Many people today are unaware of what the Bible actually has to say about this. Jehovah’s Witnesses I have spoken to in particular, appear to believe that whilst the atonement of Christ goes some way towards this, God will only justify and declare us righteous on the basis of sufficient further works on our part.
This is however in direct contrast to what the Scriptures teach, as follows: –
Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us we are saved by grace (or God’s unmerited favour) through faith, and that it is the gift of God and not of works.
Romans 5: 17 calls it the gift of righteousness.
Romans 4.4 speaks very plainly to those who believe that the sacrifice of God’s own Son was not sufficient to put them into a right standing before God and believe that they need to add works to it. To those who work (to try to obtain righteousness) the reward is not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But he who doesn’t work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
It is because we have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus alone, and have come into a living relationship with Him as a result, that we will want to work to do those things, which please Him.
In actual fact James 2: 20 to 24 makes this very point when he demonstrates that if we really do have this true life changing faith in Jesus then it will as a result be accompanied by action. If nothing else happens after we have made the claim that we believe, then that is clearly not saving faith, or is dead.
In the case that James illustrates, the genuineness of Abraham’s faith was shown by his action. That is to say that his action was in confirmation of something that had already happened – i.e. his faith in God.
So then the works we do are a natural outcome of the new relationship with God we have already entered into, having received from Him the gift of righteousness and being totally accepted by Him!
There is no way I can add anything to the sacrifice of the blood of God’s Son by working! There was no shortfall in the price that He paid, it was full and complete and totally sufficient for me. For me to think that God’s sacrifice is deficient to the extent that my own miserable works are required to make up the weight would be for me an insult to God.
The Scriptures teach that if we have received God’s gift of righteousness by faith and have as a result come into a personal relationship with Him then we should be careful to maintain good works.
Titus chapter 3 is one of a number of places in Scripture that shows us this. In verse 5 we read that it was not by works of righteousness, which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.
And in verse 8, that those who have believed in God ought to be careful to maintain good works.
Having believed and having been saved, and having been justified (verse 7), are events or happenings, which have already taken place for these believers.
Good works then should follow after we have come into a personal
relationship with God through Jesus, having been saved by faith, born anew, having had our sins forgiven and been made righteous by God.
Further light is shown on works and salvation in verses 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, which say that our works in this life will be tested by fire.
However, even if none of our works are worthy to stand the test, if our foundation is in Jesus (verse 11) we shall be saved, even though we will not merit any reward (verse 15). Works then are clearly shown here again as having no part in our salvation, which is based on our foundational relationship with Jesus Christ.
It must be emphasised however, that before we can come into this saving personal relationship with Jesus, receive the gift of righteousness and stand accepted before God, we must have a right understanding of who Jesus is.
In terms of nature, there is a vast and unfathomable gulf between God and what He has created. In terms of our salvation and our relationship with God, the consequence of getting wrong our understanding of who Jesus really is, of necessity puts a similar unbridgeable gulf between God and us.
It is sad therefore that there are those who knock on our doors today who bring a doctrine that disqualifies Jesus from the Divine titles and honour accorded Him in the Scriptures, making it impossible to carry out the commandment that all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father (John 5: 23).
Equally, like so many of His day, if we simply have a knowledge of Him without recognizing and acknowledging who He really is, then the words of Jesus in John 8:24 must surely apply to us as it did for them,
.…”for if you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins”.
There remains no reconciliation with God, and the certain and fearful prospect of facing the awesome judgment of a holy God with a lifetime of our unforgiven sins.
How then do we actually come into this righteous standing, life changing relationship for all eternity with God? What does the Bible say?
Firstly, we need to repent or turn away from all known sin in our life.
Acts 17:30, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19
Secondly, we need to fully understand that Jesus is the Divine Son of God, and was God manifest in the flesh. Also, that the atonement He made for our sins was totally sufficient and needs nothing added.
1 Timothy 3:16, John 1:1, John 3:16, Isaiah 53:6, 1Peter 3:18.
Thirdly, we need to respond to the invitation that He gives to receive Him into our lives as Lord and God, and to follow Him.
John 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
And fourthly, we need to acknowledge Jesus Christ before others.
Romans 10:9 & 10, Mark 8:38
If you have not yet come into this essential life transforming relationship the opportunity is yours now. The writer of Psalm 116 answers the question of what do we need to do to pay back to God for all that He has done for us (verses 12 & 13). The answer he gives does not involve good works but simply to receive from Him the cup of salvation.
The gracious invitation comes down through all the centuries to you today from the Son of God Himself.
“And let him who is thirsty come. Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” Revelation 22:17