Vol. 6, No. 9
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I often grow weary over the labels we place on one another in the church of Jesus Christ. I am not sure where I belong at times. Brethren refer to one another as belonging to either the "grace oriented" or the "work oriented" groups. Could I not belong to both at the same time? Do I have to be a part of only one group? After all, I truly desire to associate with all my brethren, if possible. I sincerely long for and pray for faithfulness and peace among my brethren. It seems that we are people of extremes. It is either one way or the other. It just could not be both at the same time. Where is the balance that is sorely needed in a time of doubt, disbelief and disunity? I have no problem in understanding that we are saved by the grace of God, for the Word of God clearly teaches such as is found in Ephesians 2:5. Yet, in verse 8 of the same chapter, we learn that we are saved by grace through faith. There is a sense in which I do not contribute anything to my salvation since it is a gift from God; nevertheless, if I do not manifest my faith by doing what God wants me to do, I will not benefit from the unmerited favor of the Lord in the matter of salvation from sin. No, the works of the law or the meritorious works of man's devising cannot and will not save. However, all those works ordained of God must be done by his children (Ephesians 2:10).
Consider also the very nature of God. He is not self-contradicting. Yes, his infinite grace saves us, but we are also saved by his infinite love (Hebrews 2:9; John 3:16). God would not disapprove of something on one hand then demand and commend the same on the other hand. Jesus plainly taught that true love requires actions on the part of mankind in order to prove that love for him. He told his disciples, "If you love Me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Jesus stated it very plainly that we show our Love for him when we do what he requires of us. In John 14:21, he said, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." As you can clearly see, even the Father loves the person who loves his Son and keeps his commandments. Even Jesus obeyed his Father's will and was loved by his Father, even as he loves those who keep his commandments (John 15:10).
When you think about it, keeping commandments is not so bad after all. Even the Son of God complied with the directives of his Father. The Lord said in John 14:31, "But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandments, so I do. Arise let us go from here." Jesus proved beyond a shadow of doubt that he loved his Father by keeping all the commands that he received from him. To be like Jesus, we must also obey the commands our Lord has given to us. Otherwise, we show that we do not love him as we should.
Jesus expressed it in this fashion as recorded in John 14:24, "He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." The apostle of love, John, wrote in 1 John 5:3, "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome." God does not require anything of us except it be for our ultimate good. We should respond to his commandments out of a heart of love. When love is the motive, his commandments are not grievous or overbearing. We obey because we are heirs and not slaves. The precious words of our Savior bring joy to the heart of a Christian as is found in John 15:14, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you." When we sing the hymn, "I'll Be a Friend to Jesus," it means that we will be submissive to his will for us to do.
Yet, my response to God's grace and love by the works I do will not save me. I cannot merit salvation on my goodness. The words of Jesus as found in Luke 17:10 remind me of this truth, "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which your are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." No, grace does not disapprove what love demands; rather, it is "faith working through love" (Galatians 5:6).