What a liberating truth we find in the Gospel that our salvation does not depend on how good we are – it’s a gift from God!
‘For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.’ (Eph 2:8-9 ESV)
No amount of good deeds will ever earn us salvation or get us into heaven – only faith in what Christ did on the cross will do that. We do not do anything to earn it; Christ did it all for us and all we have to do is believe and receive it. Yet there is a misconception about faith in many quarters. Some people seem to think that to believe implies doing nothing. So they are confused about how to practise faith. They have come to equate having faith with being passive. But the scriptures teach nothing like that. Just read through that great chapter on faith (Hebrews 11) and you will see a faith that acts:
‘By faith Abel offered a sacrifice…By faith Noah…moved with godly fear…By faith Abraham obeyed…By faith Abraham… offered up Isaac…By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau…By faith Moses…refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter…By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land’
Notice that the faith of every one of these men (and women) always made them do something. The Bible knows nothing of a faith that does not produce action. This is what James speaks of when he says ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26 – KJV).
A faith that does not lead to a definite action on the part of a man is no faith at all. It is the very response of faith that makes faith, faith. James says ‘Show me your faith without deeds (which he knew was impossible), and I will show you my faith by what I do (by my action born out of what I believe – my response to the work of grace within me)’ (James 2:18b). You see, while it is possible to act without faith, it is impossible to have true faith and not act. For when we truly believe something we are going to begin to act as if it were true. This is why the local church in any locality should be the group of people with the most zeal to do good deeds.
‘Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.’ (Titus 2:14 KJV)
I love how we are described here – a peculiar people zealous of good works. Not redeemed by good deeds but redeemed to do good deeds! A people of faith are a people of action – they are nation changers. The work of salvation in our heart produces a people eager to bring redemptive actions into society. That’s who we are. The action of faith is a response to what you believe. It is behaving as if what you believe is a reality. If we believe God cares for everyone then it will move us to demonstrate His care to everyone. We can’t have faith and be indifferent.
I want to revisit the verses in Ephesians 2 that I quoted at the start of this article and add the verse that follows;
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
The very verse that follows the proclamation that we are saved ‘not (as) a result of works’ goes on to say we are ‘created in Christ Jesus (created now as new creatures in Christ) for good works’! Wow that what we are redeemed for – to do good works.
Our faith should thrust us out there in whatever sphere or influence or opportunities God gives us – serving on school boards to bring change, visiting the sick in hospitals, providing food for the hungry, or working in government to bring about good policies. We should be the voice for the oppressed and the champion for the poor and downtrodden. It is the action that faith produces that makes us salt and light in our world.
Good deeds will not get us into heaven, but they are the obvious fruits of the lives of men and women who are going to heaven.