Joseph Iregbu

Purpose Guy

Grace Meets Works — Contending Against Two Extremes

My daughter absolutely loves Luther in Real Time podcast by Ligonier Ministries. It’s an exceptional narration of the events that culminated in Martin Luther’s famous ‘Here I Stand’ speech 500 years ago.

During our school run this week, she asked if we could listen to the podcast (again) in the car. I obliged. A few minutes into the podcast, she picked up on something and said to me:

We are not saved by our works but by faith in Jesus Christ. Our works can’t save us!

The danger of performance-based religiosity

So, let me back up a little bit…

One of Luther’s many contentions with the Catholic Church at the time was the erroneous belief that paying for indulgences and obtaining a corresponding letter meant you had little suffering at purgatory.

This meant the more your good deeds outweighed your bad, you’ll be fine. It was at this point my daughter interjected with her comment.

In a previous post, I wrote about how religion got in the way of the spiritual leaders of Jesus’ time.

They witnessed the days their forefathers longed to see but their heart was fixated on the letters of the law, not the free gift of God.

Christians are not justified before God because of our good deeds — rather, our good deeds are evidence of our justification by grace through faith. Grace and faith come before works // Grace Meets Works Click To Tweet

We must be wary of performance-based religiosity that assumes right standing with and acceptance by God BECAUSE of our busyness in God’s vineyard.

Saved by grace but known by our works

If you are born of God, you are accepted; not because of your performances but because of the atoning work of Christ and your absolute faith in Him and the work He has done.

The biblical theology of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone and to the glory of God alone seem to have either been discarded or abused over the centuries.

Yes, we are saved by the sacrifice of another on our behalf (Jesus). Yes, we are kept by the power of another in our lives (the Holy Spirit). And yes, our daily lives must affirm both realities.

Mere confession of faith in Christ without the corresponding life of holiness is futile. A name tag simply doesn’t change your reality.

But notice the order in Ephesians 2:8-10; our good works are only on the basis that we are saved by grace through faith first.

We are saved by grace but known by our works, and neither can stand without the other Titus 2:11-12, Matthew 7:16-20, Acts 3:19, James 2:14-26.

Contending against two extremes

Unfortunately, we must contend against two extremes; the hyper-grace theologians who erroneously argue that grace covers us no matter how we live and the performance-based legalists who make good works the ground of salvation.

Both are wrong. Both are fatal. And the Bible counters both sides.

Titus 2:11-12, Hebrews 12:14, 2 Timothy 2:20-22, 1 Corinthians 10:12, Romans 6:1-2, 11-16, 1 Corinthians 9:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:7, 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, 1 Peter 1:15-19 quash the sentiments of hyper-grace theology.

To counter legalism, look no further than Ephesians 2:8-10 or Isaiah 64:6. All our righteousness, outside of Christ, count for nothing in the end.

Our right standing with God is on the ground of His grace and mercy alone. But we have a duty to grow in Christ-likeness and holiness. Otherwise, we make a mockery of Christ's sacrifice and forfeit God's mercies // Grace Meets Works Click To Tweet
Check out the latest episode on Purpose Guy Podcast EP34: Remember Lot’s Wife on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcast or anywhere you get podcast.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash.

About Joseph Iregbu

From a homeless, near-school-dropout to living a story worth telling. Purpose is my passion. What's your story?

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