Summary: Where do good works fit into our lives? Are they part of the process of our getting saved? Or of staying saved? The biblical answer is neither one, but good works definitely do have a place. Let’s see where.
The apostle Paul wrote of the great truth of
To Titus Paul wrote clearly that the Lord “saved us, not because of any works” (even attempted righteous works) that we have done, but rather “because of [the Lord’s] own compassion and mercy.” I spent my first 25 years in a religious tradition that wrongly prioritized works as important to entering and keeping our salvation. Then I finally heard the liberating truth of salvation by grace through faith, not by works.
So, point one: We don't do our good works to get saved. Rather, our salvation is by grace through faith. Now onto the next question: having come to the Lord for salvation by grace through faith, do we do good works to stay saved?
We are “begotten again” (born again) as a gift of God’s grace, of His “abundant mercy.” The apostle Peter is in full agreement on this with the apostle Paul, who wrote: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).
Peter goes a step further and says that we are “KEPT by the power of God through faith.” God’s power keeps, guards, protects us “through faith” — not through works! — right up to the second coming of Jesus Christ, when all the saved will receive their glorious, immortal bodies in exchange for our present mortal, corruptible bodies (Philippians 3:20f). Contrary to what some have suggested, the believer is not saved by grace and kept by works. It is our faith in the Lord and in His grace and power that brings us into the experience of both God’s salvation and His keeping power.
So, point two: We do not do our good works to stay saved, just as we do not do good works to get saved. Well then, where do good works fit into the saved person’s life, if not to get saved or to stay saved? Let’s look at a few Scriptures that answer this clearly.
The apostle Paul laid down one of the foundation stones of biblical theology — salvation by grace through faith (vs. 8), not by works (vs. 9). However, too many Bible readers overlook the next verse (10). It reminds the saved person that he/she is a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), “created in Christ Jesus.” And Paul tells us that one of God’s purposes in saving us, in causing us to be “created in Christ Jesus,” is TO DO GOOD WORKS!
Good works absolutely have an important place in the born-again believer’s life: not to get saved, not to stay saved, but because we are saved. We are now what the apostle calls “God’s handiwork” — born again, made new creations in Christ, entering upon a lifetime of growing into the image of Christ our Savior. And part of God’s handiwork in all of that is to equip us and call the saved believer to a lifetime of good works for God’s glory — “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, KJV).
To sum up the order: (1) We come to God through Jesus Christ for salvation by grace through faith, not by works … (2) then as born-again believers, as God’s handiwork, we do good works as God enables us, in order to let His light shine through us and thereby to bring glory to God.
What then is the part of good works in the Christian’s life? Not to get saved … not to stay saved … but because we are saved and want to let the Lord’s light in us shine forth in a way that brings glory to God!
Here are a few closing Scriptures to encourage and exhort the Christian believer to good works:
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©2020, James H. Feeney.
& Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.