Good Works Do Not Produce Salvation
Question: “Does transformation of character always follow salvation?” Answer: Yes. But we need first to clarify that salvation is not effected by human effort. The Bible declares, “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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). At the cross, God made Christ, who knew no sin to be sin for the sinner, that he might receive His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
When a person accepts Christ as his personal Savior from sin by faith and confesses his sins, God instantly cancels all his past sins that are recorded in the heavenly court (Romans 3:28; 4:25; 5:1). God even deals with him as if he had never sinned (Romans 4:8). This process is called “justification.” Faith is not the means of salvation, but simply the channel (Romans 4:3). After a person’s debt is cancelled, he has peace with God (Romans 5:1).
People that attempt to save themselves by keeping the law, fail in their efforts. The Law can’t save anyone because it is merely God’s standard of righteousness (1 John 3:4). The law servers only as a mirror to show sin in the life ( Romans 3:20; Isaiah 64:6). And then, it leads people to Christ for cleansing (1 John 1:9).
Salvation Leads to Transformation
God not only forgives the sinner, He also produces in him a transformation of character. This process is called “sanctification” and it is a life-long journey of daily surrender and obedience to God (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The Lord gives the repentant sinner a clean heart and renews a right spirit within him (Psalm 51:10).
Sanctification takes place when a person holds to Christ daily by study of the Word and prayer (1 Timothy 4:5). The Christian will allow the Lord to do His will in his life. The only way, he stops this process is to disconnect himself from the Lord. As the believer maintains his relationship with the Lord, divine change will take hold of his will, affections, and plans. Then, good works will become possible (Matthew 5:14–16). “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).
Thus, works are not a cause but an effect of salvation (Romans 3:31). “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). The converted believer will bring forth the “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Galatians 5:16).
Reflecting God’s Image
The devil has ever tried to misrepresent God the Father. Christ came to dismiss the darkness and to reveal the loving character of the Father. This same work Christ commissioned His followers to do. The Christian’s light is to shine, not so that men may be attracted to God (Matthew 6:31–34; John 6:27; Isaiah 55:1, 2). Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
The fruits of God’s Spirit that will reflect His image are: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22,23). It is impossible for a person in his own power to to produce the fruits of holiness. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:5). As a Christian abides in Christ, he becomes partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
Faith and Works
Although a person cannot be saved by his good works, when he is saved, he will produce good works. The Bible declares, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26). Without works, true faith does not exist. Intellectual agreement and beliefs may exist without good works, but not true faith, which cooperates with God’s plan for man’s restoration.
James states that a confession of faith alone can not justify a man. He affirms that good works must accompany faith and give evidence to the validity of the faith by which a man is justified. If there are no “works,” it is obvious that true faith does not exist (James 2:17, 20). The life of Abraham gives us an example of this truth. When God tested him, his works proved that his faith was genuine (James 2:21). Thus, Faith and works cannot be separated in a true Christian life.
In His service,