Are Good Works Necessary for Salvation?

Are good works necessary for salvation? Let’s look in the Bible for answers. In Luke chapter 23, the Bible tells us that there were two criminals hanging next to Jesus. We can see how the two criminals responded to Jesus. One mocked him, the other asked for forgiveness. They both encountered Jesus but only one accepted him. With his dying breath, Jesus forgave the criminal of everything he had ever done and he assured the man he would be with him in Paradise. What is your idea on how the criminal was saved? It is clear that this criminal was saved by God’s grace through his faith in Jesus Christ.

Luke 8:9-14 Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. He contrasts two people in the story. The Pharisee boasts of his good deeds, he looks down on the tax collector, he trusts in himself that he was righteous and regarded others with contempt. The tax collector however was humble, he admitted that he’s a sinner and needed God’s mercy, he trusted in God, not on good works. These verses make it clear that being good compared to other people is insufficient to qualify one for salvation. To be qualified for salvation through one’s own effort, one would have to be as holy as God himself. Salvation is not based on any human standard of goodness. In Ephesians 1:7, it says “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” Only the blood of Jesus Christ can take away sins. Doing the sacraments or any good work will not and cannot make you holy. Your sins will not be forgiven no matter how many sacraments or good deeds you do. Only Jesus can forgive sins. Redemption is only possible through the blood of Jesus.

Many people think God will judge us with a set of scales that compare our good deeds with our bad deeds. But that is not the picture of the basis of our standing before God as it is found in the Bible. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “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.” The man hanging on the cross with Jesus was absolutely not a good person; he was a criminal, a thief. He did not have good works to qualify for heaven, he did not fulfill the sacraments. And yet because of God’s amazing grace, this criminal was saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Based on Ephesians 2:8-9 if salvation can be expressed in a formula, which do you think is the correct one? The correct answer is the latter, B. Only faith in Jesus saves. Good works is the evidence that we are saved. Good works are not the means to salvation, rather they are the evidence of your salvation. We don’t do good works to be saved, we do good works because we are already saved. We do good works because we want to obey and honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:15-16 says “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law because by the works of the law, no one will be justified.” 

It is clear from the Bible that salvation is not the result of good deeds. We can never be good enough to please God because he is righteous and holy and we are not. That is why it is called God’s grace. Grace is undeserved favor, it is a gift you do not earn it. Salvation is not based on how many good works we have done. God did not treat us as our sins deserve. Salvation is not something we achieve but something we received by faith in Jesus Christ. Teaching that sacraments impart grace is not biblical because we cannot do anything to make us holy before God. In the Bible it says that “our own righteousness is like filthy rags in God’s eyes.” 

Psalm 103

8 The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

    slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,

    nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve

    or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

    so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,

    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

What do these verses say about the forgiveness God offers? Have you ever placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation? If you have not done so, would you like to right now? If you would like to do so, simply pray in faith asking him to come into your life as your Savior and Lord. If you have already done so, thank God that he has saved you, forgiven your sins and given you a new life.