Question 33: Should those who have faith in Christ seek their salvation through their own works, or anywhere else?
Answer: No, they should not, as everything necessary to salvation is found in Christ. To seek salvation through good works is a denial that Christ is the only Redeemer and Savior.
Scripture: Galatians 2:16
Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Commentary by Timothy Keller
If you mix faith and works, if you say, “Yes, I have to have faith in what Jesus has done for me, but I also have to add this or this or this, or I’m not saved,” then you’re saying that what actually saves you is not what Jesus has done, but what you add. It makes you your own savior.
This illustration might help. Mr. A asked Mr. B to make him a wooden cabinet because Mr. B was a great cabinetmaker. Mr. B and Mr. A were friends, and therefore Mr. B said, “Well, I better make this really good . . . perfect.” So he worked and worked and worked on the cabinet till he got it to the place where it had been buffed and polished to perfection. He brought Mr. A into the workshop to see it, and Mr. A picked up a piece of sandpaper and said, “Let me just add one little stroke.” Mr. B said, “No! It is finished. It’s perfect. And there’s no way to add to it without subtracting from it.”
It’s the same with Jesus Christ’s work. Because when Jesus died, he said, “It is finished.” There is nothing else to add to it. It’s perfect. And if you add to it, you subtract from it. If you say, “He did this but I have to add this,” anything you add becomes the real basis of your salvation and makes you your own savior.
The Protestant Reformers made strong biblical arguments that you cannot mix faith and works, that justification and righteousness and salvation must be through faith alone. I won’t make any more of those arguments; I’ll just say this: Personally, I couldn’t live if that wasn’t the case. I don’t have any hope unless I can get up every day and stand on the bedrock knowledge that
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
That’s my only hope.