Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Judgment by Works, Good Works, and James Montgomery Boice

In preparing for a Bible study on Matthew 25, I read a little of a James Boice commentary. Commenting on the parable of the talents, it was refreshing to read what he said about the necessity of good works in the Christian life (although his emphasis on the second coming may be a little misplaced at this point). It sometimes seems that we "evangelicals" are so afraid of moralism and legalism, or perhaps worse(!), Romanism, that we no longer believe in morality and good works!

Here are some excerpts from Boice:

The second, somewhat surprising lesson of this parable (and the next as well) is the emphasis on works, indeed, on a judgment by works. That sometimes troubles Protestants, who have been taught that salvation is by grace alone through faith apart from works. In the parable of the talents, however, judgment is based on the use or misuse of the talents. In the second parable, it is based on the care or neglect of those who were hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick, or imprisoned.
Does that mean we are saved by works after all? Were the reformers wrong? No, but these passages do reveal the necessity of works following faith--if we are truly born again. There is an unbreakable connection between what we believe and what we do. We believe the gospel because we have been born again, and those who have been born again will always and inevitably begin to live out the superior moral life of Christ within them. The new nature does not manifest itself fully all at once. But if we are justified, we will have it, and it will increasingly and inevitably express itself in faithful and loving service to our Master, Jesus Christ.

We are not justified by works. If we are trying to be justified by works, we are not Christians. But neither can we claim to be Christians if we do not have works. If we are not working for Christ, we are not justified....

D. A. Carson wrote, "It is not enough for Jesus' followers to 'hang in there' and wait for the end. They must see themselves for what they are--servants who owe it to their Master to improve what he entrusts to them. Failure to do so proves they cannot really be valued disciples at all."

(from pp 534-536 of Vol. 2)

Paul wrote to Titus, "Remind them... to be ready for every good work... those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works... And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful." (Titus 3, NKJV) May God forgive my neglect of good works, and may he help us to work harder for him who loved us and gave himself for us!