“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” -Romans 11:6
Last week we discussed mitzvah and sacrament. We discovered God wants us to hear Him, to watch and worship Him, to remember the mitzvah (the instructions He has given us), receive ordinances, and study and live the Torah. And we do all these by grace. Yet there are still those that think there is a difference between grace and works.
To use the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, grace and works are represented by the right and left hands of God: the right being the grace: Chesed (Mercy) and the left being the works: Gevurah (Judgment). And yes, one can still exist without the other. One may do works without grace, and one may accept grace without works. Does this save us? We are not the judge, Christ is the Judge. We may speculate, but then we leave doctrine for theology.
The Parable of the Pencil
Let’s look at this another way. Grace erases sin, purifying us in Christ’s mercy, making us whole again. On a pencil this would be the eraser. If we have a paper with all the deeds we have done, it would erase everything, making the paper white again (see Isaiah 1:18). Yet we do not stop living at this moment. Yes, the grace continues to erase our sins from the paper as we repent, but it will remain blank, unfilled, without good works.
The pencil has lead, and with it we record our deeds. If we travel the path of works alone all our works will be written down. However, these works will be interwoven with our sins as we have not applied grace. One could balance our good works against our sins, but even one sin will keep us from God’s presence (see Romans 3:23). The only way to tip the scales is to use the eraser provided in Christ (see Romans 3:24).
We can see that grace and works are both halves of the pencil. To say that we have grace without works proves our grace empty. To say we have works without grace leaves us in sin. This is why James said: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). And what is this faith? It is our access to the grace, the first work unto salvation (see Romans 1:16-17, 4:16; Ephesians 2:8). This is why the first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (see Doctrines of the Saints 3b:4). Without faith, we cannot accept the grace. Yet, we have the faith by the grace of God, these are one in the same.
One + One = One
We must remember that the atonement says what it literally is: at+one+ment. It is how we become one with God. And we do not become one with God casually. How then do we do it? We accept the grace and, as moved by the Spirit, do God’s works. What are God’s works? Many will say things like baptism, taking communion, and the like. But these are ordinances, not works. The Hebrew teaches us what God’s works are.
One of God’s names in Hebrew is יהוה or YHVH: Yah, Hai, Vav, Hai, sometimes pronounced Yahweh, Jehovah, or Yah-Vah. In Hebrew every letter has a numeric value. YHVH is 10+5+6+5=26. The word for love in Hebrew is אהבה or ahvah. Ahvah is 1+5+2+5=13. And one in Hebrew is אחד Echad. Echad is 1+8+4=13. “Love” + “one” = YHVH because 13+13=26. Thus one+one=one. The at+one+ment is when we we are one in love and these together in God. This is the grace, we become one with God, and it is the works, we become one, as creation, with The Creator.
Ordinances then have no saving power except in their use to enable us to symbolically become one with God and one with one another. We are baptized in Christ, buried in and rising from the water as both a symbol of new life in Christ and into the denomination the Lord has sent us to. Regardless of our denominations, we are one in Christ as Christians. Again, one (ourselves) + one (each denomination) = one (our oneness in Christ).
Things to Remember
The most important thing to remember is that Christ is our pencil. This means that God loves you now, as you are. He’s not waiting for some future, perfected version of you. He’s perfected us in grace the moment we come to Him in faith, and we come because He has called us. That’s right, Jesus has already called you. He already loves you. This cannot be stated enough.
And, He wants us to love others as He loves us. Not some perfect version of them later, but as they are now. This doesn’t mean we allow others to take advantage of us. But it does mean we love others where they are.
While it is easy to fall prey to Satan’s contention, we must remember that as Christians we are here to perform tikkun olam: the Repairing of the world. We cannot do this fighting one another. This does not set the right example to those seeking Christ. Those that preach works alone likely have grace without realizing it. Likewise, many of those that preach grace alone still do the Lord’s works. Therefore it is not ours to judge but to love. Love all, and let God sort it out.