The Difference Is In What We Do



These were the words I read this morning when I opened my Bible app:

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10 ESV)

As I think about this exhortation from Paul, I realize that our faith is meant to be manifested in doing good. It also occurs to me that, maybe, we have gotten the emphasis wrong.

I can understand how it happened. Common people didn’t have the Scripture to read for themselves. The church had gotten corrupted by power and wealth. Priests sold indulgences and turned faith into a religion of required observances and superstitious piety.

John Wycliffe and others made Scripture available to the common people, and Martin Luther and the people he inspired rediscovered the that salvation is received by faith. It’s a matter of grace, not of works, lest any man boast.

These things were inspired by the Holy Spirit at the time, but we always flirt with the danger of settling into religious ruts that prevent us from appreciating and considering the whole counsel of God. Western Protestantism has tended for centuries to accept the stuffy air of an academic, heady faith that gets too little exercise in the “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.[1]

This is the progression: We are “saved through faith”; this is not our own doing; “it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”.[2] But we can’t stop there. We have to realize the truth of the very next statement: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”[3]

We are saved by faith, not by works, in order for us to do the good works God prepared for us to do.

We are saved by faith, not by works, in order for us to do the good works God prepared for us to do.

Paul’s words in Galatians and the entire thrust of Scripture suggest that the hallmark of Christian faith is the good that we do that flows out of the salvation we received by faith.

James says that “religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”[4] In Western Protestantism, we tend to err in getting the theory right (calling it sound doctrine) to the detriment of the doing.

Jesus said we would be separated as sheep and goats not by how sound our theology is, but by how we respond to people in need.[5] To the extent that we do things for the least of the people among us, or don’t do them, we do (don’t do) them for Jesus.

The emphasis is on the doing. Once we have believed and have been saved, we are born again. After that, “the proof is in the pudding”, as they say.

Jesus didn’t say that we would be known by our strong faith and sound doctrine; He said we would be known by our love for one another.[6] John says if we don’t love people we are not walking in the light.[7]

Love is the focus of the greatest commandments: “love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.[8] This statement summarizes all the Law and the Prophets.[9]

What is love? Jesus describes love as doing: “do to others what you would have them do to you”.[10] (And for emphasis, Jesus adds, “for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”). Loving is doing.

In the very verses that follow those famous words (“do to others”) from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns that we will know the false prophets (that he calls wolves in sheeps’ clothing) by their fruit[11] (or lack thereof).

Likewise, James warns that we should not be hearers of the word only, thus deceiving ourselves; rather we should be doers of the word.[12] When we learn to talk the talk, it’s easy to think we are “in”, not realizing that faith that embraces Jesus is faith that takes up the cross and follows after Him.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”[13]  Love is self-sacrificial doing, giving of ourselves to other people. Thus, Jesus added,

“You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit….”[14]

We don’t do good things because by them we are saved. We do good things because we are saved by grace that we have received by faith, and it has made all the difference in our lives. It is has freed us up to be “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”.[15]

This love is so radical that it doesn’t extend only to the people that we like. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?”[16] Rather, we shall be known by the way that we love our enemies, the way that we love people who are not like us, people who might even hate us.

Modern Evangelicals, the progeny of Protestantism that responded to the errors of an institutional church that had become corrupted by power and wealth in the Middle Ages, tend to put emphasis on hearing and faith, which is not wrong in the right context, but the proof is always in the pudding. The tree is always known by its fruit.

We are intended to be salt and night. We are supposed to make a difference, and that difference is in what we do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

[1] Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

[2] Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)

[3] Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

[4] James 1:27 (ESV)

[5] Matthew 25:31-46

[6] John 13:35

[7] 1 John 2:7-11 (“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”) (ESV) (Emphasis added)

[8] Matthew 22:37-39

[9] Matthew 22:40

[10] Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

[11] Matthew 7:15-20 (“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”) (ESV)

[12] James 1:22

[13] John 15:3 (NKJV)

[14] John 15:14-16 (NKJV)

[15] Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

[16] Matthew 5:46-47 (NIV)

3 thoughts on “The Difference Is In What We Do

  1. “We are intended to be salt and night. We are supposed to make a difference, and that difference is in what we do.”- Loved reading this, it reminded me of all the things that I myself am being reminded about constantly 🙂 God Bless 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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