Reflection: Today’s passage is one of the most contentious in the Bible. Was Jesus saying that he will judge us by our works?
The answer is “yes” and “no”! Mere works, however outwardly “good”, are not sufficient for salvation. Good works must be motivated by faith, for without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). It must always be remembered that believers are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Thus our good works must be done “for” him, in humble gratitude for his gracious gift of the forgiveness of our sins.
In short, God’s final judgement will be based on the sincerity of our faith in Christ. But such sincerity is evidenced by demonstrated holiness, the “fruit” of true faith. To paraphrase John Calvin – you won’t get to Heaven because of your good works, but nor will you get there without them (“Christ justified no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify”).
Personal justification is not the only consideration with regard to the doing of good works by Christians. Our good works demonstrate to the world the holy character of God (Mt. 5:14, 16, 48; Phil. 2:15). Amazingly, as Paul insisted, this is all part of God’s deep-laid plan: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
Question: When was the last time that you – personally or through charitable giving – fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty, invited in a stranger, clothed the needy, looked after the sick or visited a person in prison?
Prayer: Father, I am proud to be an ambassador for your Son. Help me to do good works for him, as a testimony to your transforming grace in my life, so that I may be counted among his sheep. Amen.