When Good Works Get In The Way

Yesterday I made the point that doing good actually is good. There’s nothing bad about doing good.

But, but, but what about the older brother in the Prodigal Son parable? What about the Pharisees and all their “good works?” What about all those who say “Lord, Lord, look what we did” and He tells them He never knew them? Surely that good is bad.

All of these examples are about one point–works to achieve salvation.

The older brother of the “Prodigal Son” thought Dad owed him for services rendered. He was ticked that the younger, idiot son got “salvation” while he got no reward at all.

The Pharisees thought they were so good because of their works, they didn’t even think they needed a savior, which is partially why they did not recognize Christ.

Those who point to their works on Judgment Day have missed the point. They did good works as a point of pride. Again, they are looking for the payout–look what I did; now where’s my heaven?

All of these people have works in the place of faith. They didn’t need faith, they never saw their need for grace, because they had their works.

No man is saved by works. Boasting about what you do is eliminated.

To take these examples and then tell Christians, “So be careful not to do good so you don’t become like them” is grossly missing the point.

Sure, there should be warnings about the dangers of works apart from faith. But to go to the exact opposite extreme and point to the dangers of works with faith solves nothing.

People go to extremes, it’s what we do. Stop it.

“Faith works by love,” is how Paul puts it. “I will show you my faith by my works” is how James puts it. Both are expressing the same truth–faith leads to works. Faith is hearing God’s Word. God’s Word is largely filled with commands. Faith does what God says.

Faith is first. You must be born again. Apart from Christ you can do nothing. Which then has to mean that with Christ I can do all righteousness. It has to mean that, otherwise saying apart from Christ “you can do nothing” makes no sense.

What would be the point of apart from Christ you can do nothing, if it’s also true that with Christ you can do nothing?

It is through faith in the Gospel, our joining in the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ that we are raised to newness of life. This new life is always marked by being a servant of righteousness.

There is nothing wrong with doing righteousness then. In fact, it is the greatest proof of what right is!

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