Is Faith enough? Are good deeds required for Heaven?

Home >  Full Study List >  Is Faith enough? Are good deeds required for Heaven?
Question / Comment - Faith and Works I am having problems with believing that faith in Jesus is all we need to be saved. The Holy Spirit continues to bombard me with scripture verses that state that our good deeds are also needed to go to Heaven. Throughout the Book of Matthew, Jesus is teaching us how we should conduct our lives. He spoke of adultery, lust, revenge, hatred, etc.... Why would He teach us how to act and think if our actions did not play a part in determining if we go to heaven or hell. I see verses in the Bible that state we must believe in Jesus and I also see verses that say we must obey God's commandments. I conclude from this that the way to Heaven is to have Faith in Jesus and to do good deeds.

Matthew 5:19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But
whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 7:19-27 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, 10 but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.' "Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined."
JPN Reply:

Hi and thanks for your thoughts. I think with any interpretation of scripture we need to be careful of two things.

1. That we are reading what scripture says and not reading into scripture what we would think or would like to see.
2. That we take into account the context of the text. ie who the speaker is talking to and why.

When I read the scriptures that you had sent through I personally couldn't see anything that says or implies that a person's works play a part in their salvation.

For example, you sent through Matt 5:19 'Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.' There isn't anything in this passage about entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, or conditions laid out for getting into the kingdom of heaven. It is only differentiating between the least and greatest WHO ARE IN the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 20 does speak about entrance and that is why you need to understand what Jesus was doing in this, his first sermon to the Jewish people. The law was given so that everyone's mouth would be stopped and they would all see that they were guilty before God. (See Rom 3:19-20) The Pharisees were considered the 'most righteous' and religious of the Jews. They had invented their own set of laws as to what a person could and could not do, so that no one would come close to breaking one of God's laws. They actually thought that they could obey and be found righteous by observing the law!!! Big mistake. In trying to do this they had become proud and hypocritical. That is why the very first thing that Jesus did when he came, was to show the extent of the law... ie that adultery, murder etc are actually not just outward acts but intents of the heart. And then Jesus gave the killer blow to His hearers in verse 20 when He said

'For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.'

This would have shut everyone up because that is what he intended it to do! Especially the proud self righteous Pharisees! Jesus had to show them the extent of the law so that they would no longer hope in their own efforts anymore. They would look to another way... They would look to Him! That is why, if we can pick up where we left our scripture in Romans, that Paul went on to say:

Rom 3:21-24 'But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Both Jesus and Paul were showing that your greatest human effort is not enough. But righteous with God can come by another way. Through a GIFT of God that you can NEVER pay for... otherwise it wouldn't be a gift. You simply receive in in faith and thank Him with all you have got!

You see, that is why the context is so important. You need to know why Jesus said what He said, and you need to look at who He was talking to at the time. With the sermon on the Mount, Jesus was talking to the Jews who thought that trying to obey the law was enough. He had to show them the extent of the law so that they would give up on that belief! But look at what Jesus said later when His own disciples asked Him specifically what works they had to do to inherit eternal life -

John 6:28-29 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” 

Now concerning Matt 7:19-27... instead of something that implies salvation by faith and works, this should be a warning not to be trusting your own works! These people were not ever saved because Jesus said to them 'Depart from me for I NEVER KNEW YOU!' And what were they saying to Jesus??? 'Look we did this, we did that, all good stuff... even done in your name!' This scripture should be a warning to be not looking to what you can do for Him but in what He has done for you! It is true that you should be able to see evidence of a true faith by a change in that person's life as Jesus said. But the Bible does not teach that trying to obey the commandments in the Bible leads to salvation! Unless that commandment is to place your complete faith and trust in the work of Jesus on your behalf in dying for your sins.

I hope some of this helps. I realize you won't just believe something because I have said it and that is good. I would encourage you to continue looking these things up in the word and asking the Lord to speak to you on this. If I could, I would encourage you to read Romans chapters 3-5 though as this discusses salvation, righteous, the purpose of the law etc... themes we are talking about. Also I would encourage you to read the book of Galatians because they were faced with teachers who slipped in and taught a similar belief to you... ie that salvation is by faith and good works. Have a look at the directness and passion with which Paul responds in this letter.

God Bless you and all the best.

Question / Comment

Are you saying that the person who believes in Jesus and his saving work would go to Heaven and the person who did not believe in Jesus would go to hell even though they both were stealing, cheating, lying, molesting children, practicing homosexuality, masturbating, and raping?

Where is God's justice if practicing homosexuals, rapists, murderers, child molesters are allowed to go just because they believed in Jesus? Where does doing good fit in? It would seem as though a person has the green light to do the work of Satan just because one believed in Jesus.

Please clarify what is meant by faith in Jesus and not good works will lead to salvation. I agree that the Bible verses that you mention state that faith saves, but there are other verses that state that doing good works is also required. Based on those verses, I interpret Jesus as saying that Faith and Works are necessary for salvation. This is the same way that I have come to the conclusion that Jesus is both man and God. There are verses in the Bible that show him as a man and verses that show him as God.
JPN Reply:

Hi and thanks for the email.

The questions that you have asked seem to indicate that you think Christians want to sin, or that you are concerned with 'how much' a person can get away with and still get into Heaven. It is completely true that salvation is by grace through faith and our works have no part in that salvation. The Bible is clear on this. And it doesn't contradict itself.

Rom 4:4-5 'Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.'

You seem to want to rely on both your trust in what Jesus did and the good works that you are doing, for your salvation. And yet, a gift cannot be paid for, it can only be received as mentioned above. As shown in the above verse, while a person is in a state of 'wickedness' God does not want him to do good works at all, but to trust in faith in Jesus' work on his behalf, and that faith is credited to him as righteousness.

The good works that a person does as a Christian is the natural result of having received the Holy Spirit into their lives. For example, I became a Christian through reading the Bible. I didn't know any other Christians in the city I was living in (I had just gone to another city for University). I read the Bible for 6 months and finally the conviction was so great as I constantly saw my need of salvation, I finally repented of the life I was living and asked God to forgive my sins and live through me. I thanked Him for what Jesus did as I could see that there was know way I could repay, in any measure, an infinitely Holy God. But I could thank Him for what He had done. I was saved on that day. I was declared righteous in God's sight, because God looked not at what I did, but at what Jesus did on my behalf. And He came to live in my life, never to leave or forsake me. Awesome promise, and awesome reality!

Do you think at that point my thinking was 'right, now that I am saved, and are declared righteous before God, I can go out and sin as much as I want! Yay!' Not a chance. I wanted to live for the one who had saved me. God's grace is always going to be a better motive for living the Christian life than fear. And I can tell you that I changed heaps! Not because I was trying to 'be good' all of a sudden either. It is true that I wanted to live for God and not myself. But I found my attitudes to all sorts of things change. Sins that I didn't care about before becoming a Christian, I soon could see as wrong... and didn't desire to do them anymore. It is the natural consequence of receiving the Holy Spirit into your life. Now the Bible exhorts us to be zealous for good works as Christians. For example, look at how much the Apostle Paul speaks about good works in the one book of Titus.

Titus 2:7 ' all things showing yourself an example of good works.'

Titus 2:13-14 '...looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.'

Titus 3:1 'Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work.'

Titus 3:8 '...I want you to speak confidently so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good works.'

Titus 3:14 '..Our people must also learn to engage in good works to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.'

We should shine the light of the truth of God through how we live our life. We should desire to actually engage in good works to help those around us. This is right and is pleasing to God. But this is the consequence and outworking of our salvation, not the means of obtaining it.

So I don't understand the type of thought that says because a person is saved they will then want to go and sin all they want because they are saved by grace not works. I personally don't see that mentality amongst born again believers. I do see Christians who struggle with different sins... but they don't want or enjoy the things they do.

Now going back to salvation, one other thing which people don't seem to understand about the law of God is that it is a complete package. If a person thinks that his good works or his refraining from particular sins helps in his salvation then they need to know that they cannot pick and choose which commands to keep. They have to keep every single part of it.

James 2:10 'For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.'

For this reason, Paul says, anyone who is relying in part on what they do, ie relying in part on their good works and their obedience to the law, IS PUTTING THEMSELVES UNDER A CURSE.

Gal 3:10-14 'All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. 

Notice that it says that the law is not based on faith. ie they are two totally different systems. You cannot be trusting in Jesus by faith, and trusting in what you do (the law) at the same time. Which you worry me as you seem to be doing this. It is good that you want to live a life dedicated and holy to the Lord. That is great... we should for we owe God everything! So do I. Just don't confuse your salvation, which is through faith and grace, and cannot be paid for, with the good works that naturally proceed from someone that is born again.

You also asked what my definition of faith is. The Bible itself defines it this way - '

Heb 11:1 'Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.'

Faith in Jesus is a trusting in and a clinging to the work that He did on our behalf. It is not just a head belief. It is not just saying that certain facts are true. It is a giving yourself over to that belief so that you are trusting completely in that belief for yourself - for your own situation. Faith for salvation, as seen in the Gal 3 passage above, is always set in contrast to the law, just as grace is (see Rom 11:6) because there is nothing that we could pay an infinitely Holy God for our salvation. Sin, any sin, means we have broken all of the law as James says above. This includes pride, greed, self centeredness, gluttony. Not just the murder, rape and more horrific sins you mentioned. Any sin deserves death. It is a price we couldn't pay. Thank God that he has provided a way of salvation by faith! Thank goodness that:

Rom 10:4 Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 

Also, your analogy of Jesus being both God and man, so therefore salvation could be by both faith and works, is not valid. The Bible does not contradict itself. You are correct that there are passages that say that Jesus was a man, and that He was God. True. There are not however, any passages that say that Jesus was NOT a man, or was NOT God. It just says that He was both. So it does contradict itself over this truth.

In just about all of the passages I have quoted above, they say that salvation IS NOT BASED ON WORKS. That salvation comes to the man WHO DOES NOT WORK BUT TRUSTS GOD WHO JUSTIFIES THE WICKED. It says that the law is not based on faith. ie that they are opposites, and that Jesus is the end of the law (the end of trying to use good works to obtain salvation) so that righteousness may come a different way... 'A righteousness for everyone who believes'. To then say that salvation is by both faith and works is to totally contradict these other passages. And the Bible does not contradict itself. Nor did the passages you gave me last time didn't say that salvation is based on works in any part.

I can only hope that some of this helps. I'm sorry if some of the above was a little 'strong'. It is just that trusting in yourself for your salvation, even in part, is not a good place to be, for you will never know where you stand with God. Like, you said that 'I interpret Jesus as saying that Faith and Works are necessary for salvation.' If that is true, then my question to you would be 'How many works are necessary to obtain salvation from an infinitely Holy God who hates all forms of sin (both internal and external)?' You will never be able to answer that and so you will never have peace (unless you just think that your works are 'good enough'.) It is true that if a person claims to be a Christian then you should be able to see the fruit of this is their life. This is the natural consequence, as I have said, of having a true faith and receiving the Holy Spirit into your life. But it is the evidence of salvation, not the means of it. And a true faith will show the evidence of that salvation through the good fruit in their lives.

All the best and may God bless.