Faith, Grace and Works
Ps. Peter Mortlock
Many Biblical teachings can divide Christians. The topic of this study the relationship between faith, grace and works, is no exception.
- Appearance of the words love, faith, grace and works in the Bible:
Three times, in his Epistle, James said that faith without works is dead.
James 2:17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
In the New Testament, the words:
Love, loved or loves is mentioned 244 times.
Faith is mentioned 229 times.
Grace is mentioned 118 times (in the American Standard Version).
Works is mentioned the same, 118 times (in the American Standard Version).
In comparison, in the Old Testament:
Love is mentioned 124 times.
Faith is mentioned 2 times.
Grace is mentioned 37 times.
Works is mentioned 346 times.
In the New Testament, many times, grace and works are written together. For example:
2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
Today, many people debate the relationship between faith, grace and works. They ask: is it faith or is it works? Is it grace, and grace alone? Didn’t Jesus do it all for us?
- The basis of our salvation – Grace, Faith and Repentance
We need to be assured of the fact that when Christ died on the cross, His blood, His cost, His sacrifice, the price that He paid, was paid in full and was complete. He paid for our salvation. Nothing we can do can add to that. We know that we simply need to believe with our heart and confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, in order to be saved.
Romans 10:9-10 if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
It is also the case that we need to repent of sin and turn from it.
Acts 3:19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…
There is nothing you can do to save yourself, other than believing in the saving work of Jesus, repenting and confessing Him.
- Once we are saved…
So, once saved, what is it? Is it faith or works? Is it grace alone?
We are saved by grace (unmerited favour, a gift from God), through faith (we have all been given a measure of faith) in Christ, for good works, for a relationship with Him.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
What are some ways we can define our relationship with God?
Father / Son, The Creator / the Created, Teacher / Student, Master / Servant.
In the Bible, Paul, Peter, John, and James all primarily refer to themselves as a servant of Christ. Even James, the half-brother of Christ, called himself a bondservant. They used this term humbly, regarding it as a privileged position.
Sometimes, the truth can become error. Unfortunately, this has happened with grace. We need grace, of course, but we also need to put on the armour of God, live lives of righteousness, of prayer, of fasting, … and of good works.
Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…
Once we are saved, we are not saved to serve ourselves. We are all called to further the Kingdom. After salvation, an ‘all grace, no works’ mentality can lead to apathy and complacency. And an ‘all works, no grace’ mentality can lead to legalism.
- Another meaning of Grace
Grace is not only unmerited favour – it is the empowerment to live the Christian life.
Romans 15:15-16 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly to you on some points, as reminding you, because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
- The work of the Lord
When the church calls you to pray, fast, serve at the Community Day, etc it is not about having to do more, it is about being a blessing to God and to others. Biblically: praying for the sick, evangelising, performing miracles, giving, feeding the poor, etc are also called the “work of the Lord.” Jesus said, “As much as you have done it to the least of my brethren you have done it unto me.”
Jesus said to the one who buried his talent and did nothing, “You lazy, slothful servant.”
Jesus also said:
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
- Treasure in heaven
The Bible makes clear that storing up treasure is heaven is all about what we do or don’t do, what we give, what we don’t give.
1 Corinthians 3:12-15 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Even though we have passed from death to life, through Christ, then comes the accountability – the accountability of fruit.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
In one of the last verses of the Bible, Jesus says:
Revelation 22:12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”
Once you are saved by grace, through faith, you are saved for a life of good works.
Let’s have Jesus have the last word on this.
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.