GRACE AT WORK
In the woman at Bethany we have a most precious illustration of preparation for good works. Her act of love, offering out of deep appreciation, expresses the attitude of true worship that comes from a knowledge of Jesus.
Mark 14:3-9, “And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always. She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.”
HINDRANCES: Two main hindrances to good works are spiritual ignorance and intellectual pride. Jesus said in Mk. 12:24, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” These both seemed to be true of Saul of Tarsus. Although he had a thorough head knowledge of the scripture, having set at the feet of Gamaliel, yet he certainly lacked a heart revelation of the spiritual intent. He reflected his nation’s condition. “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” – Rom. 10:2-4.
Jesus foretold such ignorant pride when He told His disciples, “Yes, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not know the Father, nor me” – Jn. 16:2-3. Paul said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth” – Acts 26:9. The many harsh things that he did were done in ignorance and unbelief, (I Tim. 1:13). Mankind by human wisdom didn’t know God, or else they would not have crucified the Lord of glory, (I Cor. 2:8). We are still appalled at the horrible depths that religions zeal plunges humanity today in this so-called enlightened age.
Our chief adversary would use intellectual pride to rob us of our reward and spoil us through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ, corrupting our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ (Col. 2:8). Thank God that Paul’s prayer in Colossians is still being answered in the life of some saints today. He prayed, “that we might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work” Col. 1:9-10.
Today men in religious circles work out elaborate plans, devise ingenious schemes, and then supposedly ask God to add His blessings to them. Thank God that there are wise men today who are manifesting good works, not in brashness but in the meekness that true wisdom prompts, (James 3:13). There are still obedient patterns of good works that are indeed worthy, all-around examples of doing God’s will (Titus 2:6-8). We have many examples before us of those that scripturally make it a point, as their business, devoting their lives to the maintenance of good works, (Titus 3:4-8). By the grace of God that brings salvation, Jesus is still purifying unto Himself a people ambitious, with real enthusiasm, and hearts set upon a life that is beneficial to others, and unto His glory. (Titus 2:11-14 & Mt. 5:16).
PROMISED REWARDS: Heb. 6:9-12, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful (sluggish), but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Who could beat a deal like this? God has supplied all the power and provisions and prepares His co-workers. Yet, He also promises to reward with eternal riches those who let Him so use them. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ” – Col. 3:23-24.
Our Father is the most successful gardener (Jn. 15:1-8), and is also the same in the construction, as well as the jewelry business. He invites His co-labourers to build with enduring materials such a gold, silver and precious stones, and follow His most complete set of blueprints. “If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive reward. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour” – I Cor. 3:14,8.
We read in the 31st Proverb a symbolic description of the bride of Christ in work clothes. There it is said of her, “She worketh willingly with her hands. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful,, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates” – Vs. 13,20,27-31.
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, we read of Jesus as He is walking among the candlesticks, saying to each assembly, “I KNOW THY WORKS.” Then, following, we read of the promised rewards appropriate to the condition of each assembly. Rev. 14:13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” Rev. 22:12, “And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”
Rev. 19:7-8, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness (righteous acts) of the saints.” The bride’s garment, granted in reward for her righteous acts, is indeed great cause for gladness and rejoicing, giving all the honour and glory to the Lamb.
This also is in complete harmony with the sweet scene of Revelation 4:10-11, “The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The whole testimony will only, and ever, be to the glory of God’s Grace.