Where Do Good Works Fit In?

This week in my Seminary Apologetics class, we were asked to discuss the role of works in the life of the believer.  This is one of the subjects of discipleship about which I am quite passionate.  I love to discuss how works versus faith, just as the apostle James did.  Because this is a favorite topic, I thought I would share my brief answer with you.  Feel free to discuss the topic in the comments.

PROMPT:  Salvation is only available through the grace of God, and not through our works as many cults believe.  If works do not provide salvation, then what role do they play in the Christian life?

Philippians 2:13 makes it clear that the believer only does good works because God wills him to do so: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  In Ephesians 2, Paul spends his first nine verses explaining that the gospel makes the dead man live.  Then, in verse 10, he says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  After God makes the dead man alive in His Son, He bids the man to come and do the good works He created for him before time began.

Ephesians 2:1 says, “You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world.”  Clearly, because man is born sin-sick, outside of Christ he is spiritually dead.  Jesus put it this way in John 15:5 – “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Can, then, the human do good things outside of Christ?  Of course he can.  But these works have no spiritual bearing and produce no spiritual life.  Jesus makes the dead man live.  He makes the sinner whole.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul explains: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  This new creation, then, as discussed above, is spurred on to good works prepared beforehand.

As a new creation in Christ, the believer performs works to bring God glory.  These works are proof of the man’s salvation and new birth in Christ, for previously, he was dead in his sin.  James dives into this idea in James 2:14-26.  He asks in verse 14 if faith without works can save a man.  If a man has faith, but no works, then he does not have true faith after all, because faith produces good works.  Verse 18 sheds more light on the subject: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’  Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”  The last clause solves the issue: I will show you my faith by my works.  Works are the proof of a believer’s true faith.  If one professes to have faith, but does not produce, as a new creation in Christ, good works for God’s glory, then he is no believer at all.

Where do you stand on this issue?

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