In a world filled with conflicting interpretations of what one must do to be saved, it is my conviction, and that of GES, that good works are not necessary for a person to be justified before God. Because justification is by faith alone in Christ alone, good works play absolutely no role in our salvation.
My friends, one of the greatest travesties that has ever occurred is taking place all around us. It has become commonplace in American Christianity to judge a person’s salvation based upon their deeds. Have you ever heard the expression, “Well he/she sure doesn’t act like a Christian”? Please don’t confuse what I’m saying. We believe that, although good works can confirm what we already know to be true, they should never be the means by which we determine whether we have been born again.
This is not to say that there are believers who have never done any good works. (I realize that some have died the very moment they believed in Christ, in which case they had no opportunity to produce good works.) However, the fact that all Christians produce varying degrees of good works (Luke 8:6-8, 13-15) in no way suggests that assurance of salvation can be acquired from those works.
Because we believe that justification is by faith alone, apart from works, some people mistakenly conclude that we believe that good works are not necessary. On the contrary, we believe that good works are indeed necessary for a number of reasons.
To Help Others
Picture this scenario. You have just left work on a Friday afternoon. Leaving your headaches at the office, you head home for a weekend vacation with the family. Traffic is horrendous, but you manage to travel at a moderate speed. Then the impossible happens. Your car begins to stall. You have run out of gas in the middle of bumper-to-bumper traffic, and everyone in the city is behind you honking. You’re not going anywhere. At this moment your car is a useless pile of steel and plastic.
Just as a car without gas is dead, ineffective, and useless, so is faith without works. If I may press the analogy, good works are the fuel that makes our faith profitable in the lives of others around us. In James 2:14-26, we see that unless we put our faith to work, ours is a dead religion. If we see a brother or sister in need, and we wish them well, but we don’t help them with their need, what use is that (James 2:15-16)? Thus, in order to have a vibrant faith that touches others, we must add works.
To Avoid God’s Discipline
The Bible tells us that the parent who spares the rod spoils the child. Unfortunately the spoiled child often grows up to be an obstinate adult. God is the Perfect Parent and He desires the best for His children. He will not spoil us. That is, He doesn’t spare the rod when we need it! Make no mistake, the believer who is not honoring God with his works and who is defiant in his actions will experience the Lord’s discipline.
To Have Abundant Life
Given the choice, would you want to have an abundant life or one that is just average? God’s desire is that we have, not only life, but abundant life (John 10:10). The abundant life comes as a result of walking in the light of God’s Word over time. As we are open and honest with God (1 John 1:9), He changes us. We produce more and more good works. And as that happens, we experience the abundant life He wants for each of us.
To Gain and Maintain God’s Approval
We cannot imagine how wonderful it would be to enter into the presence of God and hear, “Well done, good servant” (Luke 19:17). While God accepts all believers (John 1:12-13), He only approves of those who persevere in good works (1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, if we do not grow weary in doing well we will be so honored (Galatians 6:9). Do well so that you will be approved at His coming!
To Lay Up Treasure in Heaven
What would our lives look like if every time we were presented with the choice to do good works we could see our potential treasure in heaven? The Scriptures teach that every time a believer does any good work with the right motive he lays up eternal treasure (Matthew 6:19-21). Even a cup of cold water given in Jesus’ name warrants a reward (Matthew 10:42). Whether or not we persevere, all good works will be repaid with some measure of treasure in the kingdom. The more good we do, the more treasure we lay up. That is why only a fool makes this world his treasure.
To Have Confidence at the Bema
Every Christian will be judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ (or Bema). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). The key to confidence at the Judgment Seat is to abide in Christ and His love: “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming” (1 John 2:28).
To Rule with Christ Forever
It was God’s intention that man would have dominion over His creation (Genesis 1:26). However, the fall hindered the fulfillment of this purpose. In this fallen world our dominion is flawed. That is why many Christians have little interest in ruling with Christ in the life to come. They don’t realize that we were created for this and that modern government falls quite short of what the government of the King of kings will be.
Only by persevering in our confession of faith in Christ can we rule with Him forever (2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 10:23-25). And such confession is itself a good work, one that often brings with it persecution. Friends, set your eyes on the future, for if we persevere, we will reign with Christ.
Are good works optional in the Christian life? May it never be! God requires us to do good works, but not for eternal life. Those who have eternal life are exhorted to produce good works or else bear the consequences.
The Free Grace message promotes holiness. Man-made theologies do not produce sanctified believers. Legalism flat out doesn’t work. The Free Grace message allows for the possibility of failure in the Christian life, but any system that does not is unbiblical and ineffective. Knowing that I might fail and suffer the consequences of that failure motivates me to serve Him all the more.