By Mrs. E. G. White
“By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Since we can be saved only through the grace of God, which is a free gift, why is it that man will to his own hurt, lift himself up in pride and take glory to himself for his supposed good works? The divine favor, the grace of God bestowed upon us through Jesus Christ, is too precious to be given in exchange for any supposed meritorious work on the part of finite, erring man. Man has nothing in himself. The most exalted does not originate from man, but is the endowment of his Creator, and can purchase nothing from God. Gold and silver cannot buy the favor of God; for the wealth of the world is the intrusted talent of the Lord. Let no one think that costly offerings to benevolent enterprises will elevate him in the sight of God, or purchase for him the favor of Heaven, or procure for him a place in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare for those who love him. The precious blood of Christ is wholly efficacious. “Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” “Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price.”
The resurrection of Christ from the dead was the Father's seal to the mission of Christ. It was a public expression of his entire satisfaction in the atoning work. He accepted the sacrifice that Jesus had made on our behalf. It was everything that God required, perfect and complete. No human being by any work of his own could piece out the work of Christ. When on the cross Jesus uttered the cry, “It is finished!” glory and joy thrilled heaven, and discomfiture fell upon the confederacy of evil. After that triumphant cry, the world's Redeemer bowed his head and died and to all appearance the Captain of our salvation was conquered; but by his death he was a conqueror, and he has opened the gates of eternal glory so that all who believe in him may not perish, but have everlasting life.
The sinner's only hope is to rely wholly upon Jesus Christ. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Our acceptance with God is sure only through his beloved Son, and good works are but the result of the working of his sin-pardoning love. They are no credit to us, and we have nothing accorded to us for our good works by which we may claim a part in the salvation of our souls. Salvation is God's free gift to the believer, given to him for Christ's sake alone. The troubled soul may find peace through faith in Christ, and his peace will be in proportion to his faith and trust. He cannot present his good works as a plea for the salvation of his soul.
But are good works of no real value? Is the sinner who commits sin every day with impunity, regarded of God with the same favor as the one who through faith in Christ tries to work in his integrity? The Scripture answers, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” In his divine arrangement, through his unmerited favor, the Lord has ordained that good works shall be rewarded. We are accepted through Christ's merit alone; and the acts of mercy, the deeds of charity, which we perform, are the fruits of faith; and they become a blessing to us; for men are to be rewarded according to their works. It is the fragrance of the merit of Christ that makes our good works acceptable to God, and it is grace that enables us to do the works for which he rewards us. Our works in and of themselves have no merit. When we have done all that it is possible for us to do, we are to count ourselves as unprofitable servants. We deserve no thanks from God. We have only done what it was our duty to do, and our works could not have been performed in the strength of our own sinful natures.
The Lord has bidden us to draw nigh to him and he will draw nigh to us; and drawing nigh to him, we receive the grace by which to do those works which will be rewarded at his hands. The reward, the glories of heaven, bestowed upon the overcomers, will be proportionate to the degree in which they have represented the character of Christ to the world. “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly.” Thank God that it is our privilege to sow on earth the seed that will be harvested in eternity. The crown of life will be bright or dim, will glitter with many stars, or be lighted by few gems, in accordance with our own course of action. Day by day we may be laying up a good foundation against the time to come. By self-denial, by the exercise of the missionary spirit, by crowding all the good works possible into our life, by seeking so to represent Christ in character that we shall win many souls to the truth, we shall have respect unto the recompense of reward. It rests with us to walk in the light, to make the most of every opportunity and privilege, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so we shall work the works of Christ, and insure for ourselves treasure in the heavens.
Jesus says, “Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.... Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
From the testimony of Christ we can see that we are regarded by the Lord according to the kind of fruit we bring forth, the kind of works we perform; for they are an index of the way in which we regard Christ. “If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” These were Christ's words during the last interviews he had with his disciples before his death. The fruits of the life testify to the state of the heart. Jesus said, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.” “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
Christians are to be indeed the representatives of Jesus Christ; they are not to be pretenders. Shall the world form its conceptions of God by the course of those who only take the name of Christ, and do not his works? Shall they point to those who claim to be believers, but who are not believers at heart, who betray sacred trusts, and work the works of the enemy, and say, “O these are Christians, and they will cheat and lie, and they cannot be trusted”? These are not the ones who truly represent God. But God will not leave the world to be deceived. The Lord has a peculiar people on the earth, and he is not ashamed to call them brethren; for they do the works of Christ. They make it manifest that they love God, because they keep his commandments. They bear the divine image. They are a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. They co-operate with heavenly intelligences, and the Lord is most honored and glorified by those who do the most good works.
True piety of heart is made manifest by good words and good works, and men see the works of those who love God, and they are led thereby to glorify God. The true Christian abounds in good works; he brings forth much fruit. He feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, visits the sick, and ministers to the afflicted. Christians take a heart-felt interest in the children that are about them, who, through the subtle temptations of the enemy, are ready to perish. Fathers and mothers, if you have guarded your own children from the wiles of the foe, look about you to save the souls of the children who have not such care. Have an interest in the souls of those for whom Christ died. There are youth all around us to whom the members of the church owe a duty; for Christ has died for them upon the cross of Calvary to purchase for them the gift of salvation. They are precious in the sight of God, and he desires their eternal happiness. The saving work of Christ is complete only when the members of the church do their part, arising and shining because their light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon them. Christ calls for voluntary co-operation on the part of his agents in doing earnest, consistent work for the salvation of souls.