There are those who believe that if we must do "works" to gain salvation then we have the right to boast of our own strength, and glory in our own accomplishments rather than giving all the glory and honor to God as the scriptures instruct us (2 Corinthians 10:17). To such people, this concept of salvation seems to suggest that man either makes himself equal with God in glory or, at the least, diminishes God's rightly deserved glory. Such people have a hard time reconciling the idea that both God and man can work together in partnership while God is still given all the glory.
This is not so unusual a situation as it may seem on the surface, because it was Jesus Himself who set the example for us to follow. We worship Christ as God, we revere Him and give Him all of our praise, adoration and allegiance, yet, what did Christ say about Himself? "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true" (John 7:18). "He that believeth on me believeth not on me, but on him that sent me" (John 12:44). Speaking to His Father in Heaven He said, "I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4). Jesus taught us to pray, not to Himself but to "Our Father which art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done" (Matthew 6:9-10 italics added).
Jesus led a perfect life. He was sinless in every way imaginable. If anyone had a right to glory in himself it was He, yet, rather than take the credit for what He had accomplished, He gave all the glory to His Father in Heaven. He didn't come to earth to receive the praise of men. Instead, He came to proclaim the glory of His Father. If this is so, then why do we worship Christ and not the Father, why do sing praises to Jesus and not the Father, and why do we talk almost exclusively about the mortal deeds of the man from Nazareth instead of giving all the glory to the Father as Jesus did?
To understand this question more fully, we must first understand the relationship between Jesus Christ and His Father. Jesus said, "I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (John 5:30). "As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do" (John 14:31). "Whosever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother" (Matthew 12:50).
Jesus was not acting on His own. Everything He did, He did at the direction of His Father in Heaven. The words He spoke, the acts He performed, and the gospel He taught were not His own. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane when His soul was exceedingly sorrowful unto death He declared, "Oh my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39). Everything Jesus did, including His great sacrifice, was done in obedience to what His Father told Him to do.
The plan of salvation was developed, designed and prepared by God, the Father, not by Jesus Christ. The gospel message was sent to earth at the direction and will of God, the Father, not by Jesus Christ. The sacrifice for our sins was ordered and overseen by God, the Father, not by Jesus Christ. Jesus was just the messenger whom God the Father sent. He was merely the instrument God the Father used to carry out His great work, and he was only doing what God the Father had already decided should be done. Is it any wonder, then, why Jesus gave all the glory to His Father in Heaven?
If that is so, then why do we worship Jesus? The answer is simple: Because Jesus did the actual work.
It was Jesus who trod the dusty earth proclaiming the gospel from town to city, from hilltop to valley, from house to tent. It was Jesus who overcame every temptation common to man and lived a sinless, faithful life. It was Jesus who knowingly and willingly allowed Himself to take upon His person the sins of all the inhabitants of earth and suffer so horribly, both in body and soul, that even He pleaded for mercy because of the agony of it all. God the Father didn't force Jesus to do what needed to be done; Jesus voluntarily did it. He did it out of love for His Father in Heaven and out of love for His fellow man. Jesus explained it this way: "Therefore doeth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received from my Father" (John 10:17-18).
If ever there was a man who had the right to glory in his own deeds, it was Jesus, but Jesus didn't seek His own glory. Instead, He gave all the glory to His Father in Heaven. However, in return, and as a consequence of His obedience, God the Father glorified His Son and gave Him everything He had (John 16:15). Because of what Jesus did, God the Father committed all judgment over to His Son (John 5:22). Because of what Jesus did, God the Father has proclaimed that salvation cannot come through any other name than that of His Son (Acts 4:12). Because of what Jesus did, God the Father authorized His Son to reward every man according to his works (Matthew 16:27).
How does this knowledge apply to us? Jesus explained to the apostle John, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelations 3:21 italics added).
Jesus overcame all the temptations and trials of life by being completely obedient to the will of His Father in Heaven, and because of His faithfulness, God the Father has given Jesus the glory to sit with Him on His throne. Jesus then declared that He will grant this same privilege to everyone who also overcomes the temptations and trials by their obedience "even as I also overcame."
On the one hand, that sounds like wonderful news, but on the other hand, that means we have to live a completely sinless and faithful life as Christ did. For most of us, that is an impossible task. Then why would Jesus offer such a reward if it was not something we could attain?
By our own efforts alone, not one person has ever lived the type of life that Jesus did. That's not because we don't have the ability to do so, but because we don't live up to the potential that lies within all of us. Yet Jesus wants us to succeed; He wants to reward us with the same glory that His Father bestowed on Him. Therefore, instead of sitting idly by and merely watching us struggle to live as He did, He stands ready to assist us in all we need help with.
Through His atonement we have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven as though they never happened. Through His teachings and example we don't have to wonder what our Father in Heaven wants us to do. Through His Spirit we receive guidance, comfort and strength to face life's trials beyond our normal ability. Through His love He answers our prayers and does things we can't possibly do, such as heal the sick, soften the hearts of others, make events happen, or help us understand the mysteries of God.
Without any effort on our part, Jesus would have nothing to work with, but despite all of our own efforts, if it wasn't for the assistance and guidance of Christ in our life, we would not succeed in always keeping the commandments of God. Therefore, regardless of what we may accomplish, we must still give thanks and glory to God for his mercy and goodness in being there to help us as we struggle to serve Him. However, even though we need His help, in the end He will glorify us for our efforts by allowing those who have overcome the trials of life to sit with Him on His throne as He now sits with His Father.
But there is another way we give glory and honor to Jesus by the things we do. "God (the Father) so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son" as an offering to take away our sins (John 3:16). This is a very insightful verse of scripture because it tells us much about our Father in heaven's feelings for us. It was the Father who designed a plan to save us from our sins, and because of His great love for us, He sent His only begotten Son into mortality to live and die in such a manner that all of our sins could be eliminated. Jesus loved us so much that He willing allowed Himself to be brutally slain without any hesitation or complaint on His part.
This scripture teaches that we are not some despicable creature in God's eyes. Obviously God the Father feels we are worthy of His love despite our disobedience. Obviously God the Son feels we are worthy His sacrifice, regardless of our sins. In fact we are told in the Bible "When I consider thy heaven, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Psalms 8:3-6). Obviously we are extremely important to both of them regardless if we accept them or not. It is hard for us to comprehend just how much we are loved by God.
In return, God asks us only to keep His commandments, which are designed to help us to become perfect and holy even as He is (Matthew 5:48, Leviticus 11:44). And what does He command? A lawyer once asked Jesus, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matthew 22:36-40).
In that one short statement, Jesus described the essence of what God wants us to do. First, love God. He has freely given us of His love, and all He asks is for us to love Him in return. Secondly, love our neighbor. Since God loves our neighbor as much as He loves us, what an insult it would be to love God but not love those who are precious to Him. Since God loves every person, we can show our love to Him by loving those whom He loves. As we look at every commandment God expects us to live by, it is easy to put each of them into one of these two categories.
When we strive with all of our heart, mind and soul to do what God wants of us, that is the sincerest form of glorifying God. When we do what God asks, we are saying, as Jesus did, "Not my will be done, but thine." That is the highest act of showing respect to God; that is the greatest way to honor God. That's why Jesus told his disciples, "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15).
If, however, we do good unto others for the purpose of gaining the glory and honor of men for ourselves, then our works become an act of self-interest rather than God's interest, they become self-serving instead of God-serving, and they tend to exalt us while ignoring the real source of goodness and love who is most worthy of the highest exaltation.
Far from diminishing God's glory, the good works which we do, if done for the right reasons, glorify God more than any lip service could ever do. Instead of passively praising God, our good works actively demonstrate our praise to Him. Our good deeds become the outward expression of how much we really do revere, honor, and respect God for all that He has done for us.
Jesus honored and glorified, not Himself by the things he said and did, but His Father in heaven. And because of what He did, God the Father, in return, glorified His Son. For those who glorify God by their deeds, God will also honor and glorify them. Jesus revealed to the apostle John, "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne" (Revelations 22:12, 3:21).