Balancing grace and works in our Christian faith can be a conundrum. It will help if we recognize their common denominator.
For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. (Titus 2:11-14)
I believe the Bible clearly teaches that the mark of a true disciple of Jesus Christ is obedience. It is an outward sign that our faith is genuine. It is one of the foundational exhortations here at Abiding With Christ.
The Bible clearly teaches that our salvation comes by grace through faith. It is not based on anything we have done or will do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our salvation is only made possible through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
And in the very next verse, we are told that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10).
Both grace and works are important and are both linked to one another. Therefore, we should seek to have a good understanding of how both attest to our faith.
It is important because being out of balance will have consequences. If we aren’t careful, we may challenge another person’s genuine faith, especially if they are likewise out of balance opposite of us. To be out of balance on this question warps our discernment and invites judgementalism.
Balancing grace and works can take up a lot of brain cycles. If we don’t apply good discernment in understanding them, they may even feel like opposites. We have likely all run into believers who treat grace and works in this manner.
We should be careful not to see these two concepts as ends of a spectrum. Rather, we should seek a balancing of grace and works. Why? Because at their core, grace and works are linked together in love.
Recognizing Love in Grace
Of the two, it’s probably easier to recognize love in the concept of God’s grace. After all, when we think of God’s grace, we will likely consider its ultimate example, Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
What makes this sacrifice all the more extravagant is how undeserving we are of such a gift. God could not wait for us to be “good enough”, so he had to install His plan for our rescue while we were still in our sin. The Bible says this is proof of His incredible love and grace (Romans 5:6-8).
God’s incredible grace extends to us not just at that moment, but throughout our entire lives. If God’s intent was to free us from sin as today’s passage states, that’s ongoing from when we came to believe forward.
God demonstrates this “grace for living” in many ways. He does this by inviting us to abide with Him, granting us access to Him by way of prayer, and continuing to respond to our repentance when we fail.
Each of these are made possible through God’s grace to us, but we can also see that they are examples of God’s great love for us.
To put it simply; grace is God’s expression of His love for us.
Recognizing Love in Works
If the exercise of balancing grace and works recognizes grace as God’s expression of His love for us, then we can look at works as our expression of our love for God.
Today’s passage tells us that through God’s grace, we become new creations in Christ, that we become God’s people “totally committed” to doing good deeds.
As we abide with Christ, growing in intimacy with Him and maturity in the faith, we will naturally begin to produce fruit – both the fruit of the spirit, and the outpouring of our light into the world.
Why is that? Because the more we come to know Christ, the more our love for Him grows.
Have you ever really loved somebody? Do you remember some of the things you have done for them, just because? Things that served no intrinsic purpose, other than to let the person you loved see your love for them. Some of the things you did made no sense, except in your heart.
This is how it is with our works. They are all expressions of our love for Christ. We will begin to do things that make absolutely no sense to us. People we would have never loved, things we would have never done, suddenly feel right.
When we think of works in this way, it doesn’t even make sense to ask “must we do good works to get to heaven?” It’s tantamount to asking, “will God let us into Heaven if we withhold our love from Him?”.
See how ridiculous it sounds when put that way? Would an authentic disciple of Christ try to figure out how to gain the benefits of knowing Christ while refusing to love Him?
Grace and Works Go Hand in Hand
There is such a fear of proclaiming a works-based salvation that we have almost treated the concept of good works as a dangerous doctrine.
It’s the same spirit in which Eve added the caveat “lest we touch it” to God’s command not to eat the fruit from the garden of good and evil. We cannot elevate the fear of stumbling into a works-based salvation to cause us to misunderstand God’s teaching on the subject.
The call on the Body of Christ to do good works is abundant in scripture. Even Jesus Himself said to let our good deeds be easily seen so that God will be glorified (Matthew 5:16).
Love is at the heart of grace. Love is at the heart of works. Balancing grace and works takes effort, because there is so much debate in theological circles over these two concepts. But it is a balancing act that is worth doing. It’s when we teeter to one side that we get focused on the debate, rather than the love that lies at the heart of both.
More Bible verses about balancing grace and works:
Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:1-7; 2 Timothy 1:5-10; Titus 3:5; James 2:14-18; 1 Peter 2:4-10