When it comes to being saved, good deeds do not matter – simply because no one is good enough. This verse tells us clearly that we are saved apart from any good deeds: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). The salvation referred to here is that of faith making us righteous. Our good deeds could never give us a righteous standing before God.
Furthermore, good deeds are useless when it comes to escaping any punishment for crimes. For instance, if you were convicted of first-degree murder, it wouldn’t matter how many good deeds you’ve done. You must be punished for murder. Similarly, we’ve broken God’s laws, so we must be punished. That’s why we believe on Jesus – because he bore the punishment in our place.
Nevertheless, good deeds enter in when it comes to growing in faith. These good deeds are of an entirely different character than the deeds before salvation. Before we confessed faith in Christ, we acted out of personal decency and when it was advantageous to us. The gospel tells us, however, that despite all our good behavior, we were bound for @#!*% . When we acknowledged that truth and turned to Christ to save us, we saw our deeds in a new light – as directed by us and not God.
Because we acknowledge that our former way of life apart from God was sinful, we turn to the Word to learn how to live in a way that pleases God. That is a new motivation that we never had before. It gives rise to its own character of good deeds.
The Bible has much to say about good deeds. First, they are deeds reflecting a believer’s response to God as a servant of God. The Lord commands, and it’s our duty to obey (Luke 17:10). In the end, when our Master returns, we must give him an account of our service. At that point our deeds will be judged as to whether they’re worthy of a reward or not. If we are judged faithful, we will be handsomely rewarded.
Second, the good deeds Christians do will prove that they are taking their salvation seriously. Christians who persist in disobedience cut themselves off from many blessings in this life, and will forfeit some everlasting rewards for the time to come.
Third, good deeds, those which we do in faith and obedience, and those directed against sin, preserves our relationship with God. They show that we are holy, that is, set apart for God’s use in this world. Other reasons for good deeds exist as well, including the fact that God works through men and women who have yielded to him. Good deeds from such are God working through them in love. Through their faithful representation, the world can see what God is like.
What Do You Think?
a. If a man is on trial for first-degree murder, why should his good deeds matter? In the same way, if God has condemned the unbeliever for his bad deeds, why should his good deeds prevail?
b. If someone hurt you badly and destroyed his relationship with you, would you feel better if that person started doing good deeds in another area of the world? Why should that restore your relationship? In the same way, why should our good deeds restore a relationship with God if we continue to have nothing to do with God?
c. What religion practices the idea of good deeds outweighing bad deeds? Why would you have confidence in the truth of that system?