On Works

John David Clark, Sr. - November, 1988

Do you know to what Paul the Apostle was referring when he used the phrase, "works of the law"? Unfortunately, it has become commonly accepted doctrine among many that Paul was referring to all kinds of works, even to the good works of a holy life. This is an appalling and destructive doctrinal position. Every one of us has heard at some time, an otherwise intelligent person say that there is nothing we can do to attain to salvation at the coming of Christ. Then, in an attempt to prove it, those of this persuasion will quote Paul's words, "for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified."

"Works of the law" is a phrase which Paul used when referring to the CEREMONIAL RITUALS of the law of Moses: sacrifices, circumcision, holy days, and the like. "Works of the law" doesn't refer to good works of a holy life. In saying that the salvation of the Gentiles was not of the works of the law, he was telling the Gentiles that they did not have to worship God as the Jews did, that is, with ceremonial works. By the way, please note, Paul taught that even believing Jews WERE required to keep the law (Gal.5:3). Paul himself, being Jewish, faithfully performed the works of the Law (e.g. Acts 21). If a Gentile converted and became a Jew by submitting to circumcision, Paul taught that he too was required to keep the works of the Law (Gal.5:3). But for the ordinary Gentile believer, the ceremonial works of the Law of Moses were not required. Of course, neither Jew nor Gentile any longer are bound to the law of Moses, but for the time then present, works of the law were still required of the circumcised nation.

So far as GOOD WORKS of a holy life are concerned, Paul would never have suggested that either Jew or Gentile could live an immoral life and still hope to be saved in the end. That would be a crazy doctrine to teach. But, crazy as it is, men have labored from time immemorial to find a way to feel right with God, without walking uprightly. And the more intellectual the man, the more ability he has to invent the twisted reasoning necessary to do that. That is why so few really brilliant people are called into the kingdom of God (1Cor. 1:26); they are well equipped to justify themselves intellectually. Better to be mentally dull and repent, than to be smart enough to convince yourself that you don't need to. The only time in the Bible that we are told that God grew weary is when he could not stop His people from teaching that, even though they were doing evil, God saw them as being good (Mal. 2:17). And if He was tired of it then, He must be utterly exhausted by now. If he wasn't God, I'd be asking the Church to help me pray for Him that He wouldn't be discouraged!

Some teach that when a sinner is converted, he remains a sinner, still bound to sin; the only difference now being that God no longer sees the sin. He sees only the blood of Jesus that covers our souls. Oh, doesn't that sound so humble! Doesn't that seem to honor the work of Jesus and magnify the glory of his shed blood–even as it denies the efficacy of it! While that teaching CLAIMS to honor Jesus, it actually is providing a way for men to justify themselves without submitting to him. There is power in his blood! We ARE able to live clean before God. Jesus's blood doesn't make God blind to our sins; it liberates us from having to commit it! Oh, how grateful are some ministers that Jesus, the Holy One of God, came, so that now they may employ his holy name in their effort to make wrong appear to be right. This is what all the different sects of Christianity are: alternatives to doing it God's way. If you are too self-willed to obey God, just hire a man to tell you that you're obeying God (or that it is fine with God if you don’t obey). It's as easy as that. He'll even tell you that you don't have to do a thing. "Just take it by faith." Friend, if that's all you want, you won't have any trouble finding it. Even Spirit-baptized folk are being taken in by the patina of righteousness that covers that lie.

Every righteous person knows and teaches what Paul taught the Roman Church; to wit, that God would give the honor of eternal life only to those who "WORK GOOD", but "tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that DOETH EVIL" (Rom. 2:5-16). Jesus told us there would be two resurrections. All that have died will come forth, Jesus said, "they that have DONE GOOD, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have DONE EVIL, unto the resurrection of damnation" (Jn. 5:28-29). How much more clearly could it be said? John, the simplest of all the New Testament writers (his writings are used to teach Greek to beginning Greek students), wrote this undeniably clear sentence: "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous" (1Jn. 4:6).

Isn't that simple? Those who are righteous are not they who claim to be righteous. Only those who live in accordance with God's will are righteous. So simple. A child could easily understand that. And so can anyone else who has not been poisoned by the doctrines and theories of men. Yet, the perverse nature of man, seeking not deliverance but disguise, has developed all brands of majestic-sounding theologies which allure (2Pet. 2:18), while ignoring the obvious and justifying the wicked. Peter prophesied of these "false teachers" and their "damnable heresies", saying "many shall follow their pernicious ways" and that, while they make promises of liberty to others, "they themselves are the servants of corruption’ (2Pet.2). Jude described them as "speaking great swelling words" while "walking after their own lusts."

Peter lamented that Paul's words were even in those days being "twisted" to the destruction of souls (2Pet. 3:16). So it is today. Paul's teaching that the Gentiles were not required to keep the ceremonial works of the law is being twisted now by many Christian ministers to mean that the Church is not required to do anything! One nationally recognized radio teacher said not long ago that he slammed the door in the face of some people who came to his home when he learned that they taught that the saints must be faithful in obeying God to the end in order to be saved. And he exhorted his congregation to do the same ungodly thing. And then he and others like him will speak of being "saved by the grace of God"? My friends, "the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, IN THIS PRESENT WORLD" (Tit. 2:11-12). If you're not living a godly life now, you are not being saved by the grace of God, you're being lost without it--even if you're paying an educated fool a handsome salary to tell you otherwise. Again, very plainly the Scriptures state the truth, "follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words, even to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing." (1Tim. 6:3-4; 2Cor. 11:13-15).

How important is it to you that God's people be immunized against the bad food they are being fed? How concerned are you that the truth be told? I hope that it is important enough to you to help spread the message to as many of the saints as is practicable to do. Don't sit by and watch. Get involved in doing good, in being a healing part of the body of Christ. Remember, "He that speaketh the truth, sheweth forth righteousness."

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