Home » Tuesday: Grace and Good Works    


Tuesday: Grace and Good Works — 18 Comments

  1. Most of us can quote Eph 2:8,9 off by heart:

    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.

    It is one of those great salvation statements, thrust into the limelight by Martin Luther as the clarion call of the reformation. But like all powerful statements we sometimes enshrine the statement rather than appreciate its application or put it to practical use. It can be a bit like Einstein's E = mc^2 formula. Everyone quotes it as a really important physics formula, but how many of us really understand it or can apply it to anything practical.

    That is why it is important to keep on reading Ephesians because the very next verse has the application:

    For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

    Simply put, the saved do good works. Salvation is empowering.

    He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8

    • How can we give something that we do not have? To spread love we need to have it first. Even in a world where materialism seems to be advocated as the functional solution for all the social problems (meaning the "economic focus"), we are far behind into that. The funding concentration and the faith in the capital has turn away mankind from self-preservation to the destruction of one of its most precious gifts, home, the planet. Greed is overcoming love. The "healthy" sense of collectiveness may have been drifting away for too long! Hopefully, by the study of REAL LOVE stories we may be inspired to make a difference in our own family, neighborhood and workplace.

      • "How can we give something that we do not have?"

        You are correct JC - we can't. Jesus stated in Jn 15:5 that apart from being and remaining vitally connected to Him, we cannot do anything good - including love unselfishly.

        That is why Jesus was trying to explain to Nicodemus the essential need for rebirth. Because of our default inheritance under the first Adam, we are defective from the core. So Jesus was trying to assist Nicodemus to appreciate (Jn 3:3-6) that its not just a 'makeover' that we need, it is a rebirth re-formation that is needed - with a new heart and right spirit (Ps 51:10) of selfless love at its core. I would submit this is also why God looks on the heart rather than the outward appearance (1 Sam 16:7).

        This is so essential that Jesus could say that without it, it is impossible to be part of the Kingdom of God. This is because without a heart of selfless love, we won't truly want to be part of the Kingdom of God and therefore won't submit to the necessity of rebirth and re-formation that is a reality necessity.

        Your suggestion of the study of REAL LOVE stories is important - but this will only benefit those who are open to receiving a 'new heart' via the 'mysterious' (Jn 3:8) work of the Holy Spirit.

  2. Christ's entire life was an example of service and showing the true character of the Father...centuries of debating saved by works vs. grace is a distraction that has lead many Christians down a path to being selfish,cold hearted and without compassion to an attitude of "I'm not perfect just forgiven", with no motivation toward spiritual growth, because "we are all sinners until we get to heaven".
    Instead of following the EXAMPLE of Christ... time is spent looking for loop holes and excuses.
    We are in a very sad state. You cannot worship God and not serve Him... love and service go together.

    • The statement, "I'm not perfect, just forgiven" does not necessarily mean that we are excusing ourselves from spiritual growth. It may mean that we recognise that we are on a journey.

      Camel, my wife, is learning to play a Ukulele. I should say at the outset that she is an accomplished pianist who has passed the AMuEB examination in piano performance. But in retirement, she decided that she would try out a new instrument, partly because there is a really great social group here who practice together each week. Not content with just making a noise with the group, Carmel practices every day at home, on not one, but two ukuleles. As her husband I have to listen to these practice lessons every day. At first there were lots of fumbles and exclamations that it was never going to work and worse. Now, some two years later, persistence has paid off and the noise coming out of the Ukulele is easily recognisable as music. I rejoice with her over the progress made and appreciate the enjoyment she is getting from her effort. She does not have to prove she is a musician, She is already one, now using her skills to learn a new instrument.

      Is there a lesson in that for growing Christians?

  3. There will be no expression of Agape unless we ourselves have experienced the Agape (unconditional) love of God.

    How do we know love? It was expressed in the life of Christ.

    Misunderstanding the love of God would lead us to a wrong relationship.

    If you say, I love the Lord but do not love your brother in Christ, what is the evidence of our love?

    When Jesus laid down his life, He became everything He was not so that we may become everything He was.

    When I see the life of the missionaries who came from abroad to live in India, I am humbled.

    I see the comforts of life in USA, yet they came with one goal in mind to spread the gospel.

    There are places in India where the basic necessities of life was not even met.

    They learned the language. They learned to dress like us. They learned to talk like us.

    They ate with us. They shared in our lives trial. Even when rejected by the local people because of colonization of England

    they worked among the people with one goal in mind to bring the good news of the gospel.

    We are called to lay down our lives.

    Empty our pride, our tradition, our prejudices and life for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    What are the sacrifices that has been encountered in spreading the gospel?

  4. "When we look at the Cross, we see the great and complete sacrifice done for us and realize that we can add nothing to what it offers us in Christ. But this does not mean that we shouldn’t do something in response to what we have been given in Christ."

    Unfortunately the above view of salvation has a great tendency to result in 'passive' Christians who believe they 'should' be doing something in response - but often just don't quite end up doing what 'should' be done, at least not for very long. So, is there a better truth that can actually result in changed lives because people actively want to change, because they want to live the abundant life to the glory of God that Jesus came to offer (Jn 10:10)?

    So what did happen at the cross? I would propose for consideration that under the inheritance of the first Adam, who exchanged a foundation of self-renouncing for self-seeking, humanity (and therefore all subsequent humans) had no option other than succumb to the resultant terminal condition that self-seeking inherently produces (Rom 5:14, Rom 6:23). This terminal condition is death by corruption from within (Gal 6:8; Jas 1:14-15) and is referred to as perishing (Jn 3:16; 2 Pet 3:9).

    But because of His unwavering commitment to living in absolute harmony with (ie 'obedience' to) self-renouncing love no matter what He was tempted with - even death on a cross (Rom 5:19, Phil 2:8) - Jesus as the successful second Adam provided humanity with an alternative inheritance option: eternal life via restoration back to a non-terminal state via rebirth (Jn 3:3-6). So now each human has a choice of which inheritance they will share in: that of the first Adam or that of the second Adam.

    Sharing in the inheritance of the first Adam is easy -all you have to do is go along with your 'natural' desire for self-seeking.

    Participation in the inheritance of the second Adam takes intentional choice and effort (Luke 9:23). It involves submitting to the rebirth that Jesus talked about with Nicodemus and which David prayed for after his sin of adultery and murder. This rebirth involves having new hearts and spirits (Ps 51:10) of self-renouncing rather than self-seeking re-created within us such that we are re-aligned back to living in accordance with ('obedience to') the 'law' of self-renouncing love that underpins and therefore enables true life.

    That is what salvation is: a second chance to once again live in accordance with the law of self-renouncing love that underpins all others laws (Matt 22:40) and in doing so supports and promotes true life - just like Adam and Eve did before the 'fall' of Genesis 3. You see, salvation/redemption involves the actual restoration of our hearts and characters back to Christ-likeness. And God cannot do this for us. We have to be active participants in this process. But we cannot be active participants in our own strength. It is God's indwelling Holy Spirit who gives us the guidance and strength to participate in the redevelopment/restoration of our characters - but we have to use that guidance and strength and put it to 'work'. Salvation is therefore an active, collaborative partnership of actual restoration and reformation of our hearts and characters back into harmony with how we were created and designed to live in the first place.

    'Works' can never merit our salvation - that is, they can never place God in a position where He 'owes us' salvation. But that does not mean that works have no part in our salvation. They have a indispensable part in that we 'work-out' (ie, progressively develop) a new character as we draw upon the energising power made available to us by the Holy Spirit. This is what Paul is outlining in Phil 2:12-13.

    Now I am not saying we have to reach a certain standard of character perfection before we are good enough to be saved. That, like the notion that all works are bad, is another distortion that has crept into Christianity and is raising its head yet again of recent. Again, we turn to Paul for a balanced and true perspective outlined in Phil 3:10-15.

    So, why do we do works? There are multiple reasons that include:
    * because character development/re-development is an indispensable necessity for experiencing the abundant life under true freedom. We develop a character that is in harmony with abundant life because we freely choose/want to. Would you be surprised to know that even Jesus had to develop His character while on earth (Heb 5:8,9)!
    * because Christian character development leads us to 'naturally' want to help and serve others in ways that advance their best interests.
    * because Christian character development reflects the character of our God to others.

    So, works/working is a vitally necessary aspect of making the second chance of salvation an actuality in our lives. It is something that we absolutely need to collaboratively participate in - and when we truly understand the proper place that working has within salvation, we actually want to collaboratively participate in it (Ps 40:8).

    • Can we really add anything to what Jesus did for us at the cross? By no means. If we have to work to receive salvation, then it isn't a gift after all (Romans 6:23). Our good works are the fruit (result) of our salvation not the root (cause) of our salvation.

      Do we really think heaven needs our help in saving us? Unfortunately, we keep trying to add to Christ's finished work at the cross. Why?

      "Those who trust in themselves are fools" (Proverbs 28:26 NIV)

      "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?... Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?.. Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?" (Galatians 3:1-3 NIV).

      • Hi Sieg

        You asked

        "Do we really think heaven needs our help in saving us? Unfortunately, we keep trying to add to Christ's finished work at the cross. Why?"

        Unfortunately you are misunderstanding where I am coming from. I would restate the issues in your questions this way:

        Yes, heaven needs our active participation in making the salvation that Jesus procured for us effectual in our life. But this in no way is an issue of MERIT.

        How we view the issue under discussion is profoundly influenced by how we view salvation.

        Is salvation a primarily legal process whereby a death-penalty that must be imposed by God upon a sinner needs to be taken care of? If so, then I need is a substitute to step in and 'take my place' in court and have my sentence executed upon them on my behalf while I sit on the sidelines (as a substituted sports player would). Under this view, the main problem is that sin has to be punished - someone has to die in order to satisfy 'justice'. This was Martin Luther's view of salvation.

        Or, is salvation a process of actually ransoming, redeeming and restoring a (willing) human back into harmony with the way we were designed to live in the first place - the actual reversal of what happened in Genesis 3 by dealing with the underpinning issues of relevance (corrupted hearts of selfishness and associated deformed characters)? If so, then salvation is an actual, active restoration process that I must of necessity be collaboratively involved in in order that the gift of salvation (a 'second chance' at abundant eternal life) becomes effectual within that human. Under this view, the main issue is that sin has created a terminal condition within humanity (and by extension each human) that actually needs to be healed back to a non-terminal state (ie hearts motivated by selflessness and associated redeveloped/reformed characters that manifest selfless living).

        I believe the following quote to be of relevance to this discussion. I have included it in full to see that I am not pulling something out of context:

        "I was attending a meeting, and a large congregation were present. In my dream you were presenting the subject of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith. You repeated several times that works amounted to nothing, that there were no conditions. The matter was presented in that light that I knew minds would be confused and would not receive the correct impression in reference to faith and works, and I decided to write to you. You state this matter too strongly. There are conditions to our receiving justification and sanctification, and the righteousness of Christ. I know your meaning, but you leave a wrong impression upon many minds. While good works will not save even one soul, yet it is impossible for even one soul to be saved without good works. God saves us under a law [ie, a principle]: that we must ask if we would receive, seek if we would find, and knock if we would have the door opened unto us. {Ellen White: Faith and Works 111.1}"

        What I am proposing is that salvation involves the 'working-out', or 'out-working' of the grace-based gift of salvation - not as a way of adding to it or of attaining merit, but because that is how the gift of salvation actually becomes effectual in the transformation that is redemption.

        Does this help clarify your questions?

        • In your last paragraph, I would simply prefer it to say that "salvation involves ACCEPTING the gift freely offered and paid for by Christ and, once accepted, the outworking of the gift transforms us." It is still God doing the work in us and through us. I'm afraid we use words like "helping," "cooperating," "participating" etc. to avoid that nasty word "legalism" but to me they are just different versions of exactly that.

          Our role is to accept the gift. God does everything else, in us and through us. This was one of Paul's main messages. If we have to "participate, cooperate, work out, or help" in our salvation, then salvation is not a gift. Whenever I receive a gift, the only participating, helping, working out and cooperating I do is to ACCEPT the gift... gratefully.

          From this week's Sabbath's lesson: “If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason”. – Faith and Works, p. 24.

          • Hi Sieg,

            I present the following not to try to change your mind, but for the sake of anyone else who may be following this discussion so people can see and understand the points of view being expressed between us - and come to their own conclusion by careful examination of the evidence/rationale that each of us has laid out for the viewpoint we have arrived at (Rom 14:5):

            Let's say you are involved in an accident and you suffer injury that disables your legs. Rehabilitation is prescribed as necessary if you are to recover the function of your legs. But you can't afford to undertake the rehabilitation program that is needed.

            Your friend hears of your situation and pays for a voucher that entitles you to full access to the rehabilitation program. Your friend gives you this voucher completely free a gift. You gratefully accept the gift. In fact, you are so grateful that each day you express appreciation to your friend for the gift. And that is all you do - accept the gift.

            Will your legs become rehabilitated if all you do is accept the gift?

            Some further thoughts from Ellen White regarding how she understood Paul's message:

            "Unless the sacred word is appreciated, it will not be obeyed as a sure and safe and precious text book. Every besetting sin must be put away. Warfare must be waged against it until it is overcome. The Lord will work with your efforts. As finite, sinful man works out his own salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who works in him, to will and to do of his own good pleasure. But God will not work without the co-operation of man. He must exercise his powers to the very utmost; he must place himself as an apt, willing student in the school of Christ; and as he accepts the grace that is freely offered to him, the presence of Christ in the thought and in the heart will give him decision of purpose to lay aside every weight of sin, that the heart may be filled with all the fullness of God, and of his love. {CE 111.1}"

            The above quote, rightly understood, is NOT supporting legalism or perfectionism, but is instead reflecting the necessity of character reformation that is a necessary though often misrepresented key aspect of actual salvation/restoration.

          • Hi Phil. Let's me offer this for consideration.

            Christ is the locomotive of salvation. We are the caboose. As long as the caboose is connected to the locomotive (John 15:5), the caboose goes wherever the locomotive goes and only by the power of the locomotive.

            It is futile for the caboose to "help" the locomotive get to its destination, since the caboose has no power (Matthew 28:18 KJV) or steering of its own.

    • “Salvation/redemption involves the actual restoration of our hearts and characters back to Christ-likeness. And God cannot do this for us. We have to be active participants in this process.”

      Phil, I am thinking that God must do this for us, because we are incapable of changing our hearts. We have to actively cooperate with him in this work; otherwise, it cannot succeed. My experience is that it is humbling and a struggle to go against the natural way I think.

      It is humbling to have one’s self-righteous behaviour exposed by the Holy Spirit. It is humbling to finally see the faults in my wrong-headed thinking. And it is a struggle to open my heart to the Holy Spirit’s work of change. Thank God he is a comforter! I am often encouraged by Hebrews 2:9-10, which states that Jesus was perfected by his experiences.

      • I agree with you Richard. Salvation is actual restoration which can only happen via our active cooperation and participation with God. This is why God needs us to come to repentance in order to avoid perishing (2 Pet 3:9) - because repentance is active submission to and therefore cooperation with Him.

  5. The Bible is a living book, it’s contents are living and we should allow them to live in us and change us. Jesus came to show favor to us though we don’t deserves it.
    Do we show favor to others though they don’t deserve it? Humans can’t boast that their good work deserves grace. Humans were created to do good works but when sins entered the world humans became messed up. But grace is greater than all our sins.
    We all were given grace, it’s a gift. We can’t buy it, it’s not only for some but all the human race. But especially to the Christians who have a knowledge of the grace of God it is expected that we respond to it in showing love and thankfulness to God.
    We also should show kindness, forgiveness, mercy, be tender hearted, and even be long suffering to others. Gal 5: 22-23 tells us any one who is in Christ bears. We must be baptized daily with The Holy Spirit to make such a reality. Can anyone bears another person burden when your burden overwhelmed you?
    It is easy to say but difficult to do. How many Christians do we know rejoice in tribulations, end even ask for more trials ( e.g take my coat and even my cloak).
    Christ had all the reasons why humans did not deserve grace but he gave it anyhow, to the person who spat in his face, those who mocked him, those who abused him etc. Do we truly show grace to all even with our good works? Do we try getting even with others? Do we wait for opportunities to lash back or call out someone. Jesus help me today, give me the overcoming power.

  6. "We ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Jesus laid down His life for the entire SIN OF THE WORLD. Then He arose from that death three days later. In what way does the Apostle John say for us to lay down our lives for the brethren then? I am sure that it has to be in principle and not in actual deed that these words are to be taken. For how can we do the same for anyone? No one can die for anyone's sins and then rise from that three days later!

  7. “We do not earn salvation by our obedience; for salvation is the free gift of God, to be received by faith. But obedience is the fruit of faith....Here is the true test. If we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in us, our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law.” (Sabbath school Lesson Comments by Ellen G. White, 3rd Q, 2019, lesson 10, Tuesday 9/3.)


Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and considerably shorter than the original post. First and last name required.

Your email address will not be published.

Please leave a comment long enough to say something significant and preferably significantly shorter than the post on which you are commenting.

HTML tags allowed in your comment: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>