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BULLETIN ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THREE
"THE NIGHT IS COMING WHEN NO MAN CAN WORK"
WORK! This is so valuable and vital a concept spiritually, even to eternal life. The latter the sinner may gain without any work of his own; but not without much labour from Christ crucified, yes rather risen.
Indeed, you must NOT rely on your own works AT ALL, not to the teeniest tot of action, for your salvation. Paul makes that so abundantly clear that it is a testimony to the artful artifices of man, hypocrisy of mind or evasive unreliability of spirit that the topic even arises for serious debate. James, it is true, talks of the justification of works, that is, the forthcoming results of a genuine faith; but as James declares, Abraham was justified by faith. The works cannot be suppressed, that follow; but they are NOT a path for every good and perfect gift, far less the most perfect gift, but for the distinction between fake faith, false faith and a living and lively faith, one that is not DEAD on arrival.
That all concerns justification by faith, fully wrought through the reception of the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23, 3:20ff., 51, Ephesians 1:11, John 10:9 and 27-28).
The next question is this: for the Christian, what is the position of work AFTER receiving grace so that through faith you have eternal life ?
After your salvation by faith, work is no longer irrelevant to your status, but of course Christ's saving work only remains always the mode of justification, entry into the kingdom of heaven, and there is no other, nor any status at all within it, without such entry. It would be like trying to sit in in classes in a private school, without paying the entry fee, which in this case is of such quality that ONLY what is received as a gift in the redemption of Christ, will pay it (Matthew 20:28).
What then ? Work now is within the 'school', and it now belongs to the status of Christian living, already established, covered, instituted and gifted.
In this setting, it follows Christ's example: that is, "I must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; the night is coming when no man can work," as in John 9:4. There is in other words a sense of commission, in His case, infinite, in ours from the domain of the eternal God for His servants. There is a point, a purpose, both generic and specific. This does not mean that you can work ONLY through your (spiritual) gifts or talents either, but rather as with the love towards God, so with all your heart and soul and mind and strength: in short, with all you have. We have a phrase, "put your heart into it," but this goes further: put your life into it, even to the point of "hating" your own life (Luke 14:26), that is, its mere preferences as distinct from those of the Lord. As in any other war, or walk for life, a half-hearted or formalistic or merely nominal performance is outrageously anomalous, but in this case, more, a cacophony of contrast, not the behaviour of a disciple of the divine, of God Himself (John 15:14, Luke 6:46, II Timothy 1:2-4, Philippians 2:12-16, Colossians 3:1-17).
While it IS day, we must seek to do the works sent and found for us, rather than deferring, or in anything defecting, far less deadening he obligation or its zeal to be found and to be done.
Thus when it comes to the topic of sanctification, as in I Peter 1:1-3, and II Peter 1:1-8, the most diligent work is apt. It is work FOR the kingdom, EMPOWERED by Christ and available amid the precious promises noted by Peter for all things pertaining to life, to find it and do it. Nor is it irrelevant but a testimonial; nor is it merely quantitative, but as with the widow and her small coin, qualitative, not a qualifying tick, but a devotion which cannot be annulled or excised, one as natural as breathing, though far more personal.
Work does not take the place of wisdom for effectiveness, of sanctity for humility, fearlessness for the testimony of faith; but it is all one small congregation for the heart, spirit and hand of man; and it is held in the hand of holiness, which after all is that to which sanctification refers. It is for the stage of living, as distinguished from that of entering into eternal life, of justification. It relates to being in essence and coverage, a finished product, and being revealed as within the circuit of salvation (as in Romans 8:28-30)*1 not of the case of first (and last) becoming His.
Work out your own salvation, calls the apostle to the Christians at Philippi, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do (Philippians 2:12, 3:20-21), as we await with eagerness the transformation even of the body at the work of Him who is able to subdue all things to Himself.
If this entails labouring in prayer, that then is a work of the spirit and in total devotion of spirit to the Lord (Colossians 4:12).
More broadly, it needs to be realised that sin is bondage, the lively life of God is liberty, and man was made in the image of God, not some servile production in puppetry. That is shown with the intimacy of anguish and even agony in the prayer of Christ in Gethsemane, saying what He would have, but NEVERTHELESS, not my will but Yours. Like Adam, in essence and format and construction, despite pathology of spirit inherited since Adam, we are answerable for what we do, not having been made into something different, but rather defective. Liberated, we are free from bondage, children of God, not of some patterned program. Indeed Christians, the apostle advises us, were chosen in Him before man (and therefore before man's sin) were extant. It was in the mind of God, who would have ALL (emphatically in the context of Colossians 1:19) reconciled to Himself, whether in heaven or on earth.
But we are not alone; we are not orphans (John 14:18), and the Christian, declares Paul, without the Holy Spirit does not exist (Romans 8:9).