Christians and Good Works

Three prevailing opinions about Christians and works exist:

1) Do, do, do! If you aren’t doing, doing, doing you aren’t a good Christian
2) Relax man, nothing really matters, it’s all grace, chill out and just be, man.
3) An awkward middle ground where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to do stuff or not, or if Jesus i,s or what do I do to let Jesus do things if I can’t do things because Jesus is mad when I do, but if I don’t do when He’s doing then I mess it up, but if I don’t do anything then is it Jesus not doing anything and on and on.

There is a fourth way.

4) Humbly acknowledge that Christ knows more than you so consent unto the Words of Christ and faithfully and humbly obey.

If you’re a believer this will be your joy, peace and liberty. If you’re an unbeliever and you try to do what Jesus says you’ll just get frustrated, give up because frankly, righteousness aint worth it.

Grace does not mean an absence of works. Grace teaches us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world. Because of grace Paul says he labored more abundantly than anyone.

In the end, Paul acknowledges it was grace working in him, but he also claimed that he was indeed the one doing the stuff and that all will give an account for what they do in the body.

Obeying Christ, to the born again believer, is no chore and is certainly not legalism. To the unbeliever it is a chore and legalism. The difference is whether Christ is in you, whether you’re a spiritual creation.

This is inadequate but it’s an effort on my part to explain the reality of Christian living. It’s a great thing. There is no greater feeling than knowing you’ve served your Lord. Being resistant to serving Him, to find a theological loophole for lethargic, sinful living, is a danger sign.

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12 comments

  1. paul walton

    “If you’re an unbeliever and you try to do what Jesus says you’ll just get frustrated, give up because frankly, righteousness aint worth it.”

    This statement got me thinking about free-will, and I came to the conclusion that if we will only come to Christ of our own volition as Arminian view claims, why bother to pray for people? To me praying in this situation would seem like a waste of time, because ultimately the decision to believe is in our hands alone, God is not sovereign in the outcome, His hands are tied if indeed our will is sovereign over His.

    I’m not trying to be a smart aleck but thanks Jeff, the more I read your blog the more it confirms my embracing of reformed theology.

  2. paul walton

    Honestly how would an Arminian pray for someone’s salvation? Because the thought process would be; Lord please change so&so’s will to believe, even though I believe they ultimately have the final decision because you won’t, (can’t?) change their will?
    Really what is the purpose of praying if the person is sovereign in the decision? It can’t be both ways either God is sovereign, or He is not!

  3. jeff

    Your understanding of Arminian thinking is a bit of a caricature.

    God draws people, He has given us a conscience, He has given us revelation through creation so that no man has an excuse to miss it, He has given us His word, the testimony of believers and many other things. Arminian thought doesn’t say that “the decision to believe is in our hands alone.”

    Praying for the salvation of someone else could be problematic to a Calvinist who thinks all things are ordained beforehand. Does God save people on the merit of another’s petition? If so, you’re back to God saving people based on people, not God’s preordained will. This is not a problem for my Arminian leaning thinking. It probably isn’t for a Calvinist either based on the answer I know is coming, but thought I’d return the favor!

  4. paul walton

    The problem with your concept is that there is no clear and adequate basis in Scripture for this concept of universal enablement. On the other hand there is plenty of scripture that confirm that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, Ephesians 2:8. God does show mercy to everyone, and this grace restrains sin and gives mankind a knowledge of God and of their sinfulness and need of rescue from sin. But this common grace is distinguished from saving grace, which takes away willful blindness, converts the stubborn heart, and effectively brings one to faith. Common grace thus leaves people without excuse, but it does not save from sin and it does not provide universal ability to savingly respond to God. God moves the hearts of believers to pray for those whom He intends to draw.

  5. jeff

    Ephesians 2:8 says we’re saved by grace through faith. You say we’re saved by grace to faith. I go with the Apostle here.

    Universal enablement is all over Scripture, everyone has the ability to be saved by faith. He died for the sins of the whole world. Anyone who believes is saved.

  6. paul walton

    What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:
    “None is righteous, no, not one;
    11 no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
    12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.
    I guess these verses are just hypothetical and not an actual condition? Romans 3 is speaking about the real (present) condition of the unregenerate. For example, when the Bible says people are “dead in their transgressions” until God makes them alive (Ephesians 2:1-5), this shows that people are incapable of believing, because sin has destroyed their moral freedom, until God gives them new life in Christ by grace through the faith that He has given. Jesus said only those whom the Father draws will come to Him. But you are saying that we can come to Him of our own free-will that enables us, was Jesus miss-speaking. There is no verse in the Bible that says man has the enablement to come to Christ, without God’s saving grace. The invitation to come is much different than actually coming.

  7. paul walton

    Jeff,
    Truly I want to thank you, for these conversations because they only help me to cleave even more so to Reformed Theology, the arguments against it does not convince me to reject it in the slightest. Because the theology of free-will it is based more on emotion (what one wants to believe about God’s word), instead of reasoning (what God’s word actually says.)

  8. Frank Z.

    Jeff,

    While the Calvinists are busy arguing about free will, I’d like to reason a bit on the thoughts you’ve served up here.

    Some years ago, we had a series of studies in our church which clarified a few points regarding God’s plans and our plans. To give a few examples:

    1. Abraham received the promise (plan) to have a promised son. He did not receive the specific details (when, where, how) so after a while he went on to make up his own plans to fulfill the specifics. This became the classic example of legalism.

    2. The Israelites were given the general order (or plan) to take the Promised Land. God was leading them step by step, giving them the specific details as required, when they suddenly introduced a plan to send in spies and search out the Promised Land (just to make sure it was as good as God said it was!). This was their own planning and led to disaster.

    3. Joshua had marvelous success against Jericho, following God’s general order to take the Promised Land, as well as His specific directions as to how to proceed. But in Joshua 7, he reverted to human plan-making in the attack on Ai, and it was an utter failure. Instead of reasoning, as we often do, that if a little force couldn’t do it, a larger force could, he turned to God. God revealed where there was sin in the camp, and after their self-confidence had been dealt with, gave them an entirely successful plan to conquer the city.

    4. The failure of the Jewish nation to receive their Saviour was due in a large part to their desire to be the plan-makers, while Christ would be the power source. They desired that His power would be used to fulfill their designs for military conquest over the Romans. But God must be the plan-maker and power source…we are simply the dependant receivers. Jesus gave them the solution in Himself when He said, “Of my own self I can do nothing.”

    5. The early church also “fell away” from following God’s plans, and the “man of sin” became exalted as the problem-solver and plan-maker. Since God’s power would not support this scheme, the church turned to the power of the state.

    It’s also interesting to go through some of the other Old Testament stories and you will sometimes notice that God does not give the specific details of the plan unless the human agent first asks.

    So these examples bring out the principle that grace means obeying God not only in the general orders, but asking Him for the specific details as well. To make our own specifics is legalism…it means having too much confidence in our flesh, and not feeling our dependence upon His wisdom.

  9. Dustin

    A person that believes in free will of salvation will never pray what they believe. Spurgeon give a example of how one would have to pray for their theology to be true.
    “Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace.

    “If everybody had done the same with their grace that 1 have, they might all have been saved.

    “Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but l do.

    There are many that wilI go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as l am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them.”

    Charles Spurgeon
    We need to have a discussion on total depravity.

  10. paul walton

    Dustin,
    One of the main objections to Reformed Theology is that it sounds arrogant to say we have been chosen, which I don’t quite understand because it says it is unmerited, it’s all by God’s grace. But the prayer by C. Spurgeon in actuality shows how free-will makes much of man’s ability, and less of God’s grace. But still the objections will continue, because people think free-will gets God off the “hook” to do all He can to save everyone. But through Creation and the gospel, and common grace (knowledge of God and of their sinfulness and need of rescue from sin) He has revealed His goodness, and is on no hook to do more for man.

  11. Josh B.

    I think for all practical intents and purposes, we can “pretend” like we have free, even though we only have wills bound to _something_, whether it be sin or Christ.

    I actually had a discussion with someone who kept replying to all my statements about God’s goodness with, “Well, he would certainly appear good to people he had chosen, but he’s going to appear bad to people he hasn’t!” Despite my numerous attempts to explain that we cannot know who is chosen and who is not in this life, the point never made it into his mind. Those who _may be_ unchosen can’t sit around in resignation saying, “I guess God didn’t pick me.” The most staunch atheist may yet be elected for salvation.

    However, I’m leaning more toward a compatibilistic view in this arena ( http://www.iep.utm.edu/freewill/#SH3c ). Having said that, I think God can use many more things as means to his ends than we can comprehend (sin, prayer, men, natural events) without twisting our arm, so to speak. Maybe he has ordained that _your_ prayer will be the means by which he ultimately brings Mr. X to salvation. If you do not pray, but you should have (according to God’s revealed will, as opposed to his determined will), then you’ll probably hear about it, on the other side of death if not on this side.

    To actually respond to Jeff’s original post, I remember reading through the book of James shortly after becoming a Christian (and James obviously comes after Romans in a straight read through the Bible), and being totally stuck. What in the world is James staying? I camped there for a while and finally worked it out with the help of several theologians. In the words of John MacArthur Jr., faith works. It’s not an empty faith. James is so easily reconciled with Paul, as they were writing their epistles to address different concerns.