Just for Catholics

Salvation Without Good Works: A Travesty of the Gospel

Question: I believe it is entirely possible for a person who believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and to call upon Him for the gift of eternal life, to receive salvation at that point. No good works are actually necessary. There are several examples of this in the New Testament (the criminal on the cross next to Jesus, the Phillipian jailer, etc.). Good works after receipt of the gift of eternal life result in rewards stored up in Heaven. Think of Heaven as a theater. Everyone who receives the gift of eternal life gets an admission ticket. Those with good works get better seats.

Answer: Salvation is by grace through faith. No-one is saved on the merits of his works. Indeed, whoever works to merit salvation cannot completely rely on Christ by faith. On the other hand, good works are the necessary accompaniment to genuine faith. Whoever claims to have faith but has no works is fooling himself.

So, we are not saved by our good works (we are saved by the work of Christ on the cross); yet we are not saved without good works (for God's work of salvation in the believer includes the creation of a new heart that is obedient to His God). Even the thief on the cross, in the brief time available, and with obvious limitations, revealed the saving grace of God in his heart by doing good deeds, both in rebuking the other thief for his folly and by publicly identifying himself with the despised King of the Jews. Similarly, the jailer was performing good works as soon as he believed in Christ for salvation...washing the Paul's and Silas' stripes, submitting to baptism and giving them food in his house.

Please read carefully what the Bible says on this matter:

"[God] will render to each one according to his deeds; eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God" (Romans 2:6-11).

Who, according to the above passage, will be saved? And who will be damned? And please read the words of Jesus Himself:

"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation" (John 5:28, 29).

Who, according to Jesus, will come forth unto the resurrection of life? And to the resurrection of condemnation?

Shouldn't we then warn those who claim to believe in Christ, but whose life is devoid of love and holiness, and indeed is full of all sorts of evil and hypocrisy, that they are still lost? Good works do not merely entitle us to better seats; good works are the concrete evidence that show whether our tickets are valid or not.

We must insist that "the grace of God that brings salvation" is the same grace "...teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11,12). Salvation without good works is a travesty of the Gospel.

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A