and of the household of God.”
Now, these next verses are heavily relied upon by the Mormon Missionaries for proof that the LDS Church is the restored church of Jesus Christ. Verse 20 “And are built (our lives are built) upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (head of the church or body of believers).” Mormonism claims that an earmark of the true church is its organization. They use this verse to prove that living apostles and prophets must govern the church today. Since the LDS church have twelve men – plus three – all of which are unqualified – who they call apostles, they claim that this helps identify them as the true church. Yet, other churches also have apostles – including several who claim they are the true church restored by Joseph Smith. So, claiming to have twelve apostles does not prove that they are really apostles to begin with or that their church is the true church. Ephesians 2:20 does not say that the CHURCH is built upon apostles and prophets. It says, Ye ”are built upon the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets.” And, the FOUNDATION of the apostles and prophets has always been Jesus Christ. Get it? In 1 Corinthians 3:11 it says, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the foundation of the apostles and prophets which the believers are built upon. Jesus is also referred to as the Chief Corner stone. While the apostles and prophets did the initial preaching of the gospel which was written down – Christ is the theological foundation of His Church. A foundation is laid only once and then the building is built upon it. If men decide that a new foundation of apostles and prophets is needed in every generation – and that foundation is re-poured – then it must also teach that a new Christ is needed each time – because He is the Chief Corner Stone. Did Jesus lay a faulty foundation? No, He built upon the foundation – He Himself laid. There is no need to restore it.
Ephesians 2:21-22 “In whom all the building (the whole body of believers) fitly framed together (properly put together and guided by the Holy Spirit) growth unto an holy temple (not made with hands) in the Lord. In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Every new believer is a new stone in Christ’s temple – the church – Christ’s body of believers. His church is forever growing and will not be complete until every person who will believe in Him has done so.
And this concludes our study of Ephesians chapter 2. Don’t forget, we are on YouTube, iTunes podcast, Spotify podcast, and check out our website at Talking to Mormons.com.
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Until next time, God Bless!