What Must We Do That We May Work the Works of God?
Religionists love works. Their heart’s desire is that works will save them from their sins. They muse, “Surely, God must appreciate what I do for Jesus!” Religion is a competitive game where God keeps score, and men are prone to think more highly of themselves than they ought to.
When the Jews sought for Jesus (Jn 6:26), they wished to compare His works-based regimen versus other teachers (they also enjoyed the free lunch!). Instead, He told them that He, as the Son of Man, would give them eternal life in the form of Himself (Jn 6:27).
Missing what Jesus was teaching them, the crowd focused on what they could do, no doubt to merit favor with God. In John 6:29, Jesus destroys religion, and its penchant for works. He informs His inquirers that God will work, instead of them.
God’s work precedes everything observable working in or through man. God raises the spiritually dead soul of His elect people through regeneration, “This is the work of God, that you believe (Jn 6:29a-b).” Faith is a gift of God (Phil 1:29), worked by God in His chosen ones, by the Holy Spirit given to them (Rom 5:5). These are saved by His grace (Eph 2:8), a work that is exclusive to God (Titus 3:5).
Sadly, many imagine salvation to be a joint venture between them and God (synergism). They invent the idea of a conditional covenant where God says, “I have done My part, now you must do your works.” Under this false system are many contrived works. Let us consider a few.
First, men think they have the spiritual prowess to repent of their rebellion against God, who they hate (Jn 7:7; Rom 1:30). They are told by false teachers to repent in their own power, and God will respond to them. False teachers miss the fact that repentance is a grace from God (Acts 5:31; 11:18). Grace is what God does to save His people, including giving them faith, to believe in the One whom He sent (Jn 6:29; Eph 2:8–9).
Second, men think they have the spiritual ability to believe the Gospel apart from Christ. Not only does Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5),” but apart from the initiating work of the Spirit of Christ, men remain spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). They cannot see, let alone enter the kingdom of God until they are born again of the Spirit of God (Jn 3:1–8; 1 Pet 1:3).
Third, men think they have the power to regenerate themselves. They think they are sick, but not dead. Therefore, they configure a regimen to make themselves alive and well again. This will make them right and holy before God, even though their self-prescribed standard is not perfection. This is always a regimen of good works.
God’s Word tells men, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom 4:5).” So insidious is works-based salvation that faith is turned into a work, and termed, “the obedience of faith.” Instead of seeing how the gift of faith is the cause of obedience, false teachers invent pre-qualifications of obedience that precede faith. Let us consider a few.
First, before I will fully trust Christ, I must overcome lust in my life. This, of course, is impossible because of sin nature dominating fleshly desires (Rom 7; Eph 2:1–3).
Second, before I can safely trust Christ, I must overcome my careless attitude and lifestyle. I must become disciplined. In the pattern of every New Year’s resolution, failure ensues, however.
Third, before I trust Christ, I must obey Jesus’ commands to love God and love my neighbor as myself. These, of course, are summaries of the whole Law of Moses that everyone has forever failed to keep, except for Jesus (Ex 20; Dt 5; Mt 5:17; 2 Cor 5:21; Eph 4:15).
Fourth, before I trust Christ, I must get serious about my sins. I must produce a godly sorrow. Sinful human flesh loves sin, and the lust of the flesh is to do sin. There is no victory over the flesh, nor sin, before one apprehends Christ by His gracious working within us.
Fifth, before I trust Christ, I must confess my sins, and repent of them all. Having already touched on this failed human operation, there is no successful spiritual discipline, for those who are not already in union with Christ.
Sixth, before I trust Christ, I must manufacture a life of prayer and praise that is acceptable to God. At the end of our list, we detect that people will do just about anything before they will trust Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and for eternal life.
In conclusion, the quest for religious works, by religious people, serves their sin nature and sinful flesh. The result is pride of performance. Even when the proselyte is fully informed, that salvation is by faith, alone, his inclination is to do some works for preparation. He must be corrected. There are no pre-qualifications to faith, which are accepted by God.
The Gospel is preached in the Spirit (Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:23; 2:2, 4). The Gospel call is heard in the Spirit, who makes the call, effectual (Jn 10:3–4). He does this by regenerating the spiritually dead soul of God’s elect, redeemed, who is made alive by God’s free will and gracious choice (Rom 11:5). The born again is given faith to believe in Christ Jesus because of the indwelling Spirit (Rom 8:9, 11), who continues to will and to work in the believer unto glorification (Rom 8:30; Phil 2:13). It is all of God and none of man. It is His work; He will do it (Ps 37:5; Is 26:12).
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 12, 2022