Is it possible that many people have reversed the order of grace and works? Even after hundreds of years of preaching in the United States and beyond, too many people, including people in our churches, seem to emphasize what they do as a part of salvation. Ask them how to get to heaven and some part of the answer will be, “Doing the best I can” or “Doing good to those around me.”
One result of this sad reversal is the tendency some believers have of deemphasizing works altogether. The emphasis on grace and mercy becomes so dominant that the role of works (good deeds, service) is nearly forgotten.
No Contradiction Between Grace and Works
In scripture, there is no contradiction between grace and works as long as one does not trust his or her own good deeds to bring about salvation. After receiving Christ, however, good works are expected as a fruit of the Christian life.
Writing in Bible Studies for Life, Ben Mandrell says, “The inward focus of our sin nature not only harms us, but also our relationships. If I’m focused on myself, and you’re focused on yourself, how can we ever connect on a deeper level?”1
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Jesus considered good works part of letting our light shine. “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Works are not a means of getting grace, but works are a means of showing grace. When we show grace through good works, our relationships are drawn to a deeper level than before.
Three Simple Things
When you think about sticking with service while following Jesus, remember these three simple things. Love leads to serving, serving means engaging others, and the opportunities for serving are never ending.
Paul writes to the Galatian believers, “For you were called to be free, brothers, only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:13, 14). Loving each other is the basis for serving each other. If my love for my neighbor fails, so will my willingness to serve him or her.
Be on the Lookout
This means we have to be on the lookout for opportunities to engage others through good works. One day, it may be a person on our street who lost a job and needs groceries. The next day, it may be a homeless person who needs a meal. Yet another day, a senior who no longer drives may need a ride to the pharmacy. Love compels us to look for opportunities to serve. Divine appointments don’t always walk through the door; sometimes they’re on the street.
We should also remember that opportunities to serve others are never ending. When Jesus told His disciples, “You will always have the poor with you,” it wasn’t to indicate there was no need to help them. On the contrary, He was reminding them of the ongoing opportunity and responsibility to help those in need. As long as we live in this fallen world, there will be no lack of opportunities to do good works. May we stick with service so our Father in heaven will be glorified.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. FloydSenior Pastor, Cross Church General Editor, Bible Studies for Life President, Southern Baptist Convention
1- Bible Studies for Life, Like Glue, Ben Mandrell