Understanding Salvation by Good Works
Salvation by Works before Sin
Salvation by good works or salvation by works was the way of God before Adam and Eve sinned. Eternal life was not free for them, so it cannot be free for anyone else. God created humans to do good works, which He had prepared beforehand so that they would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) He also created humans would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4) The wages of the righteous is eternal life. (Proverbs 10:16) He who is steadfast in righteousness will obtain everlasting life. (Proverbs 11:19) In other words, in the way of righteousness is everlasting life, and in its pathway, there is no death. (Proverbs 12:28) All unrighteousness is sin. (1 John 3:4: 5:17, James 4:17) Therefore, the requirements for obtaining eternal life for Adam and Eve were for them to be righteous, holy, and blameless before God.
Adam and Eve hoped they would obtain salvation by works, which the Lord, who cannot lie, promised them. (Titus 1:2) They understood four things their children today need to understand. First, that there is sin leading to death and there is sin not leading to death. Second, that if anyone sees his brother sinning not unto death, they shall ask and God will for them give life to those who sin not unto death. Third, that all unrighteousness is sin. (1 John 5:16-17) Fourth, that the way of the Lord is doing righteousness. (Genesis 18:19) Therefore, in the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway, there is no death. (Proverbs 12:28) The Bible indicates that the Ten Commandments, and laws, and requirements of God predate sin. (Deuteronomy 4:13, Psalm 119:1, Psalm 119:80, Proverbs 28:18, Ezekiel 28:15, Luke 1:6, 2 Peter 2:21)
Salvation by Works after Sin
Salvation by good works continued after Adam and Eve sinned unto death. An important fact needs to be understood at this point. That fact is that there is not a righteous person on earth who continually does good and who never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20) Therefore, 100% obedience to the Lord is not required for inheriting everlasting life. Being righteous and holy and blameless before God simply means not being worthy of death. Consider the following three scriptures. (1) If someone sins worthy of death, they are put to death. (Deuteronomy 21:22) (2) There may be no sin in the person worthy of death. (Deuteronomy 22:26) (3) Those who practice such things are worthy of death. (Romans 1:28-32) Remember the wages of sin is eternal death; likewise, the wages of the righteous is eternal life. (Proverbs 10:16, Romans 6:23)
Christ indicates that salvation by works has been obtained by people from Adam to Moses. He says, “I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 8:11) Moreover, He says, “In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of Heaven, but yourselves being thrown out.” (Luke 13:28) Do you not know that the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of Heaven? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of Heaven. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Therefore, as most people believe, obtaining everlasting life by good works was present from Adam to Moses.
Salvation by Works under the Old Covenant
Salvation by good works continued under the Old Covenant. Therefore, God says humans shall keep His commandments and laws, by which humans may inherit everlasting life if they do them. (Leviticus 18:4-5; Deuteronomy 30:6-20; Nehemiah 9:29; Proverbs 4:1-9; Proverbs 7:1-3; Ezekiel 3:21; 18: 17, 19, 21-22, 27-28; 20:11, 13, 21; 33:15-16, 19) As a matter of fact, Ezekiel 18:27-28 explicitly says that if humans follow the way of righteousness they will save their life; they shall surely live; they shall not die. Therefore, as most people believe, the requirements for eternal life are present under the Old Covenant.
Salvation by Works under the New Covenant
Finally, salvation by good works continues under the New Covenant. We know this because God does not change. (Malachi 3:6) Also, He does not change His spoken words. (Psalm 89:34) Also, He does not change His counsel for humans. (Hebrews 6:17) Also, He does not change His calling for humans. (Romans 11:29) For those who disagree, let us look at some of the Old Testament precepts continued in the New Testament.
Salvation by good works from Matthew 7:21 to Romans 6:18. Those who do the will of the Lord who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21-23) The one who has endured to the end will be saved. (Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13) Work for the food, which endures, to everlasting life. (John 6:27) They know the ordinance of God that those who practice such things are worthy of death. (Romans 1:32) The doers of the requirements of the Lord will be justified. (Romans 2:13) Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness to the Lord. (Romans 6:13) When freed from sin, become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:18)
Salvation by good works from Romans 6:19 to Titus 2:11-12. Present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. (Romans 6:19) Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21) The Lord chose us before the foundation of the world that we would be holy and blameless before Him. (Ephesians 1:4) We are God’s workmanship, created for good works, which He prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10) Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work. (Colossians 1:10) Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. (1 Timothy 6:11) Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. (2 Timothy 2:22) Live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age. (Titus 2:11-12)
Salvation by good works from Hebrews 10:36 to 1 John 2:17, 29. You need endurance, so that when you have done the will of the Lord, you may receive the promise of eternal life. (Hebrews 10:36) The will of God is that humans do what is right in His sight. (1 Peter 2:15) Die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24) Live the rest of your time in the flesh for the will of the Lord. (1 Peter 4:2) Those who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to Him by doing what is right. (1 Peter 4:19) A person is justified by good works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24) Whoever does the will of the Lord will live forever. Everyone who practices righteousness is born of God. (1 John 2:17, 29)
Salvation by good works from 1 John 3:4, 7-8 to Revelation 22:11. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, just as the Lord is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil. (1 John 3:4, 7-8) Whoever is born of God does not practice sin. No one who does not practice righteousness is of the Lord. (1 John 3:9-10) God will give everlasting life to those who sin not leading to death. (1 John 5:16) Let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep themselves holy.” (Revelation 22:11)
Christ, who is the New Covenant, answered whether or not salvation by good works applies under the New Covenant. He said that if someone wants to enter into eternal life they should follow the way of righteousness. (Matthew 19:17, Luke 10:25) In other words, the conclusion, when all has been heard, is fear God and keep the way of righteousness, because this applies to every person. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)