I was raised a Lutheran, and am looking for an answer from someone (like a Lutheran) who believes in salvation by grace alone (by faith alone, etc.). I still believe in salvation by faith alone because much of the New Testament seems to indicate this (John 3:16, Romans 3:28, 1 Corinthians 3:11, etc), but I am wondering how we rationalize these words of Jesus (below) and how they can be reconciled with the 'faith alone' philosophy. They seem to explicitly state that one 'must do the will of the father' in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (have salvation, right?).

Jesus said, in Matt 7:21-23 (NASB) 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [a] miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

  • 2
    The Lutheran doctrine of Justification means before you are able to do any good, God declares you are perfect and sinless on account of Christ's perfection charged to your account. However although justification precedes good works, called sanctification, sanctification necessarily follows showing that your faith was genuine and not just words. In Luther's mind it does not mean sanctification or good works is needed on top of faith but that it will accompany genuine faith. This results in 'assurance of salvation' something Luther though was important.
    – Mike
    May 25, 2014 at 5:41
  • Perhaps surprisingly related: Is Catholicism a "works" denomination? May 25, 2014 at 8:29
  • Do you in your question equate lack of works with lawlessness? Or put the other way, do you in your question assume that works mean to follow the Law? This is one of the passages that has many translations, all in actuality quite different from each other. An absence of works does not necessarily mean a practice of lawlessness. Or are you saying that it does? That the doing of good works and the abstaining from sin are both blessings? May 25, 2014 at 9:11
  • @gideon marx No, but I equate works with 'doing the will of the father' and 'not doing the will of the father' with a lack of works.
    – jaredad7
    May 25, 2014 at 12:23
  • Thank you for your response and your question. In doing research for it I learnt some important things and that is what makes this site valuable. May 26, 2014 at 8:01

6 Answers 6


James 2:14-26 answers your question perfectly.

Faith is shown through works. I've included the excerpt below *.

Symbolically, sin can be likened to nakedness, whereas clean white robes represent good deeds which are obviously tied with faith.

Revelation 19:8

8 She has been permitted to dress in fine (radiant) linen, dazzling and white—for the fine linen is (signifies, represents) the righteousness (the upright, just, and godly living, deeds, and conduct, and right standing with God) of the saints (God’s holy people).

With the amount of reference to "white robes" in Revelation (such as Revelation 7:14 ), and their correlation to faith (deeds) which is the result of both Christ's sacrifice and good works on the part of the follower, we can conclude that works are a large part of faith.

There is a definite correlation between good works (by which faith can be measured) and being counted among Christ's people.

Matthew 25:36 Compare to James below:

36 I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me [j]with help and ministering care, I was in prison and you came to see Me.

  • James 2:14-26

    14 What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]?

    15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day,

    16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do?

    17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).

    18 But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have faith, and I have [good] works. Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good] works [of obedience] will show you my faith.

    19 You believe that God is one; you do well. So do the demons believe and shudder [in terror and horror such as [a]make a man’s hair stand on end and contract the surface of his skin]!

    20 Are you willing to be shown [proof], you foolish (unproductive, spiritually deficient) fellow, that faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless?

    21 Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac?

    22 You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.

    23 And [so] the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed in (adhered to, trusted in, and relied on) God, and this was accounted to him as righteousness (as conformity to God’s will in thought and deed), and he was called God’s friend.

    24 You see that a man is justified (pronounced righteous before God) through what he does and not alone through faith [through works of obedience as well as by what he believes].

    25 So also with Rahab the harlot—was she not shown to be justified (pronounced righteous before God) by [good] deeds when she took in the scouts (spies) and sent them away by a different route?

    26 For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead.


“Not everyone who says to Me, .. ....but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter."

What is the Father's will? Does the Father's will exclude

" .. prophesying, casting out demons, ..... performing miracles"

in the name of Jesus? The works of those who do not qualify to enter do not seem evil at all in themselves. They aren't. What's wrong with prophesying, casting out demons or performing miracles in the name of Jesus?

I think the key to Jesus' words is found in the little but powerful phrase,

‘I never knew you; .... '

And the key word here is know. What does it mean to know?

Genesis 4:1 says, in part,

"And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived ..."

This communicates to me a very close relationship, intimacy. I believe what Jesus is saying is that intimacy was lacking between Him and those that do not qualify, however good their works were. Could it be that they did the works they did as a means of earning salvation or earning acceptance?

Jesus Himself said,

"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." John 17:3

Jesus is saying that knowing the Father and Jesus is everything. A person that is in a loving/knowing/intimate relationship with God does everything that God says to do not as a means to earn salvation or acceptance but because s/he is already saved and accepted.

And Luke 13:23-27, the Bible says:

23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”He said to them,

24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.

25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

In conclusion, salvation is by grace alone through faith and in Matt 7:21-23 Jesus brings out the same truth when you consider the deep meaning of the simple but often glossed over word: KNOW.


I think John 6:40 addresses "the will of God" that Jesus brings up in Matt 7.21-23 in a satisfying way:

John 6:40 (NASB) For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”


Is salvation achieved by faith alone, or does it in fact require some works?

Basically works are evidential as opposed to causative.

The person who mentioned James chapter two brings up an important comparison. The subject being discussed in Matthew is mistaken assurance of salvation. Even John the Baptist brought this up;

Luke 3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

James brings this up as a warning;

James 2:15-17 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

The people James was writing he scolded for giving preferential treatment to rich people. He even goes so far as to say that such preferential treatment is similar to only keeping part of the law. He further shows them that they should even question their salvation status if they think they are serving Christ but humiliating and showing contempt to the poor.

The subject of salvation "proof" is one that Christians have hit each other over the head with for centuries. One will declare that baptism is necessary for salvation, another will declare that saying a specific prayer guarantees salvation status.

These verses indicate that it is possible for people to be mistaken about being saved. They are not saying that one can earn salvation by doing good works, but they are saying that if one has no good works, one would be well advised to look into themselves and determine in what they are really trusting.

Works are tricky business. It is so easy to look at ones works as accomplishments and start to see how we earn our own righteousness. This is what happened to the Pharisees. Jesus warned his disciples against this "leaven" because it can lead to blindness that is almost impenetrable.

Luke 18:914 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

We are also cautioned about conclusions we draw about others as regarding what evidence we require of them;

Romans 14:1-5 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.


The anointed cherub = Morning Star ( Psalm 110:3 & Isaiah 14:12 Latin Vulgate )

Jesus = Morning Star ( Revelation 22:16)

Obviously, the title " Morning Star" of Jesus and the anointed cherub are same but not same in sense for Jesus is such because he is very God who is "Light from Light" (1 John 1:5, John 8:12,42) while anointed cherub is such because he is a created being, the most beautiful among his fellows (Isaiah 14).

Satan = theos ( 2 Corinthians 4:4)

Jesus = theos ( John 1:1)

Obviously, the title " theos" of Jesus and Satan are same but not same in sense for Jesus is "God" because he is true God ( 1 John 5:20) while Satan is a "god" because he has authority over the world ( Matthew 4:9, Galatians 1:4).

faith alone = saved by grace through faith NOT of works ( Ephesians 2:8-9)

faith alone = justified by faith APART from works ( Romans 8:28)

NOT saved & justified by faith alone ( James 2:14,24)

Obviously, there are two sorts of "faith alone" in the Holy Scriptures:

1) Faith alone that saves & justifies.

Notice that the focus is on salvation out from the WRATH of God:

Romans 5:9 + 3:28 saved from the wrath by the blood of Jesus

Ephesians 2:3 &14 + 2:8-9 children of wrath = brought near to God by the blood of Jesus

Also notice that the focus is on the WORKS OF THE LAW:

It is impossible to obey all the Law: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, IT CANNOT (Romans 8:7).

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in ONE point, he has become guilty OF ALL (James 2:10).

This Law includes the 10 commandments: who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, NOT of the letter BUT of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.Now if the ministry of DEATH, CARVED IN LETTERS ON STONE, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end (2 Corinthians 3:6-7).

Question: What is the Law, then?

Answer: Paul himself asked and answered this question.

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.Now BEFORE FAITH CAME, WE WERE HELD CAPTIVE UNDER THE LAW, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed So then, THE LAW WAS OUR GUARDIAN until Christ came, [ why?] IN ORDER THAT WE MIGHT BE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH. But now that faith has come, we are NO LONGER under a guardian (Galatians 3:19-25).

2) Faith alone that does not save and justify.

Notice that the focus is on SHOWING real faith and COMPLETING of it BY WORKS:

James 2:18 I will SHOW you my faith by my works.

James 2:22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was COMPLETED.

How is faith completed ? Is faith alone lacking?

Faith is completed by works because if it lacks works then it is the same as " a body without a spirit", that is, dead or useless.

"Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is DEAD" ( James 2:26)

"But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is USELESS?" ( James 2:20)

Also notice that the focus is on the WORKS FROM LOVE:

What good is it, my brothers, if someone "SAYS" he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ( James 2:14).

If a BROTHER OR SISTER ( Brethren) is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you “SAYS” to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? ( James 2:15).

John agrees with James for is expressing the same thing in his epistle: By this we know LOVE, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does GOD'S LOVE abide in him? Little children, LET US "NOT" LOVE IN "WORD" OR "TALK" BUT IN DEED AND IN TRUTH ( 1 John 3:16-18).

Paul also agrees with James and John: In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but FAITH WORKING THROUGH CHARITY ( Galatians 5:6).

Yes. It is not from the Law but from faith working through charity (or love): But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; AGAINST SUCH THINGS THERE IS NO LAW Galatians 5:22-23).


Romans 3:28 declared holy (to God) by faith apart from works [ of the Law] i.e. faith alone.

James 2:28 declared holy ( to brethren) by works [ from faith - specifically the faith that is "apart from works" in Romans 3:28].


To justify means to declare a person as holy.

Greek word: δικαιόω


Saint Apostle James answers the question (James 2:19-26):

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

You see that faith without works is dead! Devils also believe in God but they don't get no benefit from this continuing to be evil demons condemned to hell! As Saint Athanasius of Alexandria said (my translation):

God save us not without us.

But how we can check that our faith is not dead (because our works seems us as a good can be vain and evil in the sight of God)? We must really sense Divine grace in our souls which give us strength to keep the saint commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ who said (John 15:4,5):

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

We can get such fruitful Divine grace only in the sacraments.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .