What role does works play in our salvation? This is the question of the latest counterpoints book from Zondervan. Of the four positions represented only one says works have no role in our salvation but are exclusively used to determine rewards. Robert Wilkin goes so far as to say that works are not even a necessary sign of genuine salvation. He writes, “Many would agree that there is a necessary connection between believing in Jesus and obeying His commandments. I would not.” (39) In his book, Salvation is More Complicated Than You Think, Alan Stanley argues strongly against this view. He quotes Augustine, that doctor of grace, as saying “Eternal life is given in return for good works.” Stanley sees a much larger role for works in salvation. The key is to see these works not as mere human efforts but as “grace-produced works.” Again we here from Augustine:
“This question, then, seems to me to be by no means capable of solution, unless we understand that even those good works of ours, which are recompensed with eternal life, belong to the grace of God, because of what is said by the Lord Jesus: ‘Without me ye can do nothing.’ . . . It follows, then, dearly beloved, beyond all doubt, that as your good life is nothing else than God’s grace, so also the eternal life which is the recompense of a good life is the grace of God . . . that to which it is given is solely and simply grace.” (30-31)
Stanley draws out the implications of this view.
“For this reason, it is quite impossible that a Christian would be without fruit. The absence of fruit indicates the absence of grace. A new or changed life is inevitable since, according to John Calvin, ‘where Christ is, there too is the Spirit of holiness, who regenerates the soul to newness of life.’ All the same, we must remember that while eternal life may be said to be ‘the recompense of works, it is bestowed by the gratuitous gifts of God.’ Along the same lines Augustine declared that at the judgment God would ‘crown not so much thy merits, as His own gifts.’ Good works are a gift from God, not an earned merit whereby we gain entry to heaven. Where then is boasting? It is in God!” (31-32)