How Do "Good Works" Factor into Salvation?
“For the [remarkable, undeserved] grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to reject ungodliness and worldly (immoral) desires, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives [lives with a purpose that reflect spiritual maturity] in this present age, awaiting and confidently expecting the [fulfillment of our] blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who [willingly] gave Himself [to be crucified] on our behalf to redeem us and purchase our freedom from all wickedness, and to purify for Himself a chosen and very special people to be His own possession, who are enthusiastic for doing what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14, AMP)
The struggle between works-salvation and faith-salvation is one that I find many Christians grapple with. Like it or not, many in the church pew tend to think that their ticket to heaven gets upgraded based on how many good things they can do for the world and other people. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes I get in my head like that too because this whole world runs off of a performance-based lifestyle.
How many likes can I get on this post?
How can I excel at work to get a promotion?
How can I excel at school to get good grades?
How can I make myself more attractive to the opposite sex?
It’s no wonder the question, “How can I look like a better Christian” has a tendency to be answered off of something that is tangible like good works. But you see, once we pick up our Bibles, we are reminded time and again how big a trap that thought process can be. The truth is, no good work can qualify you for salvation, because you cannot get salvation. You can only receive salvation.
And when Paul writes to Titus, he reminds the Cretan church that good works don’t earn you salvation, since God has already made salvation readily accessible for all people. You can only receive salvation by believing in Jesus and surrendering your life to Him. The key is, the event of receiving salvation should draw your heart to be transformed so that good work shows the fruit of your faith. Good works are not the means to salvation, but salvation should be the reason Christians do good work.
You see, salvation should be a life-altering moment in our lives that causes us to change the way we live. We should no longer live by a worldly standard of living and a superficial gauge of success. Instead, we should allow our salvation to train ourselves to renounce evil and ungodliness, live a Christian lifestyle, and stay alert for Jesus’ return. In short, our love for Jesus and our faith in Him should be the root cause that we denounce our sinful ways and live righteously. Titus didn’t want to raise up a church of people that partied all Saturday night and then stumbled into church next Sunday morning. He wanted to raise up a church of people who really understood the Gospel, allowed that to change their hearts, and became genuine Christians.
Does that mean we’re always perfect? No. But it does mean that when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we follow that conviction and surrender that sinful habit to God. If we keep ourselves holy because we know that it brings delight to the Father to see us holy like He is, then we can rest assured that Jesus will be delighted to gather us as the Bride and bring us into eternity with Him.
Because Jesus wants you. He gave Himself to redeem you. He gave Himself so that you could be freed from your sin and be purified to the point where he could make us his “very special people.” In fact, the original word for that word “special” is “periousios,” which means reserved for; in the way a king would reserve the very best spoils of war for himself.
And that’s what Jesus did for you: the King of everything gave everything to win the war for your very soul. And in winning that war over evil, He has every right to the very best spoils of that war. And out of all the things He could reserve for Himself to enjoy, He’s chosen you. This king waged war for you and sees you as the prize He gains for reigning victorious.
When we realize that fact, how could we not want to live righteous lives? How could we not want to please the King that would go so far for us? And when we see how good He is and how deeply He loves us– when we see the lengths He went to so that you can receive that salvation– it makes us want to live a righteous life. And the product of that righteous life? The proof of our good work.
You see, good works don’t obtain salvation, but good works are evidence of a genuine understanding of your salvation. We shouldn’t feel content sitting in a church pew and going home. People should know you’re a Christian not just by name, but by the way we outwardly live. Christianity should always function from the inside out, letting Jesus transform you so completely, that it bleeds out into your everyday life.