I’ve had this conversation about a thousand times. It goes something like this:
“Grace is a free gift that God offers through Christ. Works don’t earn salvation.”
To the reply, “But repentance, a turning away from sin in action, is the fruit of a heart truly transformed. Works verify salvation.” So which is it? While works don’t negotiate the terms of salvation, don’t they certify it?
To that end, this conversation has frequently resulted in heated debate with friends who I know are saved; don’t need convincing, and simply want to throw around age-old grace-works analogies. But what is this really supposed to look like? How could I explain this relationship to someone unfamiliar with Church talk?
Jesus speaks through the mess and boils it down to One relationship: Father-son.
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.
Jesus, in his ministry and more specifically in this passage, identifies directly with the Father. In fact, he refuses to be identified in relation to anything without the Father. His origin, his destination, his will. He and the Father are one.
A truly intimate, reciprocal relationship results only in obedience. Without question.
A “One” relationship doesn’t ask – how far is too far to disobey? Are my actions for my own gain or for the good of the other? A heart of love doesn’t fear legalism, punishment, or even failure. In a perfect love relationship there is no fear of punishment because there is no desire to affront the other. There is no fear of failure because the other will always be received back free of judgment. And in perfect love, there is no score-keeping or struggle for equality because the other’s needs are sought first.
To ask if “good works” and repentance need to accompany salvation to verify it would be like asking if I need to respect my wife and do the dishes after we get married. Of course these things need to be present in a working relationship. But not out of duty but desire.