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Eternity 111 - Good Works And The Kingdom Of Heaven

Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast. {10} For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

The Enquiry

My Eternity 108 on the Kingdom of Heaven Is Accessible To The Unspiritual provoked the following very good question:

Help me to understand. I believe, trust, depend and rely on the Lord Jesus. I have repented and asked forgiveness of my sins. I have confessed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I have called upon the name of the Lord, and I believe that I am saved. Having done such, the Bible tells me that I am saved. I know that I am saved by the grace of God and not of my works. Based on what the Bible tells me, I believe that my salvation is secured. However, James 2:17 states that faith without works is dead. To me that means that as a result of my faith in the Lord Jesus, I do good works. I don't think that I do good works to get saved (or stay saved)but because I am saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. What am I missing in your message when you state or imply that sanctification is (not) a process of do's and don't's and should not be something Christians practice? I believe your answer lies somewhere in "....we hear the word of God and believe it and live in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, are filled with the Spirit and dwell in love. " My question is: Is this not good works? On this earth, are we Christians not to do good deeds-works? Your comments on this would be greatly appreciated.

The Answer

1) We are created in Christ Jesus for good works. We are to do lots of them, good works are what God has made us for and He has prepared them beforehand that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

2) However we are not saved by good works. We are saved apart from good works, by grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8,9)

3) The good works we are to do are defined as the commandments of Jesus Christ which are pretty well summarized in the Sermon On The Mount and in the various "one another" commands in the New Testament "love one another, forgive one another, be tender-hearted to one another, forbear one another etc.

4) The good works are not "religious" works involving priests, temples, sacrifices, offerings, feast days, oblations, special diets, vows, clean and unclean foods, taboos, don't handle, taste, touch etc. These religious works have all been fulfilled in Christ and there is no need for them to be performed any more, that entire system has passed away (see Galatians and especially Hebrews).

5) There can even be a clash between religious good works and true new creation good works. For instance if money needed for the family is given instead to religious uses and made Corban that is evil. (Mark 7:6-13, 1 Timothy 5:8)

(Mark 7:6-13 NKJV) He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. {7} And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' {8} "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men; the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." {9} He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. {10} "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' {11} "But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"; ' (that is, a gift to God), {12} "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, {13} "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."

(1 Timothy 5:8 NKJV) But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

6) True "New Creation" good works spring from faith working through love and are done in the power of the Holy Spirit. See the following almost identical verses in Galatians.
(Galatians 5:6 NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
(Galatians 6:15 NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.


7) True "New Creation" good works are done without thought of the approval of men - including any approval by a religious hierarchy or Christian community. That is not to put down such communal expressions of faith but to limit them within their proper bounds. Approval is given in Christ, by grace, through faith and is called "justification" and is freely given by God.
(John 5:44 NASB) "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

8) Being holy is not the same as "being very religious". Being holy just means being set apart to God and living a life that obeys His commandments - the one another commands, Sermon On The Mount etc. True holiness also means being unstained by the works of the flesh such as fornication, witchcraft etc (see Galatians 5:19-21). Being holy is not external piety such as having Christian bumper stickers, lots of bibles and going to church five times a week. You can do all that and be very unholy. Being holy is being loving and righteous and joyful and thankful in the Holy Spirit.

9) Being perfect is not the same as "being very religious". Being perfect is being perfected in love so you can even love your enemies. The prefect Christian is perfectly loving. (Matthew 5:43-48 NASB) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you {45} in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? {48} "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

10) Unreligious people can still be perfect and holy and fulfill all the good works that God has created beforehand for them to do by having faith in Christ and loving their neighbour with perfect love in the power of the Holy Spirit. Life that is righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit is simple and uncomplicated - as Jesus said "my yoke is easy and my burden is light". Thus Christians do not have to do a long list of religious duties in order to make God happy. God has been happy with them since the day they were born-again and happily gives them some duties in the Kingdom so they can demonstrate the love they have in their heart and be a blessing to their neighbour.