Faith and good works

I was troubled recently when I read again in Matthew’s gospel of the sheep and the goats. This is the story of how on the day of judgement, Jesus will look at what people had done for others (the sheep) and invite them to take their inheritance in God’s kingdom. He would then turn to those who hadn’t done anything for others (the goats) and banish them, saying “Depart from me.”

The doctrine of faith instructs us that once we have accepted Jesus as our Saviour we are saved for all time – ‘Once saved, always saved.’ If my memory is right, Philip Yansey wrote that there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make Him love us less.

So if we are saved by faith alone, how does the story of the sheep and the goats fit in? The answer I suppose, I understood intellectually but it was only once I reflected on this passage that another step along the path of faith was made. Our relationship with God is a two way street. By definition this must be so otherwise it wouldn’t be a relationship. So to accept God’s promise of eternal life without any expression of appreciation is thoughtless in the extreme.

Jesus commanded us to “Love one another as I have loved you.” We show our love and obedience to God by the way in which we treat those around us. It may be God’s grace through which we are saved, but it is through our good works that we acknowledge that grace and give thanks.

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