Good Works Cannot Save You

I’ve often heard Christians say that, “The evidence of salvation is good works,” while others have said, “No, the evidence of salvation is inward belief.” Why do Christians feel the need to make a distinction here? While it is true that both are evidence of salvation, proponents of each needn’t argue in favor of one over the other; it’s completely unnecessary.

Make no mistake about it: Christians are justified (saved) by grace alone through faith alone. Period! There should be no argument here among believers; we are saved through faith! However, when we start talking about evidence, and that sort of thing, unnecessary arguments will almost always ensue. Perhaps it’s because evidence differs between individuals, but Scripture is clear about how we are saved:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

How often have we heard these verses quoted by those who wish to delegitimize good works, or those who think that good works aren’t necessary for salvation? I have heard them countless times; what amazes me is how they almost always ignore the next verse:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 8:10).

Did you catch that? We were created to do good works! We are not saved by works, but if we are saved, we will certainly do good works.

To be clear, we don’t do good works because we are trying to earn salvation. Rather, we do good works because we have salvation. To suggest that once we are saved we do not need to do good works is just simply unbiblical. James tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15-21). Paul tells us to get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, and filthy language (Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8). Peter tells us the same thing, only adding that we should grow up in our salvation (1 Peter 2:1-3). The list goes on and on; the Bible is replete with the commanding of good works. To suggest that Christians don’t need to do good works, could not be further from the truth.

Good works is the way in which we demonstrate our living faith to a dying world, so it is evidence of salvation! People who confess Christ, but continue to sin with no desire to do otherwise, are hypocrites whose faith is dead and useless! They need to examine themselves to make sure they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5-8).

That does not mean, however, that when Christians do sin, they really aren’t saved, nor does it mean that they should go on sinning since they are saved; Paul vehemently forbids this kind of attitude and behavior in Romans 6 and 7. We know we will continue to struggle with sin while in this world, while still in the flesh. The Bible tells us that no one is righteous, not one (Romans 3:10). The question is, “Are we remorseful when we do sin; when we do fall short?” If we are, we are in the right place because God does not despise the broken hearted (Psalm 51:17). If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).

Since we have been saved, let us do good works! Let us demonstrate to the world that we have been saved. If we truly are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), we ought to also have a new life, manifest in good works and loving our neighbor (including our enemies) as the Lord commands (Matthew 22:37-40; Matthew 5:43-45).