Grace vs. Good Works: A Primer

Someone said to me yesterday, “I have a real problem with the doctrine of predestination. It doesn’t seem fair!”

Not that I’m a big man in the theology shop, but I think I do understand that “predestination” is just another way to say that our salvation is up to God, not us. And that’s a good thing, I explained.

“Suppose you’re on your death bed, and you expect to go to heaven because you’ve done the minimum 500 good works required to get you through the door. And suddenly, as you review your life, you realize you’ve miscounted. You’ve only done 498! So it’s no heaven for you, after all–missed it by that much.”

That’s quite a burden for any soul to carry. Wouldn’t you rather rely on the grace of God, the free gift obtained for you by Jesus Christ?

But what, then, about good works?

“I will show thee my faith by my works,” says St. James (James 2:18). We are saved by faith, says St. Paul, and not by works: “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.’ Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:2-4)

Don’t worry about your works. If you have faith, and are predestined for salvation, the works will follow.

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