What role do works play in the Christian life?
In the Christian life, good works are the manifestation of the Spirit’s fruit through a true believer and testifies they are walking in the power of God’s Spirit through dependent trust in Him and His Word (Gal.5:16-23). This tangible expression of Christ’s indwelling life is the apex of the Christian life (Phil.1:20,21; Col.1:27). The fullness of the cross is that Christ gave His life for us, to give His life to us, to live His life through us (Gal.2:20).
Sinners are not saved by works but are saved unto works (Eph.2:8-10). Believers are exhorted to “work out your own salvation” knowing that “it is God Who works in you” (Phil.2:12,13). The outworking of that which God, by His Spirit, has worked into the believer at salvation is manifest by His power unleashed through their life. This power is accessed when the Christian lives the same way they were saved, by grace through faith (Rom.5:1,2; Col.2:6).
Good works in the Christian life are evidence of trust in God and a willingness to be used in His service. In contrast, acts of service performed in the energy of the flesh and out of improper motivation whether for the praise of men, to appease church leaders, or to earn God’s favor are not good works but the filth of self-righteousness which will not reap rewards at the bema (I Cor.3:10-15; Gal.3:1-3). “Only one life will soon be passed, only what’s done ‘in Christ’ will last” is still a maxim to live by.
Some claim that good works serve as evidence of salvation. If so, then the absence thereof are proof of the lack of salvation. The basis for exhortation to Godly living is not to earn, maintain, or ensure salvation but is a call to believers to die to self, yield to God, and live a life of gratitude and faith in God for the salvation that one already has in Christ (I Cor.6:6-11,19-20; Eph.4:17-5:21).
All Scripture must be “rightly divided” (II Tim.2:15) and interpreted in accordance with its proper dispensational context. For example, passages like James chapter 2 must be understood in light of the Jewish kingdom program that the 12 ministered under and its required expressions of faith in accordance with the Mosaic Law (Matt.10:5,6; Gal.2:1-10; Jms.1:1). This is in contrast to the dispensation of grace that Christ entrusted to and through the Apostle Paul from heaven’s glory (Eph.3:1-10; Rom.4:5; 5:1).