The Story Behind Our New Song "Works"
Thu., Jul. 20. 2017 12:12pm EDT
J. Jackson, lead singer and lyricist for ApologetiX here again.
The second song on our new single is called "Works," a parody of "Words" by Missing Persons. But we don't want any persons missing the meaning. Here's how it came about and what it's all about:
Anyone who's been listening to our parodies over the years should know that we believe that man is saved by grace through faith and not by works. Songs like "I'm a Receiver," "More Than Works," "Ephesians," "Goodnews," "Hard Labor," and a host of others make that pretty clear.
So if we're not saved by works, what are works for? That's a good question … and not something I was eager to try to address in a three-and-a-half-minute song. But I felt God leading me toward a Missing Persons parody with the line "what are works for," so I followed with fear, trembling, and prayer.
As you know, our motto is "reach the lost, teach the rest." That's something I take very seriously. As Jesus' half-brother James says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
That's why we put Bible verse numbers in our songs to let people read for themselves and Scripture speak for itself. Ironically, James looms large in the discussion of the role of works in the Christian life. Some say James disagrees with Paul, citing verses like James 2:14, 17, 20, 24, 26:
"What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? … Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself … But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? … You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone … For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead."
Those verses seem to suggest that works are crucial, but it's not like Paul denied the importance of works. In fact, in some of his most famous passages about salvation through grace alone, he also stressed that good works were a vital part of the Christian life.
Probably the most famous verse cited in the grace/works discussion is Ephesians 2:8-9. But don't forget Ephesians 2:10. Read them all together, as they were meant to be read:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Another famous verse cited is Titus 3:5, but read the follow-up verses, too. After stressing that we are not saved by good works, Paul urges believers to engage in good works in Titus 3:8 and says they are good and profitable for all men:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.
Paul makes similar statements about the importance of good deeds in the life of the believer in Titus 2:14 and 3:14. And, if Paul didn't think works were important, why did he say in another epistle that he worked harder than all of the other apostles:
1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
I think that verse helps us to understand things better. Note that Paul said it wasn't he himself who labored, but the grace of God with him. Good works won't help us obtain, attain, maintain or retain our salvation. They are just a natural outflowing of a heart that has been changed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
Good works are not a way of earning God's favor; grace itself is unmerited favor. Our good works show the good work that God has already done in us. Our works don't save us, but they do identify us. They don't prove the sincerity of our faith to God; He already knows. Rather, they demonstrate it to the world. As Jesus said when telling people how to identify false prophets:
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."
Boy, it takes a lot longer to explain that song than it does to listen to it!