While works are not a part of salvation, some Christians have used this fact as an excuse to live however they want to after salvation. After all, they reason, since works are not a part of salvation then I don’t have to live a holy life since I can’t lose my salvation. Now first of all, it’s quite obvious those with that kind of attitude have only asked Jesus to save them as a mere formality rather than receiving God’s gift of salvation in a repentant heart. In other words, those people have come to Jesus with no intent to repent of their sins.
There are also Christians who came to Christ, knowing the penalty for their sins and that they deserved an eternity in Hell for their transgressions. However, after salvation someone comes along whether it be a layman or someone in the ministry who tells them that since they are saved by grace and have eternal life, being told they have to live a holy life amounts to legalism.
When you were given the gospel you may have been quoted (Ephesians 2:8-9) which says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” This verse makes it plain that works has nothing to do with salvation and some have used this as a proof text to justify a variety of sinful or questionable practices after salvation. Let’s take a glimpse at this following verse.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
However, Christians who have this kind of an attitude conveniently forget that there is a verse 10 and it goes on to explain what God expects of us after obtaining His wonderful gift of salvation. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
The full context of the passage in Ephesians makes it plain that while we are saved by grace through faith because of the gift of God, we are made a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) and are created unto good works. We are not created to just go on living like the world.
This problem existed in Paul’s day and he warned against those who would use their liberty in Christ as a cloak of maliciousness. In the 1980s there was a well-known Christian leader who pastored a mega-church in California and preached that Christians were not bound by the law and could exercise their liberty anyway they saw fit.
Friends, do not be deceived. God gave us the precious gift of salvation, but He wants so much more out of us. It is His desire for us to live a holy life in obedience to His Word not in order to obtain salvation, but because we are saved and want to express our love to Him by willingly being obedient to Him.
Growing up we had rules in my house. While I would be punished if I broke the rules, ultimately the fear of punishment was not why I obeyed my mother and father. I realized my father loved me and I wanted to obey his rules to show him that I loved him and wanted to please him.