Judged by Our Works?
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WillSince 1981, when I began preaching in high school, I have preached in many churches from Chiclayo, Peru, to Torrington, Connecticut.  I have spoken to large and small congregations with various needs.  I have illustrated to some conservative churches the need to be a little more liberal, and to liberal churches, how to be a little more conservative, as we all seek a Christ-like balance.

One Sabbath several years ago, I was preaching in one of the most conservative churches I have been in. No, “conservative” is not the word for it. Right-out legalistic is more like it! You’ll see why I say so in a moment.

I was preaching about how we are saved by grace – fairly fundamental Adventist Bible belief, so I thought. After the sermon I barely made it off the platform before I was greeted by a woman who had appointed herself to be the theology police for the church. She had a copy of The Great Controversy in her hand. Condescendingly she asked me if I had ever read The Great Controversy. I told her I had. She retorted, “How dare you then tell these people we are saved by grace when The Great Controversy clearly says we are saved by works! Your sermon today almost deceived even me. And if it almost deceived me I know you deceived everybody else!” (Did this woman maybe have a pride issue?)

Now let me stop before I go any further. If you have never read The Great Controversy, let me assure you that it does not say we are saved by our works. I have read the book several times cover to cover, and the theme I find over and over is that we are saved by grace and not by works, and that we should worship God according to our conscience and not according to man-made traditions and regulations. One of the star characters in the book is Martin Luther, who is applauded by the author for presenting salvation by grace and not works!

So, where was this lady coming from? Sure she was way off, but she had to get her idea from somewhere. She told me where it was. She told me to read the chapter, Facing Life’s Record, and I read:

The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 480

True, deeds are mentioned here, but if I remember correctly from diagramming sentences in my third-grade English class, which I thoroughly hated doing by the way, “books” is the subject of the sentence, and the books determine the decisions, not the deeds.

However the Apostle John mentions deeds or “works” as well:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  Revelation 20:12

So do we have a conflict here? Not at all. In any investigative judgment you need evidence to determine your verdict. Our works provide evidence of salvation, but grace is the source of our salvation.

Speaking of Abraham, Genesis 15:6 says:

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abraham’s belief or faith was counted as righteousness. God said it is enough that Abraham believes in my saving grace.

But when Abraham’s name comes up in the judgment what evidence will there be that he believed? Especially since he lied about his relationship with Sarah in order to save him from Egypt’s ruler. He trusted a lie to save him instead of trusting God to save him. No evidence of faith there.

However if we go to Genesis 22:1-24, we will see the evidence of Abraham’s faith, when he obeyed God and offered up his son on the altar. Now we have evidence that Abraham believed in God’s grace! Abraham will not be saved by his works, but his obedience of God’s soul-shattering command later in life – his “works” – demonstrates his faith in God. And God could count his faith as righteousness.

Just like smoke is evidence of fire, works are evidence of  God’s grace at work in the life. Where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is grace there are good works. Let’s do a little detective work ourselves here, and investigate three passages.

Let’s begin with Romans 1:5.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.

Hmm … Seems to me here that Paul is telling the Romans that the grace they received was to lead to their obedience. Hence their works of obedience are evidence of grace at work.

Our next clue is found in Ephesians 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, 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.

Sure enough the passage tells us that we are saved by grace and not by works, but still we find God creating good works in us at the scene of grace. Let’s move on. We need more evidence.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  Titus 2:11-14

Just as you see smoke where there has been a fire, so we again see good works where there is grace. Just like smoke is evidence there has been a fire, likewise living soberly, righteously, godly lives zealous of good works, is evidence that grace has been here.

If we trust God we will obey Him. Our works of obedience are presented as evidence in the judgment that we trust God’s amazing grace.

Satan may still point at Abraham’s lie in Egypt, but,

The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57.

When your name comes up in the judgment, will there be evidence that God’s grace was allowed to penetrate your heart?

Now there is also such a thing as false evidence. Legalistic works done for the glory of self would be false evidence that the Judge can see right through.

Yet a faith that works by love (See Galatians 5:6) is the exact evidence that will convince the Judge that we have received His amazing grace. I hope the lady who confronted me that day, with the Great Controversy, understands that doing works in order to be saved is just conjuring up false evidence. The faith that saves us is the faith that is motivated by love and grace and not a hope of reward and self-glory.

It’s just like the little girl standing by the side of the pool. She can’t swim, but her father promised to catch her if she jumps in. If she jumps we know she believes in her daddy. If she refuses to jump it is clearly evident she does not believe in her daddy.

Abraham showed a lack of faith in God’s love when he trusted a lie instead of God to protect him in Egypt. Yet when Abraham placed his son on the altar the whole universe saw the evidence that God’s grace was now in Abraham’s heart.

The Bible is clear. We are saved by grace and not by works. The Bible is also clear that where there is grace, there are good works.

A smoking gun is evidence that it has been put into action. Good works are evidence of grace put into action. Where you find smoke you find fire. Where you find grace you find good works.

Good works, done out of love, are evidence that we have been saved by amazing grace.

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Judged by Our Works? — 31 Comments

  1. Hi William I thoroughly enjoyed this explanation, thank you. I think of Peter when he stepped out of the assurance of the boat into the trust of our Lord; he then took his eyes of Christ and looked at the disciples as if to say "look what I can do", a mistake we can all make. Our faith and trust is in the Lord Jesus, and our eyes are upon Him. By His love we can do all things within His will; it is when we look to ourselves that we fall prey to self-assurance, self gain, and motivations that are not of our Savior.

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  2. So encouraging!! God will give grace and mercy to fit my needs (there are many), and in gratitude I will allow His Spirit to show good works through me.

    What a loving Savior! Please Father continue to teach me to love and trust You.

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  3. Salvation by works? If scripture tells the truth, then we must listen to The Apostle Paul who says “No!” But, I know without a shadow of doubt that salvation has nothing to do with works. If it did then no one could be saved, for is there anyone whose mind and hearts have followed (or even known) the ways of God all of their lives? Who can say they are perfect? Only Jesus walked in perfection.

    It has been proven that we are sinners and need salvation from God’s perfect judgment. God’s appointed way to escape penalty was by the shedding of Jesus’ blood in our place. Because He was innocent of all sin, His sacrificial act displayed perfect righteousness, and therefore He was given the ability to raise Himself up as triumphant over the sins of the world.

    We are not saved just because He shed his blood. Our bodies, souls and spirits came into this world already corrupt; which is the condition inherited from Adam and Eve. It is because of this we cannot truly know God, even if we listen to all the scriptures, because God cannot reveal Himself to an unholy vessel. The good news is that those of us who accept that the Son of God, Jesus Christ has sacrificed Himself and died in our place, and by this we can be saved from the judgment of His Father, to those who believe on Him, are given eternal life.

    Eternal life is knowing God and doing His will. There is an element in God that makes Him eternal, and that produces pure holiness and perfect righteousness. It is this element that He was, is and will always be. We need this element of God to have the eternal life He promised.

    First we must be saved by believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior. As Lord we agree to follow Him in everything, as Savior we believe He was the perfect sacrifice being our substitute and bearing the ultimate judgment for our sins. This happens by faith and by faith only are we then saved.

    Now comes salvation. Since our spirits have been corrupted by our sinful natures, we had lost communion with God. With the shed blood of Jesus, God cleanses and heals our spirit and we become reborn. “Unless a man is born again he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” With this new spirit as part of us, God has created in us a perfect vessel where His Spirit can dwell and communicate directly with us. This all comes from faith. We do nothing to deserve this, it is a gift from God.

    Now God has a pure way to communicate His will to us in our spirit. There is a joy that comes when we first experience this. This is the first love spoken in Revelations.

    Now that we have been saved, we must learn to walk in this new way. We must listen for what He says to us, that is, we must listen to His words coming through our spirits, as it is written, “Let He who has an ear, hear what the Spirit says.” We have already received the way to life when we are saved, but we must let ourselves be controlled by the Holy Spirit in us by choosing to follow its lead. As we choose to follow it, our hearts are being changed and our works become what God has delivered to us by way of His Spirit to our spirit. He cannot dwell in our minds or flesh because they remain corrupt until He comes and gives us new uncorrupted bodies. However, if we train our minds and bodies to follow our spirits making it the dominant part which the rest obey, then life can penetrate into the mind and body and our works are no longer our own, but Christ who dwells in. As Paul said, “It is no longer I, but Christ who dwells in me.”

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    • While "by grace you have been saved through faith..." (Ephesians 2:8) and so works have no merit, I could not agree with your statement that "salvation has nothing to do with works". Does marriage have nothing to do with acts of love? While acts of love do not make one married, they do (once married) show that the relationship is not just a show. "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26) Our works, our feelings, our lives show if we are connected to Christ. Please also read 1 John 1:6, 2:3-11, 3:3-22.

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      • John, certainly a person that routinely chooses to sin is not going to be saved. Only those people that are safe to save will be saved and that means he/she honestly wants to fit into the government of God - not rebel against it.

        I do think though that Celeste makes a very good point that we are not saved by our works. In fact we can't be because we are so immersed in the problem of sin that everything we do is tainted with it to the point that scripture asks the question, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jer. 13:23 NKJV) or as Paul cried out, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God-- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
        There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 7:24-8:1 NKJV). So then it is a matter of what direction we choose to go in and when we do choose the right God steps in for us and makes it happen.

        God saves by grace because we can't save ourselves nor can we live perfectly without His involvement (Jn 15:5) so of necessity it has to be an unearned gift. God does that because He first loved us (1 Jn 4:19). "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:7-8 NKJV), a mystery which will take eternity to fathom.

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  4. The explanation of works and grace is well put together, thank you for the power of Gods' knowledge, that has been rendered unto you. May God continue to bless and keep you in the shearing of his word,so that others who misunderstans or interprets it differently could hear of your preachings through the grace of God and get a better understanding. God bless each and every one who is searching for the truth.

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  5. William you do have a gift of reading and understanding, I ask God daily to give me the correct undestanding of His Word and how to apply it to my everyday life. Common sense and good judgement in my elderly age and not to be judgemental.Try to live by the Golden rule,and to trust Him in things I don't understand.And when my Life is over here my Hope is that Christ is please with my life.If I reading my Bible with the correct undestanding He is Lord and Judge.My Word for today is Proverbs 3:5-6.

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  6. Hi William,

    I like your clean explanation about where there is smoke there is fire and where there are works there is faith. The whole post is great.

    Abram lied about Sarah and he agreed to Sarah's plan to have a child with Haggar. However, Abram didn't turn his back on God. He made gigantic mistakes but repented and kept his faith. That is an encouragement to all of us.

    I can relate to the girl jumping off the side of the pool into her Daddy's arms. Our grandchildren trust us so much and it amazes me.

    Thanks for a great post!

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  7. I most certainly agree with the comments so far that William has presented the relationship between works and faith very well but I still have one nagging question. If God is the judge and He, unlike man who judges from outward appearance, judges the hearts and motives of men as the following verses say (1 Kings 8:39; 1 Sam 16:7; 1 Chron 28:9; 2 Chron 16:9; Ps 7:9; Ps 139:2; Prov 15:11; Prov 16:2; Jer 11:20; Jer 17:10 Jer 20:12; Acts 1:24; Heb 4:13; Rev 2:23) then why is the judgment based on works?

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    • Thanks everyone for your encouraging words and contributions to our discussion. Tyler, even though the post answered the question that works are evidence of grace in the judgment, I know what you are really asking. Since God judges the heart not outward appearance how do our works count as evidence? I think the answer is that our works show what is really in our hearts. " for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Matthew 12:34 Now as was mentioned in the post, we can come up with false evidence when we do works out of selfish ambition. Our works and deeds can be misinterpreted by the world. However Hebrews 4:12-13 says, "For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
      Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." So God will lay naked and open before the whole universe our motives along with our works.

      One of the things that happens in an investigation is determining what is false evidence and what is real evidence. A judge makes the final decision as to what will be allowed into the courtroom as evidence. Our heavenly Father Who is our Judge will only allow the works to be presented that truly reveal our true character. He will be able to dismiss the false evidence so that the jury only sees the works that truly reflect our character. God can dismiss Abraham's lie in Egypt and only allow the jury to see him offering his son on the altar. Remember, "The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts." –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57.

      In case some one wonders who I am referring to as the jury since it is God who Judges and makes the final decisions, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" 1 Corinthians 6:2-3

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      • I love the way you describe false/real evidence, it gives clarity to the fact that God isn't trying to find each error and present our mistakes in the judgment. In the judgment He simply strips away all the film from our actions (false evidence) and allows the universe to see the bones (real evidence) or our real characters and the actions that were motivated from them.

        So encouraging, because sometimes we put so much emphasis on occasional failures as though they dictate who we are. God doesn't see things as we do and I'm so glad He doesn't.

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    • [Moderator's Note:Please use full names when commenting. Comments without full names may not be published. Thank you.]

      The book of remembrance/life/works is not for God. It is for the universe. It gives evidence that the saved are "worthy" to be saved. It vindicates God as a righteous judge.

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  8. Happy Sabbath Pastor Earnhardt. It's Sabbath now in my place.

    Pastor you mentioned about false and real evidence. How will the angels be convinced of the fairness and justice of God if they cannot determine a true and false repentance? (In the first place the judgment is done for their sake). It's only God who can read the heart, right?

    Take the case for example of the criminal who was hung beside Jesus (and all those who repented in the last minute of their lives). It was an instant repentance. Who among them have the real evidence of repentance and who have false? The angels cannot answer this question because they cannot read the hearts. It's only God who can determine it.

    Besides, there was no real evidence in this criminal that he has lived a Christ-like life after repentance (not like the 144,000 whom the angels have seen their lives as their real evidence). Is the criminal (and all other criminals who repented during their last breath) safe to save?

    How will the angels know (including us when we get to heaven) real and false repentance especially in the last minute decisions. Unless we can read hearts we will not be able to determine what is false and what is real repentance. Will the angels (including us) be given that trait? Thanks

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    • Thank you for your thought provoking question Merwin. The criminal who died with Jesus left us plenty of evidence of the work of grace upon his heart. He did not confess, only. No, he also repented, which means he changed. The whole universe saw the change in him when he stopped cursing God and started calling him "Lord." The universe saw the change in attitude, and saw him exercise his faith when He asked to be remembered in Jesus' kingdom while everyone else was still in unbelief and mocking Jesus.

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      • Regarding the question, "Will the angels (including us) be given that trait?", we read in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that when the Lord comes, He "will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts." (The word translated "counsels" in the NKJ, is translated in other versions as "motives", "purposes", or "designs".) Exactly how those "counsels" will be revealed, we'll have to wait to see, but we will certainly have enough evidence to say "just and true are your ways, O King of the saints." (Rev 15:3)

        Meanwhile we would do well to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." (Psalm 139:23-24; Psalm 19:14)

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        • The only elements that are judged are works/words according to several scriptures. (do a search) This would conclude that every motive is revealed ultimately by our works/words, when seen as God alone can reveal them. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth (and our actions)speaketh". We cannot hide a corrupt heart from God, though we might now hide it from mere mortals who are probably as blind as us when we think this way.

          This is why the judgment is of our works, not our profession or claims.

          "Amen!" to the prayers from the Psalms. God will answer those petitions if it is truly the desire of our heart. "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart." (Psalm 37:4)

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  9. Revelation 20:12 talks of one single book of life. This is the life of Jesus. Then there are books (plural) which contain the deeds of the judged. Those who relied on God's grace alone, knowing their deeds are as filthy rags, have their names written in the Lamb's book. All their deeds are covered by Christ's righteousness. Everyone else is judged by their works since that's what they relied on and denied Christ. The books of records on pg 480 of the GC refers to these books and men/women truely are judged by these deeds - all whose names are not written in the one single book of life.
    If my life is covered by the Grace of Christ, then it is completely covered and only Christ's life is visible since He stands in my stead. Its almost like I'm not judged but Christ, who stands perfect and flawless and all this is credited to me.
    I like the fire/smoke analogy, but how about where there is love, there's a sweet aroma. Who wouldn't love a grace such as this and with eagerness and joy seek how to show love back (in loving others) and bring service to Him. Not that it would add anything to our salvation because that's already completely taken care of, but "just because" - just because you can't help yourself. Just because you want to. Just because you are in love with your Redeemer.

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  10. First thought: "the books of record" is the object, but would be useless without the deeds written in them. It is the deeds that are judged as revealing faith or lack of it, just as Jesus, John, Solomon, and others make clear.

    If we are saved by grace alone then all would be saved. The Bible says we are saved "by grace through faith". This eliminates "cheap grace" and demands a choice to be made in faith, and those who exercise faith in God's provisions will have the corresponding works of faith. Without God's grace salvation would be impossible, and without exercising genuine faith in God's grace it would be equally impossible. Grace alone cannot save.

    It's true that "the grace of God brings(offers) salvation", and judging the works of men will prove if they have faith in God's grace. Works are tangible and will reveal the truth in the light of God's commandments which are the basis of the judgement as Solomon points out in his conclusion "of the whole matter".(Eccl 12:13,14)

    God's plan to save sinners is perfect and His grace sufficient. His goodness in all of this will lead us to repentance unless we allow sinful pride to blind us into seeking another way to be saved, of which there is none. We find that in Noah's day, many had no faith and denied the fact there was any danger, but this did not remove the danger they were warned of and offered escape from. The people of Nineveh exercised faith in Jonah's message from God and were saved by faith in God's grace, which was revealed by their works of repentance.

    Faith in God's offer of grace is the victory that overcomes this world and it's deceiver.(1 John 5:4)

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    • Hi Robert, it seems to me that universal salvation does not follow from the teaching that we are saved by grace alone. After all, grace is a gift, and it needs to be accepted to be effective. (Even US law states that a pardon needs to be accepted to go into effect.)

      Thus works play no role in our salvation, which depends wholly on the merits of Christ. However, works testify that we have accepted Christ's work for us and in us. Effectively that means that, while we are not saved in any way by works, we are not saved without works, because works of grace follow naturally from Christ's work of grace in the heart.

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      • I agree Inge, works can never earn our salvation, they only reveal our faith or lack of faith in God's grace. So it places the importance on having genuine faith which will be revealed in works of faith. Anyone can claim to be a believer, but the judgment will discern between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. (Mal 3:18)

        Those saved are "the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." Isa 54:17

        My intention was to demonstrate the vital importance of having faith. It seems that faith will be judged by works.

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        • Yes, indeed, our faith will be judged by our works, but if we emphasize works in our discussions and in our sharing, we create a situation in which people are in danger of focusing on doing good works. Now that may not look so bad on first consideration, but good works will never change the heart, and God does judge the motivations of the heart. (e.g. It is entirely possible to do good works from entirely selfish motives, such as the desire to be saved.)

          On the other hand, when we uplift Christ and focus on a faith relationship with Him, good works will naturally follow.

          From personal experience I can say that trying to "be good" doesn't work very well. But focusing on maintaining a relationship with Christ changes us from the inside out.

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        • Inge, I have come to understand that a focus on works is the usual cover for known sin in one's life. Legalism is the means resorted to in attempting to justify one's self while guilt is present, but there is no peace in this course. Harboring sin drives us to the fig leaves every time.

          We are told to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith". What does one examine? Their doctrine? Their profession? Their position in the church or involvement in it's activities? Do they examine their "faith"? How is that done?

          I think the psalmist's prayer in 139: 23, 24 gives us a clue, along with Psalm 19:14. We also read that scripture "is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works". This places our focus where it belongs, as we see also in passages such as Ps 1:1-3, Prov 2:1-5 & 3:1-8, etc. God's word is where faith comes from, and the works will follow without our needing to place our focus on them.

          It seems the Bible places "a" focus on works, but not "THE" focus.

          If it is our earnest desire to become like Jesus, our prayerful study of His life will lead us on a right path through faith. If our object is to be seen of others as good, we will focus on looking good while missing the mark of our high calling. Our motives will direct our personal focus, and I feel that placing faith and works (title of a very good book)in their proper relation might help some see the right course to take and how to examine themselves as called to do. It seems many are against any thought or mention of works at all, but that is not scriptural is it? Yet it must be understood correctly.

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        • A focus on works also plays into our human inclination to save ourselves.

          Why does this misconception (as laid out in the story) find such a comfortable home in the church?
          Belief in being saved by works (whether in theory or practice) should be as strange for an SDA as belief in Sunday sacredness.

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  11. I love the way James and Paul explain this whole issue of faith and works.

    FIRST James explains how they go together. It isn't enough to claim "faith" without the accompanying deeds. I like how James gives the example of demons who certainly have faith in the existence and power of God but we'd all agree their deeds show them to be in direct opposition to Christ. Faith without works is a "dead" faith that has no redemptive or transformative power.

    James 2:14-19 My brothers and sisters, what good is it for people to say that they have faith if their actions do not prove it? Can that faith save them? Suppose there are brothers or sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat. What good is there in your saying to them, “God bless you! Keep warm and eat well!”—if you don’t give them the necessities of life? So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead. Do you believe that there is only one God? Good! The demons also believe—and tremble with fear.

    Our Creator, the God of heaven is powerful. He's able to transform us so we reflect Christ and do His works.

    LIKEWISE WE AREN'T JUSTIFIED BY WORKS EITHER! We're justified by Christ and our works declare our faith!

    Galatians 2:16-17 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

    LIKE THE ABOVE TEXT SAYS, IF OUR WORKS SHOW A LOVE AND COMMITMENT TO SIN, WE LIKE DEMONS CAN'T CLAIM CHRIST no matter what we say we believe. Our works show to whom we are committed.

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    • My Brother Robert here is a little support:
      Most all agree we are saved by faith and judged by works. So could it be the "elephant in the room" is the question of effort to cultivate habits of good works in our walk with the Lord and what part effort plays in character development?

      There is something natural about good works flowing from the divine. However as we partake of the divine nature our sinful nature does not suddenly disappear. A conflict of sorts is set up as the Apostle notes (Romans 7:13-25).

      Do we just relax and meditate and good things happen, or do we actively make choices (given the knowledge we have) and make effort (work) to cooperate with divine agencies in the development of character? The Holy Spirit provides the sanctifying influence and power, but does not cancel or substitute our will or doing. The formation of Christian character necessarily includes our individual choices and effort, enabled by Divine power. This is consistent with the purpose of the gospel, the restoration of the image of God in us. We do not work to be good. We work to please the Creator and He makes good works (including the avoidance of evil) more and more natural to us as we grow. If we wait for good works to feel natural to us because we are not legalists we will not fight the good fight and not do all the Lord says.

      Jesus emphasized works (Matthew 7:21; 25:31-46) in sermon and in parables to encourage effort and cooperation in His restoration work and as training for life in Heaven. De-emphasizing works can lead to neglect and indolence when there are pressing needs begging for attention, as much as emphasizing same can lead to legalism. At least with some emphasis on works others may benefit, even when the motives are not quite pure. The relative emphasis on faith or works or both depend on the perceived need?

      IF we think less of self emphasis on works is not a problem, for then our salvation is not even the priority, but pleasing God, and love finds room to grow. We need to focus on Christ - He told us where to find Him - in prisons, hospitals, on the street. Jesus may be suffering while we are shielding ourselves from legalism, to avoid being lost. Work for the night is coming (John 9:4).

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  12. I have looked at the differences between James and Paul and have come to some conclusions. Whether they be right or wrong will have to be judged by others but for me those conclusions seem reasonable.

    The first is to realize that James was thrust into the position of responsibility as the head of the church not because he was a profound follower of Jesus but because he was the eldest son of Joseph and Mary as a matter of Jewish dynastic thinking. In fact, he along with the rest of Jesus' siblings were more in opposition to Jesus before the cross than for Him (Jn 7:3-7; Mk 3:20-21). He was never listed as a disciple and when it came time to choose a replacement for Judas their requirements were, "Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection" (Acts 1:21-22 NKJV). Even though the brothers of Jesus were in the upper room when the choice was made none of them were submitted as prospects to become one of the twelve.

    Furthermore James had no more education than any of the other disciples but he did have one advantage, he was an eldest son that placed him as second in authority within his family. After the death of Joseph he became not only the head of the family but also the owner of the carpenter shop. That position gave him supervisory skills that probably none of the other disciples had.

    To me Paul was the theologian not James but James saw some developments in the church that alarmed him. He didn't write his epistle in a vacuum as a philosophical work expounding on some theological issue but rather to straighten out very serious problems in the church. After Paul presented theologically how a person is saved apparently many in the church concluded that good works were no longer needed since they were not saved on that basis. In other words they were saying that it was ok to do whatever one wished because that really didn't matter anymore. Because of that, the church increasingly became corrupt with every vile passion imaginable and it was that condition of things James was rebelling against and rightly so.

    We also should realize that Paul balanced his theology with counsel to do good works so he wasn't preaching a no law philosophy. Even though he did that apparently that wasn't enough to quell the clamor in the church for self exaltation and passion. Both James and Paul had the church's welfare in mind and saw the problem but approached it differently with a different level of understanding.

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  13. It seems to me that Paul and James are in perfect agreement. We are saved by grace through faith, and our works do not contribute to our salvation, as Paul makes very clear.

    Yet both in apostolic times and today, some claim to have faith while their lives do not demonstrate any works of grace. To such, James says,"But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (James 2:18)

    Note that James makes clear that good works are the natural evidence of faith. If there are no works of grace, it is evidence that there is no genuine faith.

    Faith results in works, but works do not necessarily result in faith. And atheist may have good works, but that will not necessarily lead him to have faith in God.

    That is why I have suggested that our primary emphasis needs to be on a faith relationship with Jesus. He then supplies both the motivation and the power to "good works." The way I see it, we can never go wrong trusting in Jesus. And we can never go wrong teaching others to trust in Jesus. He may not lead them quite the way we would like to lead them, but it is the best way for them. I believe that if we model a faith walk in our own lives, that will be more powerful than any exhorting we might do to encourage more good works.

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