Devotional: Good Works
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:17)
If you’ve ever been to a wedding or are addicted to the Hallmark Channel, you’re probably familiar with this phrase: “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” Equally well known is the line that follows: “You may kiss the bride.”
Let’s talk about these two moments in time. First, after the bride and groom have said their vows and exchanged rings, the clergyman announces that “this man” and “this woman” are now husband and wife. The second of these moments represents all that happens after the wedding ceremony. By virtue of the minister declaring the man and woman to be married, they are now legally and morally entitled to act as a married couple till death do them part. In other words, they are just as married on their first, tenth, and twenty-fifth anniversaries as they were on Day One. The official proclamation that they are married makes it possible for them to do “married things” in the days and years to follow. This includes serving each other, birthing children, raising a family, and passing their faith on to the next generation.
I bring this to your attention as a way to illustrate the place of good works in the life of a Christian. Justification truly changes a person, much like a wedding ceremony changes a couple. However, you are no more justified a week, a year, or a decade later than in the hour you first believed. But the act of justification—the Lord’s pronouncement that you are “not guilty”—enables you to go deeper, see more clearly, and be transformed via sanctification. In other words, what God declares at your rebirth makes it possible for you to do good works later.
In fact, good works are necessary for salvation, though not in the way that faith in Christ is required for salvation. You are saved by Christ’s works; there is no hope of salvation within yourself. Your good works cannot earn you a ticket into heaven, for even your best works are tainted with sin. So if your works cannot save you, why then does Paul command you to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12-13)?
In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul makes it clear that we are not saved by good works but, rather, for good works:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
In other words, good works are the fruit of justification, not the root.
The apostle James declares that faith without works is useless. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). Because good works follow necessarily from a God-given faith, your works are evidence of a genuine faith. They testify to the fact that you have been redeemed so that your life will reflect the craftsmanship and character of God.
Sanctification takes a lifetime to complete. Only when Jesus returns to claim His beloved will you reach your destination. In the meantime, you still have to walk to the destination, working out your faith along the way, and the only path for the Christian to walk is the path of good works. Not only must you walk this way, you will walk this way. For both justification and sanctification are gifts from God, and He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).
So by the power vested in me, I bid you go forth and do good. Help your fellow man. Fulfill the second-greatest commandment and love your neighbor as yourself. Do this with joy and confidence, giving thanks to God Almighty, who day by day is transforming you into the likeness of His only begotten Son (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for the grace that allowed me to recognize my sinful condition, repent, and put my faith in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge that because of my sinful state, my good deeds are filthy rags. But by faith, I am covered by the blood of Jesus, and His righteousness saves even me. Now send me out to do the good works you have prepared for me to do. May I live my entire life in service to you, persevering to the end, with confidence and full assurance that I remain in Your good graces. In the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
Walking by faith and enjoying the homeschooling adventure of a lifetime!
Davis is the president of Apologia Educational Ministries, the #1 publisher of Creation-based science and Bible curriculum. He is the author of five illustrated children’s books designed to help parents instill a biblical worldview in the hearts and minds of their preschoolers. He believes that if there was ever a time to homeschool, it is now!