How are good works the result of salvation?

Ephesians 2:8–10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This passage clearly puts forth that salvation is not a result of works. We can do nothing to save ourselves and are only saved by God’s grace (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:20; 5:1–2). However, we are also still meant to do good works. In fact, God prepared them beforehand for us to do. Rather than earn or maintain our salvation, though, these works are the result of salvation.

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we are made completely new. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Part of this newness is a desire to live for God. We come to understand His love and His ways and want to walk in them. Jesus talked about abiding in Him and so “bearing fruit” in John 15. James famously notes how “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). What James means is that what we believe, plays out in our actions. We might say we have “faith,” but the veracity of that claim is demonstrated by what we actually do. For example, when we believe a stove is hot, we won’t put our hand on it. Similarly, if we truly have faith in God, we will be changed as a result.

It is important to realize that this change comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit, and also that it is a gradual process. God transforms our hearts and we cooperate with His work in our lives. Romans 8:29 talks about us being conformed to the image of Christ. Second Corinthians 3:18 shares a similar concept. In Romans 12:2, Paul talks about being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Perhaps the most obvious “good work” that should mark the life of a Christian is love. Jesus told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). First John also discusses love as being a mark of a believer in Christ.

Good works can never save a person. On their own, good works are worthless. But, when a person comes to know Jesus and trust Him for salvation, they are a new creation. Good works, ones that truly honor God and are meant for His glory, are one of the results of that change.