The old objection against the doctrine of salvation by grace, that it does away with the necessity of good works, and lowers the sense of their importance (Romans 6 ), although it has been answered a thousand times, is still alleged by many. They say if men are not saved by works, then works are not necessary. If the most moral of men are saved in the same way as the very chief of sinners, then good works are of no moment. And more than this, if the grace of God is most clearly displayed in the salvation of the vilest of men, then the worse men are the better. The objection has no validity. The gospel of salvation by grace shows that good works are necessary. It is true, unchangeably true, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord. "Neither adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards" shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Works are "good" only when, (1) they spring from the principle of love to God. The moral character of an act is determined by the moral principle that prompts it. Faith and love in the heart are the essential elements of all true obedience. Hence good works only spring from a believing heart, can only be wrought by one reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:10
; James 2:18
Good works have the glory of God as their object; and (3) they have the revealed will of God as their only rule (Deuteronomy 12:32
; Revelation 22:18,19
). Good works are an expression of gratitude in the believer's heart (John 14:15,23
; Galatians 5:6
). They are the fruits of the Spirit (Titus 2:10-12
), and thus spring from grace, which they illustrate and strengthen in the heart.
Good works of the most sincere believers are all imperfect, yet like their persons they are accepted through the mediation of Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:17
), and so are rewarded; they have no merit intrinsically, but are rewarded wholly of grace.