Preaching about Good Works can be tricky. It is all to easy to give the false impression that we should trust in our Good Works instead of Jesus, or that Good Works are just not important. Andrew Das, commenting on Galatians 6:7-8, has some good advice.
The modern pastor must admonish his people with the apostle Paul. A pastor must boldly and lovingly point out the genuine, eternal consequences of people’s decisions and actions. How little does the ever-imminent end-times horizon function in modern Christian preaching! Choose rightly! Such admonitions will never stray into the realm of “works righteous” semi-Pelagianism as long as the admonitions are constantly and carefully grounded in the indicative statements of Christ’s saving death along with his empowering, motivating Spirit. As Luther said: “If there is anything in us, it is not our own; it is a gift of God” (A[merican] E[dition of Luther’s Words] 27:393). Far too many popular, best-selling Christian books these days exhort people to a proper lifestyle or behavior without any anchoring in the indicative of Christ’s completed work on humanity’s behalf. If the cross of Christ and the Spirit’s empowerment (“fruit”!) do not remain ever central to Christian exhortation, such exhortation ceases to be Christian! Many Christians these days are being deceived by a false teaching rather analogous to what the Galatians faced!
Das. A. Andrew Concordia Commentary: Galatians 621
Pelagianism is the teaching that we merit heaven and God’s favor by our own good works. In other words, salvation by good works.
Semi-Pelagianism is a modification of Pelagianism. Instead of making everything from begin to end dependent of the person, semi-Pelagianism says that the person is responsible for their part and God is responsible for his part. Bottom line, though, this approach still makes good works and salvation dependent on us for God will always do “his part.” So, if we are saved or damned, it is still up to us.
Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism flatter us and so seem attractive, but are contrary to the teachings of the Bible and leave us in doubt of our salvation (Have I done enough?).