Work! What a dirty word. The modern "Christian" Church is so quick to jump on this "saved by grace" bandwagon, that they totally refuse to check out the fine print. As stated earlier, grace only keeps us alive physically so we can learn faith. Grace does not save us eternally. Faith will save you eternally; but not without works. "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action (work), is dead." James 2:17.
Works is in the Bible. Let’s just get it out and face it head on. Some of the terms that are used in place of the word works, but which mean the same are: deeds, action, doing, does, walk, obey, obedience, etc. Work is an integral part of the Christian life and salvation.
Let us start with the words and teaching of Christ. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21. There are only two types of people in the world: workers of righteousness and workers of evil. "Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your Name, and in Your Name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evil doers!’" Matthew 7:22, 23.
The next obvious question is,
"What about being a legalist with all these works? Won’t I be like the Pharisees?" No! The difference is what works you are doing. If you are doing your own works, yes. If you are doing God’s works, no. The Pharisees were doing their own, works. Jesus already told them and us in Mark 7:6-9 that they were not doing His works, but their own. Listen to Jesus, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men… You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!"
Now about legalism: Jesus was a legalist! Listen to Him speak and hear how legalistic He was. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4. On every word that comes from God, not just some, every word. The dictionary defines legalism as “strict, literal or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.”
Excessive was how the Pharisees obeyed their church. Strict and literal was how Jesus obeyed every word that came from God. “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices – mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23. You should have practiced the latter… without neglecting the former. Talk about a legalist. Jesus was the epitome of legalists.
You see, without legalism you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who by faith are obedient to the commands of God, as Jesus was, can enter the kingdom. Now you understand why only a few will be saved. (Luke 13:23) People want to be saved by their own (self) way – but there is only One way to heaven.
Jesus stated emphatically, "but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do (work) exactly what My Father has commanded Me." John 14:31. "For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it." John 12:49.
"What to say and how to say it".
Excessive, strict, literal? Jesus wants to make it very plain that any variation will not be tolerated. He says to you and me, "Come, follow Me." We are to live the strict, legalistic life of Jesus. When someone calls me a legalist, I thank that person and then remind them that my example is Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. Don't you?
A wealthy man came to Jesus one day and asked what he needed to do (work) to get to heaven. Jesus did not correct his concept of working to heaven. He simply told him what work was acceptable. Jesus stated, "If you want to enter life, obey (work) the commandments." Matthew 19:17.
Being a good Jew, he realized what Jesus was talking about, but he wanted to sound like he was smart and intelligent. He asked Jesus, "Which ones?"
Jesus did not get into an argument with him. He didn’t tell him about the ceremonial laws, feast days, or temple rituals for they were not important for salvation. for they were not important for salvation. Jesus just told him the truth by quoting some of the Ten Commandments. "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother, and love your neighbor as yourself."
The man stuck his chest out and wanted to make sure that everyone was hearing before speaking. "All these I have kept" the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." Jesus replied.
For many people of the modern "Christian" church, they take this to show that Jesus recognized that keeping the Ten Commandments was not all that had to be done. They claim that after giving the Ten Commandments, He then went on to show something else was needed to get into heaven.
If this were the case, Jesus would be a liar. He stated that all we had to do was keep the commandments. Would He add more, who taught us to add or subtract nothing to the Commandments? NO! So let’s take a closer look at this.
The first thing we notice is that Jesus only gave five of the last six of the Ten Commandments. After giving the five, he stopped and let the young man respond foolishly. Then Jesus gave the sixth commandment in a parable of action (work), "go, sell your possessions." You see, the Tenth Commandment is, "Do not covet…" The young man thought he had been keeping the Ten Commandments. But in reality he had been breaking them. He had been coveting his wealth. Wealth that God had given him to share with the poor. Jesus showed the young man that he did not love God nor his neighbor as himself. He broke the Ten Commandments and as such, could not enter into heaven.
There are those who answer that it is impossible to keep the Ten Commandments. That would be saying that God is unjust for giving them to us if He knew we couldn’t keep them. But that is not true. Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26. Jesus is a just God. He can only do what is just. He would never ask us to do what would be impossible.
Yes, dear friend, all things are possible with God.
Even keeping perfect the Ten Commandments. John tells us, "This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome." 1 John 5:3. Isn’t it time for you to read the Ten Commandments and begin obeying them exactly as God has asked you to? He will give you the power if you will acknowledge that He is God and that you must obey Him.
The promise is there. "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God." Deuteronomy 28:1, 2. If you want to be blessed: Obey!
"Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:3. I found this text most interesting. This says that I must purify myself. That sounds like a work I must do. I did a study to find out if this text was an anomaly, or if the rest of the Bible supported it.
From 1st John, I went to 1st Peter. There I found the same concept. "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth…" 1:22. This text even showed me how I am to purify myself. By obeying (working) the truth. Without truth, it is impossible to purify ourselves. Unless we are pure, we cannot have eternal life. (Revelation 19:8)
James puts it like this. "Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded." James 4:8.
The whole concept seems to be a taking an active role in our own salvation. That we must do the washing, purifying and coming near to God. It’s as if it is not God who left us, but we who left Him, therefore it is our responsibility to come back to Him. Much like the prodigal Son. The father did not leave the son, the son left the father. Therefore it was the son's duty to return to the father. "Come, let us return to the LORD." Hosea 6:1.
Paul told his buddy, Timothy, "…train yourself to be godly." 1 Timothy 4:7. None of this teaching implies that we are to leave it up to God. None of this is a "Let go, let God" concept. None of this is a "saved by grace" teaching. All of it is a take-charge, hands on salvation that we must accomplish in our own lives. In Paul's second letter to Timothy he continued this teaching. "If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work." 2 Timothy 2:21.
It appears that they knew something back then that we are not being taught today. While we mope around wondering if we are saved or if we sinned (not knowing what sin is); we could be working out our salvation and have the assurance that we are saved. That concept, "being saved" runs throughout the Bible. Acts 2:47. (ESV)
The New Testament writers were not introducing anything new. All of this comes from the Old Testament. Turning to Leviticus 20:7, 8 we read, "Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep My decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy." God’s great grace is actually revealed through His Ten Commandments. "...be gracious to me through your law." Psalm 119:29.
This goes right along with Peter. Following the truth, the decrees, the Ten Commandments make us holy. And of course, since the Ten Commandments are holy, by keeping them, we are made holy. That is how the Lord makes us holy. He has given us that which is holy to follow. By following it, we become holy. The example is Jesus. That is how He did it. "Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him…" Hebrews 5:8, 9.
That’s the key for salvation;
“for all who obey Him”. He cannot be anyone’s eternal salvation unless they work their way to heaven through obedience to His plan of salvation. But some say, “All you need is faith.” Let’s see, didn’t you have faith that the cops wouldn’t catch you in your crime? Did that faith work? I don’t think so. Better to have faith with good works than faith without good works. Remember, it would be unjust for Jesus to command us to do something we couldn’t do. Here are the full Ten Commandments Jesus asks us to obey for our own good.
1) Do not worship any god except me.
2) Do not make idols that look like anything in the sky or on earth or in the ocean under the earth. Don’t bow down and worship idols. I am the LORD your God, and I demand all your love. If you reject me, I will punish your families for three or four generations.
3) Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name.
4) Remember that the Sabbath Day belongs to me. You have six days when you can do your work, but the seventh day of each week belongs to me, your God. No one is to work on that day--not you, your children, your slaves, your animals, or the foreigners who live in your towns. In six days I made the sky, the earth, the oceans, and everything in them, but on the seventh day I rested. That’s why I made the Sabbath a special day that belongs to me.
5) Respect your father and your mother, and you will live a long time in the land I am giving you.
6) Do not murder.
7) Be faithful in marriage.
8) Do not steal.
9) Do not tell lies about others.
10) Do not want anything that belongs to someone else. Don’t want anyone’s house, wife or husband, slaves, oxen, donkeys or anything else.
I would like to take this moment of your time to share a beautiful passage from another author. This author spent a lifetime serving the Lord Jesus Christ and understood the principles involved in living and working out the Christian life.
Too often our attention is diverted to worldly activities. We look at all the turmoil going on around us and wonder if Christ is coming now. When will Christ come? What will bring His coming? These questions will be answered biblically through prophecy in up-coming chapters. But I want you to understand that you can hasten the coming of Jesus. How? Read the parable Christ taught in Mark 4:26-29 and listen very carefully to what it is saying. Then see if this passage is not true. There is a work for you to do.
"Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.
"It is the privilege of every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, (2 Peter 3:12). Were all who profess His name bearing fruit to His glory, how quickly the whole world would be sown with the seed of the gospel. Quickly the last great harvest would be ripened, and Christ would come to gather the precious grain." COL:EGW
That is the object of this Bible study, to sow, teach the true gospel of Jesus so that each person may come to the perfection (bearing fruit) of the character of Jesus Christ. Let us work toward that end and hasten the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
So again we must ask ourselves, whose "gospel" are we teaching? The gospel as taught by the Catholic Church? The gospel as taught by the worldly churches? Or the gospel that Jesus taught? If you obey the gospel as Jesus taught it: Stop sinning, Be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to "get" your eternal life; then you will be saved. If not, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." 2 Thessalonians 1:8.