I have been wanting to write on this topic for some time. It’s a difficult topic to navigate – many people have very strong feelings about this. I also realize that I’m going out on a limb that may be difficult to explain.
So, please… if you finish reading this and don’t quite understand what I’m getting at, show me some grace and ask me questions instead of crucifying me.
The topic of discussion in this — What is the role of works in our salvation?
“I know… sounds like heresy, right? I thought we were saved by grace? We are. Don’t worry. I’m not quite going there, but there are a few revelations from scripture that I would like to share.
According to Ephesians, we are most definitely saved by grace and not by our works. The bible is clear on this. No argument here.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. // EPHESIANS 2:8-9
After reading that you may be thinking Why even write this if it’s not a debate? And the answer is simply this – the church is being lied to. We have believed a lie that our works don’t matter. That God is not concerned about our sin. And that God is not asking any more of us.
We have bought into a sinner-saved-by-grace mentality. And the truth is, we are saved by grace, but are we still sinners? Is that our true identity now? The bible says that:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. // 2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 NIV
So what’s the conclusion? I hang on to the belief that sinner is no longer my primal identity. The original identity for man was not sinner, it was imago deo, or image of God as we read about when God created man in GENESIS 1.
So because we have been so quick to latch onto a phrase like sinner saved by grace, many professing Christians today are limping through life. They are telling the world they are okay, but in reality, they are not experiencing the life to the full that Jesus talks about in JOHN 10:10. They have identified themselves as sinner first – when in reality, that’s what Christ came to restore us away from. Our primary identity should be that we are the righteousness of God in Christ – made in the image of God.
I am writing this blog post because I desperately want to see Christians experiencing more victory in their lives. I desperately want to see Christians resting in the true joy of Jesus. I desperately want to see Christians at peace. And it starts when we rightly understand God’s grace.
The church of America needs a mindset change. We have to stop believing that God’s grace is simply a copout for our sinful behavior. It’s not. His grace is actually our strength to overcome our sins.
As my pastor said in a recent message, “God’s grace only works when we repent. And to repent means to change our behavior.”
The truth is — Our works matter. God is very concerned with our sin. And He is calling us to holiness.
So with all that said, I want to share with you THREE PURPOSES OF OUR WORKS.
1. OUR WORKS ARE PROOF OF OUR BELIEF
For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. // JOHN 3:16
Two famous quotes come to mind for this point:
“We are what we repeatedly do.” – Aristotle
“Actions speak louder than words.” – Unknown
John 3:16 has got to be the most quoted scripture in all of the bible. It is the most simplified gospel presentation we find in scripture. And it is beautiful. I’m not here to refute it. But too often we cherry-pick what we want to see in scripture. It’s true that when we believe in Jesus Christ and his finished work, we will be saved. But what does it mean to believe?
This passage gives us a hint just a few verses later in verses 18-21.
“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” // JOHN 3:18-21
The conclusion I have come to for this point is this: If we say we believe but our actions don’t follow that belief, then we really don’t believe.
2. OUR WORKS ARE NOT SEPARATE FROM OUR BELIEF
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? …So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. // JAMES 2:14, 17
I think the scripture above speaks for itself. Faith, if not accompanied by works, really isn’t faith at all. If you remember the story of Abraham, you will remember God tested his faith. He asked him to sacrifice his one and only son – the son that God himself promised to him and brought to him in his old age.
Abraham agreed to do so, believing the whole time that God would either provide a ram or he would raise Isaac from the dead. His actions proved that he really believed in what God was asking him to do.
Just a few verses later in James 2:21-22, it says this:
“Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.” // JAMES 2:21-22
3. OUR WORKS CAUSE OTHERS TO GIVE GLORY TO GOD
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. // MATTHEW 5:16
Quick point here… but how can we expect a world who is not searching for God to see him in their daily lives? Through us. God makes his appeal to the world through us.
Are they seeing anything in you that would cause them to look upon you differently? Do you have an unusually successful marriage? Do you have unusually stable finances? Do you have victory over sin in your life?
How will the world know we serve an all-powerful God who wants us to experience that kind of life if we are not experiencing that kind of life? How can we reach a world for Christ when we ourselves are limping through life.
If for no other reason, God wants us to experience an abundant life for our own sake, as his gift to us. But it is also his appeal to the world that more and better is out there. That there is hope in this broken world – and His name is Jesus.
So what is the role of works in our salvation?
Truthfully. Nothing you can do will get you to Heaven. God’s standard is perfection. We are not perfect and can never be perfect. If you live the remainder of your life without sin, you are still imperfect because of your past. The truth is still clear that you are saved by GRACE – not by works. But we are saved to do good works, so that the world may see it and glorify the Father.
“The root of justification is by FAITH. The fruit of justification is by WORKS.” – Unknown