We live in a time and age where “deeds” are seen as more important than “creeds.” More and more Americans are not identifying themselves with any “faith.” More and more we are becoming a people who “accept” any and all lifestyles and belief systems as equally valid and respectable (so long as they promote “peace” and “goodwill,” “tolerance” and “acceptance” of other differing beliefs). Many believe that “doctrine” (what we believe) is not as important as “deeds” (what we do). Even in the church doing “good deeds” is deemed more important in many circles than “right doctrine.” I think this mentality is part of the explanation for why so many people have walked away from the church, especially youth upon graduating high school and entering college. When we are weak in knowing what we believe and have not been rooted in the “faith” (doctrinal truths of the bible), we will easily be “taken captive” by human philosophy apart from and outside of Christ. Read carefully some of what Paul wrote to the Colossian believers in Colossians 2:1-10:
“I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it (beware! Be careful! Be on guard!) that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.”
When we are not “rooted,” that is grounded, established, firm in our faith in Christ, we can easily be “uprooted” by the cunning and often seemingly convincing arguments and philosophies of man apart from and outside of faith in Christ. We can easily be led astray (fooled, deceived, caught and ensnared in the trap) of worldly wisdom when we are not abiding or continuing in Christ and the true wisdom that is found in Him. When we are not really living and walking in a continual and constant “fear of the Lord” we fall prey to empty human traditions and ways of this world. We either are being transformed by God’s word or conformed to the patterns (ways) of this world.
Are you being influenced by the world or influencing the world for Christ? In Romans 12:1 Paul tells us: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Truth and doctrine and what we believe are absolutely important. In fact Jesus said in John 8:31-32 “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus also said in John 14:6 that He is “..the truth!” And Jesus said in John 16:8 about the Holy Spirit that “…when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” If God’s presence is truly somewhere, truth is there too, for the Spirit of God is the Spirit of truth who guides us into all truth! Therefore “doctrine” is important, not just “deeds.”
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 this about the church: “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
Thus if the church is not proclaiming the truth, it ceases to be a true church. The church is supposed to be the very pillar and foundation of truth! If it ceases to proclaim “right doctrine” (truth) then it ceases to do its most basic and fundamental responsibility! The churches’ responsibility is not first of all good deeds, but proclaiming the Good News!
Listen carefully to what Paul warned of and wrote of to a young minister named Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5 “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
I believe we are now in that time and that this will only become worse and worse as the end draws near.
More than ever we must “contend” for the faith as Jude 3-4 speaks of: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”
The church today (those who are Christians) need to “contend” for the truth and purity of the faith not be those who will (or give into those) who “compromise” and “change” the truth of the Gospel to “condone” their own lusts and desire to be Lord of their life instead of Christ.
We need to know what the Bible teaches and hold to the truth of His Word to protect ourselves from our own errors and deception as well as those who promote and teach errors and deceptive philosophy. The church needs to come back to preaching and teaching the truth of the Gospel in purity and power, not watering it down or promoting good deeds over the Good News! More than anything this will diminish the influence the church is meant to have and, in fact, I think this very mentality is part of the explanation for the decline in church attendance, because when “good deeds” are promoted above “right doctrine” why do you need the church? Plus, if you only do good deeds but do not share the Good News and truth of God’s word with people, what ultimate and eternal benefit and good are you really doing? We are called to feed more than physical hunger, but provide spiritual food. We are not just to cloth the physically naked, but proclaim that it is through Christ that we are clothed with His righteousness. We are not just to provide relief to those outwardly oppressed, but tell how Jesus tells those oppressed (burdened and weary) to come to Him to find rest for their souls! (Matthew 11:28). We are called not just to give water to the physically thirsty, but tell them that Christ offers to any and all the “free gift of the water of life!” (John 4, Revelation 21:6). We are called not just to visit the sick, lonely and those in prison, but proclaim how Christ can make whole, heal the brokenhearted and how He came to “set the captives free!” (Luke 4:18). Good deeds are powerless and temporary apart from proclaiming the Good News and the truth of the Gospel!
Lastly, let us not forget good deeds are not what saves a person. It is through belief in His Word, faith in Jesus Christ, receiving the Good News of the Gospel, embracing the truth, that we are saved! Good deeds are to follow true faith, but faith comes first and it is through faith that we are saved and receive the grace of God, not through good deeds. Ephesians 2:8-10, for example, puts these two together in the right order: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We are not saved by good works, but to do good works. We are not saved by good deeds, but saved to do good deeds. But those good deeds are not to proclaim our goodness, but the goodness of God. Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 “…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Our good deeds are not to bring praise and glory to us, but are meant to bring praise and glory to God as they reveal His goodness and grace! Good deeds are meant to be a witness to the grace of Jesus Christ that we might witness of His grace through our good works!
It is the “Good News” of the Gospel and truth of God’s Word that the church exists to proclaim. Without this we are nothing more than another social club. Many other groups do many “good works.” This is not what makes the church unique. If the church just exists to do good works, why do we even need the church? Good deeds are important but right doctrine is essential. Many churches today do many good works but are “dead” and dying because the Spirit of Truth has been rejected and pushed aside. But only He can truly transform lives and save souls. May the church come back to or continue in contending for the faith, proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and presenting the Gospel to a lost and dying world without fear or shame!
Romans 1:16-17 “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.