13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Philippians 2:13

What is the difference between grace-based holiness and work-based holiness?

Work-based holiness is trying to earn our righteousness through our futile attempts to please God. It can never bring you into full maturity, but can actually stunt your spiritual growth. This is because work-based holiness puts a spirit of fear and “not of power and sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7) in you, causing you to become more concerned with outward behaviour than with inward belief. 

Now, it is not that our behaviour doesn’t matter to God, but right behaviour starts first with right belief. Right belief acts like a thermostat for right behaviour. However work-based holiness uses your behaviour as a thermometer to judge you.

Grace-based holiness is rooted in Christ alone. 

It stands on a clear understanding of the gospel, that we are made righteous by faith before we can faithfully live a righteous life.  In essence, we become what we believe about who we are and what we have in Christ. As such, grace-based holiness is a fruit, and not a result of work (cf. Romans 6:22).  We can glean this truth from today’s text.

The Apostle Paul reveals to us that it is God who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Both “works” and “do” share the same Greek work, “energeō ” which means “put forth power” (Strong’s G1754). In other words, God supernaturally empowers us to desire and act in ways that give Him the most pleasure.  

What then is the implication?

Because God is ever-increasingly working in and through you to produce fruits of holiness, you are not under the pressure of pursuing a holiness based on your own self-effort. Rather you will come to realise your holiness has been, and will always be, a restful fruit of God’s grace.


© Copyright Richard Tan, 2019.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.