A Question I Was Asked:

Are We Still in Danger of Relying on Our Own Works??

Question: There are two judgments (i) The Great White Throne Judgment...and...(ii) The Judgement Seat of Christ. It is the latter that involves my question. In this judgment, believers appear and each one receives what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). It is at this judgment that Christ will say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant..." (etc.) If a Christian examines his life, can he really say that he could hear these words said of him? If he says "yes," is he not presenting good works to Christ like those who call out .."Lord, Lord,did we not prophesy in your name..."(Matt.7:22)? I would dearly love to hear the "well done" words of Christ, but I have nothing to merit favour for such, regardless that I have assurance of salvation!

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us consider this.

The question is really this: If a Christian examines his life, can he ever really say that he could hear these words ("well done thou good and faithful servant") said of him? If he says "yes," is he - or she - not presenting good works to Christ like those who call out .."Lord, Lord,did we not prophesy in your name..." (Matt.7:22)?

My answer to this is no, not necessarily. I can only look at myself here: I am not perfect, in fact, I am very far from perfect. When I look inside myself - even now many years since becoming a believer - I find a very flawed individual full of weaknesses. So does that mean that if I were to imagine Jesus saying to me, 'well done, thou good and faithful servant,' that feeling would just be self-congratulation, vanity and a belief in my own works - 'works' which would never get pass the 'high court' of Heaven? No, only if my understanding was incomplete. You see, I don't expect my own flawed 'righteousness' to be enough to save me in the first place! Now carefully mark this: You and I can only be saved by the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

As I wrote in an article a short while ago, I find that many are still affected by the Catholic view of what 'true righteousness' is. Why? Because it has deeply permeated western society. In the Catholic view we must become righteous as God and His angels are righteous, hence all those old Catholic-inspired paintings of men and women with haloes over their heads. Only Paul the Apostle ever completely explained this in detail and it is there in the New Testament for all to read, yet thousands continue to misunderstand. We are not saved by our own righteousness but by that of Christ our Saviour! This is the doctrine of Justification. We are saved by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. As it states in Romans:

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:15-21).

Now follow this up by reading Ephesians 2:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2: 1-10).

So, you see, with this understanding that my own flawed standard of "righteousness" could never have saved me, it is neither foolish nor arrogant for me to imagine Jesus eventually saying to me, 'well done, thou good and faithful servant, inherit my kingdom.' I say this because I have total confidence in the power of Christ's righteousness - not my own! - to save me.

Here are a few articles which help explain this in more depth:

Justification by Faith ; Catholic and Protestant Views
Whatever Happened to the Teaching of 'Assurance of Salvation'?

Robin A. Brace. December 7th, 2014.