By Pastor I.O.Odewale

Topic: Grace and work in the scheme of Salvation
Memory Work: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Rm.2:8-9).

Many of us Christians do not understand the relationship between grace and work in the scheme of salvation. Many still believe that it is our good works that will facilitate our smooth passage to the kingdom of God.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, apart from teaching the virtue of humility and discouraging pride in religious matters, is a veiled appraisal of grace and work in the economy of salvation.
In the parable two men went up to the temple to pray, one was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Remember that the Pharisees were strict observers of the Laws of Moses and were regarded as holy men. But the tax collectors were looked down upon as sinners – one, because they collected taxes for their pagan overlords, Romans and two, because they were never honest in this business.
According to the parable, the Pharisee stood up and prayed thus with himself, ‘God I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers or as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’ (Lk.18:11-12).

Let’s hear what the bible says about the tax collector: “And the tax collector standing from afar off, could not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Lk.18:13).
The Lord Jesus in conclusion said, ‘I tell you, this man (i.e. the tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other (i.e. the Pharisee)’ (Lk.18:14).

Note: to be justified is to be free from condemnation.
We are not told that the Pharisee was justified.
While the tax collector humbled himself. We read that he could not even raise his eyes to heaven because he thought he was unworthy before the most holy God. Rather he entrusted himself to the grace of a merciful God who justifies the ungodly through faith in Him (Rm.4:3). But the Pharisee trusted in his works of religion and he did not go to his home justified. Grace humbles but works lead to boasting and pride.

Now, what is grace? Grace is unmerited favour that God bestowed to us in His Son Jesus Christ (Jn.1:17). This is expressed strongly in our redemption, forgiveness of sin and salvation. Our salvation from the beginning to the end is by grace (Jn.3:16). Our Christian life from the beginning to the end is dependent on grace (Jn.6:44; Rm.8:29-30). The gift of the Holy Spirit and His gifts to the church are all by grace (Jn.1:16)..
God’s grace compensates for human weakness. Paul wrote: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2Co.12:8-9).

What are referred to works in Christian parlance? They are religious obligations like church offerings, tithes, alms-giving, evangelism, preaching, teaching, charity works etc, and rituals like baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, fasting, observation of holy days and church festivals etc.
Can all these works save anyone? But the bible says: ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast’ (Rm.2:8-9). See also Titus 3:4-7.

Where then is the place of work in the scheme of salvation, after all, James said that faith without work is dead (Jas.2:20)? Christian works or call it, good works are the product of salvation. When by grace you have been drawn to Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit, and you have received Him as your Lord and Saviour you are saved. It is then you will be empowered to do good works. Thus your good works are as a result of your salvation. Apostle Paul wrote about himself: ‘…….by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them (the other apostles) – yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me’ (1 Co.15:10). He wrote to the Philippians: ‘….work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure’ (Phil.2:12-13). What Paul is saying here is that now that the Philippians were saved, they should to show the effect of their salvation by good works that God would will in them and give them the enablement to perform.

Jesus said: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears fruit, for without Me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5). Without being saved we cannot bear any good fruits and neither can we do any good works. Apart from Christ, all our good works are like filthy rags (Isa.64:6).

In conclusion we must understand that our good works cannot take us to heaven but our faith in the finished work of Christ on Calvary. In faith we should accept the salvation that He has purchased for us through His blood. It is then that we can do any good works. However, our works for God will be rewarded in full when we appear before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Co. 5:10)

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