Author: Ron Graham

Genuine Faith

Two Mistakes About Works
—The Idea of Merit Points

There are two mistaken ideas about how God regards the good works that a person does in good faith and in the sight of God. This lesson is about those two mistakes. If we should make either of these mistakes, our Christian lives of faith, hope, and love will be spoiled, marred by a wrong attitude toward good works. Either of these mistaken ideas will prevent us from pleasing God by good works and being rich in them.

1 Merit Points

The first mistaken idea is that there is a sort of heavenly accounting system where, if you do enough good works you will merit a place in heaven on the basis that your good deeds cover and compensate for your sins. That is just not true. Here's why...

The way in which works don't have merit

These examples show us that there is no merit points system by which one can be saved on the basis that a person’s good works give that person the right to sin with impunity. Having reached that conclusion, we must not make the second mistake which is to think that our good works have no value in God’s sight. So now we will think about this other side of the matter...

The scriptures lay two simple facts side by side. On one hand, good works by themselves cannot merit eternal life. On the other hand, those who lack good works cannot have eternal life. There is nothing contradictory about this. If we were to claim that we have accumulated sufficient good works to merit a place in heaven, so that we do not need Christ, we would contradict the scriptures. On the other hand, if we were to say that our good works have no merit or worthiness whatsoever, we would also contradict the scriptures.

2 Worthless Works

The second mistaken idea holds that God gives no credit for good works and they are worthless to him. This idea says that, when it comes to granting forgiveness of sins and a place in heaven, a person’s good works have no merit in God’s sight —consequently, a person can do nothing toward gaining eternal life. This is one of the worst ideas to creep into Christian doctrine. Here's why...

The way in which works do have merit

These examples and points show us that we should never be so in love with love, nor have so much faith in faith, that we forget God judges and values our deeds. They must be works of love and faith, certainly. They must be works of steadfast service to Christ. They are works nevertheless. If Christ wants them, who are we to say, "No, Lord, You have done all the good deeds —mine are worthless".

I will leave you with this excellent statement from Paul: "The grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires, and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:11-14)