Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
There are many godless philanthrophists. They can do good works til the cows come home, but their works will not save them.
There are true believers who are not in a position to do good works...the thief on the cross, Lazarus the beggar...who being dead, yet speaketh...
I’m an old lady. A nobody, making no big claims to anything.
But I know this, when I think I’m doing a good job on a good work it usually ends up looking pretty useless. Then there are the times it comes to me that some good has resulted from something I did but wasn’t aware that I’d done anything. In that, I realize God had caused me to “walk in a work He had ordained for me.”
Those works do not earn me salvation, or a right standing before God. They are evidence that God has put His Spirit in me, and He is fulfilling His Word in Eph 2:10.
It’s not about us. It’s all about God’s glory and what He does in the lives of His children.
We have this Treasure in an earthen vessel.
When I “discovered” Eph 2, those verses about being dead in my sins described me perfectly. But, when Christ declares me “Raised and seated in the Heavenly places” I still cannot take in the wonder of that. And so, my continual prayer is that The Lord Jesus would teach me what that means, and that I would do the works He has ordained for me.
Nothing I do on my own is worth squat. I can no more compose good works on my own than I can make this dead corpse of sin alive in Christ if He doesn’t do the work.
This isn’t about being Catholic, or Baptist or any other group. It’s about taking God at His Word, and measuring everything by His Word.
You are right.
That is why good works are but a proxy. They are a proxy for love and it is love which brings us salvation.
St. Paul says ...And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
1 Corinthians 13:13
So there is something greater than faith and that something is charity (or love). This is undoubtedly why St. Peter says that love atones for a multitude of sins;
But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins.
Now how is love expressed? It is expressed through our actions. Through what we do. That is why James says.....
"But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
God sees the heart. He sees the faith and the love. So for those such as the thief on the cross, his "work" so to speak, was his death offered up to God.
Those works do not earn me salvation, or a right standing before God. They are evidence that God has put His Spirit in me, and He is fulfilling His Word
However, we do have our own part to play. We are not simply helpless puppets with God pulling the strings. We have free will.
In the Gospel of Luke we read:
And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able."
Luke 13: 23-24
Keyword: "strive". This is synonymous with effort. IOW, Jesus is saying to the man, "you try your best". From this passage the conclusion is inescapable that our own efforts are an essential component of our salvation. Not sufficient by any means, but necessary.