Paul writes ‘epistle of grace’ to Romans

"Romans is the epistle of grace through faith in Christ," wrote Richard L. Anderson in Understanding Paul. "It leads all New Testament books in the number of times that the words grace and faith are used.

"As modern revelation says, `Justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true.' (D&C 20:30.)"The first step in properly understanding justification is understanding Paul's terminology, partly occurring in Galatians because Paul preaches the same message there. It was seen that salvation for Paul is not merely resurrection but exaltation with God in eternity, that justification is quite simply forgiveness of sins through Christ, that law usually means the Mosaic law. The remaining word of difficulty is grace, which has become a theological abstraction because it is not used in everyday speech. . . . Grace relates to the core principle of love, God's kindness in leading His children back to Him – God's favor in sending His dear Son to atone for their sins. God's grace is not spiritual substance; it is His spiritual generosity."

Anderson pointed out that Joseph Smith taught that forgiveness (justification) came through Jesus Christ alone but that retaining His marvelous blessing was dependent on the actions of men and women. Anderson wrote: "This is clear from the Joseph Smith Translation formula for full salvation in Romans 4:16: `Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace.' Whether from modern revelation, the Book of Mormon, or from Paul, the logic of the atonement of Christ is awesome. But Paul stresses a personal love for the Lord that is critical in understanding grace. . . .

"Too many see Christ's atonement in static terms. . . . The gift is given, bringing the joy of gratitude. But what about the responsibilities of gratitude? Does one ever receive a gift without moral obligation? Does the Christian remain the polite child expressing verbal thanks only, or does he develop the maturity to show gratitude in action? The issue is whether God considers salvation complete when the grace of forgiveness comes into the human soul, or whether that is the starting point."

Anderson observed that all of Paul's letters explain a process of perfecting oneself through Christ after forgiveness. "Grace for Paul was justification plus motivation: `His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.' (1 Cor. 15:10.)

"Some view Paul as automatically working by God's grace, but he used `labor,' a word of conscientious efforts. . . . For Paul, the relationship with God was the beginning of the second stage of progression through service."