The Biblical Truth on Faith Alone, Good Works, and Salvation
Perhaps one of the most remembered personalities in the New Testament is the thief that was crucified alongside the Lord Jesus Christ, not for anything else but, because of the enviable assurance of salvation which no less than the Lord Jesus Christ gave him in his final hour.
Remember, before the thief died, he believed that Jesus was the Savior, and he even asked Him to remember him when He comes into His kingdom. And Christ told him that instance that he would be with Him in paradise.
Sadly, lots of preachers have capitalized on this particular incident to convince people that, to merit salvation, it is enough to just believe and have faith. They would even add that salvation is God’s gift to man, so there is no need for man to do good works anymore to obtain it. Again, they would make reference to that particular thief who didn’t do anything good in his life and yet he earned Christ’s assurance that he would be with Him in paradise simply because he believed.
Besides, according to those preachers, man’s righteousness is like filthy rags to God, citing the prophet Isaiah. So, no amount of good works could ever make a person appear righteous in the sight of God because his righteousness is just like filthy rags for Him.
Of course, those are all very wrong teachings. Please, allow me to clarify this matter.
First of all, let us go over what Isaiah 64:6 says and see for yourselves how those preachers had grossly misinterpreted the verse.
The verse states the words of people who were buried in iniquities; they were doing their own righteousness.
We must realize that there are two kinds of righteousness in the Bible. There is what the Bible mentions as the righteousness of God, which is dikaiosune in Greek, meaning justice, equity; on the other hand, there is also the so-called man’s own righteousness.
There are people who are ignorant of God’s righteousness. Instead of submitting themselves to the righteousness of God, they establish their own righteousness.
Isaiah 64:6 was referring to themselves, the Israelites, who were transgressors of God’s law. They said, “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” They were very, very far away from God. They have no record of any good deed so they compared themselves to leaves that fade and wind that passes but leaves no mark.
Now, let us compare it with the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of ROMANS 3:10-12, which says,
They were among the people who had forgotten God in their lives. None of them sought God, and there was none of them that understand (not including the Apostle Paul, of course). They were the kind of people whose righteousness was like filthy rags in the sight of God.
BUT IF you are doing God’s righteousness and IF you are submitting yourself to the righteousness of God, will it still be like filthy rags?
MATTHEW 6:33 says,
Your righteousness is valuable in the sight of God if what you are doing is His righteousness, instead of your own righteousness.
There is a great difference between man’s own righteousness and the righteousness of the Lord. There is a heaven and earth difference between the two.
How does God regard a person who is doing his own righteousness, and not His righteousness?
LUKE 16:15 says,
It is abomination; it is just like filthy rags in His eyes.
EPHESIANS 6:6 says,
There are men-pleasers who do their righteousness to be seen by men. Yet, what is in their hearts is abomination in the sight of God.
To arrive at a correct interpretation of God’s word in the Bible, you have to consider the spirit from within the entire Bible itself. You should not take anything out of context. You must be within the context of the verse, of the chapter, of the book, and of the entire Bible.
There are religious leaders, especially the Baptists, who interpret the Bible out of context. So, they say, “We do not have to do good works anymore; good works are no longer necessary because, even if you do good works, they are just like filthy rags in the eyes of God.” Such is an erroneous interpretation of the Scriptures! It is NOT the truth, and it will NEVER be the truth.
It is true that faith could save us, just like what happened to the thief on the cross – although a criminal, he was justified because of the faith that sprang in his heart a few minutes before he died. It was only a few minutes before his death, not an hour or two hours before his death, when he started believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, during their first and second hours on the cross, together with the other thief, he was also mocking the Lord Jesus Christ.
MARK 15:32 says,
There were only two thieves that were crucified together with the Lord Jesus Christ. One was on His left and the other one on His right. Based on the account of Mark, he said “they,” meaning, both of them mocked and reviled Him. But before they finally died, one of the thieves saw and experienced things which eventually opened his mind.
In LUKE 23:39-42, it says,
That was the moment when the thief professed his faith. He said, “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” That utterance was an expression of faith. And that was sufficient for him to be saved because he had but a few minutes more to live; and he would not be able to do anything good anymore.
BUT for us, who are not crucified, will it be enough to just have faith and not do good works anymore to be saved? If you had but one hour left to live after you started believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, then your faith will be sufficient for your salvation. BUT IF you are going to live for another day, or another week, or another month, or another year, after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, your faith would no longer be enough to merit salvation. You have to do something aside from having faith only.
2 PETER 1:5-9 says,
After having been purged from our sins, our faith must be followed by obedience. To our FAITH we need to add virtue; to virtue knowledge; to knowledge temperance; to temperance patience; to patience godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
So, if you are going to live for another day, or more, your faith wouldn’t be sufficient for you to be saved. Your FAITH should be coupled with works of obedience to the Lord.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:13 (KJV) says,
In the Revised Standard Version it says, “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
It did not say that the greatest of these is faith. No! Love is greater than faith; and love must not be absent in faith. Faith must be coupled with love and hope. If you are going to take away love, even if you have faith, you will not be saved still.
1 CORINTHIANS 13:1-3 (RSV) says,
Faith is not enough for a person to be saved. Insofar as the thief on the cross was concerned, yes, his faith was enough. He couldn’t do anything anymore but just have faith. He couldn’t show love anymore; he couldn’t do good works anymore because there was no more time left for him. He couldn’t join the congregation anymore so that he could sing hymns and praises to the Lord. Remember, singing praises to the Lord is a good thing in the sight of God.
PSALMS 92:1 says,
The thief on the cross, with a broken leg and with nailed hands and feet, could not do that anymore as he was enduring severe pain and he was dying. But given another day, or another month, surely, that thief would do good works.
2 TIMOTHY 3:17 says,
Given the time and the opportunity, you have to do good works. And your good works, as a man of God, are not filthy rags in His sight. Why? Because you do good works with God; you cannot do them by yourself alone.
PHILIPPIANS 2:13 says,
The purpose of God is His will. To be able to do the will of God, God must be with you; Christ must be with you. Otherwise, you will fail.
As written in JOHN 15:5,
Therefore, if you are able to do the good works that God commanded you to do, that is a manifestation that God is with you. We can do good work because God is with us; apart from Him we cannot do anything.
So how dare those people say that our good works are just like filthy rags in the sight of God when we are doing those good works with Him! If the righteousness that we are doing is the righteousness of God, and we are doing it with His help, such would never ever be like filthy rags in His sight.
HEBREWS 6:10 says,
Good works done with love could not be like filthy rags in the sight of God.
The Baptist Church, whose pastors and leaders do not want to do good works, had grossly misinterpreted the Scriptures in teaching their members that faith alone is enough; that faith alone can save, and that there’s no need to do good works anymore because good works are like filthy rags in the sight of God.
If it is true that faith, minus the good works, is enough to be saved, why, then, are you requiring your members to give tithes? Isn’t the giving of tithes a good work? How come you are accusing your members of robbing God if they would not give tithes? This only shows how wrongly you interpreted the Bible. Your interpretation is an interpretation of the anti-Christ. Because what Christ wants is that we do good works as long as we live. And it is our good works that will qualify us to inherit eternal life.
MATTHEW 7:24-25 says,
It is imperative that we do what the Lord Jesus Christ said. You know that everything that the Lord Jesus Christ said and all the examples that He set are all good works. He said, Love your enemy. Give him something to eat when he is hungry and something to drink when he is thirsty. Those are good works. And because of those good works that you do, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “anyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them...” Meaning, anyone that does His work. “...I will liken him unto a wise man, which build his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not…”
If those who do His works, which are all good works, are likened to wise men, those who do not want to do them are likened to foolish men.
MATTHEW 7:26-27 says, “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not” (like the Baptist pastors), “shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
So there is a great fall that is forthcoming to those who do not want to do good works. Instead, they just say, “I believe in you; I accept you as my personal Lord and savior; hallelujah! Just give tithes and you would be saved.” Those are merely the teachings of the Baptist pastors but they are not the real truth in the Bible! The real truth in the Bible is that we have to work; we have to do good works in order to be saved by our faith.
JAMES 2:22 says,
Faith without works is dead, as written in JAMES 2:26,
How can you be saved by a dead faith? The faith of the Baptist Church is dead because they do not want to do good works anymore.
Good works should be accompanied by faith, and faith should be coupled with good works. It is the good works that you are doing that would make your faith perfect. How?
PHILIPPIANS 2:12 says,
What does “obeyed” mean? They had worked them out; they had put into action his words, his commandments, admonitions, and teachings.
We really have to work, and the works that we have to do are the good works that God wants us to do. You will not be saved if you are not going to do good works.
Your faith may be enough for salvation if you are going to live for just a couple of minutes more, when you no longer have the chance to do any good work anymore. But if you are still to live for another day, another month, or another year, after you received the faith, then you have to GROW in Christ. And growing in Christ is learning how to do good works – the good works that had been exemplified by the Lord Jesus Christ. And the good works you have done will qualify you for salvation.
MATTHEW 25:32-40 says,
So, those who would be made heirs of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ are those who did good works. How now would you say that good works are no longer necessary?
Actually, doing good works can be a way to salvation of men who do not have faith. They have no faith because they weren’t given a chance to listen.
ROMANS 10:17 says,
Nonetheless, THEY will be accepted as righteous in the sight of God come judgment day because of the good works that they have done.
ROMANS 2:13-15 says,
The Apostle Paul was talking about the people who have no faith because they had NOT heard the law. (As we know, faith is born out of listening to the word of God. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.)” And because they have not heard the law, they had NOT known Jesus. They died without hearing Jesus; they died before the Bible was printed; they died in a place and time that the Bible was not yet available.
But DESPITE that, they do by nature the things contained in the law, that is, they do the goodness that is in the law. And because of that, they are justified.
The Apostle Paul explained this further in 1 TIMOTHY 4:10, which says,
Therefore, there is a possibility that those who do not believe could be saved IF, despite the fact that they did not hear any law, they are doing the good things contained in the law. So, even if they had neither seen Christ nor heard His teachings, they are still considered justified because of the good works they had done, like feeding the hungry, giving something to drink to the thirsty, clothing the needy, etc. Because of these good deeds they were found worthy of inheriting the kingdom of God.
How about those who refuse to do good works, like the Baptists? What will Christ tell them?
MATTHEW 25:41-45 says,
That is the penalty for those who do not want to do good works. Clearly, refusing to do good works will disqualify you from inheriting the kingdom of God, even if you claim that you have faith. Faith alone is NOT enough for salvation. Do not liken yourself to the thief that was nailed on the cross and was promised of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ because his condition was different from yours. His hands and feet were nailed and he had a few minutes to live, while your hands and feet are free, and you have your whole lifetime ahead of you to do good works.
If you have faith, couple it with good deeds for you to merit salvation and be an heir also of the kingdom of God.