Eph. 2:8-9 – “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.”
James2:17 – “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
There are very few subjects that seem to confuse some people more than the position of works as far as their salvation is concerned. Most denominationalists vehemently deny that works have anything to do with an individual’s salvation. In fact, they contend in some instances that an effort to perform works will nullify one’s salvation. Perhaps some of these have been affected by the teaching of Martin Luther in his denunciation of the works of Catholicism. Luther was right in contending that by such works one could not be justified, but rather than accept the New Testament teaching on the subject, he advocated another extreme and that being that one is saved “soli fidi” or simply by faith. In the reading of the scriptures, we need to be careful and not accept something that has been placed in our minds by men and read the scriptures to try to justify such.
Some make a difference concerning principles in the Bible when there is no difference and then there are those who say no difference exists concerning certain subjects when a difference certainly exists. Following either one of these considerations, an individual is destined to accept error. We are aware of many who advocate that being saved and church membership are two different things, but the Bible does not make such a difference. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). This is just one of the many examples of making a difference where such does not exist. On the other hand, concerning the second fallacy, no difference is made in the minds of some concerning the subject of works when a definite difference is obvious. Yes, works are condemned in the scriptures, but what type of works are these? Some read a passage where particular works are condemned and they refer to such a passage to condemn all works. There are different types of works and not all works are of the same nature! See if you can’t see the difference between works of ‘obedience’ versus works of ‘merit’.
Works of the Law of Moses - “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). The verse on three occasions speaks of “the works of the law”. Paul is contrasting the system of works under the Old Testament or Law of Moses with the system of faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, religious teachers use such a verse to affirm that there are no works of any type that one is to perform in the system of faith to be justified. Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:4-5 also refer to works of the Law of Moses and these verses are often quoted with the intention of showing that no works are to be performed in one being accepted of God in the New Covenant. Involved in their erroneous concept is that of seeing no difference where one exists. There are different types of works revealed in the New Testament!
Works of Man’s Righteousness - “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;” (Titus 3:5). Notice how the verse qualifies works! It speaks of works which we have done. By such works, man cannot be saved. He needs the mercy of God in the gospel of Christ. The passage condemns the moral man thinking he can be saved in his own goodness or works of righteousness which he is doing. So many believe that by being morally clean and reasonably honest that salvation is assured them. This can never be “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). We need God’s mercy in the gospel. Man can never originate a plan to remove one single sin. This is condemned in the verse, but works of all nature are not condemned. The verse is not to be understood as condemning what God has for one to do in obeying the gospel of His Son.
Works of God’s Righteousness - Just as surely as the Bible condemns certain works, it also approves and sanctions certain others. In Acts 10:34-45, we read: “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” What works are involved in one being accepted with God? The works of God’s righteousness or the acts that He has ordained for one to perform in order to be accepted with Him. God has authorized faith (John 6:29) (James .2:24); repentance (Acts 17:30) (2 Peter 3:9); confession (Romans 10:10); baptism (Mark 16:16) (1 Peter 3:21) for one to obey in working His righteousness to be saved. When one obeys such, he is not working man’s righteousness, but the righteousness of God. Be not deceived!
Romans 10:2-3 – “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”