Men like us, created out of earth, stationed upon it for a little, and soon after to return to it, when the same earth at God’s command again restores us and casts us forth, shall at the last be tried by fire, so that the fire should by some art dissolve both earth and clay, and should show by melting the counterfeit whether it has had any gold or silver or other of earth’s precious things.
- Columbanus, Sermon IX, Irish, 7th century
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
- 1 Corinthians 3.12, 13
A day of judgment is coming. Even the believer will have his works examined by the Lord, through “some art” of fire by which the dross of his life will be purged away and the precious works he has accomplished will shine forth like gold and silver.
Our salvation will remain, because this is not our work but the work of Christ, accounted to us. But the question that must concern us is whether, on that fiery day, we will glow with the burnished beauty of precious gems, or flare up in flash and ash like dry tinder before the judgment of God.
Before God our Savior and the watching world, will we glow with the beauty of Christ, or will we fizzle out like a dud firework?
It’s not entirely clear why this must happen; God simply has determined that it shall be so. We will stand before the judgment seat of the Lord as He tries our works by fire. The effect will be to separate the saved from the lost; but it will also draw forth the glory of God, thus confirming the distinction between the two classes of human beings.
Of course, these are not works we do in order to gain salvation. Only the work of Jesus is sufficient for that. Salvation is all of grace, rooted in the finished work of Christ.
Rather, these are the works we do in gratitude and out of obedience for having been saved, and in order to show Jesus and the glory of God to the watching world. Paul says this is why we have been redeemed and saved in Jesus, to do good works (Eph. 2.8-10).
But what are these good works? We tend to think of good works in terms of ministries of one kind or another. But this is not what Paul has in mind. God is not going to judge merely the works we do in or through the church. Some of these may indeed be good. But some may be wicked and self-serving, worthy of condemnation because they are not in line with the Law of God (Matt. 7.21-23).
God is equipping us by His Word for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17), to make us ready and eager for good works refracting the righteousness of Jesus Christ (Tit. 3.8, 14) and bringing the peace and joy of His Kingdom to the world (Rom. 14.17, 18).
These are the daily deeds of kindness, thoughtfulness, help, service, compassion, and love that issue, from those who know Jesus, as naturally as the grass greens in the spring. Because we know Him, and know His love; because we abide in Him and in His Word; and because His Spirit brings forth fruit and gifts within us, God draws forth from us those good works which are in line with His original design for the entire cosmos (cf. Gen. 1.31).
Absent such everyday good works of love for God and our neighbors, we have no ground for believing that our profession of faith in Christ is valid (Heb. 6.9-12).
Alas, but we do not do only such works as these. There is still plenty of self, plenty of the world, plenty of spite and malice left in each of us, and we are not always as guarded as we ought to be about holding those works in check. Plenty of wood, hay, and straw, that is.
But we must persevere, laying aside the old works, putting on Jesus, and taking up the works consistent with our calling to His Kingdom and glory (Eph. 4.17-24).
The objective is to glow like precious metal on that glorious day, and not to flare up in a flash of dry works – mere tinder for the purging power of God. Since we must be tried by fire, let us prepare well while we can, so that our trial will be one of refinement in beauty, rather than consumption of wasted works. Let us load up on good works of gold, silver, and precious stones, so that the glory of God may be seen to be at work in us, both now and in that great day to come.
1. Why should we expect good works to issue from those who are truly saved?
2. How can believers encourage one another to love and good works?
Psalm 139.23, 24 (Ripley: Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah, O My Soul!)
Search my heart, O Lord, and know me, as You only, Lord, can do.
Test my thoughts and contemplations, whether they be vain or true.
Let there be no sin in me, Lord, nothing that Your Spirit grieves.
Lead me in the righteous way, Lord, unto everlasting peace!
Help me, Lord, to be always mindful of Your work for me, so that I may show Your love to others as I…
If you missed our recent ReVision series entitled “Which Works?” you can download all the installments for free by clicking here. “Which Works?” is a study of the good works for which we have been redeemed and saved, to help us grow in doing good to others.
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T. M. Moore
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Walker, pp. 99, 101.