Justified by Works

In Romans chapter four Paul affirms that we are not justified by works. In James chapter two verse twenty four James says, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” We are told to study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Since we know that the scripture cannot be broken, i.e., contradict itself, we must conclude that the above scriptures likewise can be perfectly harmonized.

When it comes to those things that bring about our eternal salvation from sin and ultimate glorification, we are not justified by works:


1. God’s election of a people is not of or by works: Rom. 9:11-13, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Also Rom. 11:5, 6 reads, “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”


2. The new or spiritual birth is not of works: Tit. 3:5, “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. Also, Eph. 2:8-10, “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.”


3. Our salvation from sin is not of works: II Tim. 1:9, “Who hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” Also, Rom. 3:20, “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.”

Thus we conclude that God’s choice of a people to be his before the foundation of the world, our spiritual birth, and our salvation from sin is by grace and not by works. Those things which pertain to our eternal salvation and justification are by grace and not by works. We are eternally justified freely by his grace through the shed blood of Jesus: Rom. 3:24, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

The scriptures, however, also teach a justification by works, but in another court room. Justification by works takes place in the court room of men’s opinions. II Pet. 3:10 reads, “Wherefore the rather brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” We ask, who can we make our calling and election sure to? Obviously we cannot make them sure to God, for it is He who chose us in Christ before the world began, and it is He who calls us into spiritual life. We read, “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his...” Obviously God knows who he elected and who he called, thus the assurance is to ourselves that we may assure ourselves that we are called of God and chosen of God. We can assure ourselves of our calling and election by being fruit inspectors. Matt. 7:15-2- reads, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit...Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” While this was written about the identity of the false prophet, yet these great principles of truth tell us about ourselves as well.

The natural man is as the corrupt tree. Paul said that “I know that in me, that is in my flesh dwelleth no good thing.” David said that he was conceived in sin and shapened in iniquity. Thus we are sinners from conception bearing a sin-cursed nature. According to Gal. 5:19-21 all the works of the flesh are evil. Also 1 Cor. 2:14 reads, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Man by nature is a totally corrupt tree only capable of bringing forth corruption. When God’s elect are born spiritually from above they then come into possession of a new nature. According to 1 Pet. 1:23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” This new nature is incorruptible. According to I John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, because his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” The spiritual inner man of the child of God is like the good tree that only brings forth good fruit.

Those who are not born again can only bear the evil (natural) fruit. Whereas, those who have been born again are capable of bearing both the natural (evil) fruit and the spiritual (good) fruit. The fruit of the Spirit (good fruit) is described in Gal. 5:22 as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” When we can see this fruit (works) being manifest in our lives then we can identify ourselves as possessors of the good tree (spiritual life) and identify ourselves as of the called and elect of God. Thus in our own opinion we are justified (declared to be called and elect) by works. Likewise when we see such fruit (works) in others we have assurance that they are the called and elect of God.

In Phil 4:3 Paul wrote, “And I entreat thee also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life.” Paul was sure that those he mentioned were written in the book of life, not because he was given a special look into that book, but rather, because he saw their works which was evidence to him that they were written therein. They were justified, in his opinion, by works.


Elder Vernon Johnson