Judged for what we have done

John 5:28-29

Posted on September 24, 2015 by Paul Ellis // 33 Comments

Grace v Works

The good news of heaven declares that everything comes to us as a free gift from our heavenly Father. But the bad news of earth says you better work baby, because there’s no such thing as a free lunch!

Your choice is grace or works. Either the favor of God is given or earned, but it can’t be both.

The gospel that Jesus revealed and Paul preached proclaims it’s grace from start to finish. How then are we to explain these verses which suggest you must work to be blessed?

 Jesus Paul
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. John (5:28-29)God will repay each person according to what they have done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Rom 2:6-8)


If these were the only verses in the Bible you could build a whole religion on the importance of doing good or being blessed through good works, and many have. Such a message appeals to our sense of right and wrong but it’s a cursed message that promotes self-trust and self-righteousness.

Let’s start with the words of Jesus who said “those who have done good will rise to live.” That’s very clear. There’s no ambiguity. If you “done good” you will live, but what does it mean to do good? Jesus tells us a few verses earlier:

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

Doing good, as Jesus defines it, is hearing and believing Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less.

“That can’t be it. It’s too simple. There must be some work that God requires from me.”

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29)

Want to impress God? Then be impressed with Jesus. Want to do something good with your life? Then drop your cheap sacrifice and marvel at his infinitely sublime one.

Being persuaded that Jesus is who he says he is, and living from that persuasion, is the most productive thing you can do with your life. The seed of God’s word is fruitful. It will grow and bear a harvest all by itself. But we can certainly hinder that process through doubt and unbelief. Trying to make things happen is one of the most destructive things you can do. So don’t do it. Labor to enter his rest and stay there.

I am absolutely convinced that the most creative and fruitful people in this world are those who have seen Jesus, who have been undone by his love, and who are resting in their Father’s unconditional approval. If this is you, then you will shine like the stars (Php 2:15).

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