By Roland W. Keith
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by Him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (I Peter 2:11-15).
Every Christian knows that we have been saved by the grace of God through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It has also been made clear that our own efforts with regard to works of the Law, that is the law of Moses, play no part in our salvation. God alone determined to save us and devised a just plan to do so (Titus 3:4). But to what purpose? We know that God’s desire is for all to come to Him that we may have eternal life with Him and avoid eternal damnation. However, is that the sole reason for all that He has done?
There is a reason why God created the universe, why He created living things, why He created one being in His Own image, why He gave that being dominion over an entire planet, why He gave that being free will, and why He chose to redeem him after he fell from grace. There is no singular reason for these things. God took pleasure in the creative process, and He has remained involved in His creation ever since. As the one being who has been made in God’s image and given a measure of His creative impulses, we know what it is like to create something and be pleased with our efforts (Genesis 1: 25, 27). We also know what it feels like to have something we have made become corrupted. And many of us know the painstaking efforts to restore our creation to its original condition (Luke 12:32; Romans 8:20; Ephesians 1:10). We are, after all, imitators of our Father. God is not simply an observer of His creation, but an intimate participant in its total existence (Colossians 1:15-20).
What then of the creature made to reflect the Creator? Is getting into heaven the sole purpose for our existence? Since God had already created heavenly beings, and since he created us as a part of a physical universe, that assertion does not seem logical. As far as we know humanity is unique in God’s creation. A short blog does not permit us to delve into all the reasons why God created us, so today we will concentrate on one. God created us to do good. According to Paul, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Such good works require us to seek God while turning away from worldly pursuits. In his letter to Titus, Paul also wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” (2:12-14).
Jesus spent His entire ministry helping others physically, emotionally, and spiritually (Matthew 15:30; 11:4-5; Acts 10:38). And, according to His example, He expects the same from us, saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). In emulating His good deeds through our own we bring glory to our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16; I Peter 2:12).
What are among the requirements for doing good? We must be obedient to those in authority over us (Titus 3:1). We must be devoted to the work; it cannot be an on-again, off-again pursuit (Titus 3:8, 14). Such efforts are profitable to those we help as well as to ourselves. Moreover, a tree that grows to maturity and does not bear fruit is cut down and removed from the orchard as useless (Luke 13:6-9), fit only to be thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19). However, when we bear fruit as Christ’s followers it not only benefits those in urgent need, it also accomplishes something else. By being model citizens concerned with and involved in the welfare of others it also silences those who would scoff at the followers of Christ out of ignorance (I Peter 2:15).
If a tree that doesn’t bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, what does that say about works? Clearly Paul taught that works do not save (Ephesians 2:8-9). Nonetheless, James wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:14-17, 20, 26).
Are Paul and James at odds? No. The works that are of no consequence are those performed under the Mosaic Law, a merit-based system that could only expose man’s violations of the Law but could not save them. Such works are dead works (Hebrews 6:1; 9:14). On the other hand, we are told that Jesus is the source of salvation for all who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9). John also tells us that we are children of God if we obey His commandments (I John 5:2). Such obedience requires work on our part. Jesus’ works and those of His apostles compelled those who witnessed them to believe in Jesus (Acts 2:22; John 14:12). While the age of miracles has passed, we continue to do the works of Christ by spreading the gospel and doing the other works that the Father has set before us. Moreover, we will be judged by them (Romans 2:6). Not dead works, that is works of merit under the old Law, but works of faith and obedience under the new law, the law of faith (Romans 3:27), the law of God (Romans 7:22), the law of the Spirit of life (Romans 8:2), or the law of liberty (James 1:25). If we are being obedient our fellow Christians and the world should be able to identify Who we belong to by our works. If those works are not there to be seen, can our faith survive?
Here are some examples of the kinds of work we are to be engaged in as God’s servants (Matthew 28:18-20; James 1:27; Acts 2:35; I Thessalonians 5:14; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:14-15; Romans 12:13-18; I Timothy 5:9-10; Hebrews 13:2-3, 6; I Timothy 6: 17-20). These are just some of the things we should be concerned with in the church. It is not a merit system, there is not quota, but it is of these things that we build a life of obedience or disobedience, for which we will be judged, even as the seven churches were judged (Revelation 2, 3). We should encourage one another to join in the harvest and stay the course. And when start to slack remember the words of Paul: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” Galatians 6:9-10).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.