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Good Works

By Thomas Rotkiewicz

In all false religion, the worshipper rests his hope of divine favour upon something in his own character, or life, or religious duties...The sinner's own character, in any form, and under any process of improvement, cannot furnish reasons for trusting God. However amended, it cannot speak peace to his conscience, nor afford him any warrant for reckoning on God's favour; nor can it help to heal the breach between him and God. For God can accept nothing but perfection in such a case, and the sinner has nothing but imperfection to present. Imperfect duties and devotions cannot persuade God to forgive (Horatius Bonar).1

God's Work; Not Ours

God alone is perfect. We are not, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). Since we fall short of His perfection, we will always be imperfect creatures presenting to God imperfect works.

All our works, from the day we are born to the day we die are of no more worth to God than filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Such works have their base in the flesh (or self) and God says, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD" (Jer 17:5). And, "...those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (see Rom 8:5-9).

There is nothing we can do for God by way of good works; so how can we possibly hope to please Him at all when it seems we are doomed from the start? (Acts 17:24,25).

He did for us what we could never do for Him. He satisfied His own righteous demands for perfection by His unmerited favor, or grace, toward us in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who revealed the only work that will satisfy God, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29).

This statement reveals a most obvious but horribly misunderstood truth about salvation. It may be stubborn pride or ignorance, but many appropriate for themselves something which belongs to God alone. "THIS IS THE WORK OF GOD"—not ours. God knew that all of humanity would never be able to achieve the impossible. So He did it all for us in Christ's finished work on the cross. It is that simple (John 19:30).

Our work is to repent of our sin and trust Him for our salvation. Understand this and act on it and it will be pleasing to God—more than all the works of man's self-efforts combined since the creation of the world, "...there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7).

But don't misinterpret what Jesus said. He fully understands that we are all sinners. It is only the self-deluded who feel no need for repentance (Acts 17:30; 26:20).

The Lord Jesus Christ is our perfection the moment we trust Him alone for our salvation because it is His perfect work that has satisfied all of God's righteous requirements. If this was not true He would have rotted in the grave.

The resurrection is God's approval of His Son's work successfully completed for us in providing salvation for the individual who trusts Him (Acts 17:30,31; Rom 4:25). So perfectly did Jesus Christ do all that God required for perfection that it was a single, solitary work needed to be done only one time for all time (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 10:10,14).

This is what all false religions have in common: they make perfection the end result of human effort when it should be the beginning of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ alone. No system of beliefs centered in man's efforts at pleasing God—no matter how outwardly pious they appear—will ever satisfy God as did Christ who did it all for us (Heb 10:1-10). By trying to add to Christ’s work, we become His enemy, and our own, by being a hindrance to His work of grace (Rom 11:6).

We have no merit or worth apart from Jesus Christ alone in the question of salvation and achieving a right relationship with God. The works done through faith in Christ are the expression of that faith and not a means to gain the salvation we already have. Faith without works is dead if the faith we claim to have is devoid of any expression of love and obedience to Him as its object (John 14:15; 1John 2:1-6; 4:10,19).

We will never have the perfect knowledge or ability to rise above our own imperfection. We can perform a million more works, or even countless billions more, but our renewed efforts will still fall infinitely short of God's perfection. We can never reach up to His level by self-effort. He alone has the ability to stoop down to our low level to touch us. He became one of us in all respects except sin (Heb 2:14-18; 4:14-16).

Try Again and Again and Again?

Some believe in reincarnation, that a series of other lives will provide opportunities to step upward in their quest for perfection. But, how can anyone possibly do this in any life or series of lives if no one has a perfect concept of what perfect is? You have to be perfect to have a perfect knowledge and understanding of what perfection is. How can anyone know enough to achieve what it is they are striving for when no one knows perfectly what the goal should be?

It appears that anyone trusting in reincarnation will be forever doomed to life after life with imperfect knowledge and no ability to achieve what they can't possibly know well enough to pursue. One mistake and they have to begin the process over again and again and again.

How can believers in reincarnation learn anything from their "past lives" or avoid the mistakes they made when they don't even have a conscious recollection of the countless blunders they must have committed in those previous lives?

How much better it is to trust in what the perfect God has done for us than to trust our own imperfect selves and imperfect works (Rom 7:17,24-8:1; Gal 2:16).

Concluding Quotes

Down with your crosses and rituals, down with your pretensions to good works, and your crouchings at the feet of priests to ask absolution from them! Away with your accursed and idolatrous dependence upon yourself; Christ has finished salvation-work, altogether finished it. Hold not up your rags in competition with His fair white linen…

Put away now everything that you have thought of being or doing, by way of winning acceptance with God; humble yourselves, and take Jesus Christ to be the Alpha and Omega, the first and last, the beginning and end of your salvation. If you do this, not only shall you be saved, but you are saved: rest, thou weary one, for thy sins are forgiven ….

Have done with thy tears of repentance and thy vows of good living, until thou hast come to Christ; then take them up as thou wilt. Thy first lesson should be none but Jesus, none but Jesus, none but Jesus. O come thou to Him! See, He hangs upon the cross; His arms are open wide, and He cannot close them, for the nails hold them fast….

An act of faith will bring thee to Jesus. Say, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief;" and if thou so doest, He cannot cast thee out, for His word is, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out...."

Accept Jesus Christ as your substitute. O do it now, this moment, and God shall have glory, but you shall have salvation. Amen (C.H. Spurgeon).2

Crosses - sunriseFor when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

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. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).

1 Horatius Bonar. God's Way of Peace (Pensacola, FL: Mt. Zion Publications., reprinted, 1993), pp. 14-15.
2 C.H. Spurgeon. "Christ Made a Curse for Us" sermon on Gal 3:13 in 12 Sermons on the Passion and Death of Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprinted, 1994), p.67. Books-A-Million does not have this specific book available, but it does have many other books with the sermons and writings of Surgeon. One such book that would be similar to the aforementioned one is The Power of the Cross of Christ.

Note: All Scripture references from: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

The above article was published in Darkness to Light newsletter
and posted on this website in April 1998.

Forgiveness and Salvation

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