“Doers of the word” vs “works-based salvation”

“Doers of the word” vs “works-based salvation”

We cannot earn salvation by “works-based Christianity.” But what about being doers of the Word?

Reconciliation, justification, and redemption by faith

In an attempt to explain the difference between salvation based on God's grace as opposed to “works-based salvation" that is "earned" through good works, an understanding of Christianity that apparently focuses more on works than on God's grace is then often negatively labeled as "works-based Christianity" and accused of preaching “works-based salvation.”

When we turn to the Bible, the word of God, we gain clarity on what true and genuine Christianity is.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.

“[…] God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:19.

“[…] for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus […] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:23-24,28.

The basis and beginning for a Christian is thus to be reconciled with God, have his sins forgiven and be justified solely by God's grace and the redemption in Christ Jesus. This reconciliation takes place without a person having a single good deed to show for it. Through faith in the atoning work of Jesus, the Christian stands on the starting line for a new life, without guilt, born again to a living hope and with a cleansed heart.

Next: Doers of the Word

The big question is: What happens next? What should Christians then use their life for? What are the consequences of their repentance, reconciliation and purification for their life afterwards?

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 5:10. The reconciliation through His death is well known, but the much greater salvation by His life is less well known. Jesus died as an atoning sacrifice, but He also left His footprints for us to walk in (1 Peter 2:21).

Let's go back to Paul's letter to the Ephesians. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." Ephesians 2:10. The very aim and purpose of the new birth and regeneration in Christ is thus – to enable people to do good works. Not only that, but a continual walk and growth in these works, as opposed to a life of selfishness. Such a life-transforming work can only happen through the grace in Jesus Christ. When we are His work, then God also gets the glory.

What does the apostle James say about this?

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? […] Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14,17-18. According to James, separating faith and works is an impossibility. Faith and works are two sides of the same coin.

Paul and the apostles write about the believers:

  • That they should do good and be rich in good works (1 Timothy 6:18)

  • They shall adorn themselves with good works (1 Timothy 2:10)

  • They should stir up one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24)

  • That they must learn to maintain works – so as not to be unfruitful (Titus 3:14)

  • That they should be a pattern of good works (Titus 2:7)

The list could be much longer. And here are Jesus’ own words: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. […]If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” James 1: 22-26.

Those who are only hearers of the Word, and not doers of the Word, are thus, according to James, living in self-deception, and their religion is useless.

Religion that is useless cannot possibly be true Christianity, because Jesus did not come to institute a dead faith or useless worship. He came to institute pure and undefiled worship and a living faith. Christianity is to be lived. The conclusion of this is:

We can call true and genuine Christianity “works-based Christianity,” practiced by doers of the Word. An expression that corresponds well with the way the apostles preached the gospel and presented Christianity.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, unless otherwise specified. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.