Are grace and obedience mutually exclusive? Are they contradictory?
The foundation on which we build our lives is being “in right standing” with God in Christ. Our foundation is all about Christ – all about His obedience. (Rom. 5:19) Pastor Brad has been focusing on establishing that foundation (righteousness in Christ) by making it a main theme in his teaching at Agathos over the past few years.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 3:11) (underline mine)
That said, when emphasizing one truth, it can result in a distortion – because our minds can lead us to presumptions about other truths that we don’t yet have a firm grasp of. One such presumption could be “since my right standing with God is all about the work of Jesus, there is no work for me to do.” While a logical conclusion, that statement is only HALF-TRUE. The first half is perfectly true: our right standing with God IS all about the work of Jesus and not AT ALL about our work. Check that box. That phrase is TRUE!
The second half of the statement is true as well . . . but only in the context of our right standing with God. As it relates to your right-standing before God, there is NO WORK for you to do! That is why Hebrews 4 says “labor to enter His rest.” The only labor to do for right standing with God is learning to not work for it! You can’t earn something given to you as a gift. But, in the context of works FROM righteousness (not FOR righteousness), there is PLENTY OF WORK FOR US TO DO!
Yes, we are permanently in the house that is built on grace, permanently in right-standing with God, and permanently experiencing the inherent blessings that come from simply being in that house built on the foundation of Grace. But, there is more to the story!
OUR WORKS are still in the house, and reward and consequence are still in the house. We were created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS. And He has even prepared them for us. (Eph. 2:10) And our labor brings reward: “each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” (1 Cor 3:8)
We are supposed to be about the father’s business – building a spiritual house. If we fail to build upon grace, to cause grace to take form “above ground,” to allow grace to express itself to the world, we will miss the purposes of God for our lives and substantially limit the Kingdom of God coming to others through us. But when we talk about building our spiritual house, we are not discussing our right standing with God. That’s where most believers trip-up. Don’t allow works and obedience to put a cloud of condemnation upon us. Keep the foundation separate from the house. If our identity (foundation) can be established apart from our works, our works can be established because of our identity (foundation).
The foundation has been laid. It’s time to build on top of that foundation! “But let each one take heed how he builds on it . . .” (1 Cor. 3:10b) More about that forthcoming!