Whom Are You Kidding

Basket of Figs, October, 2007

Bud Powell




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“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.   Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Mt 7:22-23 AV)


Man looks on outward things; God looks on the heart.   The works that men see may not indicate the true condition of the heart at all.  The heart of a man is known only by God. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” (Jer 17:9-10 AV)


It is true that good works justify us in the sight of men, as James says [James 2:18ff], but they cannot justify us in the sight of God, as Jesus clearly shows in this passage.  No amount of good works can breathe life into an empty faith.


Jesus gives a most solemn warning: it doesn’t matter how many good works you do, even to the working of miracles and preaching in the name of Christ.  Even works done by the power of Christ Himself cannot justify the sinner, for the Lord can use even a donkey to do wonders [Numbers 22].


This passage shows that at the judgment, no works of man will be taken into account, for it is too late to be justified at this judgment.  The soul that expects to be justified at the judgment of God on the basis of his works will not be saved.  Jesus knows the nature of justification because He knows the nature of His heavenly Father.


It is not the pretension of submission to God that counts and certainly not the intoning of such mantras as “Lord, Lord” but actually doing the will of the Father.  We also must not think that Jesus is saying that doing the “will of my Father” means keeping the law, for this would be a denial of His whole mission, which was to call all men to Himself, to faith and trust:


“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (Joh 6:28-29 AV)


“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40  And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Joh 6:38-40 AV)


It is simply not the will of God to justify sinners on the basis of any good works they do.  Not before the foundation of the world; not in the history of this world; not in the judgment at the last days.  Anyone who fancies that God will consider the quantity or quality of his good works in the last day is living in a dream world that will come crashing down around him.  It is “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Tit 3:5 AV) It is the mercy of God alone that is the source of all good that comes to us, including regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.


The hypocrisy of that famous Pharisee was revealed by his very prayer in which he thanked God that he was not like other men, for he fasted, and tithed, and was not an extortioner, adulterer, or unjust.  What this foul man could not see was that he could not be justified even by those works which he attributed to the gift of God and to the work of God in him.  It is simply true that any trust that is directed toward any good that we do will not stand before the righteous judgment of God in the last day.


Nor is it a defense of the perverse doctrine of justification by works to cite Matthew 25, where the righteous go away into eternal life because they visited Christ in prison, fed Christ when He was hungry, etc.  This passage cannot be cited in defense of works-righteousness simply because the righteous were unaware that they did any of these things.  “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?   Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?” (Mt 25:37-39 AV)  Those who trust in their works are very smug in them and despise [find contemptible] others, as Jesus said. [Luke 18:9]


It is true that the good works of the elect of God are predestined from the foundation of the world, but these good works are not therefore the ground of their election nor of their justification before God, nor even proof of their election.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10 AV) See also Romans 9:11 which clearly states that the election is not according to works, but is unto good works.  Good works do not of themselves indicate their motive or the intent of those who do them, which is known only to God.  Only God knows the heart.


This doctrine of justification by faith is so clearly taught in the Scripture that it was included in the Heidelberg Catechism in most unmistakable language:


 Q60:  How are you righteous before God?


 A60:  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.


This doctrine is also clearly summarized by the great Apostle:


“Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin…. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: … Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Ro 3:19-28 AV)


Don’t kid yourself.  You will not fool God even if you draw a cloak over the eyes of men.


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