3 Reasons to Shun the Gospel According to Works

The gospel of grace is true and magnifies the works of God. The gospel of works is false and magnifies the efforts man. The gospel of grace runs against-the-grain of man’s innate pride and sense of self-achievement—giving evidence of the depth of his depravity and inability to save himself. The gospel of works floats downstream, quietly feeding man’s pride and self-righteousness—reassuring him that he is not really as bad as the Bible says he is.

But according to Scripture, we are sinners who can only be saved by the grace of God. As a result, God alone is glorified, as Paul writes in Ephesians, the work of the Trinity in planning and carrying out God’s salvation of sinners is “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Therefore, when the gospel of grace takes hold in a sinner’s heart and mind, the only logical response is one of surrender, praise, and worship. But when the gospel of works takes a sinner’s mind captive, it produces a different kind of boasting—the kind of boasting that the Bible says God hates.

God hates such boasting, since it pulls attention away from His grace and the all-sufficient work of His Son, who died in the place of sinners, and rose again on our behalf. The gospel of grace glorifies God, whereas every gospel according to man’s works glorifies man. For this reason, the Bible contains strong warnings against this kind of boasting, and sets it in contrast to the humility that accompanies salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

[God’s offering of His Son as the atonement for sin] was to show God’s righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Rom. 3:26-28)

There is, therefore, only one acceptable form of Christian boasting: boasting in the power of our Savior Jesus Christ, and in our weakness.

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:28-31)

Those New Testament exhortations are repetitive of one from the Old Testament.

Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:23-24)

Another example of acceptable this kind of boasting; that is, boasting in the Lord, is found in Galatians 2:20.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Because his life is now forever connected to the life of Christ, Paul is not ashamed to defend the pure gospel of grace. As he said earlier, his life goal is not to seek the approval of man, but of God (Gal. 1:10). And if preaching the one, true gospel causes him to lose favor with the new-fangled Pharisees who were upsetting the churches of Galatia, then so be it. And so, in Galatians 3:1-14, he continues to defend the gospel of grace. In this passage, the apostle gives three reasons to shun the man-made gospel according to works:

  1. The gospel according to works denies the past and ongoing work of the Holy Spirit (vv. 1-4).
  2. The gospel according to works degrades the doctrine of justification by faith (vv. 5-9).
  3. The gospel according to works damns its followers by minimizing the curse-lifting work of Christ (vv. 10-14).

The takeaway from this passage of Scripture is three words: Rest in Jesus. The Bible says that believing is like resting. And, in fact, it is those who rely on their works to save them who, in the end, will not be saved.

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness – Romans 4:4-5

[You can watch or listen to the sermon here.]

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