Summary: Was the Lord teaching salvation by works here? No, rather He is teaching us what true and genuine Christianity is. He is teaching us how we ought to live our faith out if we are truly His followers.
nOTE: Some materials of this sermon are taken from sermoncentral.com
What is Christianity? It is a religion of love –love to God expressed in loving and serving people. Serving people out of their needs is the hallmark and the essence of the ministry of Jesus. When the crowds were gathered around Him, he addressed them and said: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He came to serve the people out of their needs. So in Acts 10: 38, Peter reported that “Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.”
Moreover Luke tells us that Jesus taught His followers: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, that lame, the blind” (Luke 14: 13). Jesus conducted His ministry in this way because that was what God had always said He wanted of His people to do. He modeled and taught us what serving people is all about. He would like us to understand that God wants us to be a serving Christians, a serving Church. This is the clear emphasis of the parable given by our Lord in our text this morning.
In our passage, the Lord spoke about His second coming where everyone would face Him to be judged. In a parabolic way, He tells us that like a shepherd, He will separate the “goats” from the “sheep,” one group in His right side and the other group in His left side. The sheep were commended and rewarded, while the goats were rebuked and condemned. Who are these goats and who are these sheep?
Most of us are familiar with these domestic animals. Sheep and goats are often seen together in the same grounds. Farmers, ranchers, and herdsmen usually allow them to graze and roam in the same field. Of course, it is pointless, redundant, work and money for the owners to place them in different fields. Sheep and goats are free to wander, mingle, and associate. The goats and the sheep are the people in the world.
Now, what the Lord is clearly indicating here is that there are two kinds of people who will face Him in the judgment day. The sheep represent those who lived their lives in a way that God wanted it to be. They will receive God’s commendation and reward. Whereas, the goats represent those who never lived their lives as God intended it to be. They will receive God’s rebuke and condemnation. Their attitudes to life and towards other people determine the judgment and eternal destiny they receive.
Was the Lord teaching salvation by works here? No, rather He is teaching us what true and genuine Christianity is. He is teaching us how we ought to live our faith out if we are truly His followers. A close examination of this parable will pose a solemn question for us all to ponder: “Are we showing the fruit of real Christianity?” Someone rightly said: “A Christian may be undeveloped, but not unrecognizable.”
A. REAL BELIEVERS ARE KNOWN BY WHAT THEY DO
To warn His disciples about false teachers the Lord said: “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” However, the principle in this statement is also applicable in determining true or phony Christianity. We are known by our actions. People will recognize us by what we do.
Just to remind you again about the doctrine of salvation, the Word of God teaches us that: “Jesus saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Again it says, “For it is by grace that 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.” In other words, we can’t buy our way into heaven by doing good deeds. Practically, this is a good thing, because it would drive us nuts to try to figure out if we’d ever done good things enough to be acceptable.
Good deeds are but the fruit of our salvation. Good deeds don’t make us a Christian. But if we really are a real Christian…good deeds will be the flower –the fruit –of your faith.
On the other hand, many people undermine the importance of doing good deeds. Our religions say sin is doing what is wrong or bad. But according to the Bible, sin is not merely doing what is wrong, but also failing to do what is right or good. Sin is not merely a bad deed committed but a right thing omitted. Theologically, the practice of wrongdoing is the sin of commission, and the failure to do right is the sin of omission. James 4:17 explains it saying, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”