It’s a clear teaching of Scripture that we can do nothing to make ourselves right with God. But that doesn’t mean we respond to God’s grace by doing nothing.
John the Baptist has harsh, stinging words for his countrymen and women. Luke says, “John kept saying [notice, he didn’t just say it once] to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, ‘You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’” (EHV).
Offspring of vipers. Those aren’t the words that will endear a preacher to his congregation. Not even we “good Christians” rejoice when our pastor – or anyone else – calls us out for our wrongdoing.
Objects of wrath
Of course, the truth is, we can’t help but break God’s commandments. That’s our nature. Paul testifies, “We carried out the desires of the sinful flesh and its thoughts. Like all the others, we were by nature objects of God’s wrath” (Ephesians 2:3, EHV).
“But,” Paul continues, “God, because he is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!” (Ephesians 2:4,5, EHV).
Back to John and his offspring of vipers. He called those spiritual serpents to repent and find their forgiveness in the about-to-arrive Messiah. He baptized them to assure of God’s forgiveness and their transformation. Then he urged them to respond to God’s mercy. “Therefore produce fruits in keeping with repentance!” Live in a way that testifies to your gratitude for God’s grace. Do something to thank God.
Paul does the same in Ephesians 2. “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance so that we would walk in them” (2:10)
Fruits of repentance
A Lutheran scholar once remarked, “One critic said he had gone to many churches and heard the preacher say, ‘Don't try to impress God with your works’ or ‘Don't attempt to please God with your merits’ or ‘Don't try to keep the rules and regulations and thus win your way.’ He looked around at nearly slumbering collections of utterly casual Christians and wondered, ‘Who's trying?’”
Dear Christian, God has made you alive with Christ. You are saved by grace. Produce fruits in keeping with repentance! Do something!