Grace and Good Works
A very important matter which has troubled Churches of Christ is the significance of Grace and the significance of Good Works. Numerous books and articles have been written over the centuries about this. In one or a thousands blogs would not cover all the ideas and passages involving this issue. Here are only a few basic thoughts for consideration.
1. As I grew up in Churches of Christ, EVERYONE agreed that we are saved by GOOD WORKS. Two major New Testament letters focus on this concept: 1 Timothy and James. Of course, there are other texts that seem to support this concept in the New Testament. Preacher quote and preach on James 2:14-26 often. One example is James 2:18: "But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith." In the 1500s, Martin Luther struggled with the apparent contradiction between James and Paul's letters of Galatians and Romans, and Luther contended that James is not really a part of the New Testament.
2. Anyone who studies Galatians and Romans knows that the emphasis is on GOD'S GRACE. One clear example is Galatians 2:15-16: "We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law." Ephesians 2:8-9 emphasize this same point: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God--not the result of works, so that no one may boast." In the 1960s, one of our preachers at the Highland Church of Christ, John Allen Chalk, preached a series on Romans. This series is available to anyone who would like to read and study.
3. In the 1960s, Churches of Christ began to realize that God saves us by grace, not by our own good works. This was a major true transformation for these and all people. All of us are sinners. There is no way that anyone can save himself or herself or others. God alone has the power to save us and transform us into his image.
4. The biblical teaching of God's grace and good works is:
a. God saves everyone by his own free choice in spite of our sinful nature and way of life. There is nothing at all that anyone of us can do to save us.
b. The only response we have to God for his grace and mercy is gratitude. Gratitude leads us to obey God and to serve him. Good works are the natural outpouring of the human heart full of thanksgiving and gratitude.
c. Good works are not a burden. They do not drive us to depression. On the contrary, gratitude motivates us to good many more good works than anyone could do by trying to achieve salvation. We achieve absolutely nothing. God saves us in spite of who we are.
5. Read the Bible again. The Bible is full of wonderful messages about the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, his grace, his mercy, his forgiveness. Exodus 34:6-7 contains God's own definition of his nature:
The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no mean clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parent upon the children
and the children's children,
to the third and the fourth generation."
Share YOUR shortcomings and questions and ideas and experiences and determinations with others. Let me hear from YOU.