Paul preached to King Agrippa that sinners “should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:20). Paul is not here teaching righteousness by works, but he is pointing to the kind of “works” that characterize a life that has gained righteousness by faith through Christ. He does not mean that it is possible to gain righteousness by doing specific good works, but rather that true righteousness through faith naturally produces works that prove the presence of the grace of God in the life.
No preacher has ever emphasized more than Paul the truthful fact of righteousness by faith through God’s saving grace (Romans 3:21, 22, 27; Ephesians 2:5–8). But whenever Paul preaches the free gift of redemption, he also teaches that good deeds must follow faith (Romans 8:1–4). The man of faith establishes the law (Romans 3:31), for he is “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10). Whenever there is genuine righteousness by faith, that righteousness is shown by good works. For “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14–24).
The Meaning of Repentance
The word “repent” means “to turn” away from sin (Acts 2:38) and to turn to God. Repentance means that we do our best to live as He lived by the power of His grace. John the Baptist said to those who came to him for baptism: “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
Showing our repentance through our actions doesn’t mean that we are earning salvation through works. For nothing we do can atone for the sins we have committed. Only Jesus Christ’s sacrifice can pay the penalty of our sins (Ephesians 2:8). The fruits of repentance are merely the evidence of God’s transforming power in the heart to those that accept Jesus by faith.
Some wrongly believe that conversion takes place by simply reciting a short prayer, and that requiring obedience to specific laws is “legalism” and opposition to living under grace. However, the Bible teaches that “the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). God wills “that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:17).
“You Will Know Them by Their Fruits”
A person whose character is good will naturally display God’s character in his words and deeds. Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Matthew 7:16). He who profess to know the Lord and yet disobeys His commandments “is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4), regardless of any appearance to the contrary. Thus, mere profession is worthless.
Yet, some Christians claim that they have been freed from keeping the law. But this is not true for when a criminal receives a pardon for his offense, the pardoned criminal is not free to break the law. On the contrary, he is expected to be a law-abiding citizen. Similarly, a convicted sinner who receives a pardon is expected to be a good “spiritual citizen,” abiding by the laws of God (Exodus 20:3-17).
And when the believer obeys the divine command, Christ makes Himself responsible for the success of the work done by the believer. Thus, in God, there is power to fulfill duty, strength to resist temptation, and patience to endure affliction. Paul declared, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Good works are the natural fruits of the right kind of faith in Christ, “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). The Christian church, while waiting for Christ to come again, will complete the mission once given to the Jewish nation of revealing, in word and works, the loving principles of God’s government to the world. The church members’ lives will “be a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7).
In His service,