“If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:17–19, NASB95)
There are so many people out there who think that everyone gets what they deserve, whether it be karma or the meted-out judgment of some works based god. There are also others who simply believe that we live and then we die with nothing else. For this later group, anything we do stands or falls entirely in this life as they deny any power outside of man himself. But Peter is not talking to any of these people. He is talking to those who know God as their Father. He is talking to believers—Christians. We are those who are saved not by any works that we have done, but by the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.
“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5–7, NASB95)
Yes, our God is impartial and He will judge impartially. But for believers this judgment is not for salvation, but for rewards that are given to those who are saved. We continue to read in verse 8 of Titus 3, “This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men.” (Titus 3:8, NASB95) The teaching is consistent. We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works, and in Ephesians 2:10 we read that these very works were even prepared for us from beforehand. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)
We just read in a previous verse (v. 13) that we are to be ready for action, and to think soberly, and to stay focused on our hope for eternity. Here Peter continues by encouraging us with the assurance that God will indeed see the works we do according to His power and He will recognize us appropriately. Our call is to know His grace, to walk with hope as we seek after Him, and serve Him with all that He gives us.
Jesus saved us by giving Himself. He lives and will bring us to Himself. He is infinitely God, and because of His work the Father will receive us, embrace us, and reward us with things that truly last. There will be no need to hook up a U-Haul to our hearse. When we step out of these bodies we leave everything behind and step into His very presence where He will deal with us in ways that never perish.
In times of persecution, suffering, loss, and enduring, and waiting it can be very easy to lose sight, to become overwhelmed by the immediate, and to become discouraged or disheartened. But God is faithful. He will bring us surely to His end and He will receive us. Why? Because we did not buy our ticket.
There is a link between works and salvation. But it is not our work that makes it possible. It is His work for us that is perfect and spotless. There is no fault or failing in Him, and because of Him our hope is sure. We did not earn our way. Jesus paid it all, and He has made us joint heirs for all of eternity. And, having paid our way, we are called to do His work in response. Passages like these are reminders that we are to keep the truth of salvation and works in the right order because of the righteous work of God our Father and the Son, Jesus Christ.