“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”(Galatians 5:1, ESV)
There are some forms of salvation that say that God will only accept you if you perform some rite or ritual. Others make claims for the need to seek the favor of God through first becoming a “good person” and “cleaning up your act.” And then there are some misguided Christians who equate morality with Christianity, and preach a message of self-improvement and works righteousness in order to stay right with God–not in relationship with him, but in regards to your salvation’s security.
But the Bible warns against the dangers of this teaching because it is not the true gospel. There is nothing that man can do to prepare his heart for acceptance by God, and there is nothing that he can do after his salvation to keep him in the love of God (Rom. 8:35-39). Salvation is received and it is maintained as an unmerited gift of the grace of God. Full stop.
Anyone who is ever saved from the judgment of God is saved by the blood of Christ, whose death was on their behalf. The unregenerate sinner who simply places their faith alone in Christ’s death on their behalf will be saved. The only thing the sinner brings to the equation is their sin. Everything else they have ever done is stained by their unrighteousness and the effect of sin. Paul says this plainly in 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.” (Galatians 2:16, ESV)
The pernicious lie that often wants to creep into the mind and heart of the Christian is that although we might have been saved by faith alone, we must somehow continue in righteous deeds in order to “keep” our salvation. In other words, saved by faith, but kept by good deeds. Again, Paul sheds light on the truth and thus unshackles us from this lie. He even pokes fun at the Galatians for this illogical idea when he wrote in Galatians 3: “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2–3, ESV)
The danger is that we would somehow think that the Law is a means to gain favor with God, thereby securing our salvation. Think about that statement: securing your salvation. Didn’t Jesus already do that? How much Bible reading, evangelism, church attendance, praying, giving, or righteous living do you think you need to do in order to secure your own salvation? The idea is madness! Jesus saved us. Not Jesus began to save us, but we need to finish the job. Jesus saved you, Christian. And he has secured your salvation by his righteousness…for eternity.
Don’t put back on the shackles of legalism and the demands of the law. You couldn’t be good enough before you met Christ, and you still can’t be good enough. Jesus is a sufficient Savior and the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. You can take that truth all the way to heaven.