I received this comment in my recent post The SIN Factor In that post the material works of Michael Jackson were pointed out by many of our commentors. Based on a few of the opposing inquiries and assertions it was obvious to see that funadamentalism, as it pertains to works, has taken its toll on certain individual's ability to recognize and understand the relationship of good works to a sinner's life and ultimately the judgement of God. There were two basic assertions made as it pertains to the works of a sinner:
1- A Person's Works Mean Nothing To God. (Although this statement was made without qualification it's easy to see that it was pertaining to the works of a sinner in particular)
2- The Bible Wasn't Written To And For The Benefit Of Sinners.
First of all, the good works of a sinner need not intimidate a Christian although a Christian should be ashamed to serve Christ and not present good works to a God who is worthy of our entire being including our works. Works done by men in general, although are not salvific, they are yet encouraged by God, noted by God and are blessed by God whether one is a Saint or a sinner.
Does God Not Acknowledge The Works Of Men?
The plain and simple fact is that God certainly acknowledges the works of men and mankind among both saint and sinner. Since God acknowledges works of sin to provide eternal judgement of those works, and works of righteousness to provide eternal reward, it is incumbent upon the critic to set forth a biblical case as to why God would suddenly overlook the good works of sinner while simultaneously acknowledging and punishing their bad works called sin.
The heart is an abundant treasure for either good or bad. The best good that can come from the heart is repentance with the intent to serve the Lord. Although this is not the point of this article, it is diffucult for the observer to know when God has accepted the soul and heart of individuals and we are simply limited by human abilities. In some cases there could be repentance which we are unaware of. Such testimony of an instance is found within the book of Acts when Peter encountered Cornelius. I have set forth a clear and biblically centered case regarding Cornelius in Cornelius, Was He Already A Believer? on the Dunamis Word 2.
The scripture records:
Acts 10:34-35~"34-Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35-But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
In Peter's reconciling of the promise of God upon non-Jewish ethnic groups, Peter came to the realization that God had no variance or class agenda "but in every nation"(Gk: ethnos ie: ethnic group of people), that "feared him"(Gk: phobeo- reverence or treat with obesiance)and did righteously, "worketh righteousness"(Gk: ergavzomai - to make righteous their business, labor or work) that God would bless them. The critic asserts that the "blessing" is upon them that "feared him" therefore blessings are reserved for the works of saved folk only. They key here is in understanding how could a nation of people that didn't know him come to fear him, reverence him and give obesience to him mysteriously?
The Unqualified Blessing Of Abraham
One of the first biblical constructs of unqualified blessing is contained within the blessing we find upon Abraham in Genesis 12. There were 7 blessings outlined upon him and his seed:
Genesis 12:1-4~"1-Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 2-And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 3-And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
The 7 blessing were:
1- Make of thee a great nation
2- I will bless thee
3- I will make thy name great
4- Thou shalt be a blessing
5- I will bless them that bless thee
6- Curse them that curse thee
7- In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed
Many people,without cause, immediately reserve the blessing that was pronounced upon Abraham for the saint or one who is in communion with God. If one were to consistently apply that method of hermenutic the "curse" would also have to be reserved for and only upon the saint also. From diligent study we realize that quite the contrary is true however, and efforts to make the scripture apply to only one class of persons do not hold spiritual water and as assertions do not hold value. By virtue of our assessment here, we can also see that scripture is not contained to them that have relationship to God or are within his Kingdom. The word of promise, both blessings and curse extend to and are made available to the whole world, saint and sinner alike.
Anatomy Of The Blessing
The facts are that the first 4 blessings are by God's declaration and are upon Abraham and his seed directly. The last 3 blessings are communal and are upon Abraham as it relates and pertains to the interractions with individuals within the community. For those communal blessings there are no qualifications as to who will receive or qualify to receive the blessing, or who will receive the curse or any limitation upon the families that will be blessed because of Abraham.
Since this verse pronounces "unqualified blessings" and "curses", upon the works of individuals, the works of the sinner in obtaining that blessing or curse CANNOT be excluded.
Quick Note: We know the ultimate blessing is the blessing of salvation that is received through the lineage of Abraham through Jesus Christ, and made available for the whole earth, however the promise here is not to the exclusion of non savific blessings. In other words there are more blessings indicated through this verse than blessings only pertaining to salvation.
The Principle Of Right Judgement Of Works & Actions:
In one of the most compelling parts of an argument like this is the acknowledgement that the judgement of the "wicked' has always been proportionate to the sin committed by the sinner. This is what I call the principle of right judgement. This principle is established in the book of Deuteronomy:
Deut. 25:1-4~1-If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2-And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3-Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. 4-Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn
In order to understand this verse and what is being said we must note the following
1- Not every wicked man is "worthy to be beaten"
2- The wicked is only beaten according to his "fault"
3- The Punishment was not to be to the utter embarassment or humilation of the one being punished.
Jesus acknowledged this same type of sentiment in Luke:
Lk. 12:41-48~"41-Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? 42-And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? 43-Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44-Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45-But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46-The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47-And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48-But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
Jesus viewed the unrighteous works of the believer as accounted among the "unbeliever" or the wicked servants. The key here is that the works of both the wicked and the righteous were evaluated, weighed and adjudicated as to what punishment sould be given. Therefore the "works" of an individual mattered whether one was righteous or not.
Works Of Individuals Are Acknowledged By God:
Finally it is not without saying that works of individuals are both encouraged, acknowledged and promoted by God and they too in many instances are without qualification:
In the previous post Oregonsistah set forth these scriptures:
1 John 3:17-18~"17-But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? 18-My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
This scripture contextually deals with the compassion of the Christian towards another Christian, but one should ask is the intent of this scripture limited to Christian compassion only? It is better understood that this scripture is a model or standard whereby the saved (Christian) ministers to the unsaved both by example and practice and is not a restriction in ministering to the outside community. Once again a radical left wing hermenutic will promote classism even in applying the standard of love. However it is abundandtly clear that the Christian is to both be and show love both within and without the Kingdom of Christ.
Rom. 12:9 ~ "Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good."
If our standard of love was to be without dissimulation (Gk: anupovkrito ~ unfeigned, without hypocrisy and undisguised) then we cannot justify that this scripture is exclusively for displays of love from Christian to Christian. To insist on that type of treatment for this verse or any contained within scripture is absurd.
Further the New Testament church understood the correlation between works and faith. James set it forth like this:
James 2:15-17~"15-If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16-And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17-Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."
To say that God somehow overlooks "works" of anyone at any level is beyond scripture and feeds into conjecture and our desire to compartmentalize the actions and behaviors of God.
In another example, Jesus gave the scenario of the judgement to the disciples. You will see 2 groups of people. Sheeps and goats. Everyone thinks they know who the sheeps are (the children of God)but the question is who are the goats and why were there duties the same as the Sheep's?
Mt.25:31-46~"31-When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32-And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33-And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34-Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36-Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37-Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38-When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39-Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40-And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41-Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42-For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43-I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44-Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45-Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46-And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
The things we note from this scenario of judgement;
1- Only them that had works were called "righteous" v.37
2- The blessing was extended to them because they had done these works to the "Lord" through serving "the lest of my brethern" v.40
3- Those that were "cursed" were cursed because they did nothing.
4- Those that were cursed failed to serve "the least of these" v.46, which is a language change from v.40
The works of righteousness stand before us and with us:
Rev. 14:13 ~ “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.”
Comparative Sins, Righteousness & Judgement
In one of the most startling comparisons found in the New Testament Mt. 11:20-24 and Lk. 10:12-16 we find that Jesus compares both the sin and judgements of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum to the judgements of Sodom and Gommorah saying that the latter would be judged greater than the former cities because they rejected Jesus and his word in a more personal fashion.
Mt. 11:20-24 ~ "20-Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: 21-Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22-But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23-And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24-But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
From A Humanistic Standpoint
Works, whether of righteous or unrighteous individuals can help save lives and change fortunes of the receipients. Some individuals have tapped into that free flow of of giving without qualification. Paul understood this concept and Luke records his comments toward the principle:
Acts 20:35 ~ "I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive."
A person's "works" mean something both to God and men as God does not overlook any actions among men. God is not capricious or arbritrary in his judgements towards men...His judgements are right therefore all things and considerations are included within it. If a sinner feeds the hungry that meal should be equally accepted as if the righteous were providing the food. Certainly the good deed will not be overlooked either by god or mankind. Assertion to the contrary are ridiculous notions.
The ultimate judgement of the soul is made on one essential point that cannot be purchased with anything other than repentant faith, however God acknowledges even the least gesture of grace compassion and mercy extended among men toward men because we have been created in HIS likeness and image above all of creation and extension of service towards one another is among the higher calls in life.
Does God Despise Blessing Sinners? NO
Does God Have A Covenant Relationship With Sinners? NO, not until the sinner repents, then he/she becomes a Christian.
Can A Sinners Works Save Him? NO. (Ephes. 2:8-9)
Can a Sinner's Works Cause Him/Her To Be Blessed? Absolutely.
Are The Works Of Sinners Acknowledged By God? Certainly. God acknowledges, blesses and even curses individuals for their works.
Do the Works Of Sinners Have Value Before God? Absolutely and without question. In fact in some instances sinners bring blessings into their lives through acts of grace or kindness and noone but God orchestrates true blessings upon the lives of people.
Was The Bible Written For The Benefit Of Sinners? Certainly. The message is the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16) unto salvation and blessing for all to adhere to. The desire os that one will be saved by it's message but application of biblical principles in life will even bless a sinner.
The Christian performs works as an outgrowth of a committment to Christ. As stated works cannot save but as one should be able to see, this is a common sense argument.
Many of us can identifiy sinners in our life that have been blessed, acknowledge that the blessing is from God and are yet unsaved. Still many others can acknowledge individuals who serve the community faithfully and rightfully but are yet not saved. Those things happen around us everyday and those works and actions are very important to many individuals including them that are saved.
It is a shame that many in the church would be so predjudicial as to pervert the biblical message of serving humanity just because certain "works" were not done by persons that served the Lord. Please keep in mind that 2 of the wealthiest men in the United States (Bill Gates & Warren Buffet) do not honor or fear the Lord. Their works will not buy them salvation at any price however, no one can challenge the effectiveness of their gifts, the works that they have rendered to the world and in many cases the benefits that believers and their families and churches have received as a result of the efforts of these men.
God values the works of all men who take the time to selflessly display the kindness and concern for others. The Christian should set the pace for this, but oftentimes falls into the trap of self-righteousness and classism. When will the church turn to bless the world that we live in? I'll tell you when, when we repent and begin to serve one another and all of humanity!