Are righteous works necessary to salvation? 

There is an insistence in many theological circles that “anyone who is Biblically literate knows that ‘works’ in Pauline language is a bad thing“.  But this doesn’t accurately characterize Pauline doctrine.  In fact, it tends to infuse an inherent hostility towards righteousness into the Church that is actually quite dangerous in its capacity to lead people off the “highway of holiness” (Isaiah 35:8). 

The truth is that Paul is very pro-works:

Ephesians 2:10 (NET) For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.

Romans 2:7 (NET) [v.6 “God, who will render”] eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality,

Titus 2:7 (NET) showing yourself to be an example of good works in every way. In your teaching show integrity, dignity,

Titus 3:8 (NET) This saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on such truths, so that those who have placed their faith in God may be intent on engaging in good works. These things are good and beneficial for all people.

This neglects the bulk of Pauline doctrine dedicated to instructing Christians in righteous works: Romans 12-15; 1st Corinthians 6-8; Galatians 5; Ephesians 4-6; Colossians 3; 1st Thessalonians 4; 2nd Thessalonians 3; 1st Timothy 2; 5-6; 2nd Timothy 2-3; Titus 2-3; and even the Letter to Philemon, the entirety of which is an appeal to Philemon for good works on behalf of Onesimus for Paul’s sake!

Biblical theology is very careful to guard against the heresy of antinomianism:

James 2:14-26 (NET) [14] What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can this kind of faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? [17] So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. [18] But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. [19] You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. [20] But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? [22] You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. [23] And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “*Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness***,” and *he was called God’s friend*. [24] You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. [25] And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed 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.

No claim to salvation by faith is valid unless it is proved by the fruit of righteousness because righteousness is the “body” for the “spirit” of faith.

What many scholars mean when they say that Pauline theology views “works” as a bad thing is that in Romans 3:20 – 4:6; 9:11 – 11:6 (and all the corresponding soteriological Pauline passages) “works” – as they characterizes “the works of the law” – are presented as wholly insufficient to merit salvation. But Paul does not call them “bad”, and in fact he even takes the time to correct that misconception in Romans 7:7. Paul never refers to works as “bad” or “evil”. Rather, he faithfully affirms that righteous works are entirely insufficient to evoke, effect, or merit salvation before one is born again by God’s grace through faith.

I’m not trying to condemn anyone who believes that salvation is by grace through faith (See Ephesians 2:8). Rather, I’m defending the natural conclusion of this salvation “unto good works” (See Ephesians 2:10).  I also want to confront the use of unBiblical and theologically misleading terminology that has, in fact, produced an antinomian theology in many evangelical churches. This kind of lazy theological talk is the gateway to the apostate hyper-grace and prosperity gospels.

The answer to our question is that righteous works are the necessary fruit of salvation because faith without works is dead.

4 Replies to “Antinomianism”

  1. the difference between Matthew 25 and Corinthians 13 and Galatians 3 is that while people use Galatians to say works don’t get you to heaven, Jesus says they do. But the fine point is actually seen in Corithians 13 showing that even if you do the good works, have your body burned but do not have love you are worthless.
    The point is, John 3:16 says the word perish. it refers to the few verses before with the snakes causing people to perish. So the contempt and evil heart of unbelief caused them to perish but the snake on the pole and in our covenant the body of Christ on the cross can bring that healing when we repent.
    Fake Christianity uses Galatians 3 to suggest the cross is about legislation and not about conduct. but it is about conduct that kills but when one repents they still need absolution and cleansing which cant be done by works but by the snake on the poll or in our case, Jesus Christ. This means we do not return to contempt but we do works because our heart has changed and we are forgiven. This is about a restoration of relationship which was broken because Adam and Eve had contempt for Gods command and did their own thing. This is why faith is shown by works.
    So Galatians 3 taken out of context is a lie but in context is on the money. So while the law is summed up in one word Love, Paul says we are not justified by keeping the law. But it does not speak to the whole topic. vs. 27 suggests we put on christ. and 1 Cor 6:9 suggests that christians must live holy or go to hell no matter how much Jesus is on the cross. You just cant keep your contempt and lack of Love and speak in tongues or heal the sick. Jesus will just say, I don’t know you. No matter how good your theology is. its just a clanging symbol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you say, an empty profession of faith is meaningless if it is not accompanied by inward transformation, by which we are renewed in love and conformed to the image of our Creator. These doctrines must be carefully put together, and too often people have settled for incomplete formation of their doctrines.


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