Grace Works!

By Francis Frangipane

Whether we realize it or not, most Christians of Protestant lineage carry in their doctrinal heritage the revelation of Martin Luther, that "the just shall live by faith." For whatever flaws may have otherwise been in Luther's life, his contribution remains a living revelation in the consciousness of the modern Church.

Today, we know we are saved by grace and justified by faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. The Lord's grace remains a consistent, liberating power in our lives. If I fall, grace does not retreat; rather, it lifts me up. If I become virtuous, I know virtue is truly the result of grace working in me.

We must never forget that salvation is the gift of God. As it is written, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9).

God knew us before we were born. Before we knew Him, He was working in us in secret, drawing us to Himself. He led us to someone who then helped us find Christ. Of course, we told others that we made a "decision for Jesus," but in truth, it was God who made a decision for us before the foundation of the world.

So, we can thank God in Christ for liberating us from a "works based" salvation, thanking also Paul for explaining grace so well in his epistles, and Luther for persevering to see this great truth restored. It is obvious why "salvation by grace" is the inspiration behind most of our greatest hymns.

Salvation and Good Works
Christ delivered us from a religion about God and brought us into a family fathered by God. We are not working for acceptance or to earn our salvation. Such a difference is profound.

Yet, the revelation that salvation is not based on our works should not be interpreted as though the family of God is a "work-free zone." God has not liberated us from the realm of works, only from self-generated, religious "dead works." As new creations, the Holy Spirit dwells in us in an eternal relationship. His presence is a living reality, capable of speaking to us, inspiring and directing our lives to fulfill God-inspired works.

Thus, just after Paul explained our salvation is not "of works," he writes: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

We are not saved by our works, but neither are we saved from works. The truth is, we have been "created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand." So we are saved by faith, but God has a plan for us that requires we work with Him to see it come to pass.

Destiny
Our destiny doesn’t just happen; it is connected to our fulfilling the "works, which God prepared beforehand." God is producing something in each of us that fits into the grand scheme of His will on earth. It may be a life vocation or a prayer ministry or feeding the poor or developing spiritual gifts or editing for a Christian writer or raising godly children. The list is as endless as it is varied.

But whatever God's will is for us, Paul says, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13).

"God is at work in you." This is such an amazing reality. It does, indeed, inspire fear and trembling, yet it is also the source of great confidence. For if it is God who is working in us, He will soon be working through us. It will look like us working, but it will really be God manifesting His works through us.

You see, our lives are the outworking of God’s grace. Our task is to seek Him, to study His Word, to minister to Him through prayer and worship, and to draw close to Him so we can discern what He is doing in us. Then make His inner working visible through us.

This is exactly how Jesus revealed the Father. He said, ". . . the Father abiding in Me does His works" (John 14:10). Again, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working" (John 5:17). And again, "We must work the works of Him who sent Me . . . " (John 9:4).

There should be God-inspired ideas, love-activated thoughts bubbling up into our minds from the redemptive Spirit of God. His inner working will ultimately affect every area of our lives. He will reach to others; He will work through us to reveal Jesus. These are the "good works" that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

He whose grace led us to Christ will also conform us to Christ as we obey Him. Yes, grace works!

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