Q. Of all the ministers on line and elsewhere, I love reading and hearing the Grace preachers more than all the rest, but then there are those who appear to believe that it requires both faith and works to make it to heaven. Most of the people who teach this do not come across as mean-spirited legalists who want to put us all in bondage, yet there remains this conflict between grace through faith alone and faith plus works. This really leaves me torn. Is this conflict resolvable?
A. Put in its simplest terms, we’re dealing with a cause and effect relationship. Our faith is the cause of our salvation (Ephes. 2:8-9) and our good works are the effect if it (Ephes 2:10). Put another way, faith precedes salvation and good works follow it.
As long as we maintain this distinction there’s no problem. But if we ever try to make our good works part of what it takes to qualify for or maintain our salvation, then we’ve rendered the Lord’s death on the cross insufficient to save us, and ultimately made ourselves responsible for our own salvation. But when we see faith and works in a cause and effect relationship, the conflict disappears.
Of course God created us in Christ for good works. Not so we could save ourselves, but so we could bring glory to Him after He saved us. Notice that verse 10 says He prepared these things in advance for us to do. That means we don’t go around looking for things to do that will prove we’re saved. It means He has already prepared them and will prompt us to do them at the proper time. Over and over the New Testament makes it clear. We’re saved because of what we believe, not because of how we behave.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephes. 2:8-10).