GRACE VERSES WORKS
Grace VS Works
Some people say we are saved by grace while others say we are saved by works. For some we need to first define what this
means. First of all lets look at the dictionaries definition of these words.
GRACE: (1) a: unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification. (from Webster's tenth Collegiate
GRACE: Favor or kindness shown without regard to the worth or merit of the one who receives it and in spite of what that
same person deserves. Grace is one of the key attributes of God. The Lord God is "merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and
abounding in goodness and truth" <Ex. 34:6>. Therefore, grace is almost always associated with mercy, love, compassion,
and patience as the source of help and with deliverance from distress.
(from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
WORK: (8) pl: performance of moral or religious acts (salvation by ~ s)
WORKS: (1) in process of preparation, development, or completion.
(from Webster's tenth Collegiate Dictionary)
WORKS: Acts or deeds. God's works are praised often in the Book of Psalms <Ps. 33:4; 92:5; 104:24> and Christ's works
are thoroughly discussed in the Gospel of John <John 10:25-38>. Man's works are either good or bad, and these two
categories are often mentioned together <Rom. 13:3,12; Heb. 6:1, 10>. Christians are taught to display good works <Matt. 5:
16; Rev. 3:8>. (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
To say a person is saved by grace means this. No one by their own merits or good deeds will ever earn or gain eternal life. In
other words no matter how good of a person you are you will never make it to heaven on that basis. Rather we are saved only
by God’s mercy and his payment for or sins on the cross. Now to say that a person is saved by works means this. If you live a
good clean moral life you will go to heaven when you die. This is basically saying that by trying to be obedient to God's laws you
have earned the right to be in heaven. Scripture clearly shows that we are saved by grace alone. There are bible verses that
some have stumbled over believing they show we are saved by our works or good deeds. Therefore it is important that we
consider these verses as well.
Rom.3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law."
John 6:28-29 They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to
them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent."
Eph 2:8-10 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of
works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand, that we should walk in them."
Titus 3:5"He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the
washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit"
Now there are those that try to abuse grace. Some people think they can say a prayer accepting Jesus as their Lord and then
live however they want. The idea is like buying fire insurance; once you got it then it might be OK to play with fire. The problem
with this thinking is that God is able to judge the thoughts and intents of our heart Heb.4:12. We are not saved by saying
certain words in the form of a prayer we are saved by faith.
In Webster's tenth Collegiate Dictionary one of the definitions of faith is " belief and trust in and loyalty to God" Those
that say they believe in God and claim they said a prayer accepting Jesus as Lord should have some change in their life. The
Bible tells us even the demons believe there is one God James 2:19. The demons believe, but they do not trust in nor are they
loyal to God. Unfortunately this also describes many people claiming to be Christians. Granted becoming a Christian does not
mean you become perfect, but it does mean there is a change in your life 2 Cor.5:17.
A Christian does not become sinless here in this life I Jn 1:8-10. This change that takes place in a genuine Christian will
continue on for their whole life Phil.1:6
(see also I Jn 2:4-5, Mat.7:21-23, Rev.3:15-16, Lk.6:44-46)
Some people in the time of the New Testament also tried to take a similar attitude that I described as buying fire insurance. It is
this very issue that James addressed that some people take out of context to try and show we are saved by works.
James 1:22- 2:26 (chapter 1)
(22) But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
(23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;
(24) for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.
(25) But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but
an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.
(26) If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is
(27) This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to
keep oneself unstained by the world.
(1) "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
(2) For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes,
(3) and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine
clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my
(4)" have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
(5) Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He
promised to those who love Him?
(6) But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?
(7) Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
(8) If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you are
(9) But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
(10) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
(11) For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not commit murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do
commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
(12) So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty.
(13) For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
(14)What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him?
(15) If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
(16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for
their body, what use is that?
(17) Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
(18) But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my
faith by my works."
(19)You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
(20) But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
(22)You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
(23)and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,"
and he was called the friend of God.
(24) You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.
(25) And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent
them out by another way?
(26) For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
People that say we are saved by works will generally focus on the part of this passage that is in bold lettering in
verses 2:21-26. Take another look at 1:22, James declares that those that do not live their faith are deceiving themselves.
Then again in 1:26 he uses the persons words as an example. James says if they do not control what they say their religion is
worthless. Jesus himself said that a persons words showed what was in their heart Lk.6:45, Mt.12:34. In Js.1:27 James
defines true religion as one that has action taking care of those in need and living a godly life. In 2:1 he is dealing with attitudes
which is another matter of the heart. Just as Jesus said "for the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." James is saying
that our actions also show that which fills the heart.
The point James is making is this, if you have genuine faith then your heart is right with the Lord and it should show in your life.
Those that think they are saved by works should take a good look at 2:9-10 according to James one sin makes you guilty of all.
Considering that the wages of sin is death Rom.6:23 this paints a grim picture.
Then in 2:14 James ask a very important question. " What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no
works? Can that faith save him?" The answer to this question is no! As James goes on to show faith without works is dead.
In other words if you have genuine faith you produce fruit. The illustration James used shows Abraham had a genuine faith. This
is shown in his obedience to do as the Lord said. Then in 2:23 "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as
righteousness," His righteousness came from belief. Abraham's belief resulted in obedience.
To say a person is saved by works is like putting the cart before the horse, it just doesn't work. Sheep don't say baaa baaa to
become sheep. They say baaa baaa because they are sheep. We as Christians do not do good works so that we can be
saved. We do good works because we are saved.
Paul used this same illustration with Abraham to show that we are not saved by works. Rom 4:1-5 "What then shall we say that
Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast
about; but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as
righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does
not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness"
Some have said we are saved by faith to begin with when we first accept the Lord. Then after this point we are justified by or
actions. This is irrational thinking. The Bible tells us that Christ died for our sins 1 Cor.15:3 and the blood of Jesus His Son
cleanses us from all sin I Jn 1:7. Now I ask you how many sins had you committed when Christ died for them 2000 years ago?
None of them right? They were all in the future. Which sins does the blood of Christ cover? The Bible says ALL sin.
Since all of our sins were paid for on the cross before we were born. How could we now after accepting the Lord be justified for
Major Christian Doctrines
Explained & Defended
|Grace VS Works is continued on the next page
A gift may be precious, but
you still cannot earn the gift!
Paul here says salvation is a gift of God. When you work for
something you receive what is owed to you. Webster's Dictionary
defines a gift as, "something voluntarily transferred from one
person to another without compensation". We receive salvation as
a gift from God. There is no way that we can compensate for it!
Our righteous acts are like a filthy rag unto the Lord Is.64:6, By the works
of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight Rom.3:20, and all of us
have sinned and fall short of His glory Rom.3:23. Considering this, how
can we possibly be good enough? We can't! That is why Jesus died on
the cross for us. We must accept his payment for our sins to be saved.
We can not earn our way to heaven by being "good".