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Created For Good Works



You know that my focus lately has been on correctly preaching the Gospel of Grace.  The Gospel + anything = nothing.  There can be no mixture of law and grace (Romans 11:6).  It's either all law or all grace and we know that no one has ever been able to keep the law except Christ (Psalm 14:3, 53:3, Isaiah 64:6-7, Romans 3:9-23, James 2:10).  The law was not given to make us righteous, but to show us our desperate need for a Savior who actually can make us righteous (Romans 3:19-26, Galatians 3:24).  You can summarize all of Paul's teaching on law and grace as follows:

All men are dead and alienated from God by sin.  No one seeks after God and for that very reason the law was given to make mankind aware of sin and the fact that there exists a holy God to whom we are all accountable.  The purpose of the law was to lead mankind to grace.  Salvation was always through faith alone and Abraham is the chief example of this truth because his faith was credited to him as righteousness apart from the law.  And now, in the fullness of time, the substance of God's provision for mankind's sins has been revealed - the Lord Jesus Christ who became our propitiation on the Cross.

If I were to pick a single verse that best encapsulates Paul's life and message, it would be Romans 3:21:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

I've written extensively about this topic:

WHAT IS REPENTANCE?

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

THE GOSPEL: PART 1

THE GOSPEL: PART 2

THE GOSPEL: PART 3

THE GOSPEL: PART 4

THE GOSPEL: PART 5

ATONEMENT: THE DIVIDING LINE

THE TIGHTROPE OF FAITH

As we draw nearer and nearer to the Day of Christ's appearing, make sure you have diligently studied and rightly divided God's Word regarding salvation.  Make sure you know the Gospel inside and out and can accurately teach it and preach it.  For your own sake, make sure you are trusting in Christ and not in yourself.  Jeff has written an excellent article that clearly demonstrates how the Gospel of Grace can be traced right back to Genesis.  It was there with Adam and Eve in the very beginning and Cain was the very first legalist:

A CLOSER LOOK AT GENESIS 3-4

Legalists pit grace against works and end up compromising on both and denying the Gospel.  Whenever I hear someone argue against sola fide salvation with James 2:17 ("faith without works is dead") I'm reminded of an Islamic argument against Christianity: "Christians worship three gods!"  It's a classic straw-man argument just as using James 2:17 to refute sola fide is:

A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent.

Christians don't believe in three gods, yet many Muslim scholars twist Christian theology into polytheism so that they can then claim Christians are polytheists.  It's the worst kind of fallacy because it couples poor logic with false accusation.

Legalists do the same thing.  They claim that proponents of sola fide are against works and encourage sin and lawlessness.  They also claim that the Gospel of Grace ignores James 2 and 1 John, etc.  Once they do that they can then claim the Gospel of Grace is unscriptural.  Woe to them.  The Gospel of Grace is the only Gospel by which any of us can be saved.

To the contrary, their straw-man doesn't hold up because those who believe in the Gospel have dealt handily with all these topics and believe fervently in James 2 and 1 John.  We just don't believe those books and chapters teach that the Church is going to be a celestial meritocracy.  You can read my take on James 2 here.

When Believers bring up Ephesians 2:8-9 it takes but a split second for a legalist to suggest they are ignoring Ephesians 2:10:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

They argue that Ephesians 2:10, among other Scriptures, teach that salvation is not through faith alone.  Yet that conclusion would then contradict what was just plainly stated in Ephesians 2:8-9 (not to mention some 87 other Scriptures in the New Testament).  Can you see how ridiculous that is?

When you pit Scripture against Scripture you're apt to be deceived and believe a lie.  Ephesians 2:8-9 and Ephesians 2:10 are both true.  Rightly dividing Scripture doesn't mean you should fight Scripture or mix Scripture into a murky, confusing mess.  It means that you should believe all Scripture and put all of it into its proper place.  God is not the author of confusion and one thing legalism always manages to do is create great confusion and cause Believers to continually question God's character and their relationship with Him.

Let me propose to you two ways to look at the salvation/good works issue:

1. Salvation is by faith and works.  Ephesians 2:10 and James 2:14 mean that we are not saved by faith alone.  This is a doctrine explicitly taught by the Roman Catholic Church beginning in 1547.  The Roman Catholic Church's formal abandonment of the doctrine of sola fide was a slow process that took many centuries and finally became official during the sixth session of the Council of Trent.

Problems: ignores over seven dozen other Scriptures that say otherwise, means that Jesus' atoning sacrifice only provided for some of our salvation (in other words - the Gospel is only partially true), contradicts the principle that no one is worthy or holy enough to make it to Heaven, replaces one set of impossible standards with another, and ignores the general themes, shadows, and types in Scripture regarding faith, atonement, sacrifice, etc.

2. Salvation is by faith alone.  Jesus saved unworthy sinners by dying in their place just as the Gospel says.  When a person truly places their faith in Jesus Christ and believes this Good News, then the Holy Spirit regenerates that person's spirit and seals them until the Day of Redemption.  Because that person has the Holy Spirit living inside them they will naturally do good works as a response to what Christ did for them on the Cross.  This became the core doctrine of the Reformation.


I believe that Romans 4:4-5 is a good foundation to understand where good works come from:

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

Consider different types of relationships and how they give you a glimpse of the biblical principle of sonship versus slavery:

Employees: They work for a wage.  If the wages stop flowing then the worker leaves.  Their commitment remains only as long as the wage remains.  Alternatively, if the worker violates a protocol then their employer is likely to fire them.  Obedience to their employer comes from a desire to earn a wage.  The motivation is money.

Slaves: They work out of coercion.  If they stop working then they can't eat or are even beaten or killed.  They typically want freedom and despise their master.  Obedience to their master comes from fear of being punished.  The motivation is fear.

Citizens: They are coerced to pay taxes and obey laws - even laws that disadvantage them.  They respect, but do not love their government.  Obedience to their government comes from a fear of being punished or a sense of civil duty.  The motivation is fear or obligation.

Sons: They are part of a family.  They are free to leave or stay.  They can work or not work and are still accepted and part of the family.  Their parents don't starve them, beat them, or permanently kick them out if they disobey.  To the contrary, their parents discipline them out of love, but they remain forever part of the family (so long as they want to be).  They work out of gratitude and relational love, not necessity or coerced obligation.  The motivation is love.

Spouses: They are united unconditionally.  They are called to love and forgive one another when they err.  If one spouse sins then they are called to reconcile and remain faithful to the covenant they made before God.  It is a permanent, familial union just like parents and children have.  They also work for one another out of love and gratitude, not necessity or coercion (ideally).  The motivation is love.

Legalists view God as a hard master, coercive government, or greedy employer (Matthew 25:14-30).

To the contrary, the Bible says God is a tender and loving Father (James 1:17, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, John 3:16, Matthew 7:7-11).  Legalists remain in slavery by their own choice, but those that the Son has set free are free indeed (John 8:36):

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!' So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God...

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

'Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.'

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? 'Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.' So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
- Galatians 4:1-7, 21-31


Everyone belongs to God, whether slave or son, but only the sons and daughters are saved and inherit the Kingdom along with Christ.  The sons are part of an unconditional love commitment with God (through faith).  It is not coerced.  Like the Prodigal, they are safe so long as they choose to stay.  Slaves on the other hand are part of a conditional relationship with God and their salvation is predicated on sufficient works to gain eternal life.  Since the Bible makes clear that everyone is rotten to the core and cannot sufficiently pay God His due, then all slaves will be lost.  Are you a son or a slave?

Consider your children.  Do you want them to obey you because they are afraid of you or because they willingly love you?  What kind of obedience do you think our perfect Father in Heaven wants?  What kind of works does He expect?  Works from fear and obligation or works from love and gratitude?  God doesn't just want your works, He wants your heart and once He has your heart He will reap from you an eternity of pleasant fruit - works from you that come as a freely given offering of love.  And the only way He could win over the hearts of broken sinners like us was to sacrifice His only begotten Son while we were yet sinners.  Those of us who have paid attention over the past two millennia took notice of the immeasurable and unconditional act of love in Christ Jesus and responded to God in faith.  And through that faith God forgave us all our sins, imparted to us the Holy Spirit who has regenerated our dead spirits, adopted us as sons, and made us joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7), not the end.  The end is perfect love without fear (1 John 4:18) because fear has to do with punishment and the one who still fears has not yet been made perfect in love.

The Jews in Jesus' day were keeping the law because they thought it made them right with God.  The law had become for them an end in itself (John 5:39-40).  Compare the sacrifices and offerings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (from obligation) with the sacrifices and offerings of the heroes of faith recorded in Hebrews 11:

Abel offered the very best from his flock as a blood sacrifice to God without any mention of obligation or coercion (Genesis 4:4).

Noah made an altar and sacrificed to the LORD even though God never asked Him to (Genesis 8:20-22).

Abraham sacrificed his son Isaac (of course God intervened) even though God never mentioned that disobedience would result in punishment.  God gave no reasons for or against obeying and Abraham obeyed (Genesis 22:1-24).

Paul's focus in the epistles is on how we are actually justified before God and the answer is through faith alone (because the justifier is Christ who literally died for our sins in our place) - so to be justified, place your faith in Christ and Christ alone and keep your faith until the end.  James' focus is on how to demonstrate that you actually have faith and haven't merely claimed to have faith when you really don't:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
- James 2:14


James isn't arguing against faith alone, he's arguing against claiming to have faith when your works demonstrate that you clearly don't have faith.  In other words, James 2 is not about faith alone versus faith + works, it's about real faith versus the liars who say they have faith when they don't.  If you really have faith then 99 times out of 100 there will be at least a little fruit, but because your fruit plays no part in your salvation, Paul can accurately say:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.
- Romans 4:5


And also:

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.  If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.  If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
- 1 Corinthians 3:11-15


James calls us to demonstrate our faith by our works.  When you realize what God has freely done for you through Christ and that you were given so great a gift without cost, then your free and un-obligated response demonstrates your faith.  The Father detests the works of the Pharisees and gives no regard to the "obedience" of the legalists.  Here is how grace and works are related:



We deserved death and were destined for Gehenna, yet because of love, God purchased us back with His own blood (Acts 20:28, Romans 5:8).  There are no strings attached.  There are no conditions.  There are no 'ifs', 'ands', or 'buts'.  There is just you and your heart.  Will you give your heart to God?  Will you take what He is offering?  It is a gift, not a wage, but you must, must, must take it to be saved.  God is the greatest gentleman and will not force you to take the greatest gift ever offered to man.

If you have accepted the gift and now realize that you have been forgiven (Colossians 2:13), redeemed (Ephesians 1:7), and freed (John 8:36, Galatians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 10:23) and are now under no condemnation (Romans 8:1), what will you do now?  Paul would exhort you to use your freedom for great good and not as an opportunity to satisfy the flesh (Romans 6:1, Galatians 5:13).

Here are some examples of things you can do right now to demonstrate to God and others that you have accepted His gift and that you love Him:

1. Tell God you're thankful for what He has done.


2. Share with someone the Good News (it's amazing how little the legalists share the Gospel, which is evidence they don't believe it).


3. Ask God to change your heart, so that it would become like Christ's.

4. Spend more time in His Word and study the Scriptures diligently.

5. Cast off pride and accept that other Believers might know something that you don't.

6. Accept that your knowledge is incomplete and be willing to learn from God's Word and God's people.

7. When a child, spouse, or co-worker mistreats you, choose to show them grace.

8. When someone labels you, calls you a name, or argues with you, choose to take no offense.


9. Don't run.  When things get hard or adversity presents itself, people have a tendency to run.  When marriage gets hard, spouses run.  When another Believer loses their cool or mistreats you, instead of running, seek reconciliation.  Give grace, show love, and take no offense.  The Pharisees were offended by Jesus because He ate and drank with sinners.  What was really going on is that they were playing defense and Jesus was storming the gates of hell.  Jesus was on mission and never backed down.


10. Be more purposeful in what you do.  Before we knew Christ we lived haphazardly and carelessly, living only for pleasure and for ourselves.  That should change in the life of a Believer.  Everything you do should be for a godly purpose.

11. Be more intentional with your family.  Spend one-on-one time time with your kids.  Take your daughter out for ice cream and tell her that you love her and God loves her.  Tell her you're proud of her and ask her how she's doing spiritually.  Take your son fishing and do the same thing.  A Believer that doesn't first and foremost love and minister to his own family is not honoring God.


12. Be more intentional with prayer.  Don't just spend more time in prayer, spend better time.  Ask God to guide you, grow you, and show you weak areas in your life.  Pray for your family and friends.  Pray for unity and maturity in the Church.  Pray that Jesus would come soon.

13. Look and long for Christ's appearing.  Tell someone Jesus is coming soon.

14. Tame your tongue - not only cursing, but also tone.  Your speech should be gentle, edifying, kind, and seasoned with salt.

15. Struggle well against sin.  A recent Barna Group study showed that 77% of young Christian men were actively looking at pornography.  That is a shocking statistic.  A great portion of those men would say they are "struggling" - trying not to do it, they would say.  Meanwhile they are carrying around the Play Boy library in their pocket - called a "smartphone".  With just a few clicks they can be viewing anything they want.  Friends, if you're really "struggling" (i.e. battling) then you don't simply try harder the next time, you do what you need to do to stamp it out.  Maybe that means you voluntarily put software on your phone or computer that blocks bad content.  Maybe that means you become accountable to other Christian men.  Maybe it even means you get rid of your phone.  Don't just struggle "harder", because you'll never win.  Struggle better.  Do what you need to do to win the victory or are you perhaps leaving one foot in the door with sin, afraid that the door will close?

16. Clean out your "closet".  Every Christian has a closet that gets dirtied from time to time and you need to clean it out.  The closet might be something different for each Believer.  For some people it's relationships.  Maybe you have a group of co-worker friends whose speech has grown coarser, more cynical, or vulgar.  Either breathe life into the group or leave.  Maybe you're still holding on to your treasured collection of vulgar music or movies - yet God is your greatest treasure.  Clean it out.  Don't sell it, so that some other person will be polluted by it, but instead, be truly sacrificial and throw it straight in the trash.


17. Stop making exceptions for yourself.  One thing I see a lot, even from Christians, is making exceptions to the rules.  For example, "Thou shalt not steal."  "That just means you shouldn't steal from your neighbor," they say.  "That doesn't include pirating media from those greedy corporations."  That's called justifying sin.  The LORD has nothing to do with thievery and you shouldn't either.  This is just one example.  The point is that you should give the LORD your whole heart since He gave you His whole Son.

18. Prioritize Scripture for spiritual revelation over personal experience and emotion.  I see so many Christians, even entire denominations, getting these priorities way out wack.  The Bible says that "the heart is deceitful above all else" (Jeremiah 17:9).  Feelings are very real, but they are also very unreliable.  God's Word is what's reliable, not what we think or feel.  Legalists and the lawless alike live in the flesh and exalt their own feelings over Scripture.  They perceive their knowledge to be superior to other Believers' knowledge.  They look to Scripture to validate their own beliefs, rather than looking to Scripture to change their beliefs.

Believers should be forming beliefs and making decisions based first on God's Word, second on God's people, third on their experience, and fourth on their feelings, but myriads of Christians do the exact opposite: "I feel this way, so I will then interpret my experience to validate how I feel, and then I will tell God's people they should agree with me by using Scripture to validate how I feel even if other Scriptures contradict what I say."

Disney and Hollywood tell you to "follow your heart".  God's Word says follow Jesus.


19. Boast only in Christ.  Paul was the greatest missionary evangelist of all time yet his letters are filled with honest and authentic reflections of his own weaknesses and struggles.  When you've studied the Scriptures you'll notice a marked difference between the humble speech of Christ and the Apostles compared to the self-exalting and condemning speech of the "faith isn't enough" crowd.  Christ and His disciples did get angry at times, but it was limited, pointed, and purposeful and most often directed against the legalists themselves.

We must decrease and He must increase.


20. Make your life a beautiful thing.  Be a living sacrifice.  Weather the storms of life with grace and faith.  People should be enamored by your joy, faith, hope, and love.  Moses noticed the burning bush because it was something out of the ordinary - a bush that wasn't consumed by fire and he stopped to see the incredible sight.  Every Believer should be a burning bush - something extra-ordinary that makes people stop to take notice.  When you lose a job or something far more valuable like a spouse or child, or you undergo some other terrible circumstance, yet remain faithful, loving, and joyful, people will naturally ask you how you can remain unshaken.  You can tell them from the bottom of your heart: "Because my God is an unmovable Rock and I have nothing to fear."

When everyone around you is gossiping, slandering, and cursing, and you remain silent, and they ask you why you haven't joined in, you can say "Because my tongue belongs to the LORD."  Let them marvel.  Live out your faith boldly.  Not for show or personal credit, but because you love God and others.

Be a burning bush.



The fruit of the Gospel: Love, clarity, joy, hope, perseverance, faith, grace, kindness, self-control, self-discipline, life, and fearlessness.



The fruit of legalism: Anger, hatred, malice, condemnation, hopelessness, fear, confusion, faithlessness, discord, self-righteousness, pride, and death.



Do you have good fruit or bad fruit?  As James calls us to do, prove your claim of faith by your works.

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34 comments :

  1. the ultimate good work is John 6:29 - Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

    Great article!

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    1. Amen and amen. That is the work above every work.

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    2. AMEN...HALLEHLUAH...PRAISE YOU JESUS...ALL HONOR AND POWER AND GLORY BELONG TO JESUS!

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    3. @Through and Through: Holy Spirit speaking! The same verse popped in when I read this article! ;-D

      Well done Gary, I loved your 'burning bush' example! Loveya guys, preach it!

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    4. Good to hear from you Annabel!

      I stole the burning bush analogy from the video that I linked to above. It is the incredibly powerful testimony of Joni Tada. It's linked above where it says "Be a burning bush."

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  2. To your list I would repeat step 1 a lot for from it flow the rest. It is first. Always first.

    Great post.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Yes, indeed. It starts with gratitude (:

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  3. Excellent! This subject has been on my heart very much these past few months. I was raised in a very legalistic church, as was my husband. God in His mercy has been dealing with us about His GRACE. This post is wonderful and I appreciate your work in putting it out there. Will be reading this with the kids during devotion. God bless you!

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you found it enlightening, and also grateful that you're going to share it with your kids. I hope it will be edifying to them.

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  4. "james isn't arguing against faith alone, he's arguing against claiming to have faith when your works demonstrate that you clearly don't have faith. In other words, James 2 is not about faith alone versus faith + works, it's about real faith versus the liars who say they have faith when they don't."

    This is where you lost me. What you're saying is "salvation isn't by works, but if you don't have works you aren't saved" which is logically contradictory. Paul's statements in Romans 4:2-8, Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 etc. eliminate any works in salvation before or after, period. What this article is doing is essentially backloading the Gospel with works instead of front-loading them; but it's still salvation by works.

    The fact is that James isn't talking about being justified before God at all! In the context of James 2:1-13, he's talking about being justified before men as a witness to Christ in the SERVICE of the Lord. He's also talking about being saved from temporal judgement from God while on earth, as Rahab was saved from the judgement on Jericho. The demons believe THAT THERE IS ONE GOD; and that belief on the part of the Jews in the tribulation, which this is written to (see James 1:1) is useless IN THE SERVICE OF THE LORD if it doesn't have some outward display.

    Verse 26 gives us a clear analogy. In the Greek, he says "Exactly like a body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead".

    So is a body without a spirit, still a body? Yes
    Is a body without a spirit a false body? No. 

    So is faith without works still faith? Yes. 
    Is faith without works a false faith? No. 

    It's just lifeless and stinks.

    This explains more in-depth: https://expreacherman.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/cucuzza-faith-without-works-is-dead.pdf

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    Replies
    1. Not really sure how to respond to your concern except to say either I wasn't clear enough, or you need to reread my article. I think I addressed your general concern in several places and I never said that James is talking about being justified before God. In fact I said just the opposite.

      I do think good works will come naturally in the life of a Believer, but as a response to salvation, not as a cause of salvation. Suggesting that means that I'm somehow teaching works righteousness would be a straw-man - claiming that I'm making an argument that I'm not making and then arguing against the argument that I'm not make. I hope that's not too pointed, but I think we need to believe the best in each other and be fair.

      In Christ,
      Gary

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    2. Gary, I hear what you wrote from many Christians. Some don't really think about what they're saying; others know what they're saying and simply don't believe that eternal life is truly a free gift. Either way I'm not judging you but bringing to light the implications of what you're saying. Please understand I am only fighting for the clarity of the Gospel, I'm not attacking you or accusing you of believing in works-salvation. It's just so prevalent in churches that clarity is needed.

      In saying that works are a necessary result of salvation, is in the practical sense saying that salvation can be judged by works; yet the Bible doesnt indicate any such thing. First, if good works were automatic in the life of the believer, then why do ALL of the epistles - all of which were written to saved Christians - have to tell us to do good works? Furthermore, it this were the case, then James is speaking nonsense and wasting paper, since for faith without works to be useless, there has to be a such thing as "faith without works". The same logic goes into Romans 4:5-6; for someone to be justified by faith without works, there has to be faith without works.

      We do lose rewards at the Bema Seat for idleness, as well as face temporal judgement in this life, but we do not lose salvation or prove a lack of salvation by it.

      A good link on the Bema Seat for those unfamiliar with it: https://bible.org/article/doctrine-rewards-judgment-seat-bema-christ


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    3. Gary, a good study on communicating the Gospel clearly is Ralph Yankee Arnold on YouTube.

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    4. The truth of the Gospel is the most important thing. I believe we should definitely discuss it-especially as these events seem so near, and millions stand in the valley of decision, usually receiving an incorrect presentation of the Gospel, introducing works in through the back door. This is a salvation issue.

      I, too, have found expreacherman.com (excellent Gospel presentation and many great articles on this site) and Pastors Ralph Yankee Arnold and Thomas Cucuzza to be excellent resources in my studies on the most important subject. I agree with their presentation of faith alone. Works can't be used to obtain or keep one's salvation.
      So many don't realize that they are trusting in works to some degree.

      Blessings, Lori

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    5. Hello again brother [4thPointOfContact],


      "Gary, I hear what you wrote from many Christians. Some don't really think about what they're saying; others know what they're saying and simply don't believe that eternal life is truly a free gift. Either way I'm not judging you but bringing to light the implications of what you're saying. Please understand I am only fighting for the clarity of the Gospel, I'm not attacking you or accusing you of believing in works-salvation. It's just so prevalent in churches that clarity is needed."

      I appreciate that and I also am fighting for the clarity of the Gospel - it's central to my ministry.

      Will you forgive me if I came across too sharp in my first response to you? I was probably being overly defensive, but my point was that we're not in much, if any disagreement, and I believe my article reflects that. The Gospel is a completely free gift and I even teach that above. A gift, not a wage. I think I was clear on that.

      "In saying that works are a necessary result of salvation, is in the practical sense saying that salvation can be judged by works;"

      But please hear me clearly, so that there is no confusion - I don't believe nor teach that works are a necessary result of salvation. That's why I could emphatically state in my article:

      "If you really have faith then 99 times out of 100 there will be at least a little fruit, but because your fruit plays no part in your salvation, Paul can accurately say: [and then I quote Romans 4:5 and 1 Cor. 3]"

      I'm teaching that healthy fruit/good works are a natural and normal outcome of a restored relationship with God through faith alone in Christ alone. However, I'm definitely not teaching that works are a necessary outcome - hence the quote from my article above.

      I also fervently believe there will be many "saved as through fire". These I suppose will show little if any evidence of a changed life, but had genuine saving faith, and so will be saved.

      Regarding rewards/Bema Seat: we're in complete agreement.

      I personally think you and I are in agreement, but we both have a zealous desire to defend the Gospel - and I'm so grateful for that. We might have a slight difference of thought on sanctification, because I think sanctification is fully the work of God, but I know we stand together on justification and glorification.


      In Christ,
      Gary



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    6. Awesome. I;m glad we can agree agreeably. I run into so many Christians that think works are in some way a necessary requirement before or after faith or for it to be faith.

      Since Anonymous mentioned Expreacherman, this is a good point that is quoted there:
      https://expreacherman.com/stemming-fruit-inspection/


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    7. Me too! There is something beautiful about Believers agreeing (and disagreeing) agreeably.

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  5. Great job Gary,

    For me, the faith without works arguememt has been twisted for a long time. IMO, faith with works means HAVING the faith to DO the works....not doing works because you feel that's what justifies your faith.
    I.e..
    - Noah built a boat because he had faith in what God told him
    - II Kings 3:16 - God told the armies of the 3 kings to dig trenches and the next day they would be filled with water. They had to take action first, and thenGod would show up.
    - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - our God can save us, however, even if he doesn't - we will never bow to you king. Faith to step into the 7 times hotter fire. God can act, but we will serve him even if he doesn't.
    - Abraham raising the knife to sacrifice Jacob.
    - Abraham bargaining with the Lord for Lot over Sodom
    - the Israelites stepping into a freshly parted Red Sea
    - the Israelites circling Jericho for 7 days
    - Peter stepping out onto the water
    - Christ laying down his life because He trusted/loved His Father more than he feared the cross
    - etc, etc etc
    How many more examples did I leave out?
    Faith without works to me, simply means you have the faith in God to step out...believing he will meet you. It's like convincing young kids to jump into a pool with their parents waiting to catch them. It's scary for them, but there is no way their parents are going to let them be harmed....it is a beautiful picture. Conversely, the legalistic complete XYZ or your not a real Christian picture is harsh, cold, and smacks of legalism. Anyway, just thinking out loud.
    Lance

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    Replies
    1. You have to remember Hebrews 11, especially verse 2, "for in this were the elders testified of" as Youth's Literal Translation renders it. Then goes on to list people who did some things modern Christians would call them unsaved for doing, like Samson, who fornicated for 20 years while a judge of Israel, and David, who committed adultery and murder.

      Yet these were people of faith who were justified before men on account of their testimony in scripture.

      What gets Christians in trouble is that they do the same thing that Jesus taught against in Luke 18:9-14, as well as Luke 7:36-50.

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    2. I am speaking more of faith being active....not a work. It's not that we do/don't do a certain thing. It's that we out our faith into action by taking action. Again, from the examples I've listed above:
      -Noah built a boat without there ever being a need for one prior to that.
      Etc, etc, etc.
      Faith without works to me means having the faith to undertake a work or a course of action, thereby putting your faith into action. A dead faith wouldn't have the faith to undertake works. Just my opinion

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    3. Lance, I think you said it really well and we're in agreement. Samson and David fit right in that list - they sinned very greatly and would be condemned by many Christians today just as 4thPointOfContact wisely points out, but they repeatedly acted upon their faith, which demonstrated that that their faith was genuine.

      So it's really a good point and key distinction with the legalists. Legalists say you need to do X, Y, and Z or not to A, B, and C to be saved. Samson and David got it wrong in so many ways, murderous, adulterous, violent men, and would be considered unsaved by many Christians today. However there were different times in their lives when they clearly acted out in faith - David before Goliath, Samson in the Temple of Dagon, etc. It wasn't that David defeating Goliath saved him, it was that he had a faith in YHWH that caused him to act. And it has nothing to do with a specific act. The act doesn't matter - it's the fact that David had the faith to act.

      That's likely the key distinction between knowledge and faith. Faith causes you to make certain decisions you wouldn't otherwise make, whereas knowledge is just information. It's the very reason you, me, and 4thPointOfContact are writing these responses, because we have a faith in YHWH that causes us to act.

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    4. Gary,

      Perfect...that's exactly my point! It's not about the work/act/ or deed, it's about the trust one places in God. That faith causes an individual to take actions that they normally might not take. Taking those actions evidences that faith....it has nothing to do, IMO, with one's salvation (more of a result of one's salvation). Good points by all!

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  6. I think may be the legalists just warn out of concern since God's commandments are so explicit.
    "Gouge out your eye if it sins. It would be better to go to heaven with one eye rather be thrown into hell with two"
    Their advice may not be harsh,cold, smacks of legalism after all .
    I think it would be better if each individual would deal the matter with the Lord Himself and get His nod. Christian walk is like a marriage and it is all about our relationship with the Lord and He will direct us in His correct path.

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    Replies
    1. I am very sorry. Legalists are wrong. But instead of viewing legalists as harsh and cold we may view them with understanding. I just tried to say that.

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  7. Dear brethren! Some thought in addition to all of you: Either way ALL works are Gods and not ours, may they be few or many, be it FAITH itself and even the WILL to do them = Philippians 2,13!! It depends on your individual MEASURE of faith God provided you with (Romans 12,3) WHICH kind of work (as an act of this faith) He ordained for you at which TIME to what EXTENT and only your own lazyness or disobedience can hinder the Spirit to work out 100 percent or fully to dwell in you to be effective (1 Thessalonians 5,19).

    Certainly we cannot judge one's presence or absence of faith from works (only) - but we can judge a tree by its fruits! So we discern the roots of a tree when we see its fruits (again: be it few or many) and we do not judge quantity then but quality. That's exactly how God judges! The felony at the cross with Jesus had one single fruit that was not at all visible to the public: faith. He had no more works of any kind to show. Of course, this should be the 'extreme' example, that's why it is written in the bible because there are saved brethren like that, too. But they are surely not mainstream, rather exceptional. The 'normal' case for a Christian life is being saved at some point in life and called into the vineyard to work (and not just to die after salvation).

    So the question is (as well as it for the workers in the vineyard was, compare Matthew 20,10-12!): Quantity or quality? 1 John 2,19 or 1 Corinthians 3,15? We can know a brother or sister certainly NOT by his or her works in quantity but we can discern his or her MOTIVE and root for these works if we look at one's life and behaviour among the world and among the brethren and HOW he acts faithfully or not by true doctrine or not. That's the way we discern. And be sure: IT SHOWS UP! ;-)

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  8. Great post, Gary.

    BTW, I love how you brought this together, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7), not the end. The end is perfect love without fear (1 John 4:18) because fear has to do with punishment and the one who still fears has not yet been made perfect in love."

    Wonderful.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Jeff! The more I learn of God's grace, the more secure I feel in Him. He is the Rock and those who trust in Him will not be disappointed.

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  9. Awesome to see an article on salvation by faith alone in Christ Jesus alone! 1Cor. 15:3,4.
    Something to think about... Paul preached Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery. Rom.16:25-27 He is also the apostle to the Gentiles. Gal.2:8, Rom.11:13. James is written to Jews, James 1:1 "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting..." Two different groups. Two purposes.

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  10. Wow Gary! I can really see your light shine. I have almost no words to express how much of a blessing this post is!

    To God Be The Glory, Amen!

    Maranath

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    Replies
    1. Thank you brother, and thank you for your awesome encouragement. We have possibly a very short time left and I for one want to be on mission until that trumpet sounds. Lord, let me get just one more!

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    2. Brother Gary

      Wonderful article. Read through the whole message. Found it helpful.
      Thank you. God bless you
      Mariann

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  11. Brother Gary

    Wonderful article. Read through the whole message. Found it helpful.
    Thank you. God bless you
    Mariann

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  12. Gary, I am going to rest on these points for many days. I shared with my closest dear friend, who needs Christian guidance on some recent complicated things lately. She and I read your points and related to so many of them. This is like a coach getting us ready for the big game. the big game of the World. It is like a sporting event being out there, dealing with those who are "of this world" and do not know the Lord. Thank you for these words of encouragement, compiling Scripture to lead us to His Word for insight and guidance. This is refreshing in light of all the End Times topics. "For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end!" Heb 3:14 Thanks Gary!

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