GRACE PLUS WORKS?

Sometimes we forget just who our Savior is. The preacher may say, "We are saved by grace." Someone will reply, "Don't forget about works." Is our salvation due to God's grace plus our own works? The scriptures answer, "No!" The Apostle Paul wrote, "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6)

That is not to say that works are unimportant. The person who is saved by grace will have works in his or her life. The scripture affirms that God's elect are "predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). How can a person be conformed to the image of Christ without doing good works? Jesus certainly did good works (Acts 10:38). The scripture affirms that God's gracious offer of salvation is to be accepted by faith (Romans 3:25). Faith that doesn't show itself by works is not real faith; rather, it is dead (James 2:17). Real faith is completed by works (James 2:22).

But when it gets right down to it, we are not saved by doing good works. The scriptures clearly state, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God--not because of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we were good enough that we just needed a little boost to make it to heaven, we could certainly brag about how good we were. But in the real world, the person who can jump six feet high may be twice as good as the person who can only jump three feet high, but neither is about to go into orbit around the earth.

But the Apostle Paul does not stop with the affirmation that we are saved by grace and not by works. He continues, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). God has saved us in order to do good works. Works are not the vehicle of salvation, but they are part of the purpose. A car is not powered by the passengers pedaling, but it does exist for the sake of the passengers.

Therefore, God is the One who deserves the credit, as well as the praise and glory, for our salvation. Jesus offered Himself on the cross, so that by that single offering he might perfect for all time those of us who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). If Christ has perfected us, our works cannot add to that perfection. But they do play a part in our continued santification. We are not yet what we ought to be. But by God's grace, we shall arrive there also. Let us continually give Him praise for His marvelous grace which He has so freely given through the death of Jesus on the cross!

—Bruce Terry

Copyright © 1993, Bruce Terry. All rights reserved. This article may be freely reprinted in bulletins and newsletters so long as no charge is made to the reader and this copyright notice is included.


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