There’s no question that the scriptures teach we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. The Apostle Paul tells us that “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ… because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16). There is no good deed or act of service we can perform to contribute towards our salvation. We can only be saved by placing our trust in Jesus Christ.
So the question begs...if that is true–that we are saved by grace through faith alone–then is it important for us to pursue righteousness? In a word, YES! Though our righteousness is not meritorious, it is most certainly necessary and critical. Here are 3 reasons why.
1. We are Saved for Good Works
Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created for good works. Apart from Christ, we are unable to do anything that pleases God, but as a result of being united to Jesus through faith, we are enabled to obey God and live according to His Word. Since God has graciously empowered us to act righteously, and since He has created us for this very purpose, we should pursue it!. If we refrain from participating in the good works that God has created us for, then we are rejecting God’s will for our lives and choosing to live in rebellion.
If you have been united to Christ through faith, then you have been set free from the bondage of sin and given the ability to do what God commands. He does not intend for His children to go through life passively doing whatever they please. He intends for us to actively participate in the good works that He has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).
2. We Have a Living Faith
Martin Luther said, “We are saved by faith alone, but faith that saves is never alone.” In other words, true faith in Christ will always lead to a life of loving obedience to God. While our good works do not save us, they are a necessary part of our Christian faith. Paul reminds us that “our old self was crucified with [Christ]… so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:6). If we have truly been united with Jesus through faith, then we have been set free from the power of sin. Our faith in Christ is accompanied by the gift of the Holy Spirit who leads us to refrain from sin and to live in holiness and good works. As John Tweeddale puts it, “Christ is the ground of our salvation, faith is the instrument of our salvation, and works are the fruit of our salvation.”
3. We Display the Goodness of the Gospel to the World Through Our Good Works
How can the broken and lost world around us see the goodness of Jesus's Lordship? How can they be led to believe that the gospel is truly good news? Surely not through us refusing to participate in the good works that God intends for us. Jesus tells us that the world will know that we are his disciples if we have love for one another (John 13:35), and that the world will give glory to God when they see us perform good works (Matthew 5:16).
Individuals that do not know have a relationship with Christ ought to see how we live and be so attracted to what they see that they desire Jesus. They should see Jesus in everything we do and hear Jesus in everything we say. Pursuing righteousness and participating in good works is the way that we shine the light of Jesus to a dark and broken world.
For Further Reading
“The Necessity of Good Works for Christians.” by Tom Hicks
“Good Works and the Christian Life.” John Tweeddale,
Discipleship: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Words—Reader’s Edition, edited by Jeffrey B. Kelly.
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, by Richard Foster
The Great Omission: Rediscovering Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, by Dallas Willard