What Does The Bible Say About Works

What does the Bible Say about Works

The Bible has a lot to say about the concept of works, from the first pages of Genesis to the very end in Revelation. In the Old Testament, we read about how the nation of Israel was chosen for a special place in the divine plan. It was given the responsibility, through their enormous works, to share the message of God to the world. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about how those who put their faith in him are saved by grace and not their works.
Throughout, the Bible emphasizes the importance of works, acknowledging that they play a significant role in one’s relationship with God. Whether it’s Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Moses leading the Nation of Israel, or Mary’s dedication to the mission of Jesus, excellent works have been seen throughout the Bible. We find an example of this in Hebrews 11:6, which states: “Without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (ESV). This verse hints at the idea that while faith is necessary for salvation, works are necessary to please God.
For centuries, different parts of the Bible have been interpreted in unique ways. However, what all interpretations seem to agree upon is that good works are essential for a life of holiness and righteousness and that works must be done out of surrender and love for God. James 2:14-17 reverently explains, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (ESV). One can see from this passage that works must be done not just to please God, but also to benefit humanity, as demonstrated through sharing in times of need.
Jesus is also credited with warning of potential dangers in failing to combine works with faith. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23) (ESV).Jesus’s words here indicate that even the works of the law are unfinished without justice, mercy, and faith. This theme, often seen throughout the Bible, serves as a reminder to us all that works without faith can do more harm than good.
In addition to being careful of the consequences of not combining faith with works, the Bible emphasizes the importance of sincerity in works. Jesus taught, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6) (ESV). This passage speaks of worship not done for the purpose of recognition but for sincere faith.

The Value of Works

The Bible urges believers to be mindful and conscious of their works, as they will ultimately lead to a closer relationship with God. Ecclesiastes 12:13 reads, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (ESV). Here, we can see the value of works, as they give us a chance to honor and obey God. Consequently, works should be done not to show off, but out of a genuine desire for holiness.
Throughout the Scriptures, the value of works is further revealed through the life of Jesus himself. Christ was devoted to performing the ultimate work of sacrifice so that mankind could be saved. In summarizing Jesus’ ministry, the book of Hebrews notes,”For consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:3-4) (ESV). Here, readers are impressed with the value of works, epitomized by the sacrificial works of Jesus, which brought salvation to mankind.
Furthermore, we see throughout Scripture the importance of works not just in the realm of spirituality but also in the realm of morality. Paul had written to the Galatians, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14) (ESV). Here, we see how doing good works for others is an essential part of living according to God’s will. Works demonstrated through expressions of love and kindness towards others is one of the most powerful means of fulfilling the teachings of Jesus.

Works and Eternal Life

The concept that works bring us closer to eternal life is seen in Revelation 14:13, which states, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” Blessing here is thought to refer to eternal life in heaven, which is dependant upon good works. This is further explained by 1 Peter 1:17, which states, “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile” (ESV). This indicates that we need to be mindful of our works and behaviors in order to be granted eternal life.
Not only do works bring us closer to eternal life, they also propel us further into heavenly realms of existence. Theologian D.A. Carson argues that faith, expressed wholly through works, is “a wholehearted and complete personal allegiance to the Father.” In essence, followers of Jesus are called to continuously apply faith to action, or works, seen through their daily pursuits and practices.
Additionally, James 2:24 indicates that those whose faith is expressed through works will gain, “justification from works, and not from faith only.” This suggests that even if faith is present, it’s not enough by itself. Rather, it must be affirmed and imputed through good works.

The Need for Works

We find in the Bible that securing one’s salvation is dependent upon living out the savior’s promises and being led by the Holy Spirit. In 1 Peter 2:2, it is written that believers should “like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation” (ESV). Growing towards salvation requires an earnest and consistent practice of good works. Understanding this, the Bible goes on to urge us in 1 Corinthians 4:2 to “be found faithful” (ESV). In essence, the Bible exhorts us to be believers who put faith into action and maintain constant works of faithfulness.
The New Testament also warns of the dire consequence of not having one’s faith backed up by works. Hebrews 6:4-6 reads, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (ESV). The passage serves as a strong reminder that God requires not just faith but faithful works, a continuous practice of faith in action.
Finally, the Bible encourages us to possess a healthy awareness of our works, affirming that we only receive reward if we are diligent in obedience and seek after holiness. Jesus warns us in Matthew 24:45-47, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (ESV).

The Challenge of Works

The challenge of works is a repeated theme throughout the Bible, as believers are repeatedly encouraged to continue to explore and pursue faith in works. Philippians 2:12 reads, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (ESV). From this, it can be observed that faith is an ongoing journey that requires tremendous commitment and effort.
The apostle Peter further speaks of the challenge of works in his first epistle, stating that those who believe must “prepare [their] minds for action” (1 Peter 1:13) (ESV). This outlines how deity does not call for merely mental ascent but instead for physical affirmations of faith. Jesus himself taught us this when he said, “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13 NRSV). He calls us to live out our faith in both word and deed, even in the face of difficult circumstances.
This challenge of works is further explained by the famous parable of the talents, where a master gives three of his servants talents and asks them to put the money to work. When the master returns, two of the servants have doubled their money, while the third has hidden his coins. The message of this parable is that we must use our God-given gifts and talents to do good in the world.
Beyond being expected to use our talents, the Bible speaks of another challenge regarding our works. Specifically, the book of 1 Timothy orders us to “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of the prayers” (1 Timothy 2:8) (ESV). In other words, the Bible urges us to be disciplined and free from emotional outbursts and reckless behavior in order to continue on the journey of works and faith.

The Goal of Works

Overall, the Bible affirms the necessity of good works and emphasizes that all believers should strive to live lives that embody faith and works. Writing in Romans, Paul urges all followers of Christ for “obedience to the faith for the sake of his name” (Romans 1:5) (ESV). Referring directly to the works of believers, the bible writes in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (ESV). Here, the goal of loving others as Christ loves us is stressed.
Moreover, Paul speaks to the Corinthians, urging them to “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24) (ESV). Taken as a metaphor, this places emphasis on running the ‘race’ of faith with good works as our fuel. This implies that the goal of works is to produce fruit. Jesus himself approves this goal in John 15:8, where he states, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (ESV). Thus, the fruit of our works is a demonstration of our love for God, for each other, and

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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