Most people want to go to heaven when they die. The Bible is clear on what it takes to get there, but some people are not sure about what it says. So, let’s consider two people with two views on how they can get to heaven. The first person does not claim to have faith, but does good works. The second person claims to have faith, but not do good works. Will either of these get into heaven when they die?
Before we answer this question, let’s look at what the Bible says about works without faith and faith without works.
Q: How does the Bible describe a person’s good works that aren’t accompanied by faith in Jesus?
Hebrews 6:1-2 says, “Therefore, let us leave the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, faith in God, teaching about ritual washings, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
A: Works done by unsaved people are dead works.
Q: How does the Bible describe a person’s faith that isn’t accompanied by good works?
James 2:14-26 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him?
If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself.
But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder.
Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
A: Faith without works is dead, useless, and unable to save.
So, in considering these verses, we can find an answer to the question posed at the beginning:
The Bible calls the works of a person who doesn’t profess to have faith in Jesus but tries to do good things, “dead works”. These works will not get a person into heaven.
The Bible calls the faith of a person who claims to have faith in Jesus but does not do good things, “dead” faith. This faith will not get a person into heaven.
But the Bible calls the faith of a person believes in Jesus and demonstrates their faith by their works, “saving faith.” This faith will get a person into heaven. (See John 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:4-8.)