Session 7

Works of faith

What are works of faith? Do good works earn a place in heaven?

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Session 7 ... transcript

Works of faith

When quoting Scripture, it's vital to examine the context. For example, the Bible says "There is no God". Those words are in Psalm 14, but the complete sentence reads: 'The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God”’, which is something else entirely. We must read Scripture in context ... not picking out the bits that suit the way we think.

With that in mind, let's look at Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9. "It is by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast ..."

You may hear someone say that this Scripture teaches that God has given us the gift of salvation and, if God gives a gift, He won't take it back. But that is not a correct interpretation. It's certainly true that if God gives something, He won't take it back. But the gift of salvation comes "through faith", and you can't overlook that fact. God doesn't wink at sin, as if it doesn't matter. Jesus took the penalty for sin. And you must place your faith in Him, and stay in the place where your faith is in Him, and then His righteousness is credited to you. The gift is what Jesus has done for you, and the ability to accept that. Without faith in Jesus, there is no salvation.

Now consider this. Let's say I offer you a gift. I hold it out. It's up to you to take it. I don't force it on you. You must take it for it to be a gift. It remains mine until you take it. In accepting the gift, you would hardly boast that you now own something because of what you did. And, once you receive the gift, it's yours. It's up to you to look after it. You couldn't say it was never a gift if, one day, through your own carelessness, you lost it. It's up to the receiver to guard the gift.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is emphasising that the gift that God offers is something that Jesus has done, in paying for our sins. We could never have earned salvation through our good works. It's important to know this. We aren't righteous in ourselves. God removes all grounds for boasting.

It's also important to see that the gift is not offered to you, or to any group exclusively. The gift is offered to everyone. It's open to all. The Bible says, God does not want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God desires all people everywhere to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). Whoever believes in Him shall not perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. God has worked salvation. And God has made salvation available to everyone (Titus 2:11). To come into salvation, it is necessary for a person ... any person ... to place their faith in Jesus and to go on believing in Him to the end.

Also, we note that Ephesians 2:8-9 does not end abruptly. The thought continues. The next verse (verse 10) says: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

We aren't saved by our works, but we are saved to do good works. We haven't entered into an aimless life. There are works, and there are works. There are works that someone without faith may be doing, thinking that they are earning right-standing with God, but those works don't substitute for faith. However, there are good works that someone with faith in Jesus does, as an appropriate response to what Jesus has done for them. There's a big difference. Works of faith are a response.

The Bible says that if someone claims to have faith but doesn't show fruit, then it's reasonable to ask whether they truly believe in Jesus. In the book of James, it says that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:17,26). And it also exhorts us to "show your faith by your good works" (James 2:18).

We don't earn salvation. But, if our faith is real, there will be something to show for it. Now, the things that you do for God ... because of what He has done for you ... will be things that He equips you to do. And you will start to realise what they are. You may find that you have a heart for the poor, or for the sick, or for the lost, or to teach the Word of God, or any number of things that are important to help build a body of people who all belong to Jesus.

God doesn't need you to do these things. He could bring life to rocks if He wanted to, to perform any task necessary. God gives you the privilege of working with Him, and as an opportunity to demonstrate your faith. And He says that He will reward you for serving Him.

Because God knows that you are weak in yourself, as you look to Jesus for strength, so He will empower you. Jesus said: "Without Me, you can do nothing". (John 15:5). But, we also learn ... “in Him all things are possible" (Mark 10:27). "We are His workmanship ..." But that doesn't mean He makes us do things. He helps us. He empowers us. But we choose to respond because His life is now in us.

Ephesians 2:8 says: "It's by grace you have been saved through faith ..." Now, let's get a proper understanding of this word, "grace". Go to the next session: "Understanding grace".