Works do not justify us, nor do they maintain our right standing with God. They do, however, reveal and confirm the presence of justification, as provided to trusting hearts through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“To him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness, even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Romans 4:5-8).
Note the origin of justification by grace through faith. God “justifieth the ungodly” and “imputeth righteousness without works.” Rejoice also in the maintenance of justification – “blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” God accounts the redeeming work of the person and work of the Lord Jesus as so sufficient that He includes complete salvation in the “free gift” given when we believe (Romans 5:15-18). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
Clearly, works do not establish our relationship with God, nor do they secure it. They do, however, reveal that we have entered into such relationship, and that we are responding to our Lord’s presence with and within us.
“We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10).
Never in the New Testament is salvation presented in terms of mere rescue from God’s wrath, as foundational and blessed as such redemption from our sins may be. Our Lord rather saves us “from,” as it were, in order to save us “to.” A “new creature” results from the new birth, or as the Apostle Paul declared to the Ephesians, a “new man, created in righteousness and true holiness” (II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24). Thus, it is to be expected that a certain quality of life will proceed from the reality of a Christ-redeemed and Christ-inhabited heart. “Now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
We do well to proclaim the saving grace of God in Christ as it is, that is, the freest gift ever given. We also affirm the blessed truth that we are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (I Peter 1:5). However, we also do not fail to declare that any true experience of such grace will lead to a changed heart and life wherein genuine love for God and man increasingly characterizes our thoughts, words, attitudes, deeds and relationships. The living God comes to dwell with and within us when we believe, providing grace “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1). He also comes to infuse us with Himself, and with the quality of His life whereby the Holy Spirit enables us to “walk, even as He walked” (I John 2:6). This is the New Testament Gospel in its fullest intent and bestowal of grace. Let us affirm and expect no less.
“His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who hath called us to glory and virtue.”
(II Peter 1:3)