How We Can Do Good Works and Obtain Eternal Life

Ai, ai, ai! Six days since the last post. That is too long. This is why I am careful not to say “tomorrow,” but “in the next post.”

Okay, let’s get to the point of the Bible’s emphasis on good works covered in the last post.

Doing Good Works Will Obtain Eternal Life for You

I pray that I do not lose every reader with that heading.

We have looked at Ephesian 2:6-7 and Galatians 6:8-9 twice already. Both of them say that good works will produce the reward of eternal life. Yes, there is a lot more to say about obtaining eternal life, and we get a hint of that in Galatians 6:8-9, where persisting in good works is tied to sowing to the Spirit; however, the point that good works are tied to eternal life cannot be denied in these verses.

People Cannot Patiently Persist in Good Works

Okay, now we address the problem. Romans 3 teaches that people cannot patiently persist in good works. Romans 7 teaches that giving people a perfect, righteous law still cannot empower them to patiently persist in good works.

So after all I have said about good works, I have come around to say something that just about everyone in American Christianity would agree with. Obtaining eternal life by good works would be great, but we cannot do good works! We fail! We do not wind up worthy!

So why did I spend seven posts talking about the importance of good works? It was to show you the way Jesus fixed the problem, which very few seem to consider these days.

Through Jesus, God Made Us Able!

God fixed the problem of people not being able to do good works by making us able!

This seems like the most obvious solution, right? I mean, it’s not a very good solution if there is no God because we could never enable ourselves. In fact, it’s not a very good solution even if you are the perfect, righteous law of God! According to Romans 7, the best law ever put on this earth could not cause people to do good. “To will is present with me, but to perform what is good I cannot find!” (v. 18).

What a terrible situation! Paul rightly cries out, “O wretched man that I am? Who shall deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24).

A lot of people seem to think that the answer to Paul’s question is: “Nobody will. But don’t worry! Jesus will make sure you don’t get judged for your inability to do the good deeds required for eternal life.”

That answer, however, is not found in the Bible. Instead, Paul is shocked by such a conclusion. “No! How shall we who are dead to sin live in it anymore!” (Rom. 6:2).

The answer that is found in the Bible says, “What the Law could not do because it was weak through the flesh, God did! By sending his own Son in the image of sinful flesh, and in regard to sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in those of us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:2-4).

Now you see why I stressed the New Testament emphasis on works. Jesus came to give us the power to do those good works that bring eternal life. We saw this in Galations 6:8-9, where sowing to the Spirit to reap eternal life in verse 8 is restated in verse 9 as doing good without growing weary or giving up. Now we see it in Romans 8:2-4, where the sacrifice of God’s Son did what the Law could not do. The Law could not enable us to perform what is good. It could make us willing, but it could not give us the power to do it. But what the Law could not do because of the weakness of the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh, condemning sin in the flesh, so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in those of us who walk according to the Spirit.

We see here that there is an emphasis on the Holy Spirit in regard to our ability to do good works. We must walk in him and sow to (give our efforts to) him. But we have also seen that grace teaches us (Tit. 2:11-12) and empowers us (Rom. 6:14) to do good works. We have seen that grace, which we received apart from works through faith, recreates us specifically to do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:8-10). We have seen that the Scriptures, put to proper use, equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Jesus did not break the tie between doing good works and eternal life. Instead, he empowered us to do good works.

It doesn’t stop there. He did much, much more for us. Empowering us to do good works so that we can obtain eternal life is just a small portion of what he did.

More in the next post.

As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. (Anonymous, “Letter to Diognetus,” ch. 9, A.D. 80-130)

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