By Dr. Ken Matto
(Titus 2:7 KJV) In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
It seems that one of the most confusing themes in the church today and among Christians in general is the subject of works. There are some churches which teach that you must do works to go to Heaven. There are others which teach that you must cooperate with God’s grace by means of adding works to your desire to reach salvation. In this article I want to dissect the subject of works and hopefully put it into proper perspective so the Christian will know where works fit into their Christian walk. Works are a definite part of the Christian life. If they were not, then all we would be doing is sitting around waiting for the Lord to return. The Lord gave us a command concerning our Christian walk.
(Luke 19:13 KJV) And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
In Luke 19:13, the Lord gave a command to His ten servants to occupy till He returned. He was speaking a parable to those in attendance that they needed to occupy till He returned. He likened Himself to a nobleman who went on a long journey and before he left, he gave them each 10 pounds and told them to occupy. The word “occupy” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “trade.” So he did not expect his servants to sit around and do nothing for that period of time. This was also a testing period for those servants to see if they had the ability to do business. Our real character is revealed when no one is looking. The end of the parable was that two of the servants gained money for the master but one did not. So the fact is that works are an integral part of the Christian life but we must look at what type of works are the biblical ones.
Works for Salvation
From Canon 24, Council of Trent, Roman Catholic Church, 1545-1563
“Canon 24. If anyone says that the justice (righteousness) received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema.”


Here the Roman Catholic Church teaches that good works increases the justice that a person receives from God the Father.
From the Church of Christ website:
You should know that by baptism:
You are saved from sins (Mark 16:16 1 Peter 3:21)
You have remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
Sins are washed away by the blood of Christ (Acts 22:16; Hebrews 9:22; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21)
You enter into the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:41,47)
You enter into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-4)
You put on Christ and become a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27)
You are born again, a new creature (Romans 6:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17)
You walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6)
You obey Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 10:48; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9)
Here the Church of Christ teaches that one must be baptized in water to procure salvation, for without it one cannot enter into Christ. So someone reading this might believe that it is necessary that one be baptized. Baptism is a work which we do.
So here are two churches which teach that works are a necessary part of salvation. In these last days, in the age of all the political and environmental works going on, does a person need to be involved with these or do they obey the teachings of some churches and organizations that works are necessary for salvation?
Does the Bible teach that works are necessary for salvation?
Since salvation is something which is apart from the church, we need to see what the Bible states concerning works and salvation. Wait a minute! What about the first part of that statement? Salvation is not something which is church centered. In fact, the church is built out of those who have already become saved. Salvation is given to a person directly by God and has no intervening organization or individuals. We may preach the gospel and God can open the spiritual ears of an individual. The church may bring a message and God will open the spiritual ears of a person hearing the message. So no individual or any church is an intermediary no matter what they say or what they believe. A person becomes saved when God indwells them with the Holy Spirit and then they call upon the Lord. Now works fit into the same category. They would be an earthly intermediary between the worker and God. If it were by works, then the question must be asked. What works and how many of those works are necessary for salvation? The answer, of course, is not found in Scripture. No church, organization, or individual has an answer because no one knows how many works it would take for that.
In fact, the Bible has two ways of being saved and one of them is the perfect keeping of the law. Now that is impossible for any human to do, since the fall, every human is born with a sin nature. (Gen 5:3 KJV) And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: If you notice in Genesis 5:3 that Adam begat a son in his own likeness and image. Did this mean that Seth looked just like Adam? No, what is in view here is that from that point forward, every human being is going to have the Adamic nature, that is, the sin nature which precludes any person from keeping the law perfectly. This means that law keeping, with all its required works never saved anyone, even in the Old Testament. Those in the Old Testament like David, Solomon, Moses, Samuel, etc. were saved by grace and not through the law. What was the purpose of the law? (Gal 3:24 KJV) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. The law’s primary purpose was to point us to the fact that we needed a personal savior because the law showed us how sinful every human being on earth is. The law did not provide a Savior!
Now a question would have to be asked. Did the law atone for the sins of Israel? The answer is yes. Atonement was the covering of a sin but grace through Christ removed the sins and that is why the believer is made free because the sin burden has been removed once and for all. (Col 2:13-14 KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; {14} Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Those under the law had to make continual sacrifices for almost every sin they did, the reason I say “almost” because much sin is committed unconsciously which means there will be thousands of sins to be paid for on Judgment Day. Those who believe in works try to cover their sins in the same manner, by doing good works to try and appease their guilty conscience and ways. Of course, this will not work with works just as it did not work with the law. Covering of sin still means that the sins are there. (James 2:10 KJV) For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James states that if a person is able to keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, it means they are guilty of the whole law, just as if they broke every single commandment. Now we must look to the Scriptures to see if there are any which teach that a person must have works for salvation alone or added works to grace for salvation.
Ephesians 2:8-9
(Eph 2:8-9 KJV) For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: {9} Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 are very important verses because they give the way of salvation and the way a person cannot be saved. These verses are probably the most overused and understudied Scriptures. This is so, simply because they are so widely used by churches who teach grace yet they teach a person must “accept Christ” which is a work. The Bible states that we are spiritually dead. (Eph 2:5 KJV) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) If a person is dead, then how can they do anything to initiate their salvation? The answer is obvious, they can’t. To test this out, go to a cemetery and bring your best sermon and start preaching and see what happens. See how many are going to come forth and live. Dead people cannot do anything except be dead! Jesus performed three resurrections when He was here on earth.
Son of the Widow of Nain
(Luke 7:14-15 KJV) And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. {15} And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.
(John 11:43-44 KJV) And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. {44} And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.
The Daughter of Jairus
(Mat 9:24-25 KJV) He said unto them, Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. {25} But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
In all three resurrections, did each or any of them ask Jesus to raise them? The answer is no because they were all dead. These resurrections were given to us to show us that physically dead people cannot rise on their own and that same principle carries over to the spiritual world, that spiritually dead people cannot do anything to raise themselves. In fact, a person who is spiritually dead, does not even think they are dead in their sins. Ask an unbeliever if it is alright to step out to a nightclub on a Saturday night and you will get a resounding yes. Ask that same person after they become saved, and you will get a much different answer. Why? Because they have become saved. These three resurrections show another principle in that they were raised from the dead from the outside and not from within. In all three cases, Jesus commanded them to come forth and not one resisted because of their “free will.” Not one of them saw Jesus walking by and asked to be raised. They were raised by the will of God and not by their will. (John 1:12-13 KJV) But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: {13} Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
I went the long way to explain Ephesians 2:8-9 to show that works cannot add or even initiate salvation in any way. A person can be baptized for 10 hours and still remain a sinner on the way to hell or a person can work from morning till night in a church for 50 years and still be on their way to hell. Works can never save or add to anyone’s salvation. As Ephesians 2:8-9 reveals so plainly that salvation is by grace and “not of works.” That verse is open in that it does not specify any works which means it is speaking of all and any works, church works included. The thief on the cross did not need water baptism or cooperative good works to get to Heaven, he was saved by grace right on the cross.
2 Timothy 1:9
(2 Tim 1:9 KJV) Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,
Here is another straightforward verse which teaches that our calling to salvation was not based upon doing any works. If you notice in this verse, we read that it was according to God’s purpose and grace that we were called. It does not matter what works we have done or lack of works, salvation is by grace alone which means no added works will ever affect salvation. These verses are very important so that we know that no one can ever work for salvation. Again we ask the question of those who think that works will complement salvation, what works and how many of those works?
Titus 3:5
(Titus 3:5 KJV) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
Here is another straightforward verse which plainly teaches that works play absolutely no part in our salvation. We are saved according to His mercy and we are washed clean through the regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Remember, previously we read that Christ removed all our sins at the time of our salvation. That is how we are cleansed of our sin. The physical washing of baptism cleanses the outside of the body but not the soul. How many unbelievers do you know took a shower or bath and came out saved? The regeneration of our souls is done by the removing of our sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. If you notice this verse even speaks of a person who does works of righteousness. Works of righteousness could be those works done in the church and for the Kingdom of God. A person may help a missionary on the field. A person can even be a volunteer in a hospital or a charitable organization but the fact is that none of these works of righteousness will ever get a person saved. It is God, through His mercy, that saves and no works of ours can ever sway Him to save us. (Mat 7:22-23 KJV) Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. The dangers of living a life of good works without being saved is summed up in Matthew 7:22-23. Many who are comfortable in good works will be raised to the judgment of damnation and will be shocked to find out that the 50,000 good works they did contributed nothing toward gaining salvation but the problem here is that these people were self-righteous in thinking that what they were doing was good enough to get to Heaven, but as we read, it is not by works which is emphasized heavily in just these three verses which we looked at.
Good Works After Salvation
Now we have plainly seen that there is no way for anyone to become saved by means of doing good works because we would have to define those good works according to God’s definition and not the world’s definition. Did you notice in those three verses that the word “good” was not used? That enforces the reality that works before salvation are not good but those done after salvation are good. Good works do play a part in the life of a Christian, simply because doing good works is one of the reasons we are saved and why God has kept us here. He could have saved us and at the moment of salvation, sent the chariot for us and brought us to Heaven but this was not His method because through the believer, God has a testimony on this earth.
(Eph 2:10 KJV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
In Ephesians 2:8-9, we read that a person is saved by grace and not by works and right on the heels of how a person is saved, we read in verse 10 that God has created us in Jesus Christ unto good works. So here in Ephesians 2, we read the sequence. First comes salvation and then once we are saved, then we do the good works. Good works come after a person is saved and not before. Remember, we have to keep in mind the definition of a good work according to the biblical definition and not the world’s definition. A good work according to the world may be saving the whales, saving the environment, being politically active, or even helping a neighbor. Now is there anything wrong with these?
The answer is no when they are kept in the proper arena. None of these works will ever bring a person to salvation or lead another to salvation. Let me just say at this juncture that I do not believe that there is any true born again Christian who enjoys seeing polluted streams, breathing polluted air, or seeing garbage strewn all over the place. We would all like a cleaner living environment and a safer one. I, for one, love the country being out in the farm areas or the mountains and would hate to see smokestacks polluting those areas. For example, I go to Dunkin Donuts for coffee and I get the coffee in a Styrofoam container. The green people keep telling us that Styrofoam does not break down in landfills. Instead of these people aiming at me for throwing the cups away in the garbage, I wouldn’t have a Styrofoam cup if Dunkin Donuts didn’t use them. He who has ears to hear!
What is the definition of a good work according to the Bible?
A good work is one that expands the kingdom of God by means of evangelizing the masses, discipling the new Christian, living according to biblical principles, and to sacrifice oneself in service, all focused upon the person and purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe the Apostle Paul is a good example of one who did good works. He founded churches, he took up collections for others to do evangelism, he helped disciple new Christians, especially in Corinth, he lived according to biblical principles because none of his enemies could put any substance to any of the false accusations they made, and no one can doubt that he sacrificed his life for the sake of the gospel. (Mat 10:39 KJV) He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.  A good work must never be focused upon us but must always have the focus of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, this means that a practical good work is handing out tracts, going to the mission field, giving to those on the mission field, personal involvement in local ministry or local church or both, supporting organizations which are bringing the truth, locally and worldwide. A good work will yield the fruit of souls for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Good Works - What does the Bible say?
(Mat 5:16 KJV) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
We are to allow our good works to be seen by others, not as a point of pride, but works show that we build on the faith we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. Many claim they have faith but the problem is they do nothing with it but those who truly are saved build upon that faith so others see it. Another reason we want others to see it is because it may be a cudgel to get them busy for the kingdom of God. The main reason is that when we are being obedient to Christ with good works through faith, those who become saved will glorify God and even unbelievers will benefit. Ida Scudder began a teaching hospital in Vellore, India. Do you not think many unbelievers in India benefited from that leap of faith? Let us think about leaving a spiritual legacy to the next generation.
(Acts 9:36 KJV) Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
Dorcas was a woman who did many good works for the people and after she died, all the widows had gathered around her bed and showed Peter all the things she made for them. Tabitha did what she could with the talent the Lord had given her and this resulted in good works which were remembered by the people. Our good works should also have the same effect. We should never partake in anything which would leave a bad testimony behind if the Lord takes us. This is why it is important that we do the proper works with the purpose of the Lord Jesus Christ in mind.
(1 Tim 2:9-10 KJV) In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; {10} But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
Here the Bible teaches that the Christian women should be engaged in doing good works and not overly concerned about their outward appearance. A woman’s looks will fade but her good works, if done for Christ, will have eternal effects. So which should the Christian focus on, the temporal or the eternal? Remember Dorcas.
(1 Tim 5:9-10 KJV) Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, {10} Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
Described here is a widow who has the spirit of hospitality. Hospitality was a very big thing in the Middle East. These verses teach that a mission field can be right in your own home. The things you teach within the walls of your home will be carried outside beyond those walls. This widow would also set an example for others to be involved with this type of ministry and a ministry it is. Ministry is not just handing out tracts, it is being a testimony for the Lord Jesus Christ wherever you are.
(1 Tim 5:24-25 KJV) Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. {25} Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.
Just as people, like sheep, will follow in the footsteps of those who sin, there will be people who will follow after the good works which a Christian does. This is why it is important for us to do Christ-centered good works, so others will see and follow the better paths. We are an example to others, either for good or for evil.
(1 Tim 6:17-18 KJV) Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; {18} That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
Now the Bible speaks about those whom the Lord has blessed with much physical wealth. The Bible is counseling them to lay aside all pride and not trust in the uncertainty of riches which God can take in an hour. He wants them to be rich in good works. They can use their wealth to send forth the Gospel in ways a poor person cannot. A rich person can buy a generator for a missionary, an airplane for a missionary society, they can fund trips to different countries for tract distribution, they can buy a radio station and transmit the Gospel, local and abroad, etc. There are many things a wealthy person can use their funds for. They must realize that God did not give them wealth for themselves but for His purposes. The unsaved see it as being their money and no one tells them what to do with it and we expect this attitude from the unsaved. The saved, however, have a different authority and God expects them to be obedient or He can make them poor and transfer that wealth to another who will fulfill the purposes of God.
(2 Tim 3:16-17 KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: {17} That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
Here we have a passage of Scripture which teaches that the Scriptures are so complete, that they alone can thoroughly furnish a believer the tools for all good works. The counsel in the Scriptures teach us how to live and why we are here and what we are to do with the time the Lord gives us. Now this passage is important because it states that the Scriptures alone can furnish the believer all that is needed for good works and for those who are not wealthy in this world, all they need is a Bible and they can fulfill the ministry the Lord will have for them. They do not need a radio station or an airplane, just the Scriptures which equips a person. The key is to get to know the Scriptures and let them guide you.
(Titus 2:6-7 KJV) Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. {7} In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
Here the Bible exhorts the young men to show thyself as a pattern of good works. The word “pattern” may also be translated as “example.” So God is telling the young men that they are to be examples of good works. It is not enough just to know the Scriptures but we must be able to act upon those Scriptures for the furtherance of the Gospel. If the young men learn to be examples of good works, then as they grow older, they will continue to do good works and bring many souls into the Kingdom of God. Their lives will have been invested in the Kingdom of God and yield much fruit.
(Titus 2:13-14 KJV) Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; {14} Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Here we have the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He will purify a peculiar people who are zealous of good works. Zealous may be understood as one who is “afire, fervent, or eager.” The Christians are to be on fire with a desire to do good works so the Gospel message will go forth around the world. The Lord expects His people to zealous to get the Gospel out because this is our reason of existence. So the term “lazy Christian” is really an oxymoron. The Bible does not condone laziness among unbelievers as we read in so many places in Proverbs, so why do so many Christians think that Christianity is just for Sunday morning? It is because they have a lazy, self-serving attitude which is fed by satanic excuses. Then this same crowd gets jealous when they are not picked for leadership positions in a church or organization.
(Titus 3:8 KJV) This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
Be careful - Consider carefully and put one’s mind to it
Maintain - Be devoted to, be engaged in, or give attention to
Here the Bible is stating that plainly that those who have believed in God, that is, the born again Christian, is to be involved with good works. Now the verse is pointing out that first of all, a Christian is to put their mind to doing good works. That is, they are not to do some kind of works which are meaningless to the Kingdom of God and we previously looked at some. Before they engage in doing good works, they are to consider carefully the ministry they desire to be involved with. They should assess their own spiritual gifts and work within the confines of those gifts. For example, if one has been given the gift of mercy, they should look at taking care of people or even a ministry of hospitality but they should not look at being a pastor because that is not where God has empowered them. The first principle is to carefully assess whatever ministry God may be sending you into.
The second principle, is once you know what gift you have and what ministry the Lord has prepared for you, you are then to maintain or be devoted to it. There is one snare in Christian ministry which can cause a Christian to crash. It is saying yes to everything that comes along. If God places us in a certain ministry, then that is where we are to minister. We must learn to say no to anything which will distract us or divert us from our primary ministry. Now this does not mean that we cannot occasionally help another ministry out but it must be the exception and not the rule. One gallon of water cannot quench the thirst of a thousand people, but it can quench the thirst of one. So we must find our ministry and dedicate ourselves to it.
(Titus 3:14 KJV) And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
The Scriptures here teach that the Christians are to be devoted to good works. First, they can be devoted to their profession so they may be able to help other Christians in time of need which would make that a physically necessary use. Secondly, they are to be devoted to the ministry which God has empowered and given them. The necessity of ministry is vital to the evangelization of the world. If Christians are not dedicated to their ministries, then false gospels will take over and real ministries will cease in many areas of the world. Where the gospel once flourished in the Middle East, it is now virtually non-existent and has to be sent in by radio, TV, and Internet.
(1 Pet 2:12 KJV) Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.
This verse teaches that our good works, which are visible to many may help bring some to salvation. Then these people will glorify God in their day of visitation which may be Judgment Day on the last day or the day of their home going, or the day they became saved. They will rejoice that they came in contact with your ministry and God used it to save them. This is why it is so important that we make sure we are teaching the truth, so when the message gets out, it will be able to bring a person to salvation. We must also make sure that our conduct is Christian out in the world because if our conduct is questionable, then so our message will be, even if a person refuses to hear it, they will say it is wrong and judge it by our conduct. Our good works must be in line with our Christian conduct which must be in line with the Scriptures.
We have seen that works will never save anyone nor will lead to salvation. This includes church works as well as social works. Good works are according to the Scriptures and given by God to those whom He has saved. Good works are always after salvation and never before. Once we are regenerated, our works will have a higher purpose because they will be eternal in nature. While good works can affect the physical, they are aimed at the spiritual. Worldly works are aimed only at the physical and have no effect upon the spiritual. When God saves a person, He saves their soul but the flesh goes into the ground until the last day when they are reunited in a glorified spiritual body. Good works is not something to fool around with, they must be done with the person and purpose of Christ in view. Any other focus, will divert from the truth and will not yield fruit. God plans good works for His children and to reject them or ignore them is to be disobedient unto God.