Question 14: Must we do good works to be saved?
No. Salvation is by grace through faith.
The Bible is very clear that salvation is by grace. That means it is a gift. What is a gift? A gift is free. It is not something that you pay for or earn in any way. It is totally unmerited. When your parents give you gifts for your birthday, it is not because you earned them by doing chores, or by being good. Your parents give you gifts because they love you. Salvation is the same. God does not save us because we earned it, but because He loves us. The Bible is also very clear that salvation is by faith. You don’t receive salvation by going to church, or by taking communion, or by being baptized. You receive the gift of salvation by trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and King.
It is impossible to earn salvation by doing good works because it is impossible to be good enough. How good do you need to be to go to heaven? Perfect. And none of us are perfect. The Bible says that there are only two ways to get to heaven. One, you must be perfect. Or two, you must be forgiven. Since the only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus, then we must be forgiven. God’s forgiveness is a free gift to those who repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many people believe that after death we will stand before God to be judged, and He will weigh our good deeds against our bad deeds. If the good outweigh the bad, then God will let us into heaven. If not, then we will be cast into hell. But this is not how salvation works. Sin cannot be atoned for by doing good deeds; it can only be atoned for by the death penalty. And since God, the person we have sinned against, is eternal, the penalty must be eternal. Even if you only sin once and then do good deeds for the rest of your life, your one sin must still be punished with eternal death.
Suppose a murderer was arrested and convicted by a jury, and the judge said to him, “Do you have anything to say?” The murderer replies, “Your honor, I admit that I committed murder. But other than that one bad deed, I have spent my entire life being a good person. I have always given a tithe to my church, and I regularly do good deeds for family, friends, and even strangers.” Since the murderer has done more good than bad, would it be just and fair for the judge to let him go free? Absolutely not. Nor would it be just and fair for God to let you go free and not punish you for your sins.
God is love, but He is also holy and just. He hates sin, and He must punish sin. To overlook and ignore sin would violate His character. But because God is love, He provided a way of salvation. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place, for our sins, as our substitute, and then He rose again. Now, anyone who repents and has faith in Jesus Christ can be forgiven, reconciled to God, and receive eternal life. In this way God’s love and justice are both displayed and satisfied. So the way to salvation is not to do good works, but to trust in the good work that Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. Good works are an important part of the Christian life, but they are not the way to salvation. Salvation can only be obtained if we recognize that no matter how good we behave, we still deserve hell apart from God’s grace through Jesus Christ.
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some examples of good works?
- Must we do good works to be saved? Explain.
- Will God still send you to hell if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds? Explain.
- What are the only two ways to get to heaven?
- Would it be just and fair for God to overlook and ignore our sin? Explain.
For Further Study:
- Matthew 5:20
- John 3:16
- Romans 5:1-2
- Ephesians 2:8-9
- Titus 3:3-7