Friday, September 29, 2017

Matthew 21:28-32 Obedience is Deeds, not Words

KEY TEXT: Matthew 21:28-31 "What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work in the vineyard today.'  And he answered, 'I will not,' but afterward he changed his mind and went.  And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, 'I go, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." 

KEY THOT: In this parable, Jesus describes two sons. When asked by their father to go and work in the vineyard, the first son says "no" but eventually went to work in the vineyard. The second son says "yes" but did not follow up with action. Jesus asked which son did the father's will. Obviously, it is the first. This simple parable says it's not just our words but our actions determine if we are truly obedient to the will of the Father. In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." While this may sound like work-righteousness, it is actually faith in action. True faith is confirmed by our deeds, not by our words.

In fact, the whole book of James makes this point clear: "be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22). When we only hear but do not do, we deceive ourselves in thinking our words alone can substitute for our obedience. But our faith is validated by our works: "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead" (James 2:26). Faith cannot be separated from works. Faith and works are two sides of the same coin.

Christianity is not meant to be a subject to be discussed, debated or deliberated--it is meant to be obeyed. Peter said, "And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:32). Even the great apostle of grace, Paul, says that God ultimately judges us by our deeds: "He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life" (James 2:26). So right confession of words must be backed up by right commitment to works. 

Even Jesus, in his letters to the seven churches, repeatedly emphasizes the importance of persevering in our faith to the end: "To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it" (Revelation 2:17). 

Paul prays for the Thessalonians that "God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12). Grace and works are not mutually exclusive for grace is God's power to produce good works.

We may, therefore, conclude: "Real faith works!" If our faith does not work, then it may not be real faith.

Abba-Father, You have always judged our faith by our works. May You grant us the obedience of faith, so that our faith may produce good works, and not just good words. Amen.

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