I recently did a word study on the word “works,” as it appears in the ESV translation of the New Testament. The word appears over 100 times in a variety of contexts, but for the purposes of my study, I was looking to learn some specific things:
1.What is a “work?”
2.What is the relationship between my “works” and my salvation?
3. Is there any way in which the “works” that I do for God are contributing factors to being justified/made righteous in His sight?
What I found was enlightening.
Although there are several passages that require some in-depth study, the verdicts of the New Testament Scripture are clear:
1. A “work” is defined as “business, employment, that which any one is occupied (with); that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking; an act, deed, thing done” – Thayer’s Greek Lexicon – In other words, a “work” is exactly what it sounds like: it is something that I do. It might be something that I try to do and can’t do. It might be something that I do successfully. It might be something that I do all of the time. All of these things fall under this general definition of “works.” Here is an important question: What kinds of things fall under this category, spiritually? It might actually be easier to ask, “Which things DON’T fall under this category?” Whether we are talking about service, evangelism, obedience of any kind, worship, involvement, contribution, or anything else associated with the “things we do”…we are talking about “works,” aren’t we? This seems clear in the New Testament.
2.My “works” ARE connected to my salvation. I found several links in Scripture between my “works” and my “salvation/justification.” Let’s notice a few:
a.“He will render to each one according to his works.” – Rom. 2:6 – This verse is in the context of “God’s righteous judgment” being “revealed,” which firmly establishes some connection between salvation and my “works.”
b.“They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Tit. 1:16 – In this passage, we are talking about a group of people who CLAIM to know God, but their “works” are a dead giveaway that they DON’T. If they don’t know God – if their “works” don’t match their “claim” – then they certainly don’t seem to be saved, do they?
c.“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” – Js. 2:14 - The implied answers are: “That kind of faith is no good. That kind of faith can’t save a person.”
d.“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” – Js. 2:24 - There is a connection between “works” and salvation/justification in the New Testament!
3.The real question now emerges: “What IS the specific connection between my ‘works’ and my salvation?” If I found one thing in this study that was abundantly and crystal clear, it is this statement of truth: although there is definitely a connection between our “works” and our salvation, WE ARE NOT SAVED BY OUR WORKS. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look:
a. “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.” – Eph. 2:8-9
b.“…who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace…” – 2 Tim. 1:9
c.“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” – Tit. 3:5
Could these passages be any clearer? Is there a more direct way for God to tell us that our works do not cause, merit or contribute to our salvation? The honest Bible student must admit that these passages (and others) can have no other meaning.
So how do we properly understand this “connection” between works and salvation? And more importantly, why is it so important that we do? Is it possible that a misunderstanding of this connection could cause us to LOSE our salvation?
Let's continue our study next week . . .