Friday, October 22, 2010

Grace or Works

"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:11 NAS)

Martin LutherOne of the first published writings by Protestant reformer Martin Luther in 1520 was A Treatise on Good Works. In it, Luther put up an argument on the topic of justification by grace through faith, not by works. He said if we think by doing good we can be well-pleasing to God, we are lowering God to the level of a broker or a laborer who does not dispense His grace and kindness without payment. Luther addressed in his writing the essence of good works and their fundamental relation to faith. He emphasized that the believer should not need instruction on good works, but should on his own accord at all times do good as his faith and confidence teaches him. The only reason such instruction becomes necessary is because not all of us have equal faith or are mindful of the need to do good works.

Long before Martin Luther wrote and spoke about good works, the churches in the first century also argued on the topic of salvation by grace or by works. It was then Simon Peter, the former fisherman turned apostle, who stood up in the presence of believers and Jews of Jerusalem to make the first recorded theological statement on the subject of salvation by grace in the New Testament.

After there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are." (Acts 15:7-12 NAS)

We know we have been saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus, therefore, we ought also to teach the same to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Not that there is a need to do so, since as believers good works should come naturally according to our faith and confidence (Ephesians 2:10), but because not all of us have equal faith or are mindful in doing good works. God knows our hearts and has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us as an affirmation of His gift of salvation, cleansing our hearts by faith. Let us therefore not impose unnecessary practices on others—especially new believers—to put upon their necks the yoke we ourselves cannot bear.

The Bible is very clear on the topic of salvation that it is by grace we have been saved through faith; and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). We have been saved, not on the basis of deeds done in righteousness, but because of His mercy, that by His grace we may be heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7). We need not worry therefore to think that God would expect payment from us to earn our salvation; not when His only Son had already paid it all (Matthew 20:28; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

Thank You dear Lord for dying on our behalf that we may freely receive Your salvation. We know O God that by our own efforts, even with all the good works we have done, we cannot earn Your forgiveness or be reconciled with You. Only by Your grace alone Lord have we been saved through faith, and not by our own works. Put in our hearts Lord the desire to do good works that we may on our own accord at all times do good naturally, rather than because we are instructed to do so. Help us Lord not to overburden our fellow brothers and sisters to put a yoke on their necks beyond they can bear, but instead nurture them in your ways to do good according to their faith and confidence.

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