People often struggle understanding the proper relationship of faith and works in the Christian life. Often times people will find themselves at one extreme or the other, living out a works based salvation, or showing relatively no concern at all for living out one’s faith through faithful obedience to the commands of Jesus, thinking that God has forgiven them and they are now free to do whatever they want.
Certainly the book of James receives a great deal of attention when discussing such themes, asserting that faith without works is dead. The book of James has probably been regarded as the black sheep of the Bible because of its strong emphasis on works. However, throughout the New Testament one will find references to the necessity of works (which is the manifestation of obedience) as the evidence of genuine faith and transformation, just as James claims in his own epistle.
One very powerful reference is found in 1 Corinthians 15:10. It says this: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked (labored) harder than all of them – yet, not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
Paul speaks of the grace of God here in this verse. He states that this grace has accomplished something in his life. However, that work is not a momentary work, but a continuous work. In fact, Paul’s very labor, his proclamation of the gospel, his planting of churches, his suffering for the gospel, his discipleship of young believers, his instruction to local congregations, etc…, all of it, is the work of grace.
This is a powerful statement. It makes clear that grace is not a static thing, but dynamic. It is an active thing. It is doing something in the lives of those upon whom it has come to rest. Grace has labored in Paul. The gracious and unmerited favor of God, the redemptive power of God through the death of Christ on the cross, has not simply forgiven, but transformed, and has continued to manifest its presence through faithful labor for the sake of the gospel and personal sanctification of the believer.
Those under grace are those who labor tirelessly for the gospel. They work. Not to earn anything but to honor. Certainly love and worship motivate greater sacrifice and service than duty and obligation. Grace works. If we are indeed under grace, then our lives should be committed to consistent and sacrifical labor for the gospel.