After a discussion on some confusion in one of my earlier posts, I feel like I should devote a whole post to this today. How necessary are works to your faith? Let’s start from the top.
First of all, let’s clear the stage with a statement that not everyone’s going to enjoy. You can do nothing, and I mean nothing to earn salvation. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The verse is pretty clear. That means that it is Christ completely, 100%, who gets salvation to sinners like us. Anyone wanting to get to heaven just by being good most of the time is in a bit of trouble. And by a bit, I mean a lot of trouble. Like, on the road to the place with weeping and gnashing of teeth kind of trouble. Not offended yet? Alright then, let’s keep going.
So, if we believe that, then how much leeway do we Christians have with sinning? Does that mean we can just basically confess our sins, ask Christ to be our Saviour and then have nothing to do with Him anymore?
Those who hold to Lordship Salvation may have just had a heart attack in their seat. Someone help those guys out, would you please? Thanks. Now to clarify.
This does not in any way mean that we should do what I just said we technically can do. There’s an entire book of the bible devoted to answering the question I just posed. That would be James, one of my favourites. It’s what I’m going to base most of this next part of the post on.
The full answer: salvation can exist without works, but if you’re not doing anything… well, what’s the point? Now, obviously, you still get to Heaven, but you’re not going to bring anyone else there by you acting the exact same as you did before! James sums this thought up very well, so here’s a whole lot of text.
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:14-19)
So, in closing, yes, we can still go to Heaven even if we don’t act like a Christian. Sadly, this whole “saved sinner” shtick has taken a lot of root in our modern culture. Everybody seems to want to be a saved sinner rather than a sanctified** saint. They prefer to embrace the holes in their ship rather than embrace God’s holiness. Get the idea? If we’re saying that we’re saved, we should constantly be trying to emulate Christ with our actions. God plans to sanctify you, so let Him do it! Is it that journey towards holiness that saves us? Heck no! We are saved only by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross; no if, ands, or buts. But that journey does help us as a follower of Christ. So don’t just have your faith. Live it, too!
**For those who aren’t familiar with the term, sanctification simply is the process of becoming more Christlike as we continue our walk with Christ. For more information on sanctification, please see all of Romans 6:1-23, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20, and Matthew 7:15-17.