The scriptures say a lot about grace, works, and faith. My understanding is still developing, and there is much to learn. But this is what I understand and this is how I live.
Today, I want to look at works and how they fit into God’s plans for us, according to His word (all citations KJV except where noted).
First of all, will we be judged according to our works? And if we are judged by them, aren’t we also accountable for them?
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. (Revelation 20:12–13)
Will we receive a resurrection of life or death based on what we have done in this life or on what we think or say or merely believe?
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28–29)
On the other hand, can we do a lot of apparent good in this world and then not have it count for anyhting?
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21–23)
And if we do all kinds of good deeds without charity in our hearts, what happens then?
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2–3)
Can I profess to know God but my works prove otherwise?
They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. (Titus 1:16)
So, given these verses, can I conclude that (1) I’ll be judged by my works, (2) what I have done will determine a resurrection of life or death, (3) I can can say and do wonderful works without charity and those deeds will avail me nothing, and (4) I may profess God while at the same time deny Him with my works? I can. Can I, dare I, conclude anything else?
Is the grace of God so expansive, so inclusive that I am required to do nothing to receive it? Nothing? Am I chosen only by election and can do nothing about it? My actions, meaningless, null and void?
What did Isaiah mean when he said the following?
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Here is the NIV version of Isaiah 64:6 for good measure:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
So our good deeds are “filthy rags” and our evil deeds sweep us away to damnation? Can I do nothing to help myself? Is my freedom of choice meaningless if, for good or ill, it all counts for naught?
I don’t accept it. I never have. Yes, I accept that all my good acts, words, and works cannot save me. But I cannot accept that they are not expected by a wise, all-knowing God. Micah 6:6–8 says—
Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
To “do justly,” I must be fair and honest in my dealings. To “love mercy,” I must act with kindness and forbearance, and “to walk humbly” I must not justify my sin or be defensive or proud or belittling or mean. I want to live up to all that, but try as I may, I can’t. Not 100 percent of the time.
I cannot do otherwise than try, for he said, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That gives me hope enough to try.
So this is what I have been doing and what I’ll continue to do. Trust God. Do right. Have faith. Turn my weaknesses over to Him. But get off the mat and keep trying. Never give up. Let His grace take care of what I cannot take care of, but I will try to fix everything I can to the best of my ability.
I am a sinner and a weakling. I don’t want to be. God, help me. Please. I am doing the best I know how.