Works and Grace at the Same Party?

"Christianity is about grace," so many believers rightly proclaim, "salvation is through grace alone!" This is a regular statement made in many confessions of faith and statements of belief as a reaction to those who argue that there is some task or tasks to earn salvation.  The Bible argues that there is not a single work that one can engage in to earn salvation. It's a free gift because the work was done and completed by Jesus Christ.  But how often does this 'no-works' thinking bleed into areas where it ought not to?  The Bible is full of instruction, guidance, and commands.  How many times do its readers dismiss the difficult passages simply because they look like 'work'?  And the bigger question is how Christians reconcile works and grace?

In some areas of the country the works vs grace argument is hot.  It may have been even more intense some 1600 years ago when Augustine and Pelagius were arguing about it.  Augustine's position (which claimed that salvation is by grace alone) prevailed and Pelagius was branded a heretic. That issue, however, didn't get at the reality that God still asks us to do things.  Why?  And what's the deal with this work?

I was recently asked to preach on what Proverbs has to say about the topic of work.  I chose Proverbs 6:6-11 as my primary text.  This question continued to nag at me as I was studying.  How can we explain that salvation is through grace alone but it is also by God's grace that we are given instruction, guidance, and commands once we become Kingdom citizens?  If doing or not doing these works has no baring on our salvation, why do them?  What are they for? 

In simple terms, it's like a castle with a large moat around it.  From outside, there's nothing a person can do to bring the drawbridge down. However, Jesus has done the work to lower the drawbridge and it was work only he could do.  He invites us to cross the bridge and enter the castle to live with the King. This is a free gift.  It's grace. But there is another gift of grace given to us and that's the Kingdom ethic. We've been given instructions, guidance, and commands to help us relate well with the King, other Kingdom citizens, and those who have yet to cross the drawbridge. While some see this Kingdom ethics as work, it's actually a gift too. The Kingdom ethic isn't something that could cause us to get kicked out once we've crossed the bridge; but rather, it is so something that teaches and conforms us to look more like the King. Yes, it's a gift, and that's grace too.

While I could explain this further here, I'd rather point you to the sermon.  If this question is nagging at you, or you are trying to reconcile how grace and works fit together, please consider listening to this sermon: Proverbs on Work. I pray that it's helpful in how you understand God and his Word.

*Photo by Sean Molin and is registered under a creative commons license.