WHAT ABOUT WORKS?
©Copyright 1997 Randall D. Hughes
Works. Just the mention of it kind of makes you tired. Most every adult will spend some 50+ years involved in making a living. And although we are always worth more than they could ever pay us, we have reached what we feel is an acceptable fair wage in return for our labor. A fair exchange (or at least the best we can find for right now!). Some jobs pay more than others because of the knowledge that one person has obtained had greater cost involved than that of someone else. The length of time one must spend to gain a degree to be a brain surgeon, or a lawyer. The cost of their education only makes it seem more logical they should receive a greater return for their labor. Or other jobs have greater risk involved. Such as a window washer, steeple painter, etc. Because of the danger they receive more compensation. Yet, no matter what the task, the employer and employee have worked out what they feel is a fair exchange of labor for the wages received.
The Bible is absolutely clear as to the role that works play in ones salvation. Eph. 2:8-10, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works (Strong's #2041), lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." It is clear that it is the grace of God that saves us! Works are not a part of our salvation! However, for what purpose are we saved? Notice that Paul goes on to say we are created unto good works and ordained to walk in them!
Modern Christianity has adopted a phrase; "All you have to do is believe to be saved." Notice there is not a Scripture that supports this. Yes, believing is the first step toward salvation. Thus it is very important. However, in light of the way works are viewed by the majority of "Christianity" you would think the Bible rarely mentioned them. The contrary is true. In fact, the word "works" and the various forms thereof appear in the New Testament MORE often than the word "believe" and the various forms thereof! And as mentioned we all agree that believing is very important. So why would works be mentioned more often if there were not a great deal of emphasis placed on it also?
First of all, what is a work? Some churches have classified virtually every "Christian" action as a work. Saying it cannot be included in the plan of salvation because "it is a work!" Though it is uncertain how they go about this classification process.
Is a work anything that requires outward activity, rather than inward comprehension or deciding? How would one arrive at such a claim? Strong's (#2041) defines works as: "toil (as an effort or occupation); by impl. an act: deed, doing, labour, work." Also (2038) defines as "(from 2041) toil (as a task, occupation, etc), by impl. Effect, be engaged in or with, etc.: commit, do. Labor for, minister about, trade (by), work." These are the most common of the Greek words used in the New Testament. With #2041 used most frequently.
The Bible defines works by it usage in various passages. One of the longest lists of "works" is found in Gal. 5:19-21. "Now the works (#2041) of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." The amazing thing about this list is many items are not outward acts. Uncleanness, hatred, emulations, wrath, envyings, could all very possibly be hid internally.
All religions agree that you must believe to be saved. But did you know Jesus said believing is a work? John 6:29, "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work (#2041) of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." JESUS CLASSIFIED BELIEVING AS A WORK! It is the exact same Greek word used in Eph.2:8.
Some other "things" commonly classified as "works" by modern Christianity and therefore unnecessary for salvation: Baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost evidenced by speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance, living a holy life, and doing good deeds.
Jesus called believing a work! But how is believing not a work by us? "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him:" Jesus said in John 6:44 (6:65). Your decision to believe in Jesus was made because the Spirit of God moved on your heart. In fact, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men," Titus 2:11. Yet all are not saved. Because all do not obey the gospel.
Baptism is often called a work. And remember works do not save us! So therefore baptism is not necessary? After all, the thief on the cross wasn't baptized! And it is amazing how many people throw this up. The thief on the cross also died before the Holy Ghost was poured out! It was a different dispensation. A different time period of what God required from man. It was the closing out of the Dispensation of the Law. What most people are trying to justify is their own lack of obedience. How many people live their life with the knowledge Jesus died for them, and has set forth a plan including baptism and yet fail to acknowledge their need till they are at deaths door. Ultimately God will be the judge of who is saved and who is not! But it seems someone who has known and willfully not obeyed, and passed up many opportunities, will be judged according to their opportunity!
Baptism is NOT a work on our part! We simply obey God's command, and HE washes our sins away! It is someone else that must perform the actual baptism! We are commanded to be baptized in Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16, Acts 10:48. God does the "work" of baptism, when we have faith in the operation, Col. 2:11-12. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" Titus 3:5.
So, although baptism may be a "work" by some men's classification, God is the one who performs the "work" of washing away our sins making it worthwhile when we obey!
Although Jesus commanded his disciples to "tarry" for the Holy Ghost, Luke 24:49, many modern Churches claim this also is a work! Notice that Titus 3:5 also mentions the renewing of the Holy Ghost as part of the merciful salvation God imparts to us. So once again, God is the one who does the "work" of pouring his Spirit into a hungry heart. God is the one who speaks through you as his Spirit gives the utterance. Yes, there are those who "tarry" for sometime before God gives them this gift, but their efforts are meaningless without God performing the "work!"
God has "given" many things to his people throughout the Bible. One of the "gifts" God gave to the children of Israel was the promise land. The Bible repeatedly says the God "gave" them the promise land. Joshua 1:2, "…arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give them, even to the children of Israel." Think about that "gift!" After they finished wandering in the wilderness, they just walked right on in and started living in the promise land, right? After all God gave it to them! But for some reason they had to fight many battles. The first was at Jericho. Joshua 6:2, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho…" But the children of Israel had to march around the city once a day for six days, and then seven times the seventh day. And on the seventh time they had to blow the trumpets of rams horns and shout. Of course God performed the miracle and the walls fell down. But then the people had to "…utterly destroy all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword." Joshua 6:21. Does this sound like God gave them the city? The Bible says God gave it to them! God gave many victories in the Bible, yet, the people still had to fight to obtain them. Some even died trying to receive the gift!
Much of modern Christianity says there is absolutely nothing you can do to be saved but believe. Lets look at some other things that happened when people believed.
We all know Hebrews 11 as the "Faith Chapter," or the "Hero's of Faith." When Abel believed he "offered." Enoch was translated because he had this testimony, "that he pleased God." When Noah believed he "prepared an ark." Abraham when he was called by God, believed and "went out, not knowing whither he went." He then "sojourned" by faith. He became a "father" by faith (now without some "work" here, we would have another virgin birth!). Abraham "offered Isaac." By faith Isaac "blessed." Jacob "blessed." Joseph "made mention of the departing of the children of Israel." Moses was "hid of his parents" by faith. Moses "refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter." Moses "forsook Egypt." He "kept the Passover." They "passed through the Red Sea." By faith the walls of Jericho fell down "after they had been compassed about for seven days." And by faith Rahab "received the spies." And the list goes on! But please notice all of these things were done by faith! The believing produced action! Noah and his house were saved by faith! Yet, he had to build the ark to accomplish this.
Notice Hebrews 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." Think of that. "Diligently seek him." Does that sound like "work?" What about just believe?
James 2:14-26, contains much on the subject of faith and works. "What does it profit, my brethren, thought a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?" (vs 14) "Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone." (vs 17) "But will thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (vs 20) "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (vs 22) "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only?" (vs 24) "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (vs 26) Sounds like "all you have to do is believe?" Not by the Scriptures!
Yes, salvation does require some effort on our part! But this doesn't nullify the fact that salvation is a gift. Absolutely NOT! We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is a Gift!
Picture this: You may even want to do so several times a day. Although it will not change your future, but it might be fun! Ok, You are sitting in a crowded auditorium (you must be present to win!) On row 100, seat 51 out of 101 seats in that section. All the way down on the other end of this auditorium is a platform you can barely see. On it, a man has just called your name, asked you to come down, he has $10,000,000 for you. (You may want to visualize this often) You scream and jump up out of your chair. Then you realize there are 50 people on either side of you. And then 100 rows just to get down to the floor level. Then you have to go to the other side, climb more steps up to the platform. It's just too much work, right? No way! You trample those fifty people's feet, running and hollering all the way. Run to the platform, up those steps over to the man who is holding a $10,000,000 check with your name on it. It's then you realize it's a check! What? It's not cash? Do you know what this means? After you get the check you will have to go to a bank to cash it. Then they will most likely hold those funds for up to 14 days before you FINALLY get your $10,000,000. All yours, right? No, here comes the IRS!
Well, after that entire nightmare, are you going to try and tell people YOU WORKED for that $10,000,000? NO! It was a gift! There is no way that the effort expended is equal to the reward received! Not even close!!! Remember the wages spoken of at the beginning?
Now think about heaven. The price Jesus paid! Eternal life! There is absolutely nothing we could do to give an equal exchange. No matter how much we did we would not even come close! It wouldn't even be a drop in the bucket towards repaying God. The only thing we can do is obey his word.
It is incredible the number of times the Bible commands the churches "…to be careful to maintain good works." Titus 3:8
2 Tim. 3:17 "That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."
Titus 1:16 "They profess that they know God; but in works
they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and
Titus 2:7 "In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works:"
Acts 26:20 "they should…do works meet for repentance."
See also: Matt. 5:16, 7:22, Jn.14:12, 1 Tim. 2:10, 5:10, 25, 6:18, 2 Tim. 3:17, Tit. 2:14, 3:1, 14.
You will be rewarded and/or judged by your works!
Pr. 24:12, 29 "…shall he not render to every man according to his works?"
Rom. 2:6 "Who will render to every man according to his deeds."
Rev. 20:13 "…and they were judged every man according to their works."
See also: 2 Cor. 11:15, 2 Tim 4:14, Rev. 2:2, 9, 13, 19, 23, 3:1, 2, 8, 15, 20:12
It is amazing how much is really said in the Bible about this subject! Compared to how little it is preached. And it is true that by "the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." But does that negate works altogether? In light of the many verses about "maintaining good works?" It is clear God wants us to do good deeds. Good works absolutely can not save us. But it seems "good works" are a bi-product of salvation! A person that is truly saved will manifest good works! And believing, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost, although these require action and effort on our part, the actual work is performed by God!
There are those who say any effort to live holy is "earning salvation." They claim that our holiness is received when Christ sanctifies us. While we can never "be holy" without God, the Bible seems to be clear there is effort on our part in this area also. Hebrews 12:14, tells us to "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." Would we be commanded to "follow holiness" if it were simply imparted to us at salvation?
Incredibly, a look at some of the forms of Work "out weights" the forms of Believe in the NT!!! (KJV)
Now granted, not every occurrence under either topic will always be pertaining directly to "salvation." For instance, when Jesus said, if you have faith as a mustard seed you can move a mountain. Or when he said, "I must work the works of him who sent me while it is day…" But all in all, the principle is the same. Doing, works, etc, are mentioned more often than faith, believe, etc!
Lk 17:7 "But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? 8And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? 9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. 10So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
No matter how much we "do," we can never make ourselves worthy! It is only by the sacrifice of Christ that we are made righteous. Our own righteousness is "filthy rags!" So does this mean that we live however we want to? Or as long as we have faith we are saved? Paul answered this question in Romans. Rom. 6:1 "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" When a person truly has faith it causes other things to happen. They take action (works a bi-product?). For instance, you are in the middle of a large building quite some distance from an exit. You hear someone yell, "FIRE!" Your belief will determine your next course of action! You can sit there talking on the phone. Maybe you will wait until you can smell the smoke? Or hear the fire trucks sirens? Or maybe hear the sound of the building burning? But if you really believe with true faith, you will make haste to get to an exit!
How do you know that God loves you? 1 John 3:16 "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." We know that God loved us because of what he has DONE for us!
How does God know that You love Him?
1 John 2:3 "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments."
1 John 5:2,3 "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous."
John 14:15 "If ye love me, keep my commandments."
John 15:14 "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
Salvation is something we cannot earn! But because salvation is a free gift, this does not leave us open to fulfill every whim of our flesh. The New Testament is full of instructions on how to live. It is foolishness to throw all this out! If believing was all that is necessary then why do we need 66 books to the Bible? Such a doctrine tends to negate the need for most all instructions for living. Not to mention the large amount of print given to topics such as repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and righteousness! You will NEVER work your way into heaven. It takes the Gift of God's salvation to enter there. But you will be judged "according to your WORKS!" (Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12; are a few) Be "careful to maintain them!" (Titus 3:8) Works cannot save you! But it is doubtful that anyone will be saved without them! And works are certainly a way that we can show our love to God.
©Copyright 1997 Randall D. Hughes
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