Created For Good Works

I believe that we are saved by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t believe in earning salvation, though I acknowledge that my understanding of an active faith is different from that of some. I do believe that faith that doesn’t respond in some way isn’t really faith at all.

That being said, I often find that when I mention things that I believe the Bible says we should do, someone says, “Ah, you believe in salvation by works.”

No, I don’t. Neither do I believe in a mere transactional relationship with God. That is, I think that my relationship with God isn’t just about getting what I want from Him (in this case, salvation). In a relationship of love, you seek to please the other, not because of what you might get by doing so, but because you love the other.

It’s interesting in the book of Titus that Paul twice tells Titus to emphasize grace in his teachings. The first time, he concludes that section by saying that God saved people by grace “to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14) The second time, Paul concludes by saying, “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” (Titus 3:8)

In Ephesians 2, Paul emphasizes in verses 8 and 9 that we are saved by faith and not by works. Then he says in verse 10: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Not saved by works, but saved for works.

Talking about himself, Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)

You see, a proper of understanding motivates us to work harder than a sense of legalism ever could. When motivated purely by a desire to please God, we won’t be nitpicking over exactly what we have to do to be in sin. I’m not just trying to be “good enough.” I’m trying to be like God. Christlike. Perfect. Holy.

Will I achieve that on my own? Of course not. But I echo the words of Paul: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Call it legalism. Call it liberalism. Call it what you want. My aim is to please God, and I want to learn more and more about what please Him and what doesn’t. Not to try and make myself “good enough” to be saved. I do it to try and be the person my God and Savior wants me to be.

We’ll get back to our discussion of the Sermon on the Mount next week. I just thought it was an appropriate time to clarify some things.

8 thoughts on “Created For Good Works

  1. Very good points Tim and I applaud this article for it speaks to the very core of salvation, that it is a gift and not earned. Paul is I think tortured when he says “I do the things I ought not to do and strive to do the things I ought to do”. (my paraphrase)
    Anyone who understands this point is on his way to understanding that while our intentions are good we at times falter. Nevertheless, when we do good it pleases our spirit. Knowing that we are doing things for the right reason, and in my opinion, the right reason is LOVE. The unconditional love that God has bestowed upon us in what Christ did for us is his constant demonstration of what unconditional love really is.

  2. I grew up believing that salvation was a cooperative effort between God and man, that God did the part we could not do (cross, resurrection) but we had to do the rest (works) to have salvation. I no longer believe that. I came out of that way of thinking by being introduced to Romans and a subject called “grace” which I never heard growing up in the church of my youth. But it was Dr. Oster at HUGSR, among others, who helped me understand the relationship between grace, obedient faith, and works, works rather than seeing them opposed to each other and not reading scripture in reaction to the legalism of my youth (which is still hard to do at times).

    I don’t believe there is anything I can or ever will do that will earn salvation. No matter how obedient I strive to be, I will mess up. So in the end, I will be saved by grace. But I do believe God gives us a choice and with that choice, I can choose to flush the grace of God down the toilet if I wish…in other words, I can reject grace. That doesn’t mean grace is any less of grace, it just simply means I am an idiot.

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  3. The notion that we are saved by “right doctrine (works)” or “right thinking” was awfully hard for me to get away from, and so I understand the struggle. It was not even necessarily so much a blatant system, but subtle…and it was so easy to become engulfed in it. A legal understanding of salvation is easy to grasp, easy to “live” (rather than living by faith…even though I thought I was living “by faith”), and it is incredibly difficult to break away from such conditioning, as I still see so many others who struggle with it. I am thankful for the inspiration of others who have shared the truth of the gospel that genuinely allows us to be set free “to live righteously” according to the Word and the Spirit and not have to live “to be right”. Thank you, Tim, Rex and others who continue to encourage people to continue to seek and, hopefully, find truth.
    Blessings, Don

  4. I do not know for sure but I am guess the word “WORKS” would better be translated “ACTION”

    Even the word “works” implies I will ear earn something if I work.

    Any Greek experts know what the Greek is?

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