The Bible instructs us to imitate Christ, to obey his commands, and to follow in God’s footsteps. Yet, Scripture also declares salvation to be a free gift of God (Eph. 2:8–10). So, what do our works have to do with the free gift of salvation in Christ?
Faith immediately brings forth good works out of gratitude for our salvation. We are declared righteous by God through faith alone. Yet, faith immediately begins to bear the fruit of love. Throughout Scripture we have this picture of a branch united to Christ, blooming and bearing fruit that others can enjoy (John 15:1–17; Rom. 11).
Faith is always a response. Faith takes hold of Christ and all he has accomplished for our right standing before God.
In Christ, the believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit who proceeds to grow us in holiness. The Spirit’s work brings forth the fruit of love for service to our neighbors, which are the good works God has prepared beforehand in which we should walk (Eph. 2:8–10). These good works arise out of God’s generosity and are integrally related to our salvation in Christ.
Thus, we are called to imitate Christ and obey his commandments. Love for God and for neighbor is commanded of us because we are in Christ by faith alone. This is not a harsh command but an easy one, for the Lord’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30; John 13:33–35).
We, therefore, do not need to wonder how good works and salvation as pure gift go together. We can rest in the good news that the latter provides us with the former.