Imagine if you will. You are sitting on your porch enjoying a cool breeze on the hot summer day. There are kids playing stick-ball in the street. One neighbor is out playing with their dog. Another neighbor is out working on their garden. It is very peaceful and relaxing. Life is good!
All of a sudden the serenity is broken. There is that loud annoying beeping sound piercing the air: BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! warning that a vehicle is backing up. You look up to see a vehicle transportation truck backing down the cul-de-sac towards your house. It is at this time that you notice another vehicle that has already stopped in your driveway.
A person in some VERY expensive clothes comes up to you and introduces themselves to you,
“Hello, I’m Hashilush Hakadosh. I am head council for the Hayotzer luxury motor car division. You have been selected to receive the most expensive gift ever given to someone . . .”
You are in shock. You NEVER win anything! There has to be a catch, because if it is too good to be true . . .
Before you can even ask, the head council anticipates your question and makes the following statement:
“I need to make something perfectly clear to you. You haven’t won anything. This is a gift. You didn’t earn it. You don’t deserve it. Nothing you did or did not do got you this gift. You were chosen by Hayotzer to receive this free gift totally at the discretion of Hayotzer!”
Still, you can’t help yourself. There has to be a catch. Again, before you can even state your doubt, the head council anticipates your doubt and continues with their statement:
“Receiving this gift is simple, but it has some requirements . . .”
Ah-Ha! Knew it! There is a catch! You think to yourself as the head council continues:
“You have to give up all of your other cars. You can’t ride in other cars. You can’t look at other cars. You can’t want other cars. You have to renounce and turn away from all other cars publicly and privately. Your loyalty has to by to Hayotzer and Hayotzer alone. We understand that this may be hard and cause you some hardship. We understand that others may think you are crazy if you do this – maybe even some of your closest friends – maybe your own family. It may mean that some things that you like to do will no longer be acceptable or doable.”
“But we are a 2 car family” you blurt out. “How will we get around?”
“On the transportation truck are (two) cars. One for you and one for your wife. You are both being made this offer individually. You are both being offered the most expensive vehicle ever made. It is literally priceless.”
“How do I know that this car will meet our needs? How do I know it will be enough?” you ask with both skepticism and excitement.
“Trust. You are going to have to trust. Hayotzer is giving you a priceless gift that you did nothing to earn. You are going to have to trust if you want this gift. You can reject it. Many have. I will offer it to someone else. You have to make a choice. You have to decide if you can live with the cost of that choice.”
WOW! How can I turn this offer down? You think to yourself. “What is the next step?” you ask.
“This is the step where I lose people in this offer . . .”
You brace yourself for the sales pitch you already halfheartedly expected – none comes.
“By accepting this FREE motor car known as the Rosh Pinah, you acknowledge that you are receiving this free gift through no effort or deed of your own. This gift is offered at the sole discretion of Hayotzer. If you choose to trust that this gift from Hayotzer is real and accept this gift, then you acknowledge by your acceptance of this free gift from Hayotzer that there are certain obligations you agree to meet after accepting and as a result of accepting said free gift.
- You must acknowledge that you need and want what Hayotzer has to offer.
- You must trust Hayotzer.
- You must turn away from your love or affection of all other motor cars.
- You must read the manual! This is non-negotiable. You must know it front to back.
- You must be willing to apply and obey what you learn in the manual.
- You must tell people about Hayotzer and what Hayotzer has done for you.
- You must be willing to work for Hayotzer (with or without pay) as Hayotzer deems appropriate and without compensation as your motivation.
- You must help those less fortunate. Your time, your money, your effort.
- You must meet together regularly with others that have accepted the free gift from Hayotzer and share in their lives – their joys and their troubles.
- You must be an example of what Hayotzer motor car company is to those around you.
A couple of hel[pful terms in this story:
- Hashilush Hakadosh is Holy Trinity
- Hayotzer is Creator
- Rosh Pinah is Cornerstone (Yeshua is that cornerstone)
Ephesians 2:8-10 (CJB)
8 For you have been delivered by grace
and even this is not your accomplishment but God’s gift.
9 You were not delivered by your own actions; therefore no one should boast.
10 For we are of God’s making,
created in union with the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus)
for a life of good actions already prepared by God for us to do.
The word for actions in this version is ergon or as it is more commonly known, works. There is no doubt that works will not save you. The text is clear about that here and in other places. It is Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice that is the gift from God. Only through that gift are we saved. It is also clear that we we were created for a life of good works prepared by God in advance for us to do.
Since the text says that in God’s making, we were created in union with the Messiah Yeshua for a life of good works already prepared by God for us to do, what happens when we subscribe to a theology that ignores, refuses, or teaches that works are “not necessary?!?”
Consider the following text:
James 2:20-24 (CJB)
20 But, foolish fellow,
do you want to be shown that such “faith” apart from actions is barren?
21 Wasn’t Avraham avinu (our father) declared righteous
because of actions when he offered up his son Yitz’chak (Isaac) on the altar?
22 You see that his faith worked with his actions;
by the actions the faith was made complete;
23 and the passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled which says,
“Avraham had faith in God,
and it was credited to his account as righteousness.”
He was even called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is declared righteous
because of actions and
not because of faith alone.
Again, the word for actions (works) in this verse is also ergon. That “faith” apart from works is barren (dead: 3361. νεκρός nekros adj), leads one to conclude that after accepting the free gift from God (salvation) that we can NOT earn, that is by God’s chesed (grace), there is a call to action from God. If we ignore this call to action – again, if we teach that this action response to God’s calling is not necessary, are we following the word of God or a man made theology in opposition to God’s word? This is what my story about the free car attempts to help to explain.
A couple of simple questions based upon the above verse come to mind:
- Can we be made righteous by faith that is WITHOUT actions (works) according to the text?
- How was Abraham made righteous according to the text?
- The following is the word study for ergon from The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon. I have expanded it and included the text references cited by it so that you can read and check the dictionary references yourself easily. You will see many verses about works if you have eyes to see that may very well challenge you to think more carefully about what actions (works) are and are not. Hopefully you will come to the conclusion that some actions or “works” are considered bad and some actions or “works” are considered good instead of dismissing works as a non-sequitur like so many have done in the past and so many do today . This is not an exhaustive study. It is a metaphor that explains how works (ergon) and the grace (chesed) of God fit and work together as part of God’s redemptive plan for both Jews and Non-Jews alike.
2024. ἔργονergon noun
Work, deed, action, occupation, task, thing, matter.
(this is the non-biblical Greek understanding of the word)
“Work” is the basic equivalency of this noun (cf. the verb ergazomai ) from which many different shades of meaning evolve, as do many compounds. Work includes commercial and agricultural occupations, trade, and fishing. It is also descriptive of the labor of the fine arts such as painting, sculpture, and literary artistry (see Bertram, “ergon,” Kittel, 2:635). Often, work was given an ethical or moral value. Hence, a work could be described as “good” (agathos ) or as “evil” (ponēros ).
Work was, for the most part, regarded positively in ancient Greek thought, especially if it contributed to society. Work was particularly contrasted with “idleness”; thus it invariably denoted activity. Consequently, “deed” (ergon) may be contrasted with “word” (logos ) (e.g., of the same juxtaposition: Sirach 3:8; Luke 24:19; Colossians 3:17; Josephus Against Apion 2.2.2).
Sirach 3:8 (KJV Apocrypha) 8 Honour thy father and mother both in word and deed, that a blessing may come upon thee from them.
Luke 24:19 (CJB) 19 “What things?” he asked them. They said to him, “The things about Yeshua from Natzeret. He was a prophet and proved it by the things he did and said before God and all the people.
Colossians 3:17 (CJB) 17 That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
Work also denoted “what is wrought, the result of work or the product of the process of work” (Bertram, “ergon,” Kittel, 2:636), i.e., a “work of art,” a “literary work.” Eventually it weakened in definition and meant merely “thing” or “matter.”
(The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Older Covenants (Old Testament))
The versatility of ergon is reiterated by the Septuagint where it translates 27 different Hebrew words. Among the most common are ‛āsâh/ma‛ăseh, mᵉlā’khāh, and various forms of ‛āvadh. It is often the object of poieō (4020), “to do, make” (a synonym of ergazomai; e.g., Genesis 2:2; Exodus 12:16; 31:15; 36:1; Deuteronomy 5:13).
Ergon (cf. ergazomai) also describes the labor of the Levites and priests (e.g., Numbers 3:7,8,26). Nonetheless, to work on the Sabbath would violate the religion of Israel (Leviticus 23:3,7,8,21,35).
Proverbs 10:16 (CJB) 16 The activity of the righteous is for life; the income of the wicked is for sin.
Isaiah 32:17 (CJB) 17 The effect of righteousness will be peace; the result of righteousness, quiet trust forever.
Zephaniah 2:3 (CJB) 3 Seek Adonai, all you humble in the land, you who exercise his justice; seek righteousness, seek humility — you might be hidden on the day of Adonai’s anger.
Yet man was never made blameless before God because of “works” (Job 4:17).
Job 4:17 (CJB) 17 ‘Can a human be seen by God as righteous? Can a mortal be pure before his maker?
Isaiah 2:8 (CJB) 8 Their land is full of idols; everyone worships the work of his hands, what his own fingers have made.
Isaiah 17:8 (CJB) 8 He will pay no heed to the altars made with his own hands, he will not turn toward what his fingers made, the sacred poles and standing-stones for sun-worship.
Jeremiah 1:16 (CJB) 16 I will pronounce my judgments against them for all their wickedness in abandoning me, offering incense to other gods and worshiping what their own hands made.
Micah 5:13 (CJB) 13 I will cut off your carved images and standing-stones from among you; no longer will you worship what your own hands have made.
but God’s marvelous works are “the works of his hands” (Psalms 8:4,7; 90:16 [LXX 89:16]; 138:8 [137:8]; Isaiah 29:23). A “work” of God may be a miracle (Deuteronomy 11:3; cf. Sirach 48:14; see Hahn, “Work,” Colin Brown, 3:1148).
Deuteronomy 11:3 (CJB) 3 his signs and his actions which he did in Egypt to Pharaoh the king of Egypt and to his entire country.
Sirach 48:14 (KJV Apocrypha) 14 He did wonders in his life, and at his death were his works marvelous.
Concerning the works of God, His creative acts are perhaps the most evident. The heavens, the earth, and all things on the earth are representative of the manifold works of God (cf. Genesis 1, 2; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 24:1,2 [LXX 23:1,2]; 104:5 [103:5]; Isaiah 37:16). In addition, God “worked” through His chosen people Israel effectuating the plan of redemption. Although He created all people, Israel held a unique place among the nations, for it was through Israel that the kingdom of God was to be established upon the earth.
The Septuagintal understanding of ergon is most notably colored by the association of ergon with the fall of humanity. Influenced by Hellenistic values, “work” (rather than “anguish”) became a curse of the Fall (Genesis 3:16, Septuagint addition). Consequently, Hellenistic Judaism developed the concept that work (all work) was punishment for sin and thus, by association, evil. Human actions became generally regarded as “wicked and corrupt” (e.g., Job 11:14; 21:16). Nevertheless, certain kinds of work were considered holy, such as temple service or, naturally, keeping the Law. This led to the idea—based upon the premise that God rewards according to man’s deeds (a concept in itself essentially correct)— that righteousness could be procured through “works” (cf. Proverbs 24:12; Jeremiah 25:14; Lamentations 3:64; Matthew 16:27). It is to this distortion that the New Testament understanding of ergon addresses itself.
New Testament Usage:
(How the Greek was used in the newer and better covenant)
The works of God are also revealed in the salvation and redemption which came through Jesus Christ. His supernatural entrance into history and humanity is the work of God (Luke 1:68-79). The miracles of Christ, which prove His deity and His messianic mission, are the work of God (John 5:19,20,36; 10:25,37; cf Matthew 11:2-5). The Atonement itself is the work of God: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This work of salvation continues in and through the Church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The preaching of the gospel to the peoples of the world, therefore, is also the work of God (Ephesians 3:1-7). This all leads to the final goal of the redemption work of God: the establishment of His kingdom on earth (Matthew 19:28; Acts 3:21).
Aside from the traditional use of ergon to describe labor, a task, or a deed (e.g., Matthew 11:19; 23:3; John 3:20; Acts 5:38), work in the New Testament may also refer to any deed which testifies of God (e.g., John 5:36; 6:28,29; 7:3,21; 9:3,4).
John 6:28-29 (CJB) 28 So they said to him, “What should we do in order to perform the works of God?”
29 Yeshua answered, “Here’s what the work of God is: to trust in the one he sent!”
John 9:3-4 (CJB) 3 Yeshua answered, “His blindness is due neither to his sin nor to that of his parents; it happened so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must keep doing the work of the One who sent me; the night is coming, when no one can work.
Romans 2:15 (CJB) 15 For their lives show that the conduct the Torah dictates is written in their hearts. Their consciences also bear witness to this, for their conflicting thoughts sometimes accuse them and sometimes defend them
Matthew 5:16 (CJB) 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:58 (CJB) 58 So, my dear brothers, stand firm and immovable, always doing the Lord’s work as vigorously as you can, knowing that united with the Lord your efforts are not in vain.
2 Corinthians 9:8 (CJB) 8 Moreover, God has the power to provide you with every gracious gift in abundance, so that always in every way you will have all you need yourselves and be able to provide abundantly for every good cause —
Colossians 1:10 (CJB) 10 so that you may live lives worthy of the Lord and entirely pleasing to him, being fruitful in every good work and multiplying in the full knowledge of God.
1 Timothy 2:10 (CJB) 10 Rather, they should adorn themselves with what is appropriate for women who claim to be worshipping God, namely, good deeds.
1 Timothy 3:1 (CJB) 1 Here is a statement you can trust: anyone aspiring to be a congregation leader is seeking worthwhile work.
1 Timothy 5:10 (CJB) 10 and is known for her good deeds — as one who has reared her children well, showed hospitality, washed the feet of God’s people, helped those in trouble, and engaged in all kinds of good work.
passim; Hebrews 10:24).
Hebrews 10:24 (CJB) 24 And let us keep paying attention to one another, in order to spur each other on to love and good deeds,
James 1:25 (CJB) 25 But if a person looks closely into the perfect Torah, which gives freedom, and continues, becoming not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work it requires, then he will be blessed in what he does.
James 2:14 (CJB) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but has no actions (works) to prove it? Is such “faith” able to save him?
James 2:18 (CJB) 18 But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions (works). Show me this faith of yours without the actions (works), and I will show you my faith by my actions (works)!
James 2:20 (CJB) 20 But, foolish fellow, do you want to be shown that such “faith” apart from actions (works) is barren?
In contrast, evil works or deeds of lawlessness are the trademarks of those who reject God and will be judged by Him (John 3:19; cf. Romans 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:13; Colossians 1:21; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:17; 1 John 3:12).
John 3:19 (CJB) 19 “Now this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light. Why? Because their actions (works) were wicked.
Romans 2:6 (CJB) 6 for he will pay back each one according to his deeds.
1 Corinthians 3:13 (CJB) 13 But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire — the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.
Colossians 1:21 (CJB) 21 In other words, you, who at one time were separated from God and had a hostile attitude towards him because of your wicked deeds,
Hebrews 9:14 (CJB) 14 then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!
1 Peter 1:17 (CJB) 17 Also, if you are addressing as Father the one who judges impartially according to each person’s actions, you should live out your temporary stay on earth in fear.
1 John 3:12 (CJB) 12 and not be like Kayin, who was from the Evil One and murdered his own brother. Why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.
These oppose God and His servants (Luke 11:48; John 8:41). Such “evildoers” are not just corrupted by sin, they violently oppose God and worship the “works of their hands” just as the rebellious Israelites resisted God in the old economy (Acts 7:41; see above on the Septuagint).
In certain contexts ergon more specifically denotes “gospel labor.” Timothy was to do the “work of an evangelist” and resist the false teachers threatening his church (2 Timothy 4:5).
2 Timothy 4:5 (CJB) 5 But you, remain steady in every situation, endure suffering, do the work that a proclaimer of the Good News should, and do everything your service to God requires.
1 Corinthians 16:10 (CJB) 10 If Timothy comes, see that he has nothing to be afraid of while he is with you; for he is doing the Lord’s work, just as I am.
Philippians 2:30 (CJB) 30 For he risked his life and nearly died working for the Messiah, in order to give me the help you were not in a position to give.
Colin Brown 3:1147-52
Thoralf Gilbrant, ed., “2024. ἔργον,” in The Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary – Delta-Epsilon, (Springfield, MO: Complete Biblical Library, 1991), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “2024. á¼”ÏÎ³Î¿Î½”.
Hopefully, you will see a simple truth in all of this:
Works (actions) can’t give you salvation because salvation is a gift from God. However, works (actions) are a part of salvation that lead to righteousness because both the righteous and the unrighteous will both be resurrected:
Acts 24:15 (CJB) 15 And I continue to have a hope in God — which they too accept —
that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.
However, they will not both have the same fate:
John 5:28-29 (CJB) 28 Don’t be surprised at this;
because the time is coming when all who are in the grave will hear his voice 29 and come out —
those who have done good to a resurrection of life,
and those who have done evil to a resurrection of judgment.
Blessings to you all!