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Salvation by Works

In contrast to the doctrine of Sola fide, many people believe that salvation requires both faith and works. They believe that one must be “good enough” to get into heaven. This is many people’s natural understanding of what it takes to get into heaven. It after all is the way that most things work in life. People only receive rewards if they have earned them, and man’s natural instinct is to try to punish those that have wronged us. It is what almost every other religion says.

However, the Bible teaches that salvation is a gift from God, and that His love is not like ours. Instead of God’s love being conditional upon our actions, He loved us when we were unrepentant sinners. That is the whole reason we can come to God.

1 John 4:10, 19 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. . . . We love him, because he first loved us.

The Bible clearly rebukes the idea that we can earn our way to heaven:

Romans 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest

It says that our good works are like filthy rags to God. Isaiah 64:6 If we had to do good works to earn our way to heaven, then no man would stand a chance. If you are trying to by saved by your works, you cannot be saved. Galatians 5:1–4 Instead, Jesus Christ took on our sins to give us His righteousness. 2 Corinthians 5:21 We need no righteousness of our own; we need only to trust in Christ’s.

As the Bible speaks against this idea so clearly and repeatedly, this is not really the doctrine of any denomination, although many would say that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is a form of salvation by works. It is, however, a common belief among people who have not studied what God says about salvation. Often it is sparked both by a desire to assuage one’s guilt and a lack of understanding of just how sinful we are. Then one will read a verse like James 2:24 out of context and think that it supports his belief. However, James is not saying that we need to do good works to be saved, but that good works are a natural result of saving faith. James 2:26 Ultimately, the cure for this belief is to fully study and understand both the holiness of God and His marvelous, infinite, matchless grace.