What do grace and faith mean to a Christian? How about works?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
Paul wrote the book of Galatians to set the record straight for early Christians about the relationship of grace and faith and of works to salvation. It seems to be an easy area for us as Christians to confuse.
When we’re talking to someone seeking salvation, we say it’s all faith. You can’t “earn” your salvation through any works of your own. Then as soon as the person accepts Jesus, we start telling him or her what a Christian can or should do and what he can’t or shouldn’t do. We’re all too quick to hand out a list of rules.
Some denominations say you have to be baptized in order to be saved. Others say you must adhere to rules in order to avoid losing your salvation. We seem to go out of our way to confuse new Christians. Simply accepting Jesus on faith is too simple for us. We’ve got to add something to make it more difficult.
Paul made it pretty clear and simple in his letter to the church at Ephesus. Chapter 2, verses 8 & 9 say: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
That makes it pretty clear and pretty simple, doesn’t it? Our salvation comes as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ. Period. Jesus plus nothing else. His grace is sufficient. His sacrifice paid for ALL our sins—once for all time.
But, David, shouldn’t a Christian do good works? Shouldn’t he feed the poor, comfort the mourning? Shouldn’t he share the Gospel with others to help them find their way to Jesus?
Emphatically, YES. These are all things Christians should WANT to do. That’s the key to discussions of faith and works. My salvation comes about as a result of faith and faith alone. But once that salvation is extended, the Holy Spirit begins His work in me to conform me to the image of Jesus.
This is not to say I’m made perfect when I’m saved. Conforming me to the image of Jesus is a process that will last the rest of my life on earth. I won’t reach the goal in this life. But as He works in me to transform me and grow me as a Christian, He plants the desire in me to do good works.
If I’m doing a good work because I think I’m supposed to, that work is dead. I’ve placed myself back under the law. But if I do a good work because I want to—in fact, because I can’t keep from it—then that work flows out of my faith and has nothing to do with the law.
Do you have trouble accepting the simplicity of salvation? Do you have guilt feelings that you ought to do this or that? How does this apparent conflict between faith and works affect your walk as a Christian? We’d love to hear from you.
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Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.