01 Apr Do I need to be good to be saved?
By: Ferdinand Haratua
How are we saved? Two possible answers; First, we believe that we are saved by grace alone and not an inch of our efforts contribute to our salvation, so our good works are not essential. Two, we believe that we are saved by grace, but we will also need to do good works to keep our salvation, so our good works are important for our salvation.
Some people think that by believing in the sufficiency of the God’s grace for salvation, we will have to throw away holiness because grace is the opposite of works. After all, the apostle Paul did say: “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (Rom 11:6) And he wrote also, “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.” (Eph 2:8–9)
What is grace?
Grace is one of the most important doctrines in Christianity, for without it we will not be Christians. So, what is grace? God’s grace is his free and unconditional favor (or kindness) toward sinners who deserve punishment.
The apostle Paul writes that we are made righteous by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:24). Paul explained here that grace is a gift, not a reward; “gift” means we did not work for it, on the other hand, “reward” means we received it because we earned it. From this we get our first possible answer (or formula), that is, faith = salvation.
What is holiness?
How about our holiness or good works, are they not important? Yes, they are very important. James wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (Jas 2:14–17)
Read that last verse again.
Now, is James telling us that faith is not enough, that we also need good works? From this we get our second possible formula, that is, faith + works = salvation.
So, who is right?
At this point you may be asking, is Paul right or is James right? Well, they are both are right. The apostle Paul himself encouraged us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).
Yes, we are saved by grace alone through faith in Jesus, and if we have a genuine faith, then we will also produce good works. The famous theologian John Calvin once wrote, “it is faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” This leads us to what I believe as the final, and correct formula, that is, faith = salvation + works. On the left hand side of the equal sign, there is faith alone, this faith produces both salvation and good works.
Not only that genuine faith saves, it is also alive. That is why it produces good works in the lives of those who possess it. Genuine faith finds joy in the obedience to Jesus. If we can be holy in our daily lives, then that is also the work of grace.