Salvation: Does it have to be earned by good works?
Nearly everyone, even every church goer you will ever meet, thinks personal works of some kind have something to do with the attainment of salvation for entrance into heaven. This kind of thinking is not new. It began at the beginning of human history when Adam and Eve sinned and immediately assumed they themselves could resolve their sin problem they had created.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. [Emphasis added]
The fig leaves sewn simply represent man’s futile attempt to resolve his problems on his own. His sin problem would remain without a solution until God provided it through the Lord Jesus Christ.
12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: [Emphasis added]
Not until God lovingly and graciously provided a solution through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection would this problem be resolved.
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. [Emphasis added]
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. [Emphasis added]
After a lifetime of discussing salvation with people, it has become clear to me that most of the people who think they are going to heaven are not. That may sound harsh and judgmental to you, but I am only going by what people say when asked about what they think is the means to salvation and getting into heaven. In fact, all you need to do is ask people a simple question. They themselves will tell you what they are relying on. Here is the question.
If you were to die today and Jesus Christ asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?
Just remember that if you ask this question, let the person speak without interference. Typically, they will tell you what they are relying on. In other words, what you will discover is that nearly every one of them will tell you what they’ve done or what they’re doing to get to heaven. Rarely will you find a person who will immediately tell you they have put their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as the sole basis for their salvation. But that and that alone is the correct answer. Instead of that, here are some things you will hear.
I’ve been baptized.
I try to live a good life.
I’ve repented of my sins.
I’ve asked God to save me.
I’ve given my heart to Jesus.
I went forward at my church.
I committed my life to Christ.
I try to live by the golden rule.
I do the best I can to please God.
I asked Christ to come into my heart.
I strive to live by the 10 Commandments.
I’ve asked God to forgive me of all my sins.
I’m a member of … [they name their church].
I’m hoping that the good works I’ve done will qualify me.
I don’t think I’ve done anything that makes me deserve hell.
I think the good things I’ve done outweigh the bad things I’ve done.
The reality is that not even one of these things will qualify a person for heaven. Even a combination of them won’t provide it either. Why is that? Because personal works cannot provide salvation. No matter what we may think of them, a person’s personal works of righteousness have always been repugnant to God.
6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. [Emphasis added]
If personal works could provide salvation, Christ died in vain. What was the purpose of Christ’s coming to this earth as He did if we can save ourselves through our own personal works?
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. [Emphasis added]
Furthermore, what was the purpose of His death, burial and resurrection? Some people may think He simply came to set the example for us by His manner of life. But where is that taught in Scripture. The Bible tells us salvation does not demand personal works. It tells us salvation comes by grace and through personal faith in the work God has done through Jesus Christ, namely, His death, burial, and resurrection.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
Most people are not even aware that these things are stated in the Bible. But there they are! Personal works have absolutely nothing to do with the attainment of salvation. That is a part of why this message concerning our salvation is called the gospel. The word, gospel, means good news. This message concerning the means to salvation is the best news you will ever hear. Salvation is free and eternal in value. As priceless as it is, there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn or deserve it.
There was a time before the revelation given to us in Scripture through the writings of the Apostle Paul that certain works were demanded as the means by which a person expressed their faith for salvation.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? [Emphasis added]
We find that even in the days of Abraham, certain specific works were demanded of God as an expression of one’s faith.
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? [Emphasis added]
But now in our time, through the revelation God gave the Apostle Paul, we find that such works are no longer demanded.
5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Emphasis added]
Of all things in life, this is the most important truth for you to get straight in your mind. The fact that salvation comes to us freely through what Christ did to provide it is life changing. What peace of mind is provided now when we know we’re saved and bound for heaven! Furthermore, this changes things for us for all eternity. Instead of having to spend eternity in a place of torment, we get to spend eternity in this wonderful place He’s preparing for us called heaven. This comes to us courtesy of God’s love and God’s grace provision for our salvation. The only part we have in it is to receive it by faith. It is just as the Apostle Paul once told a Philippian jailer. He readily told him that by believing His message, even his whole household could be saved by believing these things.
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. [Emphasis added]
What confidence and peace of mind is provided when we know this matter is settled once and for all!