I wrote a post about works vs. grace a long time ago: Why Be Good if Jesus Died?
Today I want to elaborate on everything I said in that post, and use an illustration that will hopefully help you understand this concept even better. I know that it really helped me.
Because this can be a tough thing to get- if we aren’t saved by our works, why do we then have to live in holiness? What’s the point? If God forgives sin, why do we have to fight against it? Obviously it’s a complicated question with a lot of facets, but here is one way to think about it.
Leviticus talks about several different types of offerings. One is the guilt offering. This was an offering given when someone broke God’s law, in order to cleanse them and restore them to favor with God.
Another type of offerings were thank offerings. These were given to God from gratitude for the many blessings He had provided.
Think of your good works as offerings to God, something that you give Him. As guilt offerings, they will always be temporary and inadequate, just like the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
The good news is that those sacrifices were symbolic of Christ, as I talked about in this post. Each sacrifice was temporary, a shedding of blood to pay for the sins of the people. And then Christ came, and paid the ultimate sacrifice, and His was not temporary. It was eternal. And we have nothing else to do to earn salvation. It is finished. He was the ultimate guilt offering.
But our good works are still offerings. In Christ, they become thank offerings, something that we give to God because of who He is and what He has done, a way of thanking Him for all of His blessings. When we get to know God, we want to please Him. We owe so much to Him for the salvation we have from Christ, and so we seek to live in a way that honors Him because we know He deserves it.
The catch? Both of these lives will look the same on the outside. Whether you are living your life as a guilt offering or a thank offering, the outward form will be pretty much the same. It’s about your heart, your motivation. Are you trying to earn your way to heaven, to pay for your own sins by doing good things? Or are you trusting in God’s salvation and doing your best to live in a way that shows how much you love Him?
What do you think? Do you like this way of thinking about it? How else have you wrestled with this concept? Share in the comments!