Not of Works.... (Eph. 2:9)
"NOT OF WORKS..." (Eph. 2:9)
Many people believe and teach very strongly that the salvation of our souls is not dependent whatsoever on works. They are quick to quote Ephesians 2:8,9 as their proof. Yet, verse 10 says, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." How can our salvation not be dependent on works when God has created us unto GOOD WORKS and has ordained (decreed) that we should WALK IN THEM? Could it be that the "works" mentioned in verse nine are of a certain kind or type of works that will not save us? This must be so or else the Scriptures contradict themselves. Therefore, it is for us to search out what the Scriptures teach concerning the works that will not save us as opposed to the good works that God has created us to walk (live) in. To simply make a blanket statement that "works have nothing to do with saving us" is a doctrine of man and not founded upon the pages of God's word.
The Scriptures are very clear to point out the type of works that will NOT SAVE us:
WORKS OF THE LAW OF MOSES. "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39). "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). To justify such works as observing the Sabbath or using mechanical instruments of music in worship to God based on Old Testament teaching are works that will not save us despite our sincerity.
WORKS OF OUR OWN RIGHTEOUSNESS. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5). "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3). Anything you, I, or anyone else concocts and makes it a matter of faith, is our “own righteousness". Only God's commandments are righteousness (Psalms 119:172). In Jesus' day, the Pharisees made the washing of hands a religious act. This was of their own righteousness and Jesus sternly rebuked them for it (Matthew 15:1,2). Whenever we establish our own righteousness, we likewise transgress the commandment of God. Again, doing works of our own righteousness will never save us regardless of how long we’ve done them or how sincere we may be.
DEAD/WICKED WORKS. "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God," (Hebrews 6:1) "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:14). "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled.” (Colossians 1:21). Dead/wicked works are the "evil deeds" that are spoken of in such passages as John 3:19, 20 and 2 John 1:11. Dead/wicked works will never save us even though "everybody is doing it" is sometimes given as justification.
At the same time, the Scriptures teach the kind of works that are pleasing to God:
THE WORKS OF GOD. "Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:28,29). These folks must have had a better understanding about the necessity of works than some people today. Those who teach "works have nothing to do with saving us" would have never asked this question. Why ask such a question when works aren't important, according to them? There are things that God commands or requires. When we do those things, we are doing a work but it is not a work of our own righteousness nor is it a dead or wicked work. It is a work of God because it originated from God. These two verses also point out something very strange. The same folks that say "works have nothing to do with saving you", teach that you must have faith. Well, these verses tell us that faith is a work! Oh, but, if I hear them correctly, they're saying, "Works don't save us!" If that is true, we can be saved without faith because faith is a work. Do you see the dilemma that is created when we begin to use one scripture against another? The Scriptures harmonize! They do not contradict!
GOOD WORKS. "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10). God's design, when He created us, was for us to engage in good works. That is what He wants us to "walk in" or, in other words, that is how He wants us to live. The Holy Scriptures have been given to us so that we might know what these "good works" are. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto ALL GOOD WORKS."
If "works have nothing to do with saving us" as so many people believe, why did Jesus command His disciples to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)? Why did He teach: "For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall REWARD EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS." (Matthew 16:27)? Why are we commanded to "...walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in EVERY GOOD WORK, and increasing in the knowledge of God;" (Colossians 1:10)? Why was Titus instructed to tell Christians: "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to BE READY TO EVERY GOOD WORK," (Titus 3:1)? We must not just be hearers of God's Word but doers. "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a DOER OF THE WORK, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:21).
If "works have nothing to do with saving us", why are we told to be careful to maintain good works? "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might BE CAREFUL TO MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS. These things are good and profitable unto men." (Titus 3:8). "And let ours also LEARN TO MAINTAIN GOOD WORKS for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful." (Titus 3:14).
If works isn’t necessary, what about these verses that have to do with the Judgement Day: "Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; WHOSE END SHALL BE ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS." (2 Cor. 11:15). "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord REWARD HIM ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS:" (2 Tim. 4:14). "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM." (Rev. 14:13).
Let no one misunderstand; the Scriptures teach salvation is by grace (Eph. 2:5), by the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:26), by faith (Romans 5:1), and by hope (Romans 8:24). Salvation is also by works. "Ye see then how that BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED, and not by faith only." (James 2:24). Let's understand the Scriptures so that they harmonize. Truth will always harmonize! Error will always contradict! Study and see for yourself.
—E.R. Hall, Jr.