Why is it that so many people in the religious world are afraid of the “w” word?

I am referring to works. Of course the Bible disdains certain kinds of works as a means of justification — works of the Mosaic law (Romans 4:2), and works of human merit (Ephesians 2:9).

But there is a type of work that is incorporated into the plan of redemption. James, chapter 2, eloquently addressed this. And John alludes to it in the verse before us.

“Look to yourselves, that you lose not the things that we [you] have wrought, but that you receive a full reward.” Look at these crucial elements of this verse.

  1. One must look to himself — personal responsibility is emphasized. One is not wholly passive with reference to his salvation. Underline “look to yourselves,” and in your margin write: Individual responsibility.
  2. The word “wrought” literally has to do with that for which one has worked (cf. NKJV; RSV). We are elsewhere told to “work for the food which abides unto eternal life” (John 6:27). Contrary to the allegations of “faith only” zealots, work is a divine requirement. Underline “wrought” and enter John 6:27 as a cross-reference. Those who ridicule the works which the Almighty has prescribed for humans to do, fly directly in the face of New Testament doctrine.
  3. John warns that caution must be exercised lest one “lose” his reward. Circle “lose” and note: Possibility of apostasy.
  4. Finally, the text suggests (by implication) that the reward now is serving God, but that the “full reward” will later be received. Underline “full reward,” and in the margin observe: At the Judgment Day.