Misunderstood possibly as much as any other part of the Bible doctrine is the essentiality of good works to salvation. People confuse the good works of the gospel which the Bible clearly defines as essential, with the works of the law of Moses, or the meritorious works of men in an effort to earn salvation.
The Bible does not teach that people are saved by works of the Old Testament law of Moses, for we read in Romans Chapter 3, verse 20, that “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight”. From Colossians Chapter 2, verse 14, we learn that the law of Moses was nailed to the cross of Christ and is no longer bound upon anyone. We know that the only hope for salvation for lost humanity today is through the gospel of Christ. We do not propose to be saved by the works of the law, but through the works of faith and the labor of love in obedience to Christ.
While the Bible says: “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified“, it also says in James Chapter 2, verse 24:
“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only.” ‘These works then must not be the works of the law, but are the works of faith revealed in the gospel of Christ. The law of Moses is dead and its works mean nothing today, but the works of the gospel mean much.
A person is saved by the blood of Christ, through the grace of God. He is not saved by faith alone, but through obedience to the commandments of Christ. Jesus became “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” Hebrews 5: 9. This does not mean that the obedient soul earns, merits, or deserves salvation, but that he qualifies for the mercy and the grace of the Lord, who according to his mercy saves us “by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost” Titus 3: 5.
The Bible makes it clear in that same passage that while we are being saved through the washing of regeneration (or baptism) and the renewing of the Holy Ghost that it is not by works done in righteousness which we have done ourselves. But if we do not submit ourselves to the righteousness of God in obedience to his word, we cannot be saved.
There are many Bible passages that show the essentiality of faith, that we are saved by faith, justified by it, and so on. Every one of these passages is to be believed and accepted. But there is one similar thing about all these passages on faith, not one single passage ever says we are saved by faith only. There are not such passages in the Bible.
Here is a great point to remember: Never in any age or dispensation in human history has God saved man by faith alone. God has always required faith and obedience. No other formula for salvation has ever worked. None ever will. Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” Mark 16: 16. It is faith plus obedience. This is the embodiment of the principle under which God has always worked in saving man. It is utter folly to expect him to make an exception to the rule now and save anyone by faith only and without obedience.