We have been saved to do good works




We have been saved by grace apart from good works


The apostle John says: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

Brethren, God first loved us; we cannot say that we first loved Him because all of us were once dead in our trespasses, we were all enemies of God because we fulfilled the desires of the flesh and of the mind; we were hateful and hating one another and thus we were dead because “anyone who does not love remains in death” (1 John 3:14 – NIV) and did not know God because “he who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8 - NKJV). Each of us had turned to his own way; recalling the years we spent serving sin, we have to say that we also once walked according to the course of this world, we also conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, and thus we deserved to be cast into the fire of hell to be punished for our sins. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ …” (Ephesians 2:4-5) and saved us from the fire of hell. God manifested His great love toward us “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) so that we might receive freely eternal life, and so we are bound to give thanks to Him continually for His indescribable gift, that is, eternal life, He has given to us. Consider this: God has given us eternal life not by good works which we have done, but according to His great mercy for us; we have received eternal life by grace, through faith, as it is written: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36 – NKJV). Consider this also: the ransom for the redemption of our soul was paid fully by Jesus Christ. One doesn’t have to pay anything for the redemption of his soul because Christ, before breathing His last, said: “It is finished” (John 19:30), that’s why salvation is obtained freely, through faith in Christ apart from the works of the law.



The importance of good works in the life of a believer


As I said before, we were not saved by good works. However we were saved to do good works, as it is written that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14) and that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

Therefore, brothers, just as we once showed our folly by doing evil things, so now we ought to show our wisdom by doing good works. Good works are useful because through them we make our call and election sure (2 Peter 1:10), and we cause those who see them to glorify our God who is in heaven, as Jesus said: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Good works are so important that James, the brother of Jesus, said that if faith “does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17 - NKJV) and that “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26 - NKJV). Therefore, faith without good works is of no value because it is dead, while faith working through love (Galatians 5:6) is of great value in the sight of God.

Let’s look for instance at the faith of Abraham, our father. Now, Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness (therefore it was his faith that was accounted to him for righteousness), and this happened before the birth of Isaac. After Isaac was born, while Isaac was still a boy, God gave this order to Abraham: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2) and Abraham obeyed God for he arose, took his son and went to the place of which God had told him in order to offer Isaac there as a burnt offering. But as you know, when Abraham was about to slay his son God stopped him and Abraham offered a ram up for a burnt offering instead of his son. Then God told him that He would bless him and that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed because he had obeyed His voice. Now, the Scripture says: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17-19). That means that when Abraham was tested by God, his faith did not cease working but continued to work by doing what God commanded him to do. In regard to this event of the life of Abraham, James said: “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:21-23). As you can see, the faith of Abraham was made perfect (or complete) by what he did.

I would like you to notice that it is written: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac” (Hebrews 11:17), therefore Abraham acted out of faith - Abel also acted out of faith, as it is written: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain…” (Hebrews 11:4). So the Scripture teaches us that every good work we are called to do, we have to do it by faith. Besides this, it teaches that every time there is a need among the brethren we are tested (as Abraham was tested) by God because God commands us to distribute to the needs of the saints, as it is written: “Share with God’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13 - NIV), and through this commandment He tests us to see whether we are willing to help those who are in need or not, whether we love the brethren in tongue or in deed and truth, whether we fear Him or not. Is it not written that good works were prepared by God beforehand? Therefore it is God who creates certain needs among the brethren in order to test our faith and our love. He wants to see whether we are willing to obey Him or not. Of course, in the midst of this test the tempter tempts us to disobey this commandment, but we know how to overcome the devil, for the Scripture tells us: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Now let us return to the behaviour of Abraham: he could have said: ‘Why should I offer up my only son? What’s the good of offering him up?’, yet, he did not say or think such things; he obeyed God and offered up his son “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:19). Therefore, Abraham believed that he would not lose his son because God would give him his son back. The faith of Abraham is an example of faith to imitate because his faith was alive. Now, I take the faith of Abraham as a starting point for telling you the following things. Paul, concerning a certain contribution for the poor among the saints, said to the Corinthians. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever” (2 Corinthians 9:7-9). Please, note that Paul gives the saints this order first: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give” and then he says: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you”. Likewise, therefore, just as Abraham offered up Isaac believing that God was able to raise him up, so you have to meet the needs of the saints believing that God is able to make all grace abound toward you; and for sure, as Abraham received Isaac back from death (figuratively speaking), so you will not lose what you give to the needy, but you will receive it back (in the way and when God wills) because God “is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God sees what you do for the sake of the poor among the saints and He will supply all your needs because He is faithful and at His appointed time He will reward you for what you have done, as it is written: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17 – NKJV).

God wants us to be fruitful in every good work so that His name may be glorified in us, as Jesus said: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). And the only way to bear much fruit is by abiding in Christ, as Jesus said: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But if we don’t abide in Christ, that is if we don’t put the word of God into practice, it will impossible for us to bear fruit “as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine” (John 15:4).



Some of the good works the saints must do


Now, let’s look at some of the good works the Holy Scripture speaks of.

The saints must help those widows who are really widows, as it is written: “Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed” (1 Timothy 5:3-16). As you can see, if any believing man or woman has widows, they must relieve them so that the Church may not be burdened; while those widows who are left alone and have the above mentioned qualifications must be relieved by the church. Job said: “I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy” (Job 29:13 - NKJV); this is what the Church of God must do, that is to say, the Church must cause the heart of the widow who is really in need to sing for joy. The Church must defend widows and plead for them; let no one think that he can devour widows’ houses because for sure the “defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5 – NKJV), who is in heaven, will punish him. God punishes those who devour widows’ houses, He is righteous. With regard to widows, it must be also said that God wants us to visit widows in their trouble (James 1:27).

The saints must visit also orphans in their trouble (James 1:27). I remind you that God is “a father of the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5 – NKJV), and so He takes pleasure in those who help orphans and punishes all those who take advantage of the fatherless.

The saints must give food, drink and clothing to those saints who need these things (and also to those who are outside who need these things, as they have opportunity). Paul remembered the poor commanding the saints to make a contribution for the poor among the saints who were in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1). The disciples of the Church of Antioch, after the prophet Agabus stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a sever famine would spread over the entire Roman world, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea and this they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:28-30).

The saints must visit the sick and those who are in prison for the Gospel’s sake. While the apostle Paul was in prison in Rome, a certain disciple called Onesiphorus visited him and comforted him (2 Timothy 1:16-17). So when a brother is put in prison for Christ’s sake, we must not be ashamed of his chains but we must visit him and pray for him.

The saints must help the ministers of the Gospel on their way and see that they have everything they need, as it is written: “Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them” (Titus 3:13).

The saints must share all good things with those who teach because those who preach the Gospel should live from the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6), that is to say, because they are worthy of their wages (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

The saints must practice hospitality, as it is written: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:2 – NKJV) and “practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13 – NIV). Hospitality must be practiced without grumbling, as it is written: “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9 - NIV). Lydia, after she and her household were baptized, gave hospitality to some servants of the Lord in Philippi, for Luke says: “And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us” (Acts 16:15). The keeper of the prison at Philippi, too, after he and his household were baptized, gave hospitality to the apostles Paul and Silas, as it is written: “And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:34). A certain Mnason of Cyprus also gave hospitality to the brethren, for Luke says: “And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge” (Acts 21:15-16). In the days of the apostles many brethren hosted the church (that is, the assembly of the redeemed). Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, hosted the brethren to pray for Peter, who had been put in prison, for it is written that after Peter was delivered from prison by an angel of the Lord, “he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying” (Acts 12:12 – NKJV). Aquila and Priscilla also hosted the Church, for Paul says to the saints in Rome: “Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5 – NKJV). In the sight of God it is right to host the church to pray, to sing, to break the bread, and to eat. But let him who hosts the brethren know that he must host them in a manner worthy of the saints, for when Paul commended sister Phoebe to the saints of Rome he wrote to them: “I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints ….” (Romans 16:1-2 – NKJV). Actually, when a brother entertains another brother in his own house, no matter for which reason, he must welcome him as if he were an angel of God, as if he were Jesus Himself. I think it is a good thing to remind you of the hospitality Abraham gave to the Lord and the two angels who were with Him, so that you may understand what ‘in a manner worthy of the saints’ means. It is written: “And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (Genesis 18:1-8)

I want to conclude this teaching by saying to you this. One day Jesus said to His disciples: “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). Consider the righteousness of God, brethren, because it is very high. Our God is righteous and rewards even those who give a cup of cold water to one of His sons. Therefore, brethren, knowing that the Lord is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister, be zealous for good works until the end, so that the name of the Lord may be glorified in you.