“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:8-10.
We are saved by the grace (goodwill) of God when we trust Him (believe what He says in order that we may be saved). When we trust Him, we surrender to His will; do what He says we should do so that He may save us (cleanse us) from our sins. He has done what was necessary to take away sin (way of the cross); He laid humanity’s sin on His Son at the cross of Calvary. He blunted Satan’s great tool, death, when He raised Jesus up from the dead, so that humanity may no longer be afraid of death (separation from God). So then, we are saved by God’s goodwill (unmerited favour) towards humanity. Salvation is the gift of God. God does not have to save man – He is under no obligation to man. He gave us the freedom of choice and we chose to disobey God. Yet, God, being Who He is – compassionate and kind – chose to save us by His own sacrifice. According to the songwriter (Wesley) “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou, my God, should die for me.” God wanted a people for Himself who would be His creation in Christ Jesus who would do what Christ did; be like Christ and thereby (by their lives) glorify Him, good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them. So, when we decide to follow Christ, we have this goal in mind i.e., to do the good works prepared by God and revealed through, and in the lives of, Christ Jesus and the Apostles. While we journey on this earth, our minds (spirits) ought to be in heaven where our Lord is. If we love Him, we will do what he says.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Being a Christian in name only is not enough. We have to grow in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature – attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature – until we become like our Lord Jesus Christ. In such maturity there is no doubt, only a quiet assurance and trust in God which compels us to do His will and be found acceptable to Him. Then, speaking the truth in love, the people of God (His church, the Body of Christ) grow up to be like Christ, the Head, in every way. Then the church grows in Christ being compact with each part supplying the needs of the body as they work effectively according to their fullest ability and thereby the body increases and builds itself up in love – love for Jesus the Head and love for one another with the interest of God uppermost in each one’s mind.
What are the good works that have been prepared for Christians to do?
(Matthew 25:34-40) : “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Our Lord has left many examples of good works. We also have the quality of work done in the church(es) :
In 1 Corinthians : 3:6-15, Paul says: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused it to grow. So neither the one who plants counts for anything, nor the one who waters, but God who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are united, but each will receive his reward according to his work. We are coworkers belonging to God. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master-builder I laid a foundation, but someone else builds on it. And each one must be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than what is being laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw, each builder’s work will be plainly seen, for the Day will make it clear, because it will be revealed by fire. And the fire will test what kind of work each has done. If what someone has built survives, he will receive a reward. If someone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
The apostle Paul says to Titus the evangelist in Titus 3:14: “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.” Here is another way that Christians can learn to engage in good works to meet pressing needs and so not be unfruitful. By engaging in good works, Christians meet the pressing needs of all and are fruitful for Christ.
Romans 6:22: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.”
Philippians 1:9-11 – I pray this, that your love may abound even more and more in knowledge and every kind of insight so that you can decide what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Finally, Colossians 1:10: “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
For this reason we also, from the day we heard, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects: bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, with joy giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. – Colossians 1:9-12.
Christians are called to bear fruit in every good work; they need to be salt and light of the world. Remember, our Lord said in Matthew 5:16 “let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.”