God's warning to those who preach any other gospel than the one found in his word: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (And Paul repeats himself) As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than that which you have accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8-9)
Our Belief in the Gospel: A Sure Sign of our Salvation
How Jesus proves to us that we are saved when we hear and believe the Gospel
Does the Gospel in and of itself save? No. The Bible clearly tells us that some people hear the Gospel or Good News of Jesus and never believe it.
Christ alone saves, but he certainly uses the Gospel to reveal his saving work to those he has chosen for everlasting life--those he has given the gift of faith to believe in him. They believe and accept his Gospel!
He who hears my word and believes in the One who sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (hell): but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)
I’d like to start with two good reasons from St. Paul as to why it is important that we give due consideration to the Gospel we preach. We’ll get into the details of this later.
The first verse I’d like to call your attention to is Romans 1:16 where Paul tells us “the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.”
At the very least, that tells us that God makes use of the Gospel in a powerful way--to give those he loves the comforting details that his Son has won everlasting life for them. They no longer need to fret or fear for the fate of their soul after death. Their belief is his gift to them, a sign for them that he has assured their salvation.
"He who believes in me has everlasting life."
He promises them that no one
A dire warning that we preach it correctly
The next reason that St. Paul tells us the Gospel is critically important has much to do with our own salvation. It may seem rather negative compared to the first, but it is certainly no less important, especially to us who make it our business to preach the Gospel. It is a dire warning that goes like this: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (And Paul repeats himself) As we have already said, so now I say again: if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than that which you have accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:8-9)
So what is Paul, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, telling us? It’s pretty clear isn’t it? There is only one gospel and if we do not preach it correctly, we are to be utterly condemned to hell! No small consideration!
I don’t know about you, but I find it very easy to hear several gospels these days. It seems every TV evangelist we listen to has a different one. Yet, we like Paul, very much believe there is only one Gospel. We believe in absolute truth and we believe that that absolute truth is incarnate—he is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He told us so himself: “I am the way the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) Therefore there can be only one Gospel, one absolute truth about Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.
As I seriously began reading the Bible, I was shocked by the fact that the Gospel did not mesh with what I had been conditioned to believe I needed to do in order to get to heaven. In simple terms that conditioning had taught me “Be nice, take full advantage of the sacraments and you’ll ‘likely’ go to heaven.
I had been taught that Christ
had died to give me a “chance” to get to heaven. Additionally, I had been
told that the only way I could be assured of that “chance” was to be a
good Roman Catholic. And what did that mean? Again, “be nice, take full
advantage of the sacraments and you’ll likely go to heaven.”
But instead, the Gospel is slightly more detailed. It begins with the rather horrifying truth that, since the fall of Adam and Even, all of us are born in sin.
In Romans 6:23 St. Paul tells us clearly that the wages of our sin is death. We know that this death that he speaks of is not only death of the body but also death of the soul—an eternity in hell. Christ himself warned us of this death and that there is indeed a hell. He said:
“And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28)
Later in Matthew, Christ describes hell as a furnace of fire, where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (13:42) And, still later, we are told: And these (the wicked) shall go away into EVERLASTING punishment. (25:46)
If that prospect is not frightening enough, in Ephesians we are told that we are absolutely helpless to do anything about this sinful condition we were born in.
Paul tells us: As for you, you were “dead” in your trespasses and sins….(Ephesians 2:1) and “Like the rest, we were by nature, objects of (God’s) wrath.” “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 5:36) And then in Romans “None is righteous, no not one.” (3:10) All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (3:23)
Most of us know from getting a good look at the last pope in his final earthly state, that “dead” is a very helpless, a totally helpless physical and spiritual condition. Paul says it is the same for our souls; we were, dead in our trespasses and sins.
And because we are absolutely helpless, we desperately need a rescuer, a Savior, if you will.
Salvation he alone can give
So into this bleak picture we learn from God’s word that a Savior has indeed come, his name is Jesus, the Christ, or the anointed one of God. Jesus himself tells us plainly who he is and what he has come to do. As he put it: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
As we heard earlier, Christ also tells us plainly “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) and “Whoever does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him.” Jesus was also very straight with us about why he had come. “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28)
Paul tells us “God presented him (Jesus) as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood.” (3:25) And Peter, echoed Isaiah to be more specific about that atonement: “He (Christ) himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1Peter 2:24) And as Isaiah put it: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) Later, Isaiah also prophesied of Christ: “He bore the sins of many and made intercession for their transgressions.” (Isaiah. 53:12)
And as Jesus breathed his last breathe on the cross, the Gospel of John tells us that when he had received a drink, Jesus said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30) and in Hebrews we are told Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” (9:28)
So he died, literally to take away the sins of many. And he said so in Matthew 26 and we repeat his words in the liturgy… “this is my blood,… which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
Who did he die for?
Yet, we are told these days, and many believe that Christ died for all. And as we consider that, to a certain extent, it seems quite proper. Yet statistics indicate that some 200,000 individuals die each day and we know that many of those who die are just as pagan at the moment of their death as they were on the day of their birth. So can we accurately say, “Christ died for all?” And if we say he died for all, why was it that some do not accept him and others continue to outright reject him? If we are to believe Christ that his work was indeed “finished” on the cross, why is it that not all are saved?
I had a chance to make a short trip with a business associate the other day. He is a professed Christian but I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with him and I did so. He seemed to agree but soon turned to me and said, “I believe everyone has equal access to God.”
And I answered him by asking, “If that is true, how is it that Christ tells us that “NO ONE can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him and I will raise him up on the last day?” (John 6:44)
I ask you to consider yet another verse today. Why is it that Christ also says “NO ONE can come me unless it has been granted to him by my Father”? (John 6:64)
He chose us
Well, if we read our Bible the answer we are given seems clear. While we are not told exactly why some are saved and some are not, we are told that it is a matter of choosing. Not a matter of OUR choosing but a matter of Christ’s choosing us.
As Christ told his apostle, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…(John 15:16)
As he put it in the Gospel of Luke: “…no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the SON CHOOSES to reveal him.” (10:22) As Christ speaks of the end times in Matthew 24, he twice uses the term “elect” as in “those I have elected or CHOSEN.”
In Ephesians, St. Paul tells us: “For HE CHOSE US in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves.” (1:4-6) A few verses later, Paul continues, “In him, we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (1:11)
His will? The purpose of HIS will? What about my free-will? We hear much about our strong free-wills these days, don’t we? There is a whole theology built around our “free-wills” and much of it is courtesy of some fine theologians with the Roman Catholic Church and a Protestant theologian name Jacob Arminius—before him there was the ultimate free-willing heretic—a man known as Pelagius. The man who is credited most with promoting this freewill gospel in present day America is John Wesley—and he has done quite a good job. But read the scriptures, the word of God and see what you find on the topic of our free-will. Let me save you a bunch of reading. It speaks only of free-will offerings—that is—offerings we desire to make.
So the point of all this? It’s to emphasize that Christ died for all those he has chosen for everlasting life. And who are those he has chosen? We find, that without ever being asked the question, Christ himself answered it very directly when he said: “He who believes in me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
Elsewhere in the Gospel of John, Jesus is very specific about that: “Truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who lives and believes in me, will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
And then, as if to top it all off, Christ makes this promise in John 10:27-30: “My sheep listen to my voice. I give them eternal life and they shall NEVER PERISH; NO ONE can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, NO ONE can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
So tell me, with a promise like that, is there still any doubt as to whether or not you and your strong will can sin so much you could lose your salvation? Jesus makes us a clear promise, because we are true believers, we are in his hands, no one – not even you yourself and your strong will can overcome his loving grasp. You see, it is not a matter of us holding onto Christ, it is a matter of Christ holding onto us and he promises he will not let go—no one will snatch you out of his hand.
In 1 John 5:11-12, these words of Christ are clearly confirmed, as if Christ needed any confirmation, there we find: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Again in 1 John, we find: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (5:13)
In Romans, Paul tells us: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (8:1)
So how is it again that the Gospel, the Good News from Christ and about Christ, tells us that salvation is indeed ours? We believe that Christ and Christ alone has saved us and we don’t know why, beyond the fact that he has chosen us. In other words, we believe that we are saved by the grace of God, through his gift of faith in his only Son. Yet, there are those theologians, even today, who dare call this a mere “novelty.”
Yet, as we have heard from Christ himself: “He who believes in me has everlasting life”, is no “novelty.” As we hear from Paul and Silas to their jailer (Acts 16:31) “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”—is no novelty. Both of these tell us it is faith alone in Christ that saves us.
Paul makes all of this undeniably clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he says: “For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not from you, it is a gift from God. It is not from works, so no one may boast.”
As Paul tells us, our faith is a gift, an undeserved gift from a merciful God, who has, for no apparent reason, chosen to pour out his love on us. In his grace, his undeserved favor toward us, he has given us the gift of faith in his only Son. And, of course, that faith comes with yet another gift, the gift of eternal life.
As Paul also tells us: “For the wages of sin is death but the GIFT OF GOD is eternal life.” (Romans 6:23)
You see, it is all a GIFT, secured for us, through the faith that only Christ can choose for us. He, through no work of our own, has chosen to justify us or “make us right” in the sight of God.
How can I say, quite definitely, that our justification or righteousness before God is no work of our own? Because Paul is emphatic about that, as he puts it: “And if (we are saved) by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (11:5-6)
So much for those Roman Catholic apologists who say they believe they are saved by grace but not by faith alone. Paul tells us there is no such thing as one without the other.
His righteousness, not ours
So how does Christ do this for bonafide sinners such as us? Paul reminds us that Christ was “delivered up for our offenses and raised (from the dead) for our justification.” (Romans 4:25) Christ died to make the perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could turn back the wrath of God from our sinful souls and Christ was raised from the dead, so that we would know with all certainty, that we who believe are indeed “covered” in his righteousness.
Paul plainly tells us, the righteousness that gets us to heaven is not our own. As he puts it in Philippians, “…and being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (3:9)
As Paul continues in Romans, “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him (Abraham) alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised for our justification.” (4:22-25)
“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him,” says Paul in Romans 4:7-8.
And this is just as Isaiah had prophesied many years earlier when he said; “And their righteousness is from me, says the Lord.” (54:17) And later Isaiah adds, “For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice.” (61:10)
Rest for our souls
Wow brothers, what more assurance do we need? After more than 40 years in the Roman Catholic faith, I can tell you that the moment I finally read and was given the ears to understand these words, I also finally understood what Christ meant when he said:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Oh, how true, for Christ and Christ alone has done all the work that really needed to be done for us.
And so we rejoice all the more in his promise: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3)
The Gospel we must preach
This is the great Gospel of assurance in the person and works of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on our behalf. It is the Gospel that we must believe and preach. We must be ready for some to accept it and for others to reject it. But, if we wish to be true ministers of his word and sacraments, we must know and preach his absolute truth. Anything less will not do.
As I noted earlier, St. Paul tells us, “…the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.” The very power of God for the salvation of all who believe! What more do we need to realize that God works through the Gospel to draw men unto him? What more do we need to understand how very important it is that we get this Gospel right—that we preach it correctly in all its fullness.
And as St. Paul duly warned us in Galatians, there are no options, no “other
gospels” that are acceptable for us to preach. And those who do so face dire consequences indeed. As St. Paul put it: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than that which you have accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8-9)
What was the “other” gospel that was being preached to the Galatians? It came from some Jews who professed to be Christians and insisted that the Galatians circumcise all their males as a requirement to be true followers of Christ. They were teaching circumcision as a salvation requirement and Paul said even that strayed enough from the true Gospel for him to call for their utter condemnation.
Concern for the Gospel we preach
Is this enough reason for me to be concerned about the Gospel we are preaching? Aside from the fact that I take St. Paul’s words to be inspired by the living God—and therefore the word of God, I come from a church whose erroneous doctrines have made a mockery of this very gospel
A church that has almost totally replaced this gospel with a “system” and it has done so on the same basis that the Pharisees did, the basis of man-made traditions—traditions that it attributes to the apostles in the same way the Pharisees erroneously attributed their man-made rules to the Hebrew patriarchs. (This is not to insinuate that there are no traditions that we follow that are biblically rooted. There are indeed traditions that we practice that have strong roots in the Bible. It is to insinuate that the Roman Catholic Church has approved, as necessary for salvation, many traditions that have no root whatsoever in the word of God and that we must be careful to avoid these.)
I take some heart in the Anglican backgrounds that some of you come from. For when that church came out from under the tyranny of Rome, one of the important steps it took was to establish what it called “Articles of Religion.” While I do not agree with all of those articles one of them reads as follows:
“The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written….”. (XX Of the Authority of the Church)
In other words, if a proposed teaching is not found in the Bible, the Church should by no means require it as necessary for our salvation.
And so, let me review as briefly as possible the Gospel that I espouse, based on the Holy Scriptures. It would go like this: “Christ died to absolutely secure the salvation of all who come to believe in him.”
In other words, Christ did not die to offer true believers anymore than the “possibility” of salvation or the “chance” or the “opportunity” for salvation. Instead Christ lived a perfect life, died a tortuous death and rose again bodily to offer us the absolute assurance of salvation to all who believe in him.
It is therefore no sin of presumption to have faith that he has secured our salvation. Presumption is only a sin when it is without the gift of faith that only he can give us. Presumption is only a sin when we presume upon ourselves and not upon the One who has saved us.
And so, we ask—given what we’ve read… Is the Gospel about Christ and what he accomplished on our behalf? Or, is it about us and what we accomplish on Christ’s behalf? Or, both?
If we say it is about us and our accomplishments on his behalf, or partially him and partially our accomplishments, then we refuse to give him full credit for what he alone has accomplished, according to his word.
But how easy it is for us to add to this Gospel and attempt to make our extracurricular works or devotions or other matters part of it. And every time we do, and tell someone that this or that is required for the faithful to attain salvation, we preach that “other” gospel that St. Paul warned us against and we condemn ourselves.
What we must avoid
Rome is a good example. It has added several dogmas or doctrines to the biblical gospel and it has required that the faithful believe them for their salvation. Every time Rome does this, that required doctrine or dogma automatically becomes part of the Gospel it preaches.
It is for this reason that the Roman Catholic Church clearly tells us that we are condemned to hell if we refuse to recognize and believe its required teachings such as papal infallibility and supremacy, as well as Marian doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary, the mother of Christ.
Yet, what Paul tells us is quite the contrary. It is not we who are condemned for failing to believe these unnecessary requirements of Rome; instead it is the Roman Church that faces condemnation for making them requirements for salvation in the first place! Why? Because in doing so it is preaching the "other" gospel that Paul warned against.
About Good Works….
Yes, we have to be very careful about going beyond the Gospel. Perhaps one area where we need be especially cognizant of this is that of “good works.”
Many may try to insinuate that we are preaching here a Gospel that is void of good works. Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead it is a Gospel that says the only work that gives any of us access to heaven when we die is the work that Christ alone did for all those who will come to believe in him: The perfect life he lived, the atoning death he suffered and endured for all those who put their trust in him and not in themselves or their own works.
What we are preaching here is the Gospel that comes straight from God's holy word, one that we could have never imagined on our own. It is a Gospel that came as a great shock to me personally. A Gospel that tells us we are saved by the One who did all the work, we are saved by Christ alone and our own works do not in anyway merit or help merit our salvation. It is a Gospel that gives all the credit for our salvation to the only One who can properly receive that credit—Christ and to him alone. All the credit for our salvation is his. None of it is ours.
As Christ plainly responded to the Jews who questioned him, asking: "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (John 6:28-29)
He also told us how we are to view all our good works:
“...When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants, we have done what was our duty to do." (Luke 17:10)
We don't get to heaven on “credits” or “merits” we get to heaven because Christ chose us and gave us the gift of faith—to believe in him as God in the flesh and as our Lord and Savior. We get to heaven because he died in our place on the cross. We put all our trust in him and none in ourselves. If we put any trust in ourselves, we will rightly spend our whole lives worried to death that we may not go to heaven when we die. There are those who build great religious “systems” around just such worthless worries. And you know exactly who or what I'm writing about (Roman Catholicism).
But, for the sake of argument, let's say our works do count toward heaven. Even if that were true, which of us—even those with great works—could ever bring ourselves to say: “Yes, we deserve heaven”? That's why its a great relief to learn from the Bible that our certainty that we will be with Christ in heaven is in no way based upon anything we have done nor anything we will do. Instead it is based fully upon Christ, the work he has done and the promises he has given us. Such as:
“He who believes in me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47) and “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30)
We rely solely on Christ's righteousness ("right standing" before God) and not our own to enter the gates of heaven. “And their righteousness is from me, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 54:7) “..and being found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9)
“Therefore, since we are justified ("made right" before God) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
All of this is Christ's work—not ours. He chooses those who believe, he gives them the gift of faith to justify them, Christ and Christ alone imputes or credits his righteousness before God to them. And the righteousness that he imputes to us is his own--not ours. He promises those who believe in him that we will never perish—our souls will never die and he promises us that no one can snatch us from his mighty hands. No one—not even ourselves! (John 10:28-30)
He promises us that he will come again in glory to gather us to himself. What is left for us? We come to him with empty hands and even those hands he has given us. “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)
Perhaps some will find in this Gospel a reason not to work. Perhaps others will use it as a license to sin. But the fact of the matter is (based on God's holy word--the Bible) that for all who truly believe in Christ as God in the flesh and as their Lord and Savior, it is no reason not to work nor a license to sin.
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)
No, as St. Paul indicates, Christians, though admitted sinners, are not ones who go around looking for sin and looking to live in sin. Though we do indeed sin, we seek to reject it and ask the Holy Spirit to more and more remove it from our lives.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 8-9)
And so the gift of faith that God has given us is not a license to sin, it is instead, the reason we seek forgiveness from him and a reason also for great rejoicing to the One who has defeated sin—the one who has already won the battle for us.
It is instead, reason to fight the sin in our lives in repentance and gratitude to the One who has overcome all sin on our behalf. “...because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
And to think that he gives us even more than eternal life. Yes, for he tells us that there will be reward in heaven for the good that we do. This is where many get confused. They think the reward is heaven but no, Christ tells us "...your reward will be great in heaven." (Matthew 5:11)
In the meantime, Christ plainly warned us that those who believe in him will face persecution—and it could get rather hairy. “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted and shall kill you; and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.” (Matthew 24: 9)
Indeed he warned us that there might be great unrest at times in our lives if we truly believe in him and what he has done for us.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36)
Yet throughout all this we will have an inner peace that only he can give.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do no be afraid.” (John 14:27)
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
And so we prepare for some persecution and whatever we suffer--be it in the workplace on a daily basis, or an end time martyrdom--we suffer and rejoice in anticipation of the second coming of him who has saved us. We have been told and we believe in the coming of a divine little child, we have been told and we believe he will come again as THE KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS—and He shall reign forever and ever! Amen!
We trust in him to give us the gifts he wishes to give us, to give us the works he wishes to give us and to give us the strength to do them. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
And do these works then save us or in any way add to our salvation? No! While they will be rewarded in heaven, it is Christ and Christ alone who has saved us giving us a sure sign of that salvation, namely the gift of faith to believe he is truly who he said he is—God in the flesh, our very Lord and Savior!
“For by grace you are saved through faith and this is not from you, it is the gift of God, It is not from works, so no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Ephesians 1:11) (This is a good verse to point out to all those who speak of the false gospel of the "free-will." There is no free-will in the true Gospel only those who are grateful and thankful that God's will prevails to secure the salvation of all he has chosen to believe on him!)
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1: 13-14)
And the really ironic thing is that when he comes to separate the goats from the sheep, and give to his sheep their inheritance, his sheep will question any good work they ever did—because for them it was not about their good works but about glorifying the one who had saved them! "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?" (Matthew 25:37)
And finally, let me ask you. How many good works did the thief on the cross next to Jesus do? And yet that very day, he was with the Savior in paradise. (Luke 23:42-43) Let us “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness... (Matthew 6:33). Let us love one another as he first loved us.” (John 15:12)