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An Evangelistic Platoon in the
Works Righteousness Company ?
Trying to earn salvation
by preaching a free gospel ?

Contemporary Review

August 25, '99

In Sydney and perhaps Adelaide, a rather novel pathology seems to have appeared in recent times. It is a form of salvation with the prop of winning souls.

Its method appears to be this: get zeal, get people, get ahead. Its perspective would thus resemble in this anxiously aspiring character,  that of Mormonism, Romanism and ultimately, Arminianism. Indeed, it seems that a certain fervour of fear, hollow hopes or even hedonism lurks.  In this case: IF you get enough souls, you SHOW you are healthy spiritually, and THIS makes it far more appropriate for YOU to get THERE where you want to go, SO get on with it, don't mess about, win lots and be always stirred up about it. There is a reward and boy, you are going
to get it.

THAT looks to be its philosophy.


However, what one reads in the Bible is this: "BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED BY FAITH AND THAT IS NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD" - (Ephesians 2:8). Now the "saved" word is from the Greek perfect tense, and the exact sense is this: YOU ARE IN A HAVING BEEN SAVED CONDITION. It is quite notable, the exact phrasing. Instead, indeed of a simple perfect (the tense of completion with continuing results according with what has happened), which would itself have been clear-cut, it goes further. It has the verb to be, and then a perfect participle: YOU ARE HAVING-BEEN-SAVED. That  said, we note further that the whole statement is in fact preceded by conjunction "FOR". It is giving a reason, or explanation or confirmation. Of what ?

Of this - and we shall simplify a little by omitting some words, the whole being there to check:

For what then is this preliminary the prelude ? What is given as the ground of this  in terms of the divine action and performance ? THIS: FOR BY GRACE YOU ARE IN A SETTLED SAVED CONDITION BY FAITH,  AND THAT IS NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD.

The attestation of His kindness and love is that such a great salvation as this, one founded in grace, conferred in finality, achieved in the past, secured for the present, qualitatively complete, has been accorded to the Christians to whom Paul is speaking (as in Romans 8:29ff., 5:1-11).

It is all one. Paul himself, too, is in the same condition, once without hope and faith, lost from God, and now in this binding to His kindness through His love (Ephesians 2:2-3). No, more: this whole affair, the salvation donation BY faith THROUGH grace is further defined so that even a casuist is powerless. The word for 'that' in 'that not of yourselves' does not agree with the gender of 'faith' and embraces the entire preceding word therefore.

Now how on earth can someone start winning souls by energy and activity of the self, and doing more rather than less, and putting in the sweat and the toil and the commitment of time and so forth, in order to cement his/her own salvation, and then say, but this is a gift! That would be mere self-deception. It CAN HAVE NOTHING whatsoever to do with one's achievement of salvation for the simple reason that salvation is not achieved by sinners. THAT side of it is Christ's affair (Isaiah 53:5ff.). "BY HIS KNOWLEDGE," declares Isaiah, "HE shall justify many."

What knowledge ? That is closely defined, for in the next verse, the prophet gives the sense and ground of the statement just made: "For He shall bear their iniquities." YOUR side of it is simply this, to receive it. HIS side of it is to produce what is being given. Even your reception like all the rest, is "not of yourselves", for so Paul describes the entire transaction of being saved by faith through grace.

Immediately someone may wonder: But that is too easy. However, the son who receives a car from his father does not think so. The point is this, and it is also emphatically revealed in the Bible. IF you ARE saved, then you will look like it, act like it; and if you DO have a regenerated heart, a restored life in the image of Him who created us (Col. 3:10,  Ephesians  4:23-24), then it will manifest itself. Light shines: it is incompatible with darkness. A planted tree of good seed will grow: it is not the same as one casually set in poor ground by a non-expert (Isaiah 61:3, Matthew 15:13, I John 3:9).

Faith without works is dead (James 2:20 cf. SMR pp. 520-532). What IS faith is alive, and like all living things, manifests what it is by what it does. We may be deceived at times, and think some orthodox Christian is not doing very well, but this is where that other point comes in, JUDGE NOT THAT YOU BE NOT JUDGED (Matthew 7:1), straight from the lips of Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount! In fact, there may in that case be such a hidden work of kindness to many, carefully concealed lest there be boasting and self-display, and because love is not an advertising campaign, that the person in fact is doing marvellously well.

To repeat one of our stresses on this site:


This brings us to our third point. Works-righteousness, saving up good works to impress your heavenly maker to make sure you get in - is abomination. Its hedonist base is horrid: it is a matter of earning your way into love, not responding into a love which has paid. It is selfish, self-oriented and self-emphatic. It is the exact opposite of faith and love. Imagine a child doing ever so much so that he might be accepted in his own family. One would pity the child, wonder about the family.

But as for the child who IN LOVE responds to the kindness of his parents, the joy of his home and sincerely is a part of it all, joying in the milieu, shows a lively interest and keen place in things, this is both natural and normal, with a family feeling one can admire. You cannot earn love, for that contradicts its exact nature. It is the initiative of the lover, the heart and spirit of the soul that loves which is in view here. He/she may be IMPRESSED by many things, but love is not dependent on performance, merely evocative of it IF the party concerned has a heart which is sensitive to this field. If not, then it cannot happen. You do not get figs from thistles.

Love DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN. It is not selfish. It is not an equation sum which relates to your side and mine, one used to determine the next step. It is more blessed to give than to receive, and if the tenor of Ephesians 2 is not clear, what would be! There is mention of our APPALLINGLY UNSATISFACTORY PERFORMANCE PRIOR TO THIS LOVE (2:2-3). There is the OPPOSITION to this - "BUT GOD ..." (2:4). Then in rapid succession we see the ingredients of action:

Such is the nature of the gift, such its background. No greater sense of grace without any merit could be conceived. Indeed, as Professor Skilton used to stress at Westminster seminary, it is DESPITE DEMERIT that this grace is shown. That is the pellucid teaching of the Bible, essential in the Gospel.

It is the same in Romans 5. 'PERHAPS for a good man, someone might even dare to die'; but GOD, who is rich in mercy, WHEN we were STILL sinners, sent Christ to DIE FOR US. THIS, says Paul in that chapter,  is how GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS OWN LOVE TOWARD US. It is surpassing and wholly beyond all computation.

Enough! It is wholly unbiblical.


Now let us change gear. HOW should the soul winner in fact proceed.

1. There should in all sincerity and consistency be NO thought of what you are achieving for yourself. Imagine a surgeon busily bearing with his aching back while he makes fine incisions and casts about for cancerous cells, with an energy and a thoroughness which the patient would ardently desire, in fact being moved by this thought: HOW MUCH MONEY I AM MAKING, or HOW GREAT A NAME FOR MYSELF THIS IS PRODUCING, or even, THIS WILL PAY THE RENT (for the second house perhaps)! It would to say the least, even for a mere professional, be a lapse, a lack of the spirit one seeks in any good worker, a pre-occupation with self-related results when one would at least hope for a concentration which wanted intensely without admixture, the good of the patient. It would be a weakness and a woe.

Personally, to take the case of dentists, I have for long been sensitive to the feeling one gets with a new one: does he seem to be interested in progress and performance and all that, or in the teeth! There is a difference, however much the desire for money might influence a type of zeal, which can almost be smelt! It interferes with judgment and can make extra actions seem desirable. In fact, Reader's Digest in recent times published the results of a finding in which a person posing as a needy patient went to many dentists throughout Australia, first having had his teeth very carefully checked for this experiment. The different treatments ranged from those costing thousands to those not costing. Many were excessive or odd. In some cases, marvellous colour guides were to help to justify the cost or the procedure. We know what we want; but in many such cases, that is not it. It is not easy to discern love in such monuments to service.

2. There should be a desire for the lost which considers their plight and wants to do justice to the grace being shown by God, in bringing remedy effectively to bear in the power of God.

3. In view of what CHRIST HAS DONE and the entire sufficiency of His finished work (John 6:51ff., 6:40, 8:29ff., I Thess.5:9-10), there should be an underlying restfulness of spirit (Philippians 4:6), a peace of mind and a wonder of heart which is so focussed on Him (Galatians 6:14) that it is like a savour about one, speaking of Him even when silent.

4. There should be the unobstructed presence of Christ, Himself pledged to be "with you always, even to the end of the Age", in whose strength and savour is much joy from His inimitable person, one others may savour from Him (I Cor. 2:14-16, Colossians 1:27).

Whether indeed it be in soul-winning or in the other graces and actions of love in Christ, it is one principle, one Spirit and one power (Ephesians 4:4-6). These are those unwritten testimonials which are the constant laboratory evidencing in the crucible of the soul, of the purity of Christ (cf. II Corinthians 3:3). They resemble those of the people who finding in Him their basis, origin and support, savour for spirit and strength for mind, understanding and vitality, rapport and reality, show by their good fruit, something of the beauty of His holiness (cf. The Shadow of a Mighty Rock,  pp. 347, *2, 337ff., 589-594, 666). Here is one of the enduring QUALITATIVE inscriptions of the Christian faith, readable even if the eyes that look be ulcerated, for it goes beyond the mere organs of sense, to the depths of the heart. THIS is one unapologetic piece of Christian Apologetics that requires neither book nor binding.

We could go on, but there is no need. Even the apostles in the presence of enemies, were such that "they took note of them that they had been with Jesus" - Acts 4:13.

Here refer to the underlying basis of some of these things, in spirit and thought, in That Magnificent Rock, Ch. 6, What is Life for ?





Actually, Ephesians 2:8, itself like a blast of glory into the suppurating planet,  is followed by two further powerful declamations, so far as works righteousness is concerned. That these are added, is like adding an inland sea to a dam, so great is the overwhelming abundance of the inditement, the declaration.
This grace and kindness: It is a total thing, an embracive thing. It is the entire nature of salvation to avoid the componential addition of works; it is the nature of the love, it is the intensity of the mercy, it is the array of the kindness, it is the will of God. It is thus that "even when we were dead in trespasses", and death, to the point, is rather disabling, is it not, to any good thing! - that God "made us alive together with Christ", and in case the totally blind should miss the point, Paul even superadds in parenthesis, straight after this, "by grace you have been saved". The NATURE OF THE CASE, and the DECLARATION OF THE GRACE alike, like two massive army pincer movements, enshroud the matter with grace.

But now we go on to see some further areas of application. We find that there is another motive as well.
It is not merely that Christ's work is pure enough and holy to the point that it satisfies the Father in His justice and judgment (Hebrews 9:12-28). Rather, its intrinsic glory of grace has this extrinsic application of it: "lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:9)! What it is and must be, also has this advantage, of removing as the rapscallion work of insolent pride, any other thought, such as competitive self-exaltation relative to others, as if one's own work was, or even COULD be in any way relevant to the slightest degree.

As to that surpassing, exclusive, emphatic, infinite purity of Christ, qualifying Him for a post as purgative sacrifice and exemplar of righteousness, to meet the requirements of peace (Psalm 85:10, Colossians 2:11-14), the word of God is full of this theme, like a brook in Spring.

As Hebrews has it,

and I Peter puts it:

Thus the reality is that the sinless Christ, as just, satisfied vicariously the demands of justice, as impeccable, invariable, holy and perfect, on behalf of sinners, whose imperfect qualities can not even attain to the realm of relevance, in this field.

Thus, then Ephesians 2 proceeds to give a further ground for this exclusion. The result ?
It is "by grace you have been saved through faith", and then: "not of works, lest any man should boast" (2:9).

How ludicrous if some imperfect being,

whose whole heart has had to be regenerated to achieve a relevance to heaven, whose whole guilt has had to be borne by the One in whom was the necessary perfection which accrued, and is dispersed and made available for a valid standing before God (II Cor. 5:12-21) -
should have the hide or even temptation to act as if ANY of his puny performances could be in the same arena as this! HIS was guilt, Christ was guiltless. His was sin, Christ was sinless. His was the role of beneficiary, Christ that of donor. BOAST! How derisory any such presumption! Salvation ? It is the entire achievement of grace, and this is affirmed with this exclusion made specific, to DENY any sinner the opportunity to aggrandise in illusion, in comparison with others... "lest any man should boast".

It does not even say, Be nice and do not boast! It says, it is by faith through grace, the whole operation not of ourselves, and THEREFORE it excludes boasting! (Ephesians 2:8).

Again, says Paul in Romans 3:27, after unveiling the propitiatory sacrifice which provides redemption for sinners in Christ (3:25), "Where is boasting then ? It is excluded. By what law ? Of works ? no, but by the law of faith." Now you will notice that it is not stated to be excluded by good manners, but by LAW. It is the necessary outworking of what is within the law: what law ? The LAW OF FAITH. Of Christ, what then ? it is He "whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness", this with a view to His being "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."


Whose blood ? HIS. By what means of appropriation ? Faith. With what categorical exclusion then: works. What are works ? the things that you do.

The conclusion excludes the very relevance of even the most rarefied performances, those to satisfy even a DIVINELY GIVEN AND DONATED LAW - "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apArt fROm the deeds of the law" - Romans 3:28. What is the result of this: "Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" - Romans 5:1. And this ? "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him" - Romans 5:9.

No possibility or even plausibility or probability is in view. Rather a direct and unqualified statement about the future is granted to those who, the church founded on faith, those who have this faith which is with all the rest of salvation BY grace and NOT of works: WE SHALL BE SAVED. It is in fact just the same as the clear words Christ (John 10:9, 4:14): to DRINK, to ENTER by what He gives, by Himself, results in certain salvation and indeed, it is the counterpart of being His sheep which have conferred on them an imperishable quality, being His, purchased, protected and reserved (John 10:27-28).

It is eternal redemption, it is purchased, it is donated, it excludes works, it is the work of God in Christ.


IF ONE PARTICLE of performance by man entered in, then some particles would be bigger than others. But ALL are sinners, none in quality touches the mark, all are recipients of grace by faith and that not of yourselves LEST any man should boast.

But let us return to Ephesians 2:8-9, where we began to compare other scriptures. Paul is not satisfied yet, and proceeds to a SECOND vast declaration in verse 10 to follow. In fact, he declares, "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" - 2:10. Indeed, he prefaces THAT statement with this: "For".

In other words, the REASON why it is impossible, apart from all else, to boast of works, is this - that we are in ourselves, a piece of workmanship, and as to that, it is His, not ours! Furthermore, our works, when they then proceed in the life in Christ, are ORDAINED, and we the workers, are regenerated, so that as children of God we should be enabled in the household of faith, to go about our duties.


Thus there are two successive cases of 'for'. The first, underlining the significance of being entirely saved by grace through faith in terms of kindness (by grace you have been saved - he interpolates even then, to state it twice, inside a few words!), has this word:  - "For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."

This FOR follows its own base in Ephesians 2:4-7, and so follows these words: "But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." This, it is objective, HIS mercy, HIS deeds, HE HAS RAISED US UP WITH HIMSELF. Then it proceeds to complete the double affirmation begun in the parenthesis of verse 5. But this is not all, even this!

The SECOND 'FOR', then goes on after verse 8, to give its basis, or to double it, after the case was first enshrouded in the following statement, "not of works lest any one should boast", before then reminding us, after that announcement, "for we are His workmanship." Thus the double affirmation is conjoined with the double FOR, and even this is enforced with the shrouding of "not of works lest any one should boast" and that is infilled with the matrix, "FOR we are His workmanship". It is covered and recovered, encapsulated, extended, emphasised and applied.
WE are HIS workmanship.

Work - it is everywhere as far as He is concerned: HE WORKS to save, HE WORKS to create us, HE WORKS to create our salvation and our life of good works from His workmanship. GRACE, it is everywhere, as far as we are concerned: It is by this we are saved en bloc, in totality; it is by this we are saved passim, present and future; it is by this, procedurally, 'through faith' and it is by this we are saved in substance and in reality, being created to the point of characterisable relationship with God. Meanwhile, the action to the point is thus negatively characterised, "and that not of yourselves" , and in this way, positively, "it is the gift of God."


WE who are Christians are made to be enabled to do works, as BEING cases of His own WORKMANSHIP. The redeemed articles perform because redeemed, and their works are the direct result of His workmanship, ordained. It is like the result if you will, of rebuilding Europe. Its redemption to enable it to go on with works was in another category altogether, from what was able to follow, once the place was rebuilt. In our case, the rebuilding is a work of creation (Ephesians 4:24). Even then, such sins as should at any time, contrary to the beauty of the reconstruction, nevertheless intrude, these too are covered and this in only one way: "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity" -  I John 1:9. NOW, there is only one priest, the new High Priest, Christ, who offered Himself - the old multiplicity of priests and sacrifices is so entirely supplanted as to be, in the words of the epistle to the Hebrews, 'obsolete' (Heb. 8:7-13). His is a "more excellent ministry" and it is "founded on better promises".


Thus we are in deep waters, delightfully oceanic and pure waters, and what is exclusive of works for evangelising, as one means of finding salvation, in part or whole, just because they are all works, is equally applicable to ‘circumcision’, as Paul so dramatically showed the erring Galatian church (cf. Gal. 3:1-13, 5:1).

‘WHO,’ he enquires, ‘has bewitched you!’ You began in the Spirit, you began with Christ eminently portrayed, crucified, before your eyes, and now to this! "Are you so foolish?" Indeed, "I am afraid for you, lest I have laboured in vain…" (4:11). "Indeed, I Paul, tell you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing" - in terms of this constituting a yoke of bondage, motivated by life to be gained through law.

So it applies to any construction of works, whether by Moroni’s plates, or Romanist penances, masses of indulgences, or the indulgences of masses, by Arminian endeavours to find a place in heaven with the aid of works, by transcendental meditation or Mariolatrous mediation (cf. SMR pp. 923, 977, 1057-1060, 1064, 1087-1088A). It is all one. YOU secure it, contrive it, manage it, have it done for you and it is not DONE ALREADY but to be achieved as your little engine boils, and your prayers are answered by saints or securities, by fictions or afflictions of the Biblical text, as if bits of His furnishings would substitute for His grace!

SEE ALSO: Barbs, Arrows and Balms 30, The Kingdom of Heaven... Appendix to Ch.10, Biblical Blessings, Appendix III, pp. 246ff..