Christianity 201

December 11, 2020

“Not by Works…” but Works Count!

Earlier today, Lee Grady, who we’ve often featured here, posted this on his Twitter account:

Hebrews 6:10 says: “For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name.”

He added,

God sees the little things you do: The kindnesses you offer, the encouraging words you give, the sacrifices you make and the prayers you pray.

The website BibleHub is one I frequently use because it can, as in today’s case, offer an endless trail of related verses such as,

Kindness to the poor is a loan to the LORD, and he will give a reward to the lender.
 – Proverbs 19:7 (CSB)

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 – Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

He who is generous will be blessed, For he gives some of his food to the poor.
 – Proverbs 22:9 (NASB)

This is what the LORD says: “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for the reward for your work will come, declares the LORD
  – Jeremiah 31:16a (BSB)

Just as it takes several points to define a line, some find it helpful to see two or more scriptures as verifying a scriptural principle. However, this type of “verse-mining” is no substitute for reading a little extra context such as we find in Acts:

NIV.Acts.10.1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God…”

So what does Cornelius receive? Nothing material or tangible. Instead he becomes the instrument by which the Apostle Peter is going to orchestrate the inclusion of the Gentile believers into one single family. He becomes the gateway of the followers of “The Way” (followers of Jesus) entering into a whole new chapter which is the beginning of the first century Christian church.

The website BibleRef.com notes that in some respects, our opening verse from Hebrews is a study in contrasts: (I’ve highlighted sections of this.)

…Their good deeds, on behalf of God, are obvious… The idea that God is absolutely fair—or “just”—in His attitude towards their good deeds is a preview of the next passage. The people who were criticized for being spiritually immature, and in danger of “falling away,” are at the same time living out a very Christ-like love for others.

This is a useful point to remember when discussing spiritual maturity. According to this passage, a person can serve God, loving others with good works, and yet still suffer from an immature approach to Christian truth. The intent of Scripture here is not to dismiss love and service, of course, but it is also not meant to relax the threat of “falling away.” Service to God is a good thing, and a sign of sincerity. But it’s important to love truth, and grow in wisdom, just as much as it’s important to live out our love for other people.

In other words, acts of kindness and service are not an end in themselves. They are simply good, but they are also just the beginning.

In some respects the verse is a pause from what the writer has been saying. It’s a deep breath before he continues with what he has been saying before. It’s not unlike the messages to the churches in Revelation in that respect, some of which begin with something quite positive but then comes the “However…” It’s not a good practice to berate people in teaching without finding places to offer encouragement to those who are sincerely seeking after God.

The website KnowingJesus.com notes this as well:

The verse in question, which immediately follows an important warning against spiritual immaturity and some elementary instructions on reaching full maturity, gives some great encouragement to believers.. who are seeking to stand firm in the faith, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.

God sees our good works and remembers them. EnduringWord.com notes:

When we are discouraged we sometimes think God forgets us and all we have done for Him and for His people. But God would deny His own nature if He forgot such things (He would be unjust). God sees and remembers.

We must however take this principle alongside the overarching concept that we are not saved by works. We have to find the balance between these two truths: God sees our deeds, but our deeds aren’t key to our salvation.

…There is also a warning as to how the opposite of this principle applies:

Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
 – Proverbs 28:27 (NLT)

And of course there is also a practical, pragmatic side to all of this:

Share what you have with seven or eight others, because you never know when disaster may strike.
 – Ecclesiastes 11:2 (CEV)

…So there we have it. About 900 words, all inspired today from a single post on Twitter! Thanks, Lee!


Wondering what you can do? An hour later Lee wrote,

Do you know what your primary areas of ministry are? Ask your closest friends and mentors to list what gifts they see in you. You may be surprised. Sometimes our fears and insecurities prevent us from seeing what others see clearly.

Not all my spiritual gifts began operating at the same time. I began writing for Jesus at age 22, but I didn’t start preaching until I was 42. Just because a gift hasn’t surfaced yet doesn’t mean it won’t. Keep growing spiritually and you’ll be surprised by the way He uses you!

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