Bible Basics: Do Good Works Prove Salvation?

Eternal Salvation is a tough enough concept for people to comprehend but let’s now also consider the idea of good works. Some people believe the gospel, receive the spiritual birth of the new man but are deceived by the world’s wisdom and counterfeit teaching concerning the Christian life. The Galatian believers were drawn back to law keeping.  Sadly some people never get to the point of faith because of all the hype about good works, fruit inspection, etc. Christians need clarity on this so let’s first consider the Biblical view of works and then look at various misrepresentations and certain verses used to try to prove that works prove our eternal standing.

Part 1

What role do good works have in the Christian life? In essence, what is the big deal?

God always intended for believers to do good works

Eph 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God
hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Titus 2:14

Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify
unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Sometimes Christians get the idea that they are saved and therefore can relax knowing that they have their “ticket” to heaven. However, as we will see we were intended for great things. Note here that it does not say that we will do good works.

2 Timothy 3:14-17

But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

(The Word of God is capable not only to make us wise unto salvation but to equip us with the instruction needed for good works. Part of what people have to understand is that good works are just that – work. Likewise preparing yourself for good works takes effort. There is no effort needed to believe the gospel and be saved but the believer needs to study the Word to know what is expected of them by their Savior. We need to also understand who God is and build our ongoing relationship with Him. 2 Pet 1:1-9)

Do good works without weariness. Keep in mind the eternal profit.

2 Thes 3:13

But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.

1 Tim 4:10

For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living
God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

Gal 6:9

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint
not.

I Cor 15:58

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in
the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the
Lord.

Make use of your faith and standing in Christ.

James 2:14-17

What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works?
can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

(God intends for us to be faithful in good works and not just to be content with a useless
faith. Also remember, when we don’t live in good works we are less effective in our
witness.  Is the person needing food in this case more likely to be receptive to the gospel having had their needs met and having seen the love of Christ on display? Yes.)

Titus 3:14

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not
unfruitful.

1Tim 6:17-19

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in
uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

1Tim 5:8-10

But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath
denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.

Good works please and glorify God

Heb 13:20-21

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great
shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Romans 12:1

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies          a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Mat 5:16

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 Good works are a good testimony to others

1Pe 2:12

Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.

1Pe 3:15 -17

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to     every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.

Part 2

I did just a brief search online about “good works” and was amazed by the initial results. Very few people in the world would tell someone point blank that they needed to do good works for salvation. Yet, we hear these kind of statements all the time. Consider these false statements that any person doing a Google search could come across:

S. Michael Houdmann  – GotQuestions

“If the darkness of sin continues, we can rightly assume no light came on.”

(This is totally false. If the darkness of sin continues then it just means the person is choosing at that time to walk in the flesh as a disobedient child.)

“Good works are the product of salvation.”

“Many people go through the outward motions of giving their lives to Christ, but no lifestyle change follows. That is not real salvation but is a “dead” faith (James 2:26).”

(This is somewhat of a moot point because no amount of giving your life to Christ saves a person. He is saying that those with “dead” faith have no salvation however dead there just means useless – not in relation to eternal salvation but in relation to others. Be wary of any person period who advocates this type of view as it indicates a big theology problem.)

John MacArthur – GTY

“In 1:17-18, James affirmed that salvation is a gift bestowed according to the sovereign will of God. Now he is stressing the importance of faith’s fruit—the righteous behavior that genuine faith always produces. Paul, too, saw righteous works as the necessary proof of faith.”

(List one time where Paul does so? What about his Romans 7 struggle? Was his salvation in doubt during that time? – no.)

“James could not be more explicit. He is confronting the concept of a passive, false “faith,” which is devoid of the fruits of salvation. He is not arguing for works in addition to or apart from faith. He is showing why and how, true, living faith always works. He is fighting against dead orthodoxy and its tendency to abuse grace.”

(“Faith always works” – no. James is advocating that believers actually use their salvation for something productive. This in itself proves that faith doesn’t always work because these believers weren’t doing good works.  The Calvinist will deny that these are believers and say they are false professors but that is not how James addresses them.)

Spurgeon

“The faith which does not produce good works is not saving faith: it is not the faith of God’s elect: it is not faith at all in the Scriptural sense. ”

(False, good works are produced as a believer walks in obedience to the Spirit in application of the Word of God. Spurgeon fails to see this clearly as he is looking at this through the Calvinistic “preseverance of the saints” lens. If you don’t know what that means, ask me later.)

“Am I ordained to eternal life? Answer the other question: “Am I ordained to walk in good works?” If I am ordained to good works, then I do walk in them, and the decree of God is manifestly carried out in me. But if I make a profession of being a Christian, attend a place of worship, and compliment myself upon my safety, while I am living in sin, then evidently there is no decree that I shall walk in good works, for I am living otherwise than that decree would have caused me to live. ”

(Is it a decree that I “shall” or that I “should”? What does Eph 2:10 say again? Don’t let Calvinists redefine this for you. See the danger in their misinterpretation? They would question the salvation of legit believers based on performance. Remember salvation is not based upon performance but Christ the object of faith.)

“So, then, dear friends, these good works must be in the Christian. They are not the root, but the fruit of his salvation.”

(This is really just a sneaky way of saying the works are required for salvation.)

RC Sproul

“Martin Luther taught that justification is by faith alone. But he expanded the concept by saying that justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. A person who is truly trusting Christ and resting on Christ for redemption receives the benefits of Christ’s merit by faith. But if that person has true faith, that true faith will manifest itself in a life of obedience.”

(“..not by a faith that is alone” – this is incorrect. Faith alone in Christ alone does save not because of the supposed “kind’ of faith but because of Christ. Then what about those in James who had a dead faith so to speak? Why did those particular believers have to be admonished to do good works and make their faith mean something in terms of profitability to others?)

Catholic site:

“Catholics and Protestants agree that bare, sterile faith cannot save. Furthermore they agree that true faith is always accompanied by good works. However they part company when it comes to the purpose of such works. For Evangelicals, good works are the necessary fruit and proof of genuine faith, for which Christ will reward them at His return. For Catholics, good works preserve and increase their personal righteousness for their final justification.”

(Both are incorrect if that is what they believe because both are works righteousness – one is “backdoor” after salvation and the other one is  “frontdoor” to earn salvation.)

Here are some verses one person tried to use to try say that works prove salvation:

James 2:14-26 – (This passage is actually talking about the usefulness of one’s faith in this life. It is not talking about “kinds” of faith or the usefulness of faith to save a person.)

Matt 7:15-20 – (This has to do with false teachers and specifically the fruit that is a false gospel. It is not a way to evaluate saved people.)

John 8:12, 31 – (We are to walk in the light. Following Christ does not equal salvation. Verse 31 says “disciples” indeed not “believers” indeed. These two words should not usually be read to be synonymous. There is a place in Acts where believers are referred to as disciples but we must remember that believers can fail to be disciples as they ought and not all disciples (those trying to learn / follow after Christ) are believers. You must consider the context and intended meaning.)

John 14:15, 21-23 – (“If ye love me” not – “if you are saved”)

John 15:14 (“Ye are my friends if ye do” – not – ye are saved if you do.)

I Cor 6:9-11 – (Notice verse 11.  Believers are capable of doing these sins through the flesh but we cannot be labeled as such due to justification (being declared not guilty) and positional sanctification (being set apart unto God). No matter what we do in this life as believers we are always labeled as righteous in God’s sight.  Though we may find ourselves practically walking in disobedience in the flesh at times, God always sees Christ’s blood covering our sin.)

2 Cor 5:19 – (This is a commonly misused verse. It is talking about the creation of the new man and the reconciliation between God and man. Some mistake this to mean that the old man is completely gone. Others use it to say that if there is ever sin in your life then you might be unsaved. Neither are true if you compare scripture with scripture. Just start with the sins that the Corinthian believers were committing. Had they ceased sinning? – No. Had they proven by their sin that they were unsaved? – No.)

Gal 5:19-23 – (Look back up at verses 16 -18 then down at verses 25 and 26. Why be told to walk in the Spirit if we live in the Spirit?  That means to me that it is not automatic. Verse 26 tells us to not desire vain glory or to provoke one another.  Even Christians can do those things. Doing them does not make them unsaved but makes them disobedient children. Why should we want to be disobedient children if we remember the love Christ had in sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins?

Conclusion:

Good works were God’s intention for believers from eternity past. They do not come automatically as they require effort and preparation. Good works are profitable to others and well pleasing to God as they glorify Him. Good works are a good testimony and enhance our opportunity for witness. Our works do not prove salvation because salvation is not based on works. It is based on the object of our faith – Christ.

This entry was posted in Bible Basics, Free Grace and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Bible Basics: Do Good Works Prove Salvation?

  1. John G. says:

    Great article! I will share this my
    Brothers & sisters.
    Bless you for True Words.
    John Gregory

  2. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks John G. God bless you brother.

    Jim F

  3. jimfloyd12 says:

    To the commenter named Vivator. I read through some of your links but I will not allow links to Catholic sites. I did see how the one link still demonstrated error on both the Catholic and protestant side. Plus there are many protestants that also agree that faith itself is a gift from God but both are still incorrect. The Bible states no such thing.

  4. Pingback: Bible Basics: Do Good Works Prove Salvation? | Redeemingmoments

  5. hollysgarcia says:

    Faith and works are contrasted throughout the Bible. If faith was a gift that was bestowed upon the ones God chose to go to heaven, there really is no need for the admonitions to ‘have faith’, or the commendations of ‘great faith’ or the chastisement for ‘oh ye of little faith’. It would make no sense if it is God who has given the faith, it will be perfect since as John MacArthur used James 1:17-18 to somehow liken faith as being the gift, that gift would be perfect, and not need any fixing, or exhortations to have it. The perfect gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  6. jimfloyd12 says:

    Yes, and people need to remember that salvation itself is the gift. Eternal salvation is not a reward.

    Good works must be understood after one has trusted Christ alone as Savior. The person that has not trusted Christ need not worry about goods works until after they receive the gift of salvation through faith.

    Btw, in case any are wondering. I accept only what the Bible has to say on this. No Pope or popular pastor has the right to change things to make faith the gift and goods works the proof being made to believe.

  7. sam says:

    Its a serious error to mix works with grace in salvation according to Rom 11:6 and Eph 2:8-9 and other verses.I often wonder why some of these websites you mentioned can’t see that works and a free gift are not in harmony with each other.Anyway Jim I enjoy learning from you, Holly, and others that have good insight on these matters.

  8. jimfloyd12 says:

    Sam, it is hard to fathom at times how people can be so easily deceived. It shows us the skill of the deceiver and the gullibleness of man. The devil always twists things to appear as opposites. Think what he said in the garden of Eden to Eve.

  9. Jim, I believe it is pride that makes these folks to believe their works will put them in good standing before God this is why the gospel is so hard to believe for much of humanity since it goes against the very philosophy that governs the world, effort and hard work and this is where religion draws its strength from, drawing people away from the cross where their sins were nailed and walking on blindly in unbelief toward destruction proverbs 14:12.

  10. jimfloyd12 says:

    Derick, thanks for your comment. I agree that pride can play a part. Those who fruit inspect others to try to discern their eternal state tend to be puffed up. It is normal for man to have a harsher judgement on others. That and just consider the Pharisees or the rich young ruler. They had the pride to think that they could do something to inherit eternal life. Christ however made it clear to the rich young ruler that he could not inherit eternal life that way be he was still coveteous. He could get rid of his sin on his own. He needed Christ’s righteousness. Also, Nicodemus was told that he had to be born again through faith in Him.

    Pride sees works as a badge of honor (something to make people look good) but meekness and humility see them as love for Christ and others (making Christ look good).

  11. Angela B says:

    Great article, Jim!

  12. jimfloyd12 says:

    Thanks Angela, I appreciate the encouragement. I hope it is a blessing to you and others.

  13. Pingback: Bible Basics by Stand for the Faith. | Redeemingmoments

  14. hollysgarcia says:

    On John MacArthur, I’m guessing he’s incorrectly using 2 Cor 13:5 as proof that Paul was questioning people’s faith. As for your article, Titus 3:8 also comes to mind, why would we need to affirm constantly with others to maintain good works if it was just automatic?

    This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s