Historically, grace versus works has been a hot topic in the Church. So before beginning, I want to state emphatically that our own works have absolutely nothing to do with receiving God’s forgiveness (grace) unto salvation.
Obviously, this sort of treatise can only scratch the surface of the interplay between grace and works. It is my hope and prayer to inspire you to do further study on this topic.
That being said, let’s begin.
Most of us are familiar with Ephesians 2:8 (by grace are you saved), but this verse is only part of the concept that Paul is teaching here. Continuing in verse 10, it says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Immediately after stating that salvation is only by God’s grace and not by works, Paul goes on to say that God has ordained that we should walk in good works.
This might leave you wondering. What part, if any, do works play in the lives of Christians? Perhaps more importantly, what is our motivation for works?
Because God has ordained that we should walk in good works, we must understand that they should never be done out of gratitude as a repayment for God’s forgiveness; the motivation of repayment turns the grace of God into a business transaction. Nor should we do good works out of a sense of obligation to God, e.g., “What have you done for Jesus lately?” A gift that obligates was not received as a gift. This leaves us with the truth that “walking in good works as ordained by God” is literally the fulfillment of God’s salvation in a believer’s life.
Salvation is an ongoing (past, present, and future) living experience whereby we grow in the grace of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ (2 Peter 3:18). In 2 Corinthians 2:15, it says, “For to God we are the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved” – a present tense statement. In 1 Peter 1:5, it continues, “…who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” – future tense.
Jesus tells us the Kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21). The primary necessity for any kingdom is . . . well, to have a king. One cannot underestimate the importance of the Lordship of Jesus within our lives. Put another way, when we allow the Holy Spirit to be King of our hearts by our obedience to Him, good works flow as a natural result. We are literally to be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
Here’s an easy way to remember it:
Wrong: “Grace + Works = Salvation”
Right: “Salvation + Faith = Works”
This is why James could say “I show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18).
We tend to view grace and works as opposites. This perspective is true for the unregenerate heart; however, for the believer, grace and works are inextricably connected.
Pianist, Worship Aide
Riviera Baptist Church