Saved By Works

 

 

 

      What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 

James 2:14

 

 

 

 

SAVED BY WORKS: DISCLAIMER

Saved by works. Heresy, many will cry from the Protestant camp as they quote from Ephesians:

 

·        Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  (NAS)

 

But is it heresy? What do we do with the verses that tell us we are saved by our works? We can’t cut them out of our Bible, as Martin Luther wanted to do with the book of James.

 

·        James 2:14 What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?  

 

Failure to reconcile this seeming contradiction and follow the whole counsel of God will lead us into one ditch or the other.

 

One ditch is to believe we can work our way to heaven, that we can somehow earn salvation or merit God’s grace. This is what Martin Luther reacted against, and it is completely wrong. But the other ditch, denying the necessity of works, is equally wrong.

 

The intent of this study is to demonstrate from scripture that without works (i.e. a response to God’s grace) no one can be saved. And once having been saved, we must continue to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” by living a life of obedience and good works, pleasing to God.

 

·        Phil 2:12-13  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  (NAS)

 

·        John 14:15  If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (NAS)

 

Make no mistake. We must do first things first. Jesus is the mediator between God and man, and there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. Trying to live a good life is not enough. Obedience to the laws and ordinances of a church or religious institution is not sufficient for salvation. We must do things God’s way, and His way is clearly through Jesus.

 

·        Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”

 

·        John 14:6  Jesus said unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me. (NAS)

 

But just as wrong is to believe that the only necessity of making heaven our home is to be saved by grace. Period. End of story. Sadly there are many Christians who have bought into this lie, and their “Christian walk” began and ended with a salvation prayer. They falsely believe that their salvation is secure because they once prayed a prayer, not knowing that the day will come when they will stand before the Son of Man to be judged. And as the sheep are separated from the goats, many will find that they won’t make it. The difference, as the Keith Green song says, is “what they did and didn’t do”. (Read Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Are you doing good works to earn your way to heaven or are you responding to God’s grace and love? Just by looking at someone’s life, we may not be able to tell the difference. But the motivation and intent are critical. Man looks on the outward, but God looks on the heart. God knows the thoughts and intents of our heart and He will judge accordingly.

 

Now that we understand that this study is not saying we can earn our way to heaven or that salvation is somehow apart from the shed blood of Jesus Christ, let us examine the whole counsel of Scripture, that we might understand how we are “saved by works”.

 

SAVED BY WORKS: INTRODUCTION

If you ask the average Christian what the word grace means, you will likely receive this response: “Grace is how someone gets saved; they are saved by grace and not by works.  Grace means unmerited (unearned) favor.  We can’t save ourselves; only God’s grace saves us.” 

 

It is certain that the grace of God is unmerited.  There are no acts of self-righteousness that make us worthy of the good Lord’s favor.  The scriptures teach that all our own righteousnesses are as filthy rags when compared with the bright white holiness of our Creator.  These words are echoed in the truth of the prophet Isaiah as he rebuked Israel.

 

·        Isa 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.  (NKJ)

 

It seems odd that the word “righteousnesses” is used in the plural.  The Hebrew word indicates “righteous deeds or acts” from a root word origin meaning, “moral virtue.”

 

There is absolutely nothing morally virtuous that we can do to rectify our sin and uncleanness before God.  To be justified and in right standing before God requires an act of faith in God’s mercy shown through His son Jesus the Christ.  Jesus bought our righteousness through the shedding of his blood.

 

·        2 Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  (NAS)

 

Make no mistake, moral virtue is important.  We must strive to live a life of holiness that is characterized by obedience to the commands of God in scripture.  God will show His favor towards us, particularly when we walk according to His statutes.  The Lord doesn’t want us seeking our own righteousness, but pressing on to do His will.

 

·        Phil 3:12-15 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.  (NAS)

 

Martin Luther, the great reformer, came to the realization that his piety as a Catholic priest, with the Catholic Church’s required acts of penance to atone for one’s sin was in direct conflict with the Bible.  Roman Catholicism had(s) perverted the word of God, making acts of self-virtue and obedience to the church the means by which it’s members find salvation and deliverance from Purgatory and the flames of hell.

 

The more Martin Luther read the scriptures, particularly those dealing with “works” verses “grace,” the more he became convinced that the meaning of grace was “unearned favor.”  One familiar scripture passage that led him to this conclusion is found in Ephesians.

 

·        Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (NAS)

 

Luther, having been steeped in the teachings of the unholy Roman Catholic Church for years, reacted to the bondage of self-inflicted abasement and flagellum.  The Son of God had set him free to fellowship with the Father, and though Luther continued practicing good works, his motivation for doing so was not to appease the Lord or earn the “right” to be saved.

 

It is easy to see why Martin Luther and other early reformers equated “grace” with “unearned favor.”  They had been liberated from the slavery of sin through the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross and believed wholeheartedly it was sufficient for salvation apart from their own works.  No longer would they trust in their obedience to the ordinances of Catholicism to be in right standing before God.

 

Herein lies the problem: they associated the word “grace” with their experience, erroneously defining it to mean “unearned favor.”  In addition, they confused religious works with the scriptural view.  For example, though the Bible never mentions or advocates penance for sin, Luther associated it with scripture verses that speak of either “works” or “works of the Law.”

 

This may, at first glance, seem like a harmless mistake.  Unfortunately, along with ushering the church into a new era of grace, the reformers’ definition soon developed grace into a doctrine that almost completely eliminated the need for works as a part of salvation.  Later we will see that unless one begins salvation with works he or she cannot be saved.

 

Because the Book of James integrates works with faith, Martin Luther made the mistake of claiming it was not inspired by God.  He even felt that this book should be completely removed from the canon of scripture because of its emphasis on “works” to prove ones’ faith.

 

Luther’s overreaction is understandable, as Catholicism’s dogma had led him down the broad path of destruction.  He realized adherence to the church’s stringent requirements for obtaining salvation was an exercise in futility.  Thus he concluded that any kind of “works” had no relationship with salvation.  This was the early beginning of a teaching on grace and works that would lead the Christian church down a crooked path of irresponsibility, laziness, apathy and self-justification for their inactivity. 

 

Today, many Christians have become complacent and apathetic towards the doctrine of works.  There are even self-proclaimed heresy hunters in Christendom who will label any group as a “cult” if they emphasize works as an integral part of personal salvation.  This belief system is due mainly to the misconception and inaccurate description of the word “grace.”

 

Perhaps the most atrocious and insidious doctrine to evolve from the skewed definition of grace was John Calvin’s teaching.  He created a systematic theology that stated God, and God alone, was solely responsible for personal salvation.  Man, he said, had no part whatsoever in his or her salvation; it was an act of “grace” alone.

 

Calvin taught that man was totally depraved and unable to choose his or her salvation (we were all “dead in our trespasses and sin and “dead men” cannot do anything). According to his dogma, God alone chose who would be saved, and who would be eternally damned.  Mankind was unable to choose to be saved, and God was the only one who could arbitrarily predestine the “elect” with the ability to respond to His “irresistible grace.”

 

According to Calvin, those who were not elected to respond to the “irresistible grace” of God were destined for the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.  It is easy to see how defining the word grace to mean, “unmerited favor” resulted in a doctrine that all but eliminates works from the salvation process.

Defining Grace

 

Strong’s Dictionary of New Testament words defines the Greek word for ‘grace’ as follows (highlighting added):

 

·        “grace” = 5485  charis (khar'-ece); from 5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): KJV-- acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

 

Strong’s says that charis comes from a root word “chairo” which is defined as:

 

·        chairo (khah'-ee-ro); a primary verb; to be "cheerful", i.e. calmly happy or well-off; impersonally, especially as salutation (on meeting or parting), be well: KJV-- farewell, be glad, God speed, greeting, hall, joy (-fully), rejoice.

 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament words says of charis:

 

·        GRACE = 1. charis ^5485^ has various uses, (a) objective, that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard.  (From Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words) (Copyright (C) 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

 

We can summarize the intended meaning of grace, as is taught in the Greek New Testament, as follows:

 

·        GRACE = “the Divine influence upon the heart, the manner or act of favorable regard, resulting in the heart becoming delightfully calm and happy, pleasurable, cheerful, and well-off.”

 

Divine influence is the effect of God’s dealings with mankind.  His influence with regards to grace is favorable, resulting in the heart becoming delightfully calm and happy, pleasurable, cheerful, and well off. 

 

In contrast, when God’s influence is His judgment for sin, we would not describe it as “favorable regard.”  We find numerous examples in scripture to illustrate the exact opposite of God’s favor.

 

·        II Thes. 1:8-9 Dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.  (NAS)

 

While grace is the Divine influence upon the heart in a manner or act of favorable regard, the pure definition of the Greek word charis does not eliminate the necessary “works” required for salvation. 

 

In other words, God influences mankind through the working of His spirit, including His influence through those who bring the good news of the gospel of Christ.  If men choose to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus, then God’s “influence” is favorable, making the heart delightfully calm and happy, pleasurable, cheerful, and well-off.

 

God’s earnest desire is that all men would experience His favor.  He does not want them to spend an eternity away from His wonderful presence.  He is a God of love, and He simply commands repentance (i.e. works) for men to be saved from His wrath.

 

·        1 Tim 2:3-5 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.  (NAS)

 

·        2 Peter 3:9 The Lord does not delay and is not tardy or slow about what He promises, according to some people’s conception of slowness, but He is long-suffering (extraordinarily patient) toward you, not desiring that any should perish, but that all should turn to repentance. [The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999]

 

God desires all men to be saved by turning to Him in repentance.  Repentance is an act; it is an expression of personal remorse for sin.  By definition, when someone “repents” (using repent as a verb), they are engaged in activity.  Any activity is a form of “works.”

 

Having derived the original meaning of the Greek word for grace, the application of the literal meaning can greatly alter our concepts of how grace is applied to an individual.  Perhaps God will speak to your heart through this simple research, and you will grow in His grace by understanding how Divine influence affects your heart and life.

 

The primary purpose of this study is to show the relationship between grace (properly defined) and works.  The unfortunate err of Christendom in teaching that salvation is by grace, and grace alone, should be carefully scrutinized in the light of scripture.

Work Out Your Salvation With Fear And Trembling
Phil 2:12-13

·        Phil 2:12-13  So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  (NAS)

 

“How can a believer work out their salvation with fear and trembling if salvation is by grace alone?”  This is the question posed to those who teach that “works” have no part in how a person gets saved.  After all, salvation is not a one-time commitment, but a life dedicated to serving God.

 

Part of the problem is that most Christians do not realize that there are various types, or categories, of “works” mentioned in the New Testament.  This ignorance has caused them to lump together all mention of works into one category, thereby creating a lot of confusion when contrasting “grace” with ‘works.”

 

As a result, it has become popular for born-again Christians to ignorantly spout statements like, “We’re saved by grace, not works.  No one is saved by works.”  This kind of rhetoric makes it sound as though a person plays no role in believing, no role in acting on their faith to become saved, and no role in working out their salvation throughout their entire life.

 

All people seeking salvation through Jesus Christ must have the “works” that God requires.  The saying, “actions speak louder than words,” is reflected in the manner in which a believer responds to God’s influence.  Without works (i.e. action) we nullify the grace of God.

The Work of God

This is the work God has commanded us to do, and it never conflicts with His grace.  Rather, it is the work we do as a result of experiencing God’s influence upon our heart; He influences us to work His will.

 

·        John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."  (NAS)

 

God has given us His work to do; His work is to believe in His son Jesus.  To believe in God’s only begotten son Jesus IS the work God requires for us to be saved (see John 3:16).

 

When reading the few scriptures that say grace and not “works” save us, it is important to examine the context to determine what type of works is being discussed. There are many categories of works besides “the work of God,” including “works of the Law,”  “works of the flesh,” and “works of righteousness we have done”. It is important for us to make a distinction between the kinds of works that save and those that don’t. Below is a list of some of the various categories of works, with corresponding scriptures to illustrate their meaning. 

 

1        Works of righteousness which we have done
(Our own works to achieve God’s righteousness, instead of simply believing)

 

·        Titus 3:4-8 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.  (NKJ)

 

2        Works of the Law 
(Used primarily in context of those who use their woeful attempt to obey all the commands of scripture as a means for self-justification)

 

·        Rom. 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.  (NAS)

 

·        Gal 3:2-12 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?  Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  Did you suffer so many things in vain-- if indeed it was in vain?  Does He then, who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying  "All the nations shall be blessed in you. "So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them." Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith."However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." (NAS)

 

3        Boastful Works of Yourselves
(These are manmade religious works to acquire salvation or to attempt to justify oneself before a holy God)

 

·        Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  (NAS)

 

4        Works of the flesh
(i.e. those associated with the selfish motives of the heart)

 

·        Gal.1: 19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  (NAS)

 

5        Works of the devil
(i.e. referring to someone who practices sin as a lifestyle)

 

·        I Jn 3:8 The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (NAS)

 

6        The Work of Faith With Power
(This is what true faith is: work. The “power” spoken of here is miraculous power.  An example of this would be what power the apostles were given when they healed the sick in the name of Jesus)

 

·        II Th 1:11-12 To this end also we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (NAS)

 

7        The Work of Service
(This is the functional role of each individual member of the body of Christ; we are called to serve one another in love, according to the measure of God’s divine influence upon our hearts.  It is faith working through love)

 

·        Eph 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.  (NAS)

 

8        The Work of Christ 
(This work is similar to the work of service; it is the work done for the sake of the gospel by following in the footsteps of God’s anointed servant Jesus.)

 

·        Phil 2:29-30 Therefore receive him in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.  (NAS)

Saved By Grace ... Saved By Works ... Or … Saved By Both?

We begin this section with familiar scripture verses that are commonly overlooked by Protestants.  These verses plainly reveal the role “works” play in order to be saved.  While salvation is more than a one-time experience, everyone must begin their relationship with God at a particular point in time.

 

We know that men under the inspiration of God Himself penned the New Testament scriptures. Let us examine the manner in which they told others to be “saved”.

 

·        Acts 16:25-31 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened.  And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!"  And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"  And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household."  (NAS)

 

Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel, and then mightily delivered from their chains of bondage as God shook the prison walls with an earthquake. (Isn’t God awesome?)

 

The Roman jailer reacted in great fear when he realized the prisoners had escaped.  Knowing he would be executed by a cruel and torturous death for his failure to keep his military post secure, he decided to kill himself with his own sword.  Roman law exacted swift retribution to any soldier who abandoned his post or allowed convicts to escape.

 

The love of God compelled Paul and Silas to urge the jailer not to take his own life.  This display of compassion sparked faith in the jailer’s heart, as he realized these men must, indeed, be servants of the Most High.  Most prisoners would have instantly fled at such an opportunity, but the apostles had a greater purpose, and used the circumstance to God’s advantage.

 

The first words uttered by the frightened jailer were, “What must I do to be saved?”

 

Seems pretty simple doesn’t it?  “How do I get saved?”  Paul’s answer will begin our insight as to how works are the means of salvation (as opposed to the ‘grace only’ doctrine of salvation).  Paul said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved…

 

Faith in God and in His son Jesus the Christ is a very basic and fundamental teaching.  Even John 3:16, the most popular of all salvation scripture verses, emphasizes “believing.”

 

·        John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  (NAS)

 

If believing (i.e. active faith) is required for salvation, then it must be determined whether or not it is “works” or “unmerited favor.”  Strong’s Dictionary of the New Testament defines “believes” in John 3:16 in the original Greek text as follows.

 

·        “believes” - 4100  pisteuo (pist-yoo'-o); from 4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one's spiritual well-being to Christ): KJV-- believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

 

The meaning of the Greek verb “pisteuo” implies entrusting one’s spiritual well being to God and to Jesus the Christ.  There is not even the slightest inclination that the meaning of faith is “unmerited favor.”  Faith is something a person does of his or her own volition.

 

It is a simple conclusion:  For a person to be saved, they have to act upon their faith, directing it towards God and His only begotten son Jesus.

 

·        John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”  (NAS)

 

For the most definitive proof that believing is “works” we now examine the words of the Lord Jesus himself.

 

·        John 6:27-29 “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.”  They said therefore to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”  (NAS)

 

In John 6:29 Jesus speaks in no uncertain terms.  The “works” God requires is to “believe” in His only begotten son.  Believing is works and it is something distinctly separate from grace (i.e. Divine influence and favor).  We can access the grace of God through our faith, which means “works” is the key element to personal salvation.

Defining Works

Strong’s Dictionary of New Testament words defines “works” as follows:

 

·        “works” - 2041  ergon (er'-gon); from a primary (but obsolete) ergo (to work); toil (as an effort or occupation); by implication, an act: KJV-- deed, doing, labour, work.

 

We derive our English word “ergonomic” from the Greek.  Works is neither a complicated or unscriptural concept, yet many Christians have eliminated it from their theological vocabulary.

 

To some Christians, using the word “works” in relation to salvation is heretical.  “Not by works,” they say, “Not by works, but by grace alone are we saved.”  Such rhetoric is both illogical and unscriptural.

 

Without works, Jesus would not have given his life for our sins.  Without works he would not have shed his blood to redeem us.  In fact, the entire life that Jesus lived was a labor of love; he toiled tirelessly, as an occupation, to please his Father in heaven.  Here are but a few of the numerous examples from scripture to prove the point.

 

·        John 5:36 “But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.”  (NAS)

 

·        John 9:2-4 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”  Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day; night is coming, when no man can work.”  (NAS)

 

Notice in these passages that Jesus is concerned with doing the “works” that the Father had given him to do.  In other words, he wasn’t seeking to perform religious duties, nor was he attempting to observe the ordinances of the Law in his own strength or for self-righteous recognition.  His desire was to do the works his Father gave him to do each day he lived on earth.  He loved his Father and wanted only to please Him.

 

Furthermore, Jesus said that “we,” as his disciples, are to perform the works that the Father has given us to do: “We must work the works of Him who sent Me.”  In fact, “works” are the primary way that we display the light of the gospel to a world blinded by the darkness of sin.

 

·        Matt 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (NAS)

 

Men cannot “see” God’s grace without good works.  As mentioned earlier, the meaning of grace is “the Divine influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life.”  Since God the Father is an invisible spirit, how else would men bear witness to His love without our works?

 

·        1 Pet 1:8-9 And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.  (NAS)

 

·        3 Jn 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.  The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.  (NAS)

 

·        I Jn 4:20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (NAS)

 

The Jewish leaders had no accusation to hurl at the Son of God that would condemn him legally, because the works Jesus did bore witness that he was sent by God. Jesus was one with his Father; they had such a close relationship that Jesus intimately understood what his Dad wanted him to do and say.

 

The Jews were angry with Jesus because they felt for him to claim he was “one” with God was the same as claiming to be God Himself.  What blind and ignorant fools they were!  God the Father (the only God) bore witness of Himself through the deeds He had given His son Jesus to do. Jesus did claim to be the son of God, and the “works” he did in the Father’s name verified his claim, as clearly seen in John 10:24-38:

 

24    The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, "How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

25    Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father's name, these bear witness of Me.

26    "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.

27    "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;

28    and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.

29    "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.

30    "I and the Father are one."

31    The Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

32    Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?"

33    The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God."

34    Jesus answered them, "Has it not been written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'?

35    "If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),

36    do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?

37    "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;

38    but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father." (NAS)

 

Jesus revealed his Father God through the works he was empowered to do.  Grace is God’s divine influence upon the heart, and that influence was manifest by what Jesus called, “the works of My Father.”

 

God has called us to walk in the footsteps of His beloved son Jesus. Not only does Jesus give us access to God, but also acts as one who is called to our side to reveal the Father’s will for our lives. Because Jesus is our mediator, we can hear from God. 

 

·        1 Tim 2:5  For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men,  the man Christ Jesus  (NAS)

 

We begin our relationship with God by believing, and we bear witness that we are “in the Father” through our “works” (e.g. repentance, confessing our sins, etc.).  As we mature in our relationship with God, we begin to understand His voice.  He speaks to our hearts and we learn to depend upon Him to direct our steps.

 

·        Ps 17:5-7 My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.  I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.  Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.  (NIV)

 

As we mature, we are commanded to walk in the good works, which God gives us to do (as opposed to what we decide our works should be).

 

·        Eph 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (NAS)

Reconciling Grace With Works

There are a limited number of scripture passages in the New Testament that mention us being saved by grace and not our own works.  In this study, we make a distinction between our own works (i.e. the type of works that cannot lead to salvation), and the works that God requires.

 

We have already seen that the Lord Jesus performed only the works that the Father gave him to do.  Unlike the rest of mankind, Jesus was obedient to God’s word (i.e. the scriptures) in every point.  Jesus fulfilled the law of God perfectly and yet he did not boast about it.

 

In sharp contrast Israel tried to fulfill God’s Law, but fell short.  Instead of acknowledging their failures, the religious Jews sought to be justified before God and man by modifying the scriptures with their own interpretation.  They added many oral traditions to the Old Testament scriptures, which later became the basis for the Talmudic writings.

 

·        Matt 5:17-18 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”  (NAS)

 

As long as the Jews could find self-justification in their adherence to their religious traditions, they felt their “works” would be honored.  Jesus exposed this hypocrisy on more than one occasion, as in Mark 7:5-13:

 

5        And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?"

6        And He said to them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.

7        'But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'

8        "Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men."

9        He was also saying to them, "You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

10    "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him be put to death';

11    but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, anything of mine you might have been helped by is Corban (that is to say, given to God),'

12    you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother;

13    thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that."  (NAS)

 

When the apostle Paul wrote his God-inspired letters on the subject of grace verses works, it was the manmade works he condemned.  The church quickly adopted an attitude of self-righteous arrogance by formulating new kinds of religious traditions.  This was especially pervasive amongst the churches with Jewish converts, who felt they held a position of higher rank in the kingdom of God because they had the Law of Moses as part of their heritage.

 

No person can be justified before God by claiming his or her “works” of the Law are the means.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Similarly, manmade traditional “works” are no cause for boasting either.  The only “works” that God acknowledges as acceptable are those He gives; His “works” will never conflict with scripture. 

 

The apostle James rebuked those in the Hebrew congregations who asserted special status and held an attitude of partiality towards the Gentile converts.  They felt their adherence to the Law made them God’s elect; nothing could be further from the truth.

 

·        James 2:9-10 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  (NAS)

 

The book of Romans contains some of the most common verses on the subject of being saved by grace.  If you carefully examine the context of each passage of scripture, it is evident these verses have been improperly used to justify John Calvin’s position on grace as being the only means for salvation. Below is printed out the entire passage of Romans 10:21-11:23: 

 

21    But as for Israel He says, "All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people."

1        I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!  For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

2        God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?

3        "Lord, they have killed Thy prophets, they have torn down Thine altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life."

4        But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal."

5        In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.

6        But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.

7        What then? That which Israel is seeking for, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened;

8        just as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes to see not and ears to hear not, down to this very day."

9        And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a stumbling block and a retribution to them.

10    "Let their eyes be darkened to see not, and bend their backs forever."

11    I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be!  But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

12    Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!

13    But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

14    if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them.

15    For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

16    And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too.

17    But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree,

18    do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

19    You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."

20    Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear;

21    for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.

22    Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.

23    And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.  (NAS)

 

In Paul’s letter to the Gentile church in Rome, he contrasts the unbelief of Israel with the true faith of the Gentiles.  Just as in Elijah’s days when Israel followed after foreign gods (e.g. Baal), in Paul’s day Israel continued to be a “disobedient and obstinate people.” (See Rom. 10:21, the first verse listed in the above passage.)

 

The Jews who were contemporary with Paul were not involved in Baal worship as their Hebrew ancestors. Nevertheless, they had replaced the commands of God with their own religious traditions and claimed these traditions were the equivalent of the Law of Moses.  Further, they boasted in their ancestry, claiming Abraham as their father.

 

Because of their boastful arrogance, disobedience, and unbelief, God allowed Israel’s heart to be hardened.  Even though Israel had been chosen by God to be His elect, He was forced to cut them off. As Paul states, “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.  Do not be conceited, but fear.” (Rom. 11:20)

 

The Gentile believers stood by faith and therefore were grafted into the “olive tree” (symbolic of the kingdom of God.  See Rom. 11:17-20).  Paul also warns them not to become conceited, thinking they were more special than Israel who was cut off.  He admonishes them to, “continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Rom. 11:22) 

 

The passage in Ro.11: 6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace,” is referring to the wicked and misplaced works of ancient Israel’s Baal worship and the present day Israel’s unscriptural traditions.

 

Paul says that God’s influence and favor does not extend to Israel merely on the basis of misdirected works; His favor (i.e. grace) is extended only to those who put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The words, “grace is no longer grace,” apply only to those persons who are not doing the “work” of God.  Again, the “work of God” is to believe in His son Jesus.

 

God’s grace was extended to the Roman Gentiles because they believed the gospel message of Jesus the Christ; whereas Israel rejected it and followed after man-made traditions and religion they had been steeped in for centuries.

 

To show that God is no respecter of persons, He makes it abundantly clear what happens to those who respond in faith to Him, and what happens to those who reject His truth, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” (Rom. 11:22)

 

The words, “…if you continue in His kindness,” refer to the “work” of God (i.e. the work that enables a person’s heart to experience His Divine influence, resulting in their well being).

 

The next passage that mentions the contrast between grace and works is found in Eph 2:1-10:

 

1        And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2        in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

3        Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

4        But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

5        even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6        and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7        in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8        For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9        not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

10    For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  (NAS)

 

This passage has a well-defined connection between grace and faith, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”

 

Saved by grace through faith?  Of course!  If we use the correct Greek definition of grace, these verses would read as follows: “For by the Divine influence upon the heart (the manner or act of favorable regard) you have been saved through faith, resulting in the heart becoming delightfully calm and happy, pleasurable, cheerful, and well-off.”

 

Again, Paul contrasts the works required by God with those pagan works practiced by the Ephesians before their conversion to Christ.  The proof for this is seen in Eph.2: 1-2, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world.”

 

The world has literally hundreds of religions that practice “works” seeking to appease God or foreign deities.  Buddhists, Hindus, American Indian religions, Muslims and many more have works contrary to the true works of God.  These and all the other false religions of the world today would be characterized by Paul’s message to the church in Ephesus.

 

All of these false religions have some form of dogma requiring their followers to practice rituals (i.e. works) to obtain some sort of self-justification.  These pagan rituals are not the work of God; rather, they originate from “…the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2)  In other words, the author of their works is Satan.

 

When Paul uses the words in Eph. 2:8-9, “…For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast,” he is referring to the specific origin of the works themselves.  The human origin of the works he speaks of are “of yourselves” instead of originating from God.

 

The Greek text of Eph. 2:8 reads much differently than the English translation.  Here is an expanded translation of this verse that gives clarification as to the intended meaning.

 

·        Eph. 2:8 “Because (of) the Divine influence upon the heart you are saved through the act of faith, and absolutely not that thing (i.e. the works) that originates out of or from yourselves; it is the sacrificial gift of God; not because of these works, in order that any man should wish to vaunt (himself).”

 

To be saved requires an “act of faith” in the sacrificial gift of God.  His sacrificial gift is His son Jesus, who died a vicarious death for the sins of many who would believe.

 

·        Heb 9:27-28 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (NAS)

 

God’s influence (grace) upon our hearts is His “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.” (Eph. 2:4-5) This loving influence is the most important of all.

 

·        Eph 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.  (NAS)

 

God’s sacrificial gift to us is His only begotten son Jesus.  Jesus willingly offered himself up as a sacrifice, because this was the “work” that his Father wanted him to do.  The cup of suffering his God required of him ripped Jesus’ tender heart with unbearable pain. 

 

Jesus bore this pain that we too could become “imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love.”  This is the work of God that He commands us to walk in. 

 

Jesus did something no other human being had ever done before.  Out of complete trust in his Father God he willingly allowed himself to be arrested, tried, convicted falsely, then tortured and killed.  Jesus knew he was born to fulfill this destiny, but at the hour when he realized it was happening, he experienced the fear and desperation that anyone would.

 

Jesus had witnessed execution on a tree before, as it was a common form of Roman punishment.  He had seen people shrieking in agony as their flesh was ripped and torn by dull, roughshod spikes while hanging from this instrument of torture.  Now it was his turn and his Father’s instructions were clear: he too must go to Golgotha, the place called “The Skull.”  There he would suffer unimaginable pain while his Father and God watched without intervention.

 

In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus knelt in prayer, all alone, just before his arrest.  No one stood with him, not even his closest disciples.  He prayed and he agonized. And then, once again, Jesus yielded himself as an instrument to do his Father’s “work”:

 

·        Luke 22:42  Saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done.” [The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999].

 

The emotional intensity of this act of faith by the Son of God caused him to sweat drops of blood, as the capillaries in his forehead burst from the agonizing decision he made. 

 

Jesus offered the supreme sacrifice, his very life. The ultimate test for Jesus came when he was separated from God; his Father left him alone to die. In bewilderment and pain, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 

Eph. 2:8 speaks of Jesus’ sacrifice and how his Father offers it to us for redemption as “the sacrificial gift of God.”  It is only through our act of faith that we can receive God’s gift. This allows His Divine influence upon our heart to be “the manner or act of favorable regard, resulting in the heart becoming delightfully calm and happy, pleasurable, cheerful, and well‑off.”

 

Believing in Jesus’ sacrifice is truly the “work of God” that saves us.  God does whatever He can to influence our hearts to believe and receive His gift; this Divine influence is what is translated in the Bible as “grace.”  But it isn’t just the Divine influence that saves us; it is our faith in response to that influence.

 

We find more insight in Titus 3:3-8:

 

3        For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

4        But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,

5        He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

6        whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

7        that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

8        This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.  (NAS)

 

Titus says it was because of God’s kindness that, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” (Titus 3:5)

 

While the text makes it clear that God’s “mercy” is the “basis” of salvation, many Christians bypass this part of the scripture and use isolated scripture verses to prove their “grace only” doctrine.  They skip down to Titus 3:7 to prove their point, “…that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

Titus 3:7 refers to justification by God’s Divine influence upon the heart.  According to the Strong’s Dictionary definition of “grace” however, that divine influence results in “its reflection in the life.”  In other words, God influences our hearts through the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but our life must be a genuine “reflection” of our choice to believe.

 

The proof for this interpretation is seen in Titus 3:5b-6, which says God saved us by means of “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  To have our sins washed away and our spirit renewed (i.e. born again) we must do the work of God.  As we have already seen, the work of God is to believe in His son Jesus.

 

·        1 Cor 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.  (NAS)

 

Ironically, the passage of scripture in Titus concludes this topic with more on the work of God saying, “so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds.”  The very proof of our faith is our carefulness to engage in good deeds.  This leads us to the Book of James.

          What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14

We now conclude this section with perhaps the most pragmatic teaching in the scriptures on “works” that lead to the salvation of the soul. 

 

Initially, our walk with God begins with our first works, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father sent as a sacrificial gift to be a propitiation for our sins.  Through Christ Jesus we have access to the one God and Father of us all; through Jesus we establish a personal relationship with God.

 

·        Eph 2:18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  (NAS)

 

To assist us in understanding James 2:14, let’s begin by reading James 2:14-26 in the Amplified Bible:

 

14    What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]?

15    If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,

16    And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

17    So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).

18    But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.

19    You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]!

20    Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?

21    Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? [Gen. 22:1–14].

22    You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.

23    And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness (as conformity to God’s will in thought and deed), and he was called God’s friend. [Gen. 15:6; II Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8].

24    You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith [through works of obedience as well as by what he believes].

25    So also with Rahab the harlot—was she not shown to be justified (pronounced righteous before God) by [good] deeds when she took in the scouts (spies) and sent them away by a different route? [Josh. 2:1–21].

26    For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead. [The Amplified New Testament, (La Habra CA: The Lockman Foundation) 1999]

 

As believers grow and mature in their relationship with God, their faith must continue its demonstration by accompanying works.  James’ letter leaves no room for doubt.  It settles the question regarding “grace” and works: a person may profess to have faith, but without works that faith is useless.

 

Abraham was justified before God by his works; Rahab the harlot was also.  Yahweh gave Abraham’s “works” to him, and his obedience resulted in him being “righteous” before God.  This is clearly spelled out in James 2:24, “You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith [through works of obedience as well as by what he believes].

 

Faith is motivated by the Divine influence of God’s love.  Abraham was called “God’s friend.”  One who responds to the grace of God will be obedient to His commandment to love one another with practical deeds. 

 

The entire chapters of Hebrews Ten and Eleven speak of the connection between salvation, justification, and works.  Read these chapters and reflect on this connection.  Below is but a sampling of the rich truth taught there.

 

·        Heb 10:21-24 And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  (NAS)

 

·        Heb 11:8-10 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.  By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.  (NAS)

 

·        Heb 11:17-19 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son it was he to whom it was said, "In Isaac your descendants shall be called."  He considered that God is able to raise men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.  (NAS)

 

·        Heb 11:31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.  (NAS)

 

The epistle of James agrees with the Book of Hebrews, including the aspect of “works.”  James words are clear, “So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).” (James 2:17)

 

This is a sobering thought. Without works a person’s faith is in vain. Dead faith cannot save him eternally.  God’s divine influence will direct the willing heart to fulfill the royal command.

 

·        James 2:8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing well.  (NAS)

 

God’s word leaves no room for error here.  One need not be a Greek scholar to know that love is the central theme of the entire Bible, and love must be expressed with actions.

 

Mere words are the profession of those who think grace is enough to save them.  Your Calvinistic doctrine must be trashed for the truth of God that says, “What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works?  Can that faith save him?”  (James 2:14 NAS)

 

We are saved by grace through faith.  Works demonstrates faith.  Our final section lists numerous scripture that use the word “grace” in connection with deeds.

The Purpose of God’s Grace Is To Produce His Work In Us

You must now study to show yourself approved to God, and not man.  Reflect on the unity of God’s grace (i.e. divine influence upon the heart) and your responsibility to act upon that influence.

 

·        2 Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.  (NAS)

 

As you read these scriptures, keep in mind two things:

 

  1. Grace means, “Divine influence upon the heart.”

 

  1. Divine influence upon the heart requires an active human response (i.e. faith that is demonstrated by deeds, works, etc).

 

Ask God to give you personal insight on how you can apply these truths to your life.  Let His love motivate you to respond in obedience and bear much fruit for the kingdom of God. Selah.

 

1        Grace brings encouragement

 

·        Acts 11:22-23 And the news about them reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas off to Antioch.  Then when he had come and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord.  (NAS)

 

2        Continue in the grace of God

 

·        Acts 13:43 Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.  (NAS)

 

3        Speaking boldly with reliance upon God’s grace

 

·        Acts 14:2-3 But the Jews who disbelieved stirred up the minds of the Gentiles, and embittered them against the brethren.  Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.  (NAS)

 

4        The grace of God for the work

 

·        Acts 14:26 And from there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished.  (NAS)

 

5        Using grace to strengthen the churches

 

·        Acts 15:40-41 But Paul chose Silas and departed, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord.  And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.  (NAS)

 

6        Using grace to help others believe through the Scriptures

 

·        Acts 18:27-28 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.  (NAS)

 

7        To testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God

 

·        Acts 20:24 “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”  (NAS)

 

8        Receiving grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith

 

·        Rom 1:1-5 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake.  (NAS)

 

·        Rom 5:1-2 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  (NAS)

 

9        Receiving the abundance of grace to reign with Jesus Christ

 

·        Rom 5:15-17 But the free gift is not like the transgression.  For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.  And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  (NAS)

 

10    Using grace to die to sin and walk in newness of life

 

·        Rom 6:1-4 What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  (NAS)

 

11    Using grace for obedience from the heart

 

·        Rom 6:14-18 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.  What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  May it never be!  Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.  (NAS)

 

12    Exercising gifts according to the grace given

 

·        Rom 12:6-8 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  (NAS)

 

13    Using grace to minister the gospel

 

·        Rom 15:15-18 But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God.  For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.  (NAS)

 

14    Using grace to be a wise builder and work for an eternal reward

 

·        1 Cor 3:9-15 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.  According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.  If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.  (NAS)

 

15    Using grace for a testimony in holiness and godly sincerity

 

·        2 Cor 1:12 For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.  (NAS)

 

16    Working together with Him, not to receive the grace of God in vain

 

·        2 Cor 6:1-4 And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain--for He says, "At the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you"; behold, now is "the acceptable time," behold, now is "the day of salvation"--giving no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry be not discredited, but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God…(NAS)

 

17    Using grace to give beyond their ability they gave of their own accord

 

·        2 Cor 8:1-5 Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.  For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.  (NAS)

 

18    Grace given to have abundance for every good deed

 

·        2 Cor 9:6-8 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.  Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.  (NAS)

 

19    Grace to share the right hand of fellowship

 

·        Gal 2:9-10 And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.  They only asked us to remember the poor-- the very thing I also was eager to do.  (NAS)

 

20    Grace to live in the flesh by faith in the Son of God

 

·        Gal 2:19-21 "For through the Law I died to the Law, that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life, which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.  I do not nullify the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."  (NAS)

 

21    This grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles

 

·        Eph 3:8-12 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things;            in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him.  (NAS)

 

22    Grace to edify others in your speech

 

·        Eph 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (NAS)

 

23    Grace is constantly bearing fruit and increasing

 

·        Col 1:5-6 Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.  (NAS)

 

24    Grace to help us in every good work and word

 

·        II Th 2:16-17  Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.  (NAS)

 

25    Grace to demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him

 

·        1 Tim 1:14-16 And the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.  It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.  (NAS)

 

26    Grace to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly

 

·        Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.  (NAS)

 

27    Grace for a holy calling to be appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher

 

·        2 Tim 1:8-11 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.  (NAS)

 

28    Be strong in the grace & be able to teach others also

 

·        2 Tim 2:1-7 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.  Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.  And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.  The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops.  Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.  (NAS)

 

29    Grace to become heirs & to engage in good deeds

 

·        Titus 3:5-8 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds.  These things are good and profitable for men.  (NAS)

 

30    Grace given to gird your minds for action and conduct yourselves in the fear of God

 

·        1 Pet 1:13-17 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, "You shall be holy, for I am holy."  And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.  (NAS)

 

31    Grace given for gifts to employ in serving one another

 

 

32    Growing in the grace by being on guard

 

·        2 Pet 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.  (NAS)

 

33    Grace given to the apostle to labor even more than all others

 

·        1 Cor 15:10-11, 58 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.   (NAS)

 

34    Grace given that He might deliver us out of this present evil age

 

·        Gal 1:3-7 Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.  I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ…(NAS)

 

35    Grace given for faith to be working through love

 

·        Gal 5:3-6 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.  For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.  (NAS)

 

36    Grace given to contend earnestly for the faith

 

 

 

 

37    Grace given to pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord

 

·        Heb 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.  (NAS)

 

38    In conclusion, we are saved by God’s influence upon our heart IF we believe with a faith that is active, and always abounding in the work of God

 

·        1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.  (NAS)

 

 


 

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