Any pastor that teaches that salvation is something to be earned by good works is not teaching biblical truth. The Bible is clear that salvation is not something we can earn or do for ourselves.
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 of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” which clarifies that no one is exempt from this standing. We all deserve punishment for our sins. In the following verse though, we are given hope through his grace. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (vs. 24). Later, verse 28 leaves no room for questioning the basis of our salvation, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.”
Salvation is not a reward for anything good we do or payment for something we accomplish. It is an undeserved gift of God’s mercy (Titus 3:7). We are all sinners and all deserve punishment for our sins. On our own we can do nothing, but through His justification and redemption we are saved.
Because our salvation is by faith and not works, the good works that we do are motivated by the gratitude we feel toward our Savior and a desire to live for Him. Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” We should not stop doing good works, but it is essential that we understand that good works do not contribute to our salvation.
Ultimately, it should be a relief to us that salvation is not based on works. No matter how hard we try, no matter how many good deeds we accomplish, no matter how hard we strive to be good, we will fail at being perfect. And for a holy God, absolute perfection is the requirement. Jesus Christ has provided a way when there was no other way. Through His gift of salvation, we are now justified by faith in Him, giving us hope, purpose, and the incredible opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
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