What deeds does Jesus know?

“I know your deeds,” says Jesus to the churches. He exhorts the Ephesians to do the deeds they did at first (Rev. 2:5), he rebukes the Sardisians for having incomplete deeds (Rev. 3:2), and he promises to reward the Thyatirans according to their deeds (Rev. 2:23).

Clearly our deeds or works matter to Jesus. But what sort of deeds is Jesus referring to?

The preacher of law says, “Jesus is referring to our law-keeping performance. We must keep the commands to please the Lord.”

A similar interpretation is offered by the preacher of works. “Jesus is saying we need to work out our salvation, do the deeds that prove our repentance, and pursue the spiritual disciplines.”

Yet both interpretations raise uncomfortable questions: How many deeds are needed to qualify? What if I neglect to keep all the commands? Worse, both interpretations do nothing but promote dead works and pride.

What are dead works?

We can distinguish dead works from faith works. Dead works of the flesh lead to death, while faith works release abundant life. The former relies on self; the latter leans on the Spirit.

Living under any form of law is a dead work because the law is not of faith, and its purpose is to minister death (2 Cor. 3:7, Gal. 3:12). To insist we must keep the law of the old covenant or the commands of the new is to preach dead works. Such a message will inflame sin, minister condemnation, and leave you wretched.

Any works done to prove our salvation or complete our sanctification are also dead works because they reveal unbelief in the finished work of the cross. You don’t have to finish what Jesus started for you are complete in Christ (Col. 2:10). In him you are as saved and sanctified as you ever will be. Since the Author and Finisher of our faith has perfected us (Heb. 10:14), there is nothing you can do to improve upon what he has done.

Repenting from dead works and having faith in God is one of the elementary teachings about Christ (Heb. 6:1), yet many haven’t grasped it. They’re trying to keep the law or make themselves holy, and they are exhausting themselves. Their dead works are killing them. They have forgotten that in the kingdom, all is grace, and “if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom. 11:6).

Every believer has deeds of one sort or another. We should not be impressed that the Revelation churches had deeds but we should ask, what sort of deeds did they have? Were they engaged in dead works or faith works?

What are faith works?

Faith works are what lovers do. The word love appears four times in the seven letters and on three of those occasions, Jesus is referring to his love. To the Ephesians, Philadelphians, and Laodiceans, Jesus spoke of his love, but the Thyatirans were known for their love. “I know your love,” said Jesus. And since the word for love is the divine agape, it wasn’t really their love but God’s love shining through them. This was a church that knew the love of God and was actively sharing that love with others.

What deeds matter to Jesus?

The only work that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6). But note that it is not our love, faith and service that impresses the Lord. Rather, we become commendable when we are impressed by his love, faith, and service. Jesus commended the Pergamenes for not denying his faith, and it’s a similar story in his letter to the Thyatirans. “I smell agape love,” Jesus is saying. “You have received the love of my Father, you are giving it away, and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Some might say, “Love is a verb. We reveal our love by what we do.” But the scriptures declare that agape love is a noun. Indeed, love is a Person, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is not something to manufacture but receive, and those who receive the wild and uncontainable love of God can’t help but give it away.

Giving away what God has given us is how we change the world.

This is a radical revelation for many, yet this is how the early church lived. The Book of Acts is not a record of manmade accomplishments; it’s a collection of stories about people who co-labored with God to do the impossible. In a few short years these believers changed the world. They left a legacy showing us what can happen when we trust in the goodness of the Lord.

Extracted from Paul Ellis’s new book, Letters from Jesus: Finding Good News in Christ’s Letters to the Churches.

 

31 Comments on What deeds does Jesus know?

  1. Lord help me too know the agape love. I know it is given to me (but) my neighbor may not know how much i do care or love. Husband & children. Because it is always what i do or dont do. 😦 I dont know of yet if I could die for a friend.?

  2. Dave O'Brien // January 24, 2019 at 2:31 am // Reply

    Dead Work #1
    “Doing something, to get something, you can never receive by doing something.”

    Dead Work #2
    “Doing something, to get something, you already have.”

  3. Excellent! Faith works are fruit born from the Spirit through the relationship or oneness we have with the Trinity. Therefore, preaching about works will only produce dead works. Preach eternal life (His life) received as a gift and let the Spirit be responsible for the fruit.

  4. Are there any differences between what you wrote “The only work that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 5:6)” and John 6:29?

  5. You say it is not our “love, Faith and service” that impresses the Lord? Yet why, according to Matthew 8: 10, did Jesus marvel at so great faith of this soldier, if this is so? As the Greek word marvel here means “to wonder; by implication, to admire:”
    You mention it is “people who co-labored with God to do the impossible”, true and it is faith that moves God, as was the case of the soldier.
    Something motivated this soldier, whether it was love (agape or phileo) Jesus did not say, but one thing certain, it worked (as according to your faith be it unto you, Matthew 9:29) and Jesus marveled. The story line indicate phileo love, seeing he was concerned with his sick servant, so much so as to seek out help and receive it, “faith which worketh by love”.
    But true “Faith works are what lovers do” as for “all things work together for good to them that love” Romans 8:28 and these works are not only reserved (prepared) for such who are saved, Ephesians 2:10, but done through the same faith (which worketh by love), that save’s!

    • Jesus did not marvel at the soldier’s faith. He marveled that he had found no one in Israel – God’s chosen people – who believed the way that this Gentile believed. If anyone should have trusted in the love and goodness of God, it was Abraham’s descendants. They didn’t, yet this Gentile did. It was an amazing thing.

      • Right, it does speak to the shame of Israel, to whom pertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, and all the assistance’s they received from God, having exclusive access to the “children’s bread” Matthew 15:26. True, there were only 2 Gentiles Jesus ever mentioned having great faith, this Soldier and the Syrophoenician woman Matthew 15:8. Interesting both genders being represented with such, “great faith”.
        Yet it were these two’s faith that was “great” and not who they were, for one must factor in that God is no respecter of persons, as Jesus charges those of “little faith”, on the other end of the faith spectrum, generating the opposite response, Matthew 8:26.
        But right, whatever there is admirable in the faith of any, it must contribute to the glory of Christ, who will be himself admired in all them that believe, as having done in and for them marvelous things. Thanks

  6. Love it. Thank you!

  7. Please; bare with me__

    Could the premise (starting point for true logic) here be founded, first on our comfort & then we consider our deeds? What do the preachers 2 statements suggest – “law”-keeping & “must” – “do works”, “need to” & “do to please”; the preacher says? Is this preacher living in the spirit; when teaching us that our deeds are based on self (our depth of personal comfort), first? Was Jesus sent to portray judgement; through his teachings & modelling of the Father to us? That is not to say, the day of Judgement will not come.

    Change the premise to: “Jesus’ love for us…” from the promises of God & not, “Jesus is…”; from the mouth of (wo)men) & our perspective changes: off of us (our comfort & being judged); on to him (his gifts & our blessing).

    In Christ, our deeds come from our love for God because he loved us first. His faith & love to us, are “not” predicated on our law-keeping, requirements to qualify or doing to please God.

    Mat 7: 21 & others, don’t suggest to us here yet, succinctly demonstrate Gods’ will for us – when he highlights, our doing the will of the father – is not about our comfort but our respect for Gods’ position.

    Without a true premise (staring point for true logic)__ How do we begin to understand, the flesh & the spirit are at odds – given the subject of our deeds? The flesh wants us to flea from God; the spirit, run to him; because he is Good!

  8. For five years I have been praying to Jesus to rid me of the awful sickly blackness I feel in my chest and neck which started at the time my mum died. I am not kidding. I live with the most perverse thoughts and desires a man can live with and every day the most I can do is put on a fake face to the world and hope they won’t notice how corrupt I am inside. I have tried to rest in the finished works of Christ, gone to church, even tried to “stop trying” and just accept the love that I have been told is on offer to me if I would just surrender to the grace that is freely on offer to me by God. I have begged Him, I have even just continued sinning and asked Him to transform me, crying in my wretchedness, knowing I am completely powerless over my flesh. For five years he has not answered, and then I would say to God that if he has already given me the answer in giving his son for me that if I could just rest in his presence it’s all I could want. I do not want to drown in this world I want to be close to my creator. The only conclusion I can draw is that I am not deserving of his grace… Maybe you can pray for me and ask God to help me. The suffering is unbearable and He will not hear me. I am glad that you have been so touched by His love, and as a result that love has flowed through you and touched so many others. Perhaps I was just never meant to be saved.

    • You are on the right track except for when you say you are not deserving of God’s grace. You will see the fruit of resting in His love for you when your heart is persuaded of it. Understanding it on an intellectual level is the beginning, but keep hearing pure grace messages until your heart is persuaded and goes to rest in it. Give up on your ability to accomplish it, but don’t give up on the One who gives you His life. Praying for you.

    • Joey,
      If you truly know you are powerless and undeserving , and accept his free gift of forgiveness apart from what you do or don’t do, then you are saved. Rest in that. Even if you don’t see the results right away, keep resting in his words at his sacrifice on the cross “it is finished.” And it’s a FREE gift for WHOSOEVER believes. His blood covers you and he sees you white as snow, no matter how you see yourself. What he sees is the truth. Eventually, even though we’ll never be perfect in this world, what you see will line up more and more with that truth.
      Read more articles here, listen to Joseph prince and read his stuff too. Praying for you. May God’s Word come alive and bring you more abundant life. God wants that, his word says that’s why Jesus cane, he hears those prayers asking for abundant life!

    • Joey,
      From experience I can empathize with you and how horrible it can be to not be able to control your thoughts, so I offer my two bits. The other responses you have gotten have been great, encouraging you to change your focus to JESUS, HIS finished work, HIS freeing truth. NONE of us deserve His grace, but because He loves us beyond our comprehension, He died to give it. Freely! You have received it – you are saved -done deal! AND you continue to receive it. BY HIS GRACE: you found this site, you cried out for help, you received encouragement from your brothers and sisters, even to know you should not have these thoughts is Grace – that’s why you are so distressed. Otherwise you wouldn’t really care. His grace even flowed through you to help the rest of us as we ponder all this!

      Philippians 4:8 says ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS’ (my emphasis) Wow, what practical advice! You have other things to think about! Pray that He will open your eyes to SEE it, not only in yourself but in others as well. You won’t have room for those other thoughts. Persevere my friend.

      PS: Tell Satan he is a LIAR

      • richard elson // January 28, 2019 at 3:38 pm //

        Agree with Satan, confess, your weakness, that by yourself you have nothing to offer in your defence, BUT, you are not alone, or by yourself. You are hid in Christ, you are hid in the purity of Christ and his justice, Whatever is commendable and excellent about Christ the same is true about you, for “as he is so are you in this world”. You are the righteousness of God despite what your conscience says. God is greater than your conscience and is well able to hold you.

        Agree with the Holy Spirit, It is Satan who is judged, you are righteous because of where Jesus went not because of what you did, the root of all sin is trusting in yourself so trust in Jesus.
        By our-self you and I fail, but through Christ we can do all things.
        He knows the way through the wilderness.
        You are clueless, just own it.

    • Joey there is a Post on this site called Your glorious new past, and another one called Satan desires to sift you.
      God has brought you to this Grace place and there is so much blessing right here.
      Praying with you. We are all on this journey to see the true God, the One Jesus revealed.

  9. Jenny Beauchamp // January 24, 2019 at 9:27 am // Reply

    Awesome Paul, can I share this article? So, it’s all about “trust” and resting in Him, so that the Treasure we have inside comes forth….whenever and to whomever! We are just earthen vessels, and there is no way we can ever glory in His Presence! The striving is to rest and stay at rest, in Him.
    I just finished reading the book of Exodus again and I was amazed at Israel and how after all the plagues and then the parting of the red sea, and then the quail falling from the sky and the manna every morning, how they continued to complain and wander and right through the giving of the 10 commandments (twice), and the making of the golden calf (as Aaron danced naked). Then God makes Aaron the high priest (blows my mind, what GRACE)! Then I noticed that when God gave Moses instructions for the tabernacle/ark/high priests’ garments, etc., God moved on the hearts of the people of Israel to do as He instructed. Very detailed! And, they did it all as He commanded. I started to see a picture of our flesh vs. His Spirit. In the old testament, God moved on their hearts to do, etc. Under the new testament, God through Jesus Christ, made the believer a new creation with a “brand new heart” and His Holy Spirit indwells us. The disciples did not have the indwelling Spirit until after Christ died and was raised from the dead, and came to them again- at Pentacost. This confirmed to me that it’s all God’s work, in Christ Jesus, and the work is all finished! Our part is to enter in and rest; to trust Him!

    Also, I had a dream, as a young believer, that I was standing in front of a person with one of those old fashioned adding machines where the roll of paper would roll out onto the floor. This person was going through all the things/deeds of my life and we were laughing. Every now and then, the person would stop and say, “oh no, that one was not done to the glory of the Lord!” And we would laugh (it was not included, but there was no condemnation, no penalty). It was an “awards” banquet and there was nothing negative and there were no penalties, only awards (jewels in my crown) and yes, I did not get all the jewels I could have. I will never forget it. I woke with such peace and had a better understanding about “good” works and “dead” works.

  10. Jenny Beauchamp // January 24, 2019 at 9:54 am // Reply

    Joey,
    Jesus loves you abundantly and unconditionally “.” period.
    Could it be that you are focused on “your” faith and “your” ability to have and keep faith?
    There was a time when I had faith in faith (my idea of faith and my ability to believe and continue to believe and to build myself up in faith)—- note the “I and my” in my words/view. Then I became inpatient with God and simply cuz I was not seeing anything change, and not immediately, in my time! That’s when I became exhausted “in my works and ideas of faith” and pretty much collapsed. Exactly what’s suppose to happen when we rely on laws/formulas/principles and sprinkle our faith (in the name of Jesus) on top!
    The Lord reminded me that He is the author and finisher of my faith! Read that and hear that. I cannot have faith without Him, so that puts my ideas and my ability to have/keep faith and build my faith up, etc. TO BED! Done! Dead! Then He showed me that my faith has to be in Him, not in me or my ability to keep faith, etc. Jesus is the substance of our faith. Not positive attitude, not pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, etc. He is the Author and Finisher of your faith (have faith in Him, not your faith, not your ideas, not your abilities, prayers,etc.). Hear Him.
    I think if we ask ourselves, for example, “Do I have enough faith to be healed? Do I have the right kind of faith to be healed? What if I am lacking in faith?” We are focusing on ourself and our faith, instead of Christ and His finished work. When we ask ourself, “Do I have enough faith?” we have already put faith as a hindrance between us and Jesus’ finished work. We can definitely become preoccupied with “our” faith.

    I think being exhausted and collapsing and giving up on your own understanding, your carnal mind’s abilities, your faith in your faith, your shortcomings, etc. are most wonderful! Now collapse in Him and just be still and know that He is God– and God is Love! You know this in your head, let it come forth from you heart!

    I encourage you to sit and read the book of Hebrews all in one setting and ask the Lord to show you His Rest. Jesus is the Sabbath. He has you and that is the best place you can be, trust Him. I’m praying with you!

    • Don in Tucson // January 27, 2019 at 5:03 am // Reply

      Jenny , you hit the nail on the head . For so long I too put my faith in my faith and failed over and over instead of putting my faith in Him to do Himself what He promised. I was reading Romans back in 2009 where I came to chaper 4:18-25. I finally saw that Abraham believed that God was able to do HIMSELF what He Promised. I had read Romans many times but missed that. Abraham had nothing to bring to the table nor did Sarah , he being around 100 and Sarah being infertile… but Abraham believed God could do Himself what they couldn’t on their own. It says we will have God’s Righteousness also if we believe in Him who raised Jesus from the dead.
      Joey, read that section of Romans and
      see if you might finally see it’s not about you but about Him.
      Paul, you have an amazing gift of being able to show us what we’ve missed for so long , and it sets us free to love others and share God’s love for the whole world with others. It finally makes sense : ) We are to brag about God and all He is and has done —not try to please Him with OUR performance but trust in His. It’s never been about us but about Him. But as we really come to see that , we then do become transformed because we know He’s had our back from the beginning .
      Thanks , Jenny and thanks Paul. And thank you God that you lead me to this site in Oct 2015! Love you, man : )

    • Thanks Jenny, you explained that so well. Faith has been a very scary subject for believers, well me anyway. It has been held up as the great utopia that we must attain to show God we take Him seriously. Now He can breathe a sigh of relief and bless us with our needs…but don’t expect to be blessed unless you have that full amount of ‘faith’….whatever that is!

      The Law is not of faith, it is the complete opposite. The Law requires you to do something, faith says, look at what God has done, all by Himself. Those who came to receive from Jesus did not think, ‘ well I love God, have forgiven my brother, loved my neighbour, tithed, gone to church and bible study, confessed my faults and transgressions, stopped doing bad stuff and started doing good stuff. I have ticked all those boxes and now I will come to Jesus so He can heal me’

      It is interesting that almost all of the people who came to receive from Jesus were Jews and would have been so steeped in a Law mentality, but not one of them said anything about themselves being ok by the Law standards, and that they were in a state of readiness to be blessed. They just came to Jesus with their need and only their need.

      Faith seems to be letting go of all that hints of what we must do/be/attain… and just looking at the goodness, kindness, loving heart of God, seeing Jesus as our friend. Just as I am. Believing that all has been done and it is finished, God Himself said it was finished. Faith is our minds resting in all that Jesus has done for us.

      God bless you Joey.

      • Well, some of “Those who came to receive from Jesus did think”, “confessed my faults….. so He can heal me”, (James 5:16), as healing is part of being sozo.(saved).1 Peter 2:24.
        Yes, we should be “looking for the mercy (grace) of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” Jude 1:21, yet the scriptures hint at all three of these action verbs; do/be/attain
        “he that does” 1 John 3:7
        “be you holy” 1 Peter 1:15
        “might attain” Philippians 3:11
        This is why James goes along with John, Peter and Paul by saying, “Even so faith, if it has not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17.
        True, it is “not by works” that we are saved Titus 3:5, but after we are saved, we are to walk in the works God has “prepared” for us Ephesians 2:10, otherwise, there may be, as James points out, a faith that is dead, or never alive. No, on the contrary we are to not only “learn to maintain good works” Titus 3:14, but also, “provoke one another unto good works, Hebrews 10:24. For if there are no righteous doing, there may not be any corresponding righteousness, thus being deceived, 1 John 3:7. Again, if we are not doers of the word of our faith then we are merely deceiving ourselves, James 1:22. Works are for and from, a living faith.

  11. This was excellent!! Thank you so much for this. God Bless!

    Andy

  12. Satan’s tool has always been to paint a wrong image about God to man. His success at this is why so many find it difficult to simply accept God’s love and grace to man.

  13. i love your articles! truth! refreshing and to the point. I thank God for His grace upon you brother 🙂
    love.

  14. Jenny Beauchamp // January 29, 2019 at 9:42 am // Reply

    thanks Leanne, good words!

  15. unorthadoxmillennial // January 31, 2019 at 1:46 am // Reply

    So the deeds Jesus is looking for, is for us to love others from a heart that’s inspired by His love for us? Rather than doing a bunch of stuff because we have to, to get a reward, etc..?

    • Irregardless of rewards, doing a bunch of such stuff shows (proves) that we have been inspired by his love for us! John was the best to reveal this to us by saying; ” he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” 1 John 4:20.This Love is shown by providing such things as one sees his brother in need of, when such goods are in their hands, to provide! 1 John 4:17 .Doing so can not save you, but it can show you are not deceived, James 1:22.

  16. Stranger danger!!! When a Grace preacher mentions any aspect of doing anything, regardless of motive, it’s like kryptonite to some who don’t understand Grace. Glad you highlighted these passages through the lens of Pure Grace. Grace is about relationship rooted and grounded in the Love of God. Under performance, I gave, I prayed, I read Scripture, I had daily devotions, I volunteered. Today, under Grace, I still give, pray, read and study and have daily devotions and volunteer, but I don’t do these things to get God to approve of me, to accept me, to be pleased with me, to make me more holy, to find favor, to be blessed. Understanding I am already accepted, unconditionally loved, made holy, righteous, totally forgiven and eternally secure, I spend time with God cause He loves me and that love flows through me and being in relationship is rich and fulfilling. I don’t have to do anything and He still loves me. Yet I want to spend time with God more and more because of His goodness, He is so much fun to be around.

  17. I can digest it…am not to impress God with my faith and love but am to be impressed y Gods love and faith.
    I can only love because I received Gods love…

    • richard elson // February 15, 2019 at 12:14 pm // Reply

      That’s a great summary,
      Whenever we compete with ourselves or others to be the “greatest” one who loves Jesus we are subject to condemnation that comes along with our failures.
      It’s a powerful position to understand we barely know the first thing about our Fathers love for us. The beach scene where Peter is coached by Jesus to confess “I know nothing about Love(agapa), I know now I only know about Philio(love)”, destroys the enemies accusations of self righteousness.
      Peters’ journey towards remembering Jesus Love towards us, and walking in the righteousness Jesus’ provided for us is shared 2 Peter1. 3-9
      9.so that we will never forget we are permanently cleansed of sin.

      Boast of Jesus Love for us and not of our love for him. I found some solid ground right there.

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