Christianity and theology

Salvation and Good Works

The fifth and last trustworthy saying is found in Titus 3:8 and reads: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

Good works do not produce salvation but salvation produces good works. For sure, salvation is by the grace of God and there is nothing we do to earn it yet true salvation will always produce good works.  This is what Apostle Paul is stressing in this trustworthy saying.

The relationship between salvation and good works has sometimes caused confusion but I believe God’s Word clarifies the issue better in the saying. Every Christian is saved to do good works.

The only difference between good works of a Christian and a non-Christian is that a Christian does good as a result of the Holy Spirit who has come into his life. It is this Holy Spirit who motivates and gives the believer the grace and desires to please God by doing what is good.

A non-Christian, on the other hand, will do good works hoping to be accepted by God and usually driven by the natural guilt that is in all those who don’t have Christ due to original sin of our first parents which all of us are born with.

Christianity and theology

With Fear and Trembling

In my previous post, we looked  at the first part of  Philippians 2:12, 13 which reads: “Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed… work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.”

We discussed what “work out your salvation’ means. Today I would like us to all look at the phrase:  “with fear and trembling.” What does this mean? Does it mean that believers should always live in fear that their salvation might be lost or God will take it away from them?

Not at all! Scripture now and again assures all believers that they are in safe hands of Christ and no one or anything can snatch them from the hand of Christ. In other words, believers cannot lose their salvation (John 10:27, 28; Romans 8:38, 39; Ephesians 2:13, 14; Philippians 1:6). Therefore, “with fear and trembling” does not mean that believers should be afraid of losing their salvation.

The phrase, rather, refers to awe and reverence that automatically comes out of believers when they ponder at their salvation, especially, on how God humbled himself to become a despised servant and later die on the cross for sinners and his enemies and rose from the dead. This act leaves believers with no other option but marvel at how this could be. It is this reverence of failing to fully grasp the depth of God’s love and grace that the phrase is referring to.

For sure salvation is an awesome thing and we can agree with Paul that the  gift of Christ to the fallen world is “an indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

Christianity and theology

Work Out Your Salvation

Philippians 2:12, 13 reads:  “Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed… work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.”

Do these verses teach that salvation is by works? Not at all! Salvation means more than just regeneration (being born-again) because salvation includes being declared righteous before God on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (justification) and being conformed to the character of Christ (sanctification).

These verses are referring to sanctification.  In sanctification God plays his role and we pray our role too. God gives us the grace to will and work for his good pleasure but it takes us to obey and act.

Consider an example of a drunkard who gets converted. God will give him the grace and power of not going back to getting drunk but it will literary take this person not to touch the bottle and put it on his mouth. It’s absurd to think that because this person is saved whenever he is tempted to get drunk, an invisible hand of God will always push his hand away from the bottle.

This is what it means to work out our salvation. God gives us the grace and power to reject sin but it takes us to take action to avoid or overcome sin in our lives.


Christianity and theology

From Manasseh to Christmas

The next person in the genealogy of Jesus Christ who does not have a beautiful story is King Manasseh. His story is recorded for us in 2 Kings 21.

“And he (Manasseh) did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshipped all the host of heaven and served them (2, 3).

And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with wizards. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger….Moreover, Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another (6, 16).

And the Lord said by his servants the prophets, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites (pagans) did…therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle” (10-12).

This is a summary of the life of King Manasseh, a great grandparent of Jesus. I wish the Bible had omitted his name in the genealogy of Christ found in Matthew 1:1-18; however, the Bible doesn’t. I believe that through the story of Manasseh, God wants us to appreciate and learn that the past doesn’t really matter to him and in Christ everything begins anew.

This is why Scripture reminds us that: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Christ our lives begin anew.  We might still carry the scars of our past when we were in rebellion against God but in Christ, we who were sinners and enemies of God become saints and friends.  It doesn’t really matter how our past was. In Christ, God sees a new creature worthy to be called God’s child and friend.

In this season of Christmas just like any other season of the year, God is extending an opportunity to everyone to begin anew in Christ. All this is done by God’s grace through faith which is also a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8, 9).


What About Good Works?

If salvation is solely by the grace of God and not good works, what then will happen to those who practice good works only?  Will God not consider their good works at all? Imagine with me, those non-Christians who risks their lives to save others. Those unbelievers who sacrifice everything they have to help the poor, the needy, orphans and widows. Will God not be merciful to them on judgement day?

This is the question I was asked last week and I would like to respond in this way. It is indeed true that salvation is by grace alone and not good works (Ephesians 2:8, 9). What we need to know is that when our first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, all of us sinned (Romans 5:12) and the only way for salvation is by believing in Christ (John 14:6) and this happens by God’s grace.

Therefore, even if we can do good works, if we have not believed in Christ for salvation, our good works will not be counted at all because behind those good works lies an evil and sinful heart that is in rebellion against God.

You will agree with me that no matter, how beautiful a poisonous snake looks, inside it is venom which kills. Similarly, no matter how beautiful our good works might be, inside us lies an evil and sinful heart that does not love God at all.

Unless Christ comes in and changes our hearts from enemies to the friends of God, our good works remain filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6 )