A Letter To My Congregation
Are we saved by grace alone, or do we need to add works to get to heaven? Some of you have commented that I seem to have contradicted myself in my recent sermons by affirming both. When I preached a message on Luke 7:36-50 entitled “Only Sinners Allowed” I argued that trusting in our works is a barrier to salvation for if works could get us to heaven, then Jesus did not need to die. But in last week’s message on Luke 12:32-48, I preached that we must ready ourselves for the return of Christ by doing His will. In other words, works are a requirement for all Christians. In that text, Jesus said that the unfaithful servants will be cut in pieces and assigned a place with the wicked.
To make matters even more complicated, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace and not works. Yet James tells us in James 2:17 that faith without works is dead. So which is it? Do we need works to be saved, or is grace enough?
We find the answer in the scriptures. Paul addresses the issue head on in Ephesians chapter 2. In verses 8-9 he says that we are saved by grace through faith. And in verse 10 he declares that God prepared works for us before He even saved us that we might walk in them after we are saved. So our salvation is by grace, it is a free gift of God. We neither obtain our salvation by works, nor do we maintain it by works. But all who are saved walk in good works. It is an inevitable certainty. Thus James argues that we demonstrate our faith by our works in James 2:18. If we are not walking in works, then we demonstrate that we have not truly been saved. For the same God who produces salvation within us as a free gift also produces works through us as a free gift. Even the works are a gift of grace.