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Works - Their Relevance And Their Importance

"Works" are exactly what you would think they are. Works are both actions taken and are also the results of the actions that are taken.

The subject of works mostly comes up during discussions about salvation and what salvation involves and its make up. Some say works are required, some say they are not required.

This is because the Bible makes two main statements about works. One statement says we are justified (made right, or saved) by works and the other says not of works lest any man should boast.

People usually go by the statement that best fits their position on salvation. The "faith only" proponents hold to the not of works lest any man should boast concept. Of course, those who believe in works being a crucial or essential part of salvation hold to the saved by works concept.

Many call the Bible's two apparently opposite statements concerning works inconsistencies. Since the overwhelming percentage of those who call themselves Christians deny there are any inconsistencies in the Bible, they don't apply the inconsistency to the Bible, they apply it to those who hold the opposite of the two views.

The problem is not one of inconsistency on the part of the Bible, Both statements are absolutely true. One is not saved (justified or made right) by works and one is saved by works. It is not a problem of inconsistency, it is a problem of an incomplete understanding of works and their relevancy to each concept.

Here are the two opposing or seemingly inconsistent statements...

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24 KJV)

James 2:24 is the ONLY place where the words faith only appear in New Testament scripture and it says not by faith only.

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

Since the discussion at hand is man's "work" in relation to his salvation we must look at works as they pertain to man. God's works and Christ's works and the Holy Spirit's works are not disputed in the discussion so we'll examine works from man's position.

First of all there are works directed by man and assigned to Christ...

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22-23 KJV)

There are works directed by man that rest in other men's thinking...

8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:8-10 KJV)

There are works directed by man that rest in themselves...

We see this all the time when men decide they are going to make up for their sinful lives by devoting themselves to good. They take on great burdens to make themselves pay for their misdeeds. They go into monasteries and nunneries and live austere lives of service and denial. They do all forms of "penance." They decide their own "punishment" for sin. They choose how they are going to pay their own sin debt and make themselves more spiritual. They try to make themselves good enough to be good enough.

What do these works have in common? They are man directed works aimed at appeasing a wronged God. They have incurred the debt and now they want to pay the debt according to their own desires rather than those of the debt holder. If someone owed them a large sum of money and came up to them and said, "You know, I know I owe you a lot of money, but it's really difficult to come up with the money so I've decided I'm just going to pay you this bushel of carrots that was hard to raise. That'll make us even." they would be beside themselves and unwilling to accept the payment. Yet they expect God to to allow them to settle their debt owed to Him on their own terms.

Man directed works do not work to satisfy a God-held debt. Creditors are the ones who determine how the debt is paid. Not the debtor. The creditor and the creditor alone decides how the debt is going to be paid in full. The conditions in force at the time of the debt are the conditions that must be met to satisfy the debt unless the creditor decides to accept another form of offered payment.

If the debtor was able to work out a payment plan that fit his circumstances, and the creditor was willing to accept the man's payment plan he would be able to tell people, to boast, about the deal he worked out to settle his debt to his advantage.

These are the works that accomplish nothing...

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. (James 2:24 KJV)

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

Notice "not of yourselves" and "lest any man should boast." Clearly talking about man directed works and the resulting efforts to settle the debt.

This "boasting" is assigned to men. Throughout the entire Bible we read passage after passage where God is "boasting." He tells of all the things He and He alone has done. Rightfully so. Man has nothing to boast of. He has taken on a debt far too great to pay on his own. Man directed works cannot save from sin, man directed works cannot pay his sin debt.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4 KJV)

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20 KJV)

Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. (Romans 1:32 KJV)

Once man has sinned, once man has taken from God, and sin is taking from God, he is under sin. He is under penalty for his transgression. We have a earthly saying, "He must pay for his crime! He must pay his debt to society!" Well, God, the Creator of all good has established a payment for that "crime." Sinners must pay their debt to God for their sins and that debt is death.

Jesus was the only person who ever lived who did not owe a sin debt to God because he was sinless. (Hebrews 4:15) His sinlessness was enough to pay the sin debt for everyone who met God's condition of debt forgiveness.

Wait a minute! God has conditions for sin forgiveness?? I thought it was a free gift.

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. 17 For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:15-18KJV)

Those who hold to the "faith only," "no works of any kind" salvation position say there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation because it is free. No works involved, period.

If something is free you should be free to accept or take it with no conditions. If there are conditions and you meet them isn't that receiving something for something you did? Isn't that working for it?

The overwhelming percentage of those who profess faith only, no works of any kind salvation offer John 3:16 as their anchor - believe in Christ and you will not perish. They insist you must believe to receive eternal life..

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 KJV)

No single verse of scripture can mean any less than what it says. Yet, any single verse of scripture can be explained, expanded on or modified by other scripture. One must consider all the scripture on a subject to come to a truthful conclusion. If not, why not?

In John 6 Jesus' disciples ask him a question...

Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? (John 6:28 KJV)

He replies...

Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. (John 6:29 KJV)

Jesus, the Son of God himself, says belief is a work. Belief is a work of God. Belief is an action, or work, that God requires man to do. Belief is not a work devised by man, it is a work devised by God. There is no way a man can boast the work of belief was his devised work or that he came up with it. No belief (work), no salvation. Even the faith only proponent will tell you must believe to be saved.

Now then we know by Jesus' own words that the God directed work of belief is required for salvation. Is it possible that there are other God directed works required for salvation?

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3 KJV)

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:5 KJV)

Here is another condition for salvation, repentance. Jesus says it two times in as many verses. No repentance, no salvation. A person has to have help to mis-understand that.

Repentance is a work. It is an action that one does. It is required for salvation. Repentance is a God devised work. Repentance is an action, or work, that God requires man to do. Repentance is not a work devised by man, it is a work devised by God. There is no way a man can boast the work of repentance was his devised work. Again, no repentance (work), no salvation. Even the faith only proponent will tell you that.

So far we we see there are at least two works man must do to be saved. Even with just two we can say, we are saved (justified) by works. (James 2:24) We are not saved by our own devised works which would allow us to boast. We are saved by God devised works only He can boast of.

Now then let's go to Peter on the day of Pentecost following Christ's crucifixion and ascension in Acts 2. The Holy Spirit has come visibly on the apostles and imbued them with power from on high and it has gotten the crowd of Jews' attention. He stands up and tells them point blank that they have crucified the Christ and they believe Jesus is the Christ and they were guilty of his death. They ask the question, "What action must we take?" (Acts 2:37)

He answers...

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. (Acts 2:38-40 KJV)

They already believed (God directed work - John 6:29), now they are told to repent (God directed work - Luke 13:3,5) and be baptized (God directed work - Mark 16:16) for the remission of sins. And with many other words he encouraged them to "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" - Take action! Do the God directed works and save yourselves!

"Save yourselves from this untoward generation" is an interesting statement. We have shown man's works will not save. God's works save. Yet man must do God's works to be saved. So we are indeed saved or justified by works we do as God directs. What makes Peter's statement interesting is that Paul said the same thing to believers at Philippi...

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12 KJV)

Obedient believers are told to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

Jesus says work. Peter says work. Paul says work. James says work. Faith only proponents say no work of any kind is required for salvation. Faith without works is dead, there is no life in it.

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20 KJV)

There is no inconsistency in the statements of James 2:24 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Make no mistake, we are saved by faith apart from our own works. Make no mistake, we are saved by our God directed works. We are saved by faith, acting on our belief, and faith without God directed works performed by men is dead. No life.

Salvation is conditional on obedient God directed works till the end of earthly life...

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10 KJV)

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