Good works

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In Christian theology, good works, or simply works, are a person's (exterior) actions or deeds, in contrast to inner qualities such as grace or faith.

Old Testament[edit]

Proverbs 21:3 says that "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice."

New Testament[edit]

The New Testament exhibits a tension between two aspects of grace: the idea that grace is from God is sufficient to cover any sin as well as offer redemption (except the Unforgivable sin) and the idea that grace does not free humans from their responsibility to behave morally. The latter aspect of grace is expressed throughout the New Testament as the exemplary passages in the following paragraph show.

John the Baptist who preached a baptism of repentance connects repentance with bearing fruit saying, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" (Matthew 3:8). Jesus himself encourages people to live a life without sin after receiving grace and forgiveness from God as the incident with the adulterous woman shows (John 8:11). He mentions good works explicitly as a good testimony to other people (Matthew 5:16). In 1 Peter the same encouragement for Christians is expressed that they should keep their conduct among the Gentiles honourable so that they may see the believers' good deeds (1 Peter 2:12).

Apostle Paul connects grace with works writing to his fellow-worker Titus in Titus 2:11-12 that the grace of God has appeared in order to live an upright and godly life. For him good works are a consequence of grace (compare 2 Cor 6:1) and he even says that on the Judgment Day "...each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body" (2 Cor 5:10). The Letter to the Hebrews says that doing good is a God pleasing sacrifice (Hebrews 13:16). Furthermore, like in every book or epistle of the New Testament, doing God's will is emphasized (Hebrews 13:21).

This verse also speaks about the cooperation between the believer and God in regard to the believer's deeds because God works out in a Christian what is pleasing in his sight. James states in his letter that a person is "considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). Apostle John describes the life of a Christian as walking in the same way in which Jesus walked, which includes necessarily also deeds (1 John 2:6). In his letter Jude describes false teachers as "fruitless trees in late autumn", indicating that true believers should bear fruit in their lives (Jude 12).

Principle of Sola fide[edit]

The Protestant principle of Sola fide states that no matter what a person's action, salvation comes through faith alone. Ephesians 2:8–9 reads, "For by grace ye are saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (KJV) According to Protestants, salvation is God's gift at God's sole prerogative. Were it achieved by works, men could take pride in their efforts toward holiness, and God's gift of grace would be diminished in contrast to man's efforts.

On the other hand, apostle Paul says that God's chosen one who has been made holy by grace must show faith by actually loving (see Galatians 5:6) and in this way obeying the law, i.e., the law or commandment of Christ and his Spirit (see Romans 8:2).[1] In line with this, a more works-orientated perspective is presented by the Epistle of James, which concludes that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26). By works the author here appears to include both acts of charity and righteousness according to the "laws of the Spirit" (Romans 8:2), as opposed to Mosaic Law. The Sola fide views holds that James is not saying that a person is saved by works and not by genuine faith, but that genuine faith will produce good deeds, however, only faith in Christ saves.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New Jerusalem Bible, Standard Edition published 1985, introductions and notes are a translation of those that appear in La Bible de Jerusalem—revised edition 1973, Bombay 2002; footnote to James 2:14-26
  2. ^ Zondervan NIV (New International Version) Study Bible, 2002, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA; footnote to James 2:14-26.