Do Works Annul Grace?

By Jimmy Thomas

I have debated Baptists who gave Romans 4:4; 11:6, and other passages, trying to prove that if one does anything, then the blessing received from God is no longer by grace, that it becomes “a matter of debt, not favor.” It never seemed to occur to them that in no way could man ever put God in debt to him. Every blessing from God is by His grace (Jas. 1:17).

Now, to my amazement, along come teachers in Israel offering the same scriptures for the same purpose. They deny the necessity of complete obedience to the commands of God both to the alien sinner and especially to the child of God. Their line of argument is pure Calvinism in a new dress.

Many Jews of the first century sought to hold onto the law of Moses as Christians. They even tried to force the Gentiles to “be circumcised after the custom of Moses” (Acts 15:1). Paul argues, (especially in the books of Romans and Galatians), that none can be justified by the law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). He shows that we are saved “by grace . . . through faith” “apart from the works of the law” (Eph. 2:8; Rom. 3:28). Now, all are under “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” which makes “free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom. 8:2). He does not teach that when one obeys the commands of the Lord that he annuls God’s grace.

Jesus is the author of eternal salvation “unto all them that obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). He asked, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say’?” (Lk. 6:46). Again He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21). Obedience is a proof of our love (Jno. 14:15, 23). Those in Christ must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (Jas. 1:22, 25). Peter admonishes brethren to “give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10). Why would the Lord and His apostles teach that we must do certain things if our doing them would annul God’s grace?

I have often illustrated this from the physical realm. God gives our daily bread but we must work for it (Mt. 6:11; 2 Th. 3:10, 12). If a man could live longer than Methuselah and work every day and night; his daily bread would still be by the unmerited favor of Him who made the earth, supplied the sunshine and rain; who put the power of regeneration in the seeds, and gave to him life and strength to plant, till and reap. God gives us air to breathe, but just try not breathing for five minutes and let someone else see what happens!

God said to Joshua and Israel, “See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor” (Josh. 6:2). Yet, in the following verses they were commanded to compass the city for seven days. When the priests blew the trumpets and the people shouted, the walls fell flat; “and they took the city” (v. 20). It was by God’s grace through man’s faith that the walls fell down, only “after they had been compassed about for seven days” (Heb. 11:30). If they had not done all that God required of them, the walls of Jericho might be standing today. When one does that which God commands he does not annul His grace, he just meets the conditions of grace which He has laid down.

Our salvation from sin is the same, whether alien sinner or saint. We are saved by grace. It could never be by debt. Yet, we cannot be acceptable to God if we do not work righteousness (Acts 10:35). The alien must hear, believe, repent, confess his faith and be baptized unto the remission of sins. Anything short of this or in addition to this is not from God and will not bring His favor. When a child of God sins he is cleansed by the blood of Christ, but not without confessing his sins (1 Jno. 1:7). He must do something in order to be pardoned by Divine grace.

If one could be saved by the law of Moses, (a system of works), or by some meritorious works of his own devising, then he would indeed annul God’s grace; but this he can never do. When one obeys the voice of the Lord and keeps His commandments he can never make void His grace. Such requirements in no way could be interpreted as works of merit. Even faith is a work, yet not of merit (Jno. 6:29; Gal. 5:6).

“Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.”

Refighting Old Battles

Have you ever noticed how battles fought years ago have a way of springing back to life again? At the turn of the century brethren thought that the institutional issue and the instrumental music question had been whipped out of the church. Their attention was turned to the problems of “sect baptism” and later to premillennialism. During this lull the institutional problem stealthily emerged occupying much of our attention for the past generation. Now, while we were busy fighting on that front the devil has been at work sowing the seeds of error in other areas. A large number of young people have grown up not having been taught clearly just what the church is and what one must do to be saved so they are ripe for the Neo-Calvinism that has become more than a little ripple in the church. Some are now advocating openly fellowship with those who use instrumental music in worship, and others who teach and practice things not authorized in the New Testament. A growing number are saying that the instrument is only a matter of opinion. Now it seems that we are faced with the unpleasant, yet necessary, task of refighting some of these same old battles C instruments in worship, premillennialism, “sect baptism,” etc. If we get so involved in these matters that we neglect to keep vigilance, then we might as well expect the institutional issue to flare back up in a few years. There is never any time or place where we can afford to drop our guard for one moment no matter how battle weary we may become.

Brethren, it is a constant fight to the finish, but be not “weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:9).

Truth Magazine, XVIII:47, p. 10
October 3, 1974