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The Scriptural Place of Good Works

by H. A. Ironside

H.A. IronsideIt is a great mistake to suppose that because salvation cannot be merited by good works, the instructed Christian does not believe in them. The same apostle who wrote "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1 Tim. 1:15), also penned another "faithful saying" in Titus 3:8: "This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." No one insists more earnestly than he on the absolute worthlessness of good works as a procuring cause of justification. On the other hand, he is behind none in pressing the necessity of good works upon those already saved. The Christian, he declares, is "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). Notice the preposition—"created ... unto" (not by means of) "good works." Right living springs from new birth. When born of God, a life is communicated that is divine and eternal. This life is manifested in obedience.

"I would not work my soul to save;
For that my Lord has done.
But I would work like any slave,
For love to God's dear Son."

If this be not the motive, there can be but "dead works." The only true good works are the fruit of the new life, springing from affection for Him who has said, "If a man love Me, he will keep My words."

Has the reader given up all pretension to human merit? Has he ceased to look for blessing on the ground of his own righteousness? This is repentance: to own oneself lost and guilty, deserving of naught but judgment. If such is the ground you have taken, do you now trust alone in Him whose precious blood was shed to atone for all your black and dreadful sins? Oh, be assured, if such is the case, that all your guilt is forever put away. "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). There can be no uncertainty about it. Every believer has been eternally forgiven, because of what the Lord Jesus accomplished, when He died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

If thus able to rejoice in present, perfect justification by pure grace, you are now free to devote your life to good works, and thus to evidence the gratitude of your heart to Him whose loving-kindness has brought you into blessing so wondrous. But your works will be the obedience of a child to a Father, not the toil of a servant seeking to win the favor of a master. Owing all to Him who has redeemed you, your walk and ways in this world will testify that your heart is true to the One whose grace has saved.


Copied from The Only Two Religions and Other Gospel Papers by H. A. Ironside. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, [n.d.].

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