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Why Work?

Our works don’t earn salvation but they do provide evidence of salvation

The hymn writer expresses God’s truth in the words: ‘Thy works, not mine O Christ, speak gladness to this heart; they tell me all is done, they bid my fears depart.’ In the Gospel the emphasis is that Christ’s work is perfect and complete, and that our works cannot add to its merit and are not necessary for salvation.  Yet throughout the years this has provoked the question: If our salvation is by grace alone, secured by Christ’s finished work, then what is the place of good works in the Christian life?

The Bible teaches that no sinner can be saved due to his best efforts at pleasing God.  We are saved ‘not of works’ lest any of us would be tempted to boast. (See Ephesians 2:8+9, Romans 3:30)  The very best of our good deeds are tainted with imperfections in motive, effort and performance.  Our works cannot undo the guilt of sin any more than a murderer could hope to have his sentence quashed because he cleared the town of litter for no payment!  Good works do not contribute merit unto our salvation.

Yet the Word states that all who are saved produce good works.  God has created His redeemed unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). James’ words are searching: “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” (James 2:18) We have been considering conversion in recent issues.  Faith and repentance are always found together.  Saving faith is shown to be real in a life of works, and repentance is a turning from evil works unto a life of good works.  Hence our works are considered in God’s final judgement (See Romans 2:5-9, Revelation 20:12).  Our works don’t earn salvation but they do provide evidence of salvation.

The redeemed love Christ by grace and out of love for Him, love to serve Him in worship and witness.  They love the lost with the compassion of Christ and seek to win them to Christ.  They love the saved as they see Christ formed in them.  Thus by grace it is their delight to serve one another.  Such service is a service for Christ.  The sheep are noted in judgement for their works.  Those works are as unto Christ: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) The professing Christian who does not love to serve others has a deficiency in his love to Christ and may well not know saving faith in Christ.  Don’t rest in spiritual selfishness, deceived by the false doctrine that says works don’t really matter.

Dr Stephen Pollock.