There are some today who say that our good works play a part in our “final justification” before God when Christ returns. But the Heidelberg Catechism expressly denies this teaching. Heidelberg Catechism Question 62 asks, “But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?” and answers in this way, “Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.”
If we, as Christians, cannot affirm that “Our good works will never save us PERIOD”, without adding any qualifications to that message, we really have failed to understand both the freeing message of the gospel and the freeing power of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Our salvation is never contingent upon anything we do. Rather our good works are always a Holy Spirit induced response of thanksgiving to the reality of the good news of the gospel. That good news is that God in Christ has paid the full price for our sins, declaring us as innocent in his sight, and has applied the perfect righteousness of Christ to our account. Our good works, even though God commands us to do them and promises to reward them (a reward of grace, not merit) will never be the reason for the good news of the gospel. In other words, we work out only what God is already working in us (Philippians 2:12-13).
Thus, the answer to “What must I do to be saved?” is never believe on the Lord Jesus Christ AND anything (do good works, continue in the faith, read the Bible, pray more, go to church, serve others). We will do these things, but never because we expect to be saved by the doing of them.
The answer is simply “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” (Acts 16:31). That is, turn from trusting in anyone or anything else and look to Jesus Christ for all that you need.
A person who has this true faith also has the Spirit of Christ in them and therefore will be transformed by the power of Christ. And this work of God will inevitably result in a life that honors Christ and loves to do good works, not because of what we will get, but because of what we already possess!
1 John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have (present tense) eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”
Philippians 1:6 – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”