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  • Writer's pictureWilson Lim

GRACE: FAITH & WORKS (Part 3) Faith That Works

This article continues our series on Grace: Faith & Works.  Here we examine how God’s grace, faith and works are connected.  From there we draw many implications for our Christian living.  Perhaps you may experience stress, get overwhelmed in your life, or even in serving God.   By understanding how grace is crucial to our faith and works, it may provide us some of the answers to dealing with the above. 

 

In Part 1, we debunk the Calvinist view of faith as a gift from God on the basis of experience common to many.  In Part 2 we investigated the biblical basis from Ephesians 2:8-9 to demonstrate that salvation is the gift from God rather than faith.  Faith is the exercise of our human choice to trust in God.

 

THE NATURE OF GOD’S GRACE

 

Eph 2:4-7 (NIV) “4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”


Grace as God’s unmerited or unearned favour. God shows us favour although we are totally undeserving.

 

In Part 2, we defined grace as God’s unmerited or unearned favour.  It means God shows us favour although we are totally undeserving.  What is the basis of God’s grace?  Why did God show us such unmerited favour?

 

Consider the parable Jesus told of a prodigal son in Luke 15.  A father had 2 sons. The younger son demanded for his inheritance from his father.  He then took off to a distant land and squandered his wealth in wild living. Soon he had nothing left.  He was forced to survive working in a pig farm. One day, he was so hungry that he felt like eating the pig’s food.  That day, he came to his sense and realised that he had sinned against his father and God. He decided to return to his father and beg for forgiveness.  To ask his father to even just hire him as a servant. When he got close to the father’s house, the father saw him and was filled with compassion.  The father ran to his wayward son, embraced him and kissed him.

 

The son cries, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called you son.” But instead, the father called his servants to immediately bring new robes, a ring (probably a signet ring symbolising he is part of family) and shoes for the son.  And called for a feast to celebrate.  The father declared, “This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”


God’s immensely great love for us motivates His grace.

    

The parable describes God’s heart, God’s grace.  Just like the father, v4 reveals that God’s immensely great love for us motivates His grace.  We had all turned away from God, rejected Him and became so lost in our sins.  We were being devastated in our sins.  But because we rejected Him, there is no way to get to heaven.  Imagine an eternity stuck with our sins with every other lost sinner.  With no hope of getting out.  Yet God’s heart cries out at how absolutely lost we are in our sins. Because God’s love for us is so great, His mercy is so rich, God sent His only Son, Jesus who sacrificed Himself on the cross in our place.  Showing grace was very costly to God.


God’s compassion and generosity shapes His grace. It overflows in an extravagant demonstration of generosity

 

God’s compassion and generosity shapes His grace.  That is why God’s grace is full of kindness to us (v7).  It overflows in an extravagant demonstration of generosity.  Just like the father of the prodigal son. God saves us and embraces us with the fulness of His favour.  This includes seating us with Him in the heavenly realms (v6).  What an undeserved honour!


What is the extent of God’s grace? God’s grace is immeasurable.

 

What is the extent of God’s grace? God’s grace is immeasurable.  The Bible describes it as “every spiritual blessing” (Eph 1:3), “immeasurably more” (Eph 3:20).  Romans 8:32 (NIV84) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

 

God’s grace drew us towards Jesus.  It now leads us heaven-ward into our ultimate destiny with Christ. V6 to sit with him is to reign with Him.  God’s grace is greater than the prodigal son’s father!


God’s grace is foundational to our salvation and redemption.

 

God’s grace is foundational to our salvation and redemption.  We are moved from undeserving to justified.  From prodigal sinner to exalted child. From beggar to royalty.  From dirt to gold!   If we truly understand and appreciate God’s grace to us, we will not want to fall back on human self-effort.  For self-effort does not impress God.  It hinders us from God’s grace.  Instead let us find our rest upon the grace of God!  God our sabbath-rest! 

 

FAITH IS MAN'S RESPONSE, THAT ACCESSES GRACE

 

Eph 2:8-9 (NIV) “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”


Faith is not a gift from the God.  Rather, faith is an attitude, a choice that we make. 

What is the relationship between faith and God’s grace? In Part 2, we showed in v8 that faith is not a gift from the God.  Rather, faith is an attitude, a choice that we make.  Galatians 2:16 (NIV84) … So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ...”  Notice how our choice “we have put our faith in Christ Jesus” leads to the outcome “may be justified by faith in Christ”.

 

Imagine God says to us, “I have made all necessary preparations for your salvation. I offer it to you as a complete gift. Will you trust me enough receive it? Will you trust in Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?  You have nothing to do that can earn this gift.  Only have faith!”


Faith is our response to God’s grace.  Grace provides. Faith trusts.  Yet faith is only possible because God has been laying the groundwork in our hearts.

Faith is our response to God’s grace.  Grace provides. Faith trusts.  Yet faith is only possible because God has been laying the groundwork in our hearts.  God’s Word helps us develop faith in God. The Holy Spirit works upon our hearts to help us walk with God.  God’s church provides teaching, encouragement and support. So God’s grace is foundational.  Our faith stands upon grace. 


God’s grace is foundational.  Our faith stands upon grace. 

In Matt 14:22-32 records the story when the disciples were sailing across the Sea of Galilee in the night and they had left Jesus behind to pray.  They were struggling against the waves when suddenly they saw Jesus walking out to them, on water!  All the disciples were in shock.  Except Peter who got excited! He called out to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” Jesus said.  Peter jumped out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But then he looked at the big waves!  Got afraid and began to sink.  Jesus quickly got over and grabbed him.  Jesus rebuked Peter, “You of little faith!  Why did you doubt?”  Peter’s faith accessed God’s miraculous grace to walk on water.  Until doubt muddied it.

 

Romans 5:1–2 (NIV84) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand...


Faith is the access door by which we can access God’s grace. 

 

If grace is like the treasury.  Faith is the access door by which we can access God’s graceFaith gains access to God’s salvation. Faith gains access to God’s miracles.  Because faith is like a door, our faith can open up or close off the move of God.

Faith gains access to God’s power, even to move mountains.  We discover this in the incident when Jesus disciples failed to deliver a man from demons in Matthew 17:19–20 (NIV84) 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

 

Faith gains access to the exercising of spiritual gifts.  Romans 12:6 (NIV84) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.


Through faith, we can access God’s grace which is full of every spiritual blessing.

Through faith, we can access God’s grace which is full of every spiritual blessing.  It is always sufficient for our ongoing walk with God. So that we can persevere, so that we can mature in our character, so that we may overcome!

 

GOOD WORKS IS THE OUTCOME OF GRACE, THROUGH FAITH

 

Eph 2:8-10 (NIV) “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  

 

There are works which have no value to God. But we are meant to do works which are "good" to God?  You see, our deeds in itself are not the real issue.  It is why we do those deeds. 

 

Deeds due to self-effort.

 

Imagine if my attitude was, “Hey God! I did all these great things.  Helped lots of people. Made sacrifices to help fund missions. Even preached about you!  After all I did for you, surely I deserve recognition!”  Such deeds don’t impress God.


Deeds that arise out of faith in God. 


Good works arise from humility and reliance upon God.  Imagine if my attitude was, “I am so grateful God that you chose to work through me.  Though I was undeserving.  I was faithful to what you asked me to do.  But really it was only possible because of your grace to me!”  That is what God seeks.

 

Now consider Paul who became an apostle.  He had a powerful ministry with many supernatural healings and divine encounters.  Paul had this to say in Colossians 1:28–29 (NIV84) 28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

 

Apostle Paul recognised that it was all God’s grace working in him.  Paul suffered a lot, yet he managed to persevere unwaveringly because of God’s grace.  1 Corinthians 15:10 (NIV84)  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.His “good works” was due to God’s grace.  A grace he accessed through faith in God.


 Faith accesses God’s grace to produce good works

 

Hence, faith accesses God’s grace to produce good works.  Years ago, I was speaking in a conference in Thailand.  During lunch, I ate something which disagreed with me.  I spent much of the afternoon going to the toilet with diarrhea.  I was to speak at the evening session, but I was spent.  I had barely enough energy, my faith was scrapping the bottom of the barrel.  I managed to do my session by God’s grace.  Near the end of the session, God told me to pray of the sick and believe for healing.  I argued with God, telling him I had no faith left.  But God was persistent.  Out of obedience I began an altar call for healing.    Desperately, I cried out to God to move out of whatever faith I had left.  God turned up and dozens of people were healed that night.

 

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS

 

We have shown that God’s grace is free and abundant for us who are in Jesus Christ.  Faith enables us to access God’s grace.  Good works is an outcome of faith accessing God’s grace. Let me suggest some practical implications visually.

God’s Grace is foundational.  It encompasses salvation, fruits of Spirit, authority, calling, giftings, supernatural power, guidance, etc etc every spiritual blessing. Our faith builds upon it.  Faith draws upon God’s grace to help us produce good works.  Notice that at times, God gives more grace than our faith deserves as shown by the lines leading to good works which lie outside of Faith.

 

I need to clarify that this is a simplification to help us visualise.  In reality, God’s grace comes from God.  He chooses what He provides to each person, when He gives and how He gives.  It is not some automatic process.  There are also other factors other than faith involved.  But this illustration indicates the key connections.

 

Now what happens when our faith is little? Recall that Jesus rebuked His disciples a number of times, “You of little faith!”

Here we find that despite the huge grace available, little faith only produces little good works. 

 

What happens when our faith grows big?  Now much more of the huge grace available is tapped by big faith which leads to big good works.  Consider Apostle Paul’s powerful ministry.  Think about Moses, Elijah, Elisha, John Wesley, Reinhard Bonnke, etc.  What kind of faith do we want?

What happens when we try to do a lot more than our faith capacity?

While there is huge grace, there is small faith yet somehow big works seem to appear.  Perhaps part of the works are not derived from faith.  This extra overhang may be the reason why we feel overwhelmed and stressed.  Because it is not out of grace.  


Now grace is not given by God in equal measure in every area. Sometimes, His grace may be limited for us.  Sometimes we presume there is grace and exercise presumption.  The result is limited good works and perhaps some questionable works.

Faith is like a muscle.  Exercise it, it grows.  Don’t use it, it shrinks

 

Faith is like a muscle.  Exercise it, it grows.  Don’t use it, it shrinks.  If we only produce little good works though we had bigger faith before, what will happen?  Eventually our faith shrinks from lack of use.  Don’t use it, lose it!

 

That is why being stretched by God is a good thing.  It challenges us to go beyond ourselves to rely upon God.  Sometimes, when we are too comfortable in our Christian life, we slip into relying upon our knowledge, our strength to maintain it.  It no longer requires much "faith in God' to operate in it.

That is why stepping out to operate in supernatural gifts of God is healthy for our spiritual growth.  You cannot remain in a comfort zone.  For we cannot channel the miraculous by our own efforts.  It keeps us alert and vigorous spiritually.

 

TRUSTING VS TRYING

 

The difference between trying hard in self-effort or trusting in God’s grace boils down to our attitudes and perspectives.

Are we walking in God’s grace or in our own efforts?  The difference between trying hard in self-effort or trusting in God’s grace boils down to our attitudes and perspectives. Yet often our motivations can be mixed.  So how can we tell what is happening?  Check out these comparisons, using the Fruit of the Spirit as a guide. 

When there is faith, when we are trusting and relying on God, we will experience and sense the fruits of the Spirit.  But when there is presumption and performance, we will not experience the fruits of the Spirit.  Instead, we begin to experience the right column.

 

I have learnt to check myself, to be self-aware.  When I sense the right column, I go to God and sort it out.  This helps me keep in the trusting mode more consistently.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

We showed that God’s grace is basically God’s favour although we are undeserving.  Essentially, faith is our response to God’s grace and is itself built upon God’s grace.  Faith allows us to access God’s grace to produce good works.  How we align our faith towards God’s grace to produce good works impacts upon our ministry.  When it is not align properly, it can lead to presumption or result in fruits of self-reliance. 

 

God’s heart is to grow us to be more trusting, exercising faith in God, depending on His grace unto us.

 

 

Copyright©️2024 by Wilson Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.

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