Not of works…
July 8th, 2019
The beauty of the Good News is that it recognizes our inability to perform to a level that would satisfy the righteousness of God.
Think about that statement for a few minutes.
If we take a survey of the Old and New Testament, we find not a different system of justification; instead, we find that the same basis of attributing righteousness is consistent pre and post New Covenant.
Common thinking is that before incarnate Christ Jesus it was all about the law.
But this is a misconception. The law was provided so that we might understand our sin and our sinful nature. Without the law, there was no standard by which humanity had the ability to see just how far from the mark their attempt to justify themselves really were.
Abraham had faith in the Lord and because of his faith God attributed righteousness to him.
And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 15:6 (NKJV)
Noah and his family were saved from the flood because God attributed righteousness to Noah due to his faith in what God had told him. He didn’t earn it by what he did or who he was. He didn’t become the builder of the ark and because he was that builder God counted him righteous. God saw that Noah was in faith accepting from the Lord every instruction he was given.
God consistently has pronounced judgement for the fulness of sin and conversely provides grace in response to faith in Him and his promise.
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly
2 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV)
God spoke his Word to Noah. Noah in turn believed in the Word of God. His Faith in the Word of God was counted as righteousness.
Noah and Abraham are not New Testament subjects of history. They are firmly in the Old Testament. But this pattern of faith being the basis of God’s Grace isn’t limited to these, this takes place over and over again.
Joshua, David, Solomon, and more were imperfect examples of those who despite their imperfections placed their faith in God and as a result they were granted unmerited favor by the Lord for that trust.
It wasn’t the works they did. Even the sacrificial system of cleansing by blood offering for sin wasn’t what imparted grace. It was the faith in what God said about the act of sacrifice that imparted grace for those who were ‘faithful’.
The fact of this is born out in the New Testament when the Messiah denounces the religious leaders of the day.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Matthew 23:25-28 (NKJV)
“Dead men’s bone and uncleanness”, totally devoid of righteousness. Yet these religious leaders were experts in adherence to the law. Why they even were obedient to law which they have invented on their own because they thought it would better their position with the grace of God.
The bottom line is instead of earning righteousness they were found in the final evaluation of the Master to be “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
While this may be enlightening to us to see that God’s standard of grace through faith has been consistent over the ages, we still need to take this understanding and apply it to our lives as modern-day believers in the Word of God.
First, we need to understand that nothing we do attributes one iota to our position in the eyes of the Almighty.
James makes this point probably clearer than anyone else in scripture.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:18-19 (NKJV)
Faith and works are inextricably linked. But we do not establish faith through works. Works are a product of our faith. And where does faith come from?
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.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NKJV)
Faith is the gift of God, it has nothing to do with our works, because God didn’t want anyone bragging about how they attained righteousness through their own effort. Nothing to do with us, everything to do with God.
In Genesis 15 we find God interacting with Abraham to establish his covenant with him. God instructed Abraham to cut these animals in half (except the birds), placing one half of each on one side and another opposite a space from which God and Abraham could pass, to establish this agreement between them.
This was referred to as a blood covenant.
In a normal setting both parties would walk through this as a means of establishing the covenant between them.
In the case of Abraham, the preparations were all made and then God put Abraham into a deep sleep and then walked this path to establish this covenant completely dependent on God. This aligns with what Jesus did in the establishment of the New Covenant.
Nothing we could do could satisfy the debt of sin we have against us, so Jesus established the terms of the covenant with his blood.
The message by Paul in Ephesians is so much more than a colorfully to fill in the sentence. Paul writes, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” God provides the faith for us. It is his gift to us. But how is this delivered?
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
We probably could have figured that out without the quote out of Romans, but it serves to reinforce the fact that we can’t even take credit for the faith that God instills in us, because it comes from hearing the Word of God.
If you consider this, you might recall that a gentleman named Noah was rescued from the great flood because of his faith which also came from hearing the Word of God and accepting it as truth.
We, just as it was for Noah and his family, are saved “By Grace”, not of works. And just as God closed the door of the ark and sealed Noah and his family inside, Jesus seals us safely in his grace with his Holy Spirit.
Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
2 Corinthians 1:21-22 (NKJV)
It’s not anything we do, but what God has done for us, “By Grace”!
In the Grace of Jesus!