Works, Judgment, and Entering the Kingdom

You asked for verses about the judgment and works. I need to make sure you know a couple things I believe first.

This is an email to a friend. I wrote it knowing he would look up the verses. This site uses Reftagger, so you don't actually have to look up the verses. Just mouse over the references.

  1. Romans 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5; and a number of other verses say justification is by faith apart from works. I believe that.
  2. I also believe apart from him I can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Good deeds are indeed the product of faith, like you said. We must be born again, and it is by the power of the new birth and the Holy Spirit within us that we do anything good.

I had to say this so this you know I'm not a Pelagian. I don't argue we have power in ourselves to please God. The carnal mind cannot please God (Rom. 8:5-8). It is by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13).

So I want to start with the two verses that most clearly say good works come from the Holy Spirit, not from ourselves.

Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that will he reap. He who sows to the flesh will reap corruption from the flesh. He who sows to the Spirit will reap everlasting life from the Spirit. So let's not grow weary in doing good, for at the right time we will reap, if we do not lose heart. (Gal. 6:7-9)
Therefore, brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh because if you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, then you will live. (Rom. 8:12-13)

It is clear in both passages it is only by the Holy Spirit we "mortify the flesh" and only by the Holy Spirit we "do not grow weary in doing good."

It is also clear we are warned if we do not walk in the Holy Spirit, then we will die instead of live and reap corruption rather than eternal life.

Judgments, Works, and Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

Okay, verses on judgment and entering the kingdom of heaven.

Again, whenever the apostles' writings talk about the justification and salvation we have currently have, they say we received it by faith apart from works. Entering or inheriting the kingdom of God, however, is tied to works 100% of the time. Those works are done by the power of the Spirit, but apparently we have a choice in the matter, because we are going to be judged by those works.

As Paul said:

If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." He seems to make it clear we have a choice of living in the flesh or in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25)

Most people agree we have a choice, but yet they don't seem willing to admit if we live in the flesh we will die (Rom. 8:12) or we will reap corruption (rather than eternal life) if we sow to the flesh (Gal. 5:7-9).

Here's the list:
  • Matt. 7:21-23
  • Matt. 25:31-46
  • John 5:28-29
  • Rom. 2:5-8
  • Rom. 8:12-13
  • 1 Cor. 6:9-11
  • 1 Cor. 9:27
  • 2 Cor. 5:10
  • Gal. 5:19-21
  • Gal. 6:7-9
  • Col. 1:21-23
  • Eph. 5:3-8 (up to v. 8 is important; note how he compares our judgment to that of the disobedient if disobey like them)
  • Heb. 10:26-31
  • Heb. 12:14
  • 1 Pet. 1:17
  • 2 Pet. 1:5-11
  • Rev. 20:11-15

Revelation chs. 2-3 are in a class by themselves. This is Jesus himself speaking, and look how he speaks to the churches about works!

Especially poignant is Rev. 3:4-5. Clearly, we have a choice to keep these beautiful garments undefiled. We received those garments by faith, apart from works, but because we are born again and created by God to walk in specially prepared good works (Eph. 2:10), we are expected to keep our salvation by walking in those works (e.g., Eph. 4:1; Gal. 5:25).

Not Perfection

We talked in class about being open, honest, and repentant when we sin; walking in the light. It is the way of Christ.

If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from every sin. (1 Jn. 1:7)

We are not talking about perfection. We are talking about walking in openness before God and each other, being quick to repent, and God not holding our trespasses against us.

However, if we do not walk in the light, we will not be able to claim Jesus' righteousness at the judgment. John told us not to be deceived about that.

Do not be deceived, little children. The one who practices righteousness is righteous as he is righteous. The one who keeps sinning is of the devil. (1 Jn. 3:7)

Comment on James 2:24

James 2:24 says, " ... we are justified by works and not faith only."

Jesus and Paul talk about faith when referencing being born again and works when talking about entering the kingdom and judgment. James says we need both because faith is completed by works. Real faith produces works.

If you'll read through James 2:14-26, you will see James is talking about the whole course of our faith. His discussion of faith being lived out through works runs from our conversion to entering the kingdom. Judgment is clearly in his mind when he writes "Shall such faith save you"? Future tense salvation is the judgment and the reward of eternal life in his kingdom.

However, real faith does not produce works automatically without our effort. We have to "make every effort" to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:8-11). Paul disciplined his body and made it his servant so he would not be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27). Even Paul had to make sure he was not reprobate, and he did so by bringing his body under control. Isn't that the same as putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit so we may live?

In 1 Cor. 9:27 the word "disqualified" is adokimos, the same Greek word used in 2 Cor. 13:5 where we are to examine ourselves to make sure we are not "reprobate."

Paul tells us, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in you both to will and to do of your good pleasure" (Php. 2:13).

Both of us are at work. The Father works in us, and we work to please him. As Paul put it, "I labor according to his power which works in me mightily" (Col. 1:29).

According to Paul's letter to Titus, Jesus died to obtain for himself a people who are zealous for good works. We're not supposed to flinch when we hear that we are judged by our works. We should have a godly fear of the judgment (as commanded in 1 Pet. 1:17), but we should also be thinking, "It is Jesus in me that is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). I have escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust by partaking of his divine nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4), and I thrive on good works. I am created for good works especially prepared for me by God (Eph. 2:10). Let me appear before God, and let me be judged by my works because I have an advocate, not an enemy, with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 Jn. 2:1-2)."

For you and I, who long to please God, we are moved just by our salvation to want to please him, but both you and I know we occasionally need warnings.

I want to warn the way the Scripture warns, not try to word it so it is pleasing to men.

Scripture, to me, seems to plainly say that if you do not have good works at the judgment, Jesus will say he does not know you. Therefore, go out, love those around you. Open your door when the needy knock. Give to those who ask of you, and do not turn away those who would borrow from you. Lend, expecting nothing in return. Visit the widows and orphans in their distress.

This is the way the apostles wrote and spoke. I just want to write and speak the same way they did.

I hope this is helpful, not confusing, and you will feel free to ask questions or present rebuttals as you may feel led.

I mean that to my website readers as well. Use the "contact me" button in the Navbar to the left.

Give This Time, Thought, and Study

I spent at least six years writing verses in the back of my Bible, praying for understanding, before I realized the Scripture says we are justified by faith, but not that we enter the kingdom of God eternally by faith. That requires a judgment by works first.

We can be prepared for the judgment by walking in the Spirit, in the light, and in repentance, not in our own human righteousness. But we must diligently "do these things" if we expect an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:8-11).

The Early Christians

I just want to mention the wording of two "apostolic fathers," men who knew the apostles. They use the same terminology as the apostles. When talking about "being saved," they say faith apart from works. Polycarp even quotes Eph. 2:8-9. But when they talk about judgment, suddenly it is all works.

Additional citations on the subject can be found on the Faith vs. Works Quotes page.

Clement of Rome (AD 95-96)

All these, therefore, were highly honored, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men. (1 Clement 32)
Take heed, beloved, lest his many kindnesses lead to the condemnation of us all, unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight. (ibid. 21)

Polycarp (AD 110-150)

In whom, though now ye see Him not, ye believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that "by grace ye are saved, not of works," but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. (Letter to the Philippians 1)
He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing ... (ibid. 2)

You'll find that such wording is consistent throughout the the first few centuries of the church.

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