GRACE AT WORK
“For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
I Cor. 15:9,10
I am impressed that the Apostle Paul placed such great emphasis on “good works,” especially being mindful that the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus was to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24). Yet when we consider grace as God’s influence upon the heart and its reflection in the life, we realize that “good works” are an outward expression of an inward working, and that the only good works are produced by grace. A heart revelation of the grace of God will not make one lax or lazy. God’s grace revealed in Paul was not barren but productive. He could honestly say, “If I am anything, if I do anything, it is all of the grace of God.” Grace turned Paul about face, from dead works unto good works, making him a pattern for us. “Works” in the New Testament speak of toil (as effort or occupation) implying an act, deed or labor. The word “good” when used with “works” generally speaks of that which is beneficial, beautiful, valuable or virtuous.
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation. Giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be no blamed” – II Cor. 6:1-3.
This is our time to appreciate and appropriate the grace that brings forth fruit which is not of fear but of faith; not slavish labor, nor of duty, but of loving devotion. Many of God’s people who claim to see the grace of God ignore its stirrings, refusing to let it affect their lives.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained (or, prepared) that we should walk in them” Eph. 2:10. This describes the way we are made, “created in Christ Jesus.” We are built to walk in His good works.
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound in every good work” II Cor. 9:8. Let us rest assured that we have full resources to do anything and everything that God asks of us. God intends that we each live useful, fruitful (spiritually productive) lives. He would use us to bless and benefit others. He must enable us to overcome the indifference of those that would defeat and discourage us from spiritual exercise, holy ambition and heavenly zeal. These are not speaking of fleshly fervor or religions zeal, and are quite opposite of floating down stream on a bed of indifference. We read in scripture of many being transformed and given elevated occupations and doing greater works.
Jesus said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” Jn. 6:27-29.
The scriptures make it very clear that all “good works” are carried out by faith in God’s marvelous grace. Jn. 14:12-13, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
Jesus, on His way to the cross and to heaven, promised to provide for greater works: greater in scope, wider spread, multiplied and by which the Father would be glorified. This would be possible because He was going to send the Holy Spirit, and because He also would be at the right hand of the Father making intercession. As we commit ourselves wholly unto the Lord, to do His will, we find that we have inexhaustible resources. God supplies all our need according to His riches in glory. We can shout with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Our Lord desires us to put to wise practical use all that He has placed at our disposal. God asked Moses, “What is that in thine hand?” The rod that God placed in his hand was found to be that which was useful, helpful; but when Moses cast it down, it became a serpent, and he fled from before it. In other words, it because that which was harmful. Let us heed the admonition, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave…” Ecc. 9:10. Only one life, twill soon be past. Oh, let us occupy with that which will last!
“But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” II Tim. 2:20-21.
Many times we think, how wonderful it would be to be used of God. Yet most of us do not want to go through the expense of preparation. That is never more evident than when we have taken God’s Word to heart and He begins to do a purging and purifying within. Scriptural instruction and spiritual equipment are freely provided, so we won’t waste a lot of fleshly effort in trying to perform God’s will. Effectual use thereof does require some diligence.
II Tim. 2:15, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Tim. 3:16-17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Let us never forget that our complete preparation is indeed His work. We must present ourselves before Him as clay, available to His hand, and submit to His wisdom and power. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom to glory for ever and ever, Amen” Heb. 13:20-21.
We are taught by Paul that we are to do all things without murmurings and disputings, for it is God that works in us both the will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). He tells us that it is God’s power that is to do the work in us (Eph. 3:20). He also says that His Word works effectually in those that believe (I Thess. 2:13). From these and other scripture, we may clearly understand that the Trinity is involved in making us competent workmen.
To be continued