Ever since I became a new creation in Christ, I have had pounded in me, the fact that we are saved by faith in Christ alone. But in recent years, I have been able to put this whole thing into context because the Bible seems very clear that there are no 'works' involved in our salvation. Some would say that the good works do not atone for our sins, but are still necessary for us to receive salvation. What do you think and what does the Scriptures actually say?
If we go all the way back into the Old Testament, we see the Creation of God, and God says that all of these things are 'good'. Then we see the fall of man when Eve took the forbidden fruit and Adam did not intervene, but went along with it and ate the forbidden fruit as well. Then we see something interesting, but without a whole lot of detail. We know that Adam walked with God in the Garden of Eden, but the Bible doesn't tell us exactly what God told him or what happened there. But we do know that ever since mankind fell into sin, one thing that continued to occur was the action of producing an animal sacrifice. God produced the first one when Adam and Eve sinned by killing an animal and covering Adam and Eve. Then we see both Cain and Abel producing sacrifices. Cain's was a sacrifice of vegetables, but Abel's was an animal sacrifice. God was not pleased with Cain's sacrifice though, so that is a hint of something very important. God must have required a certain type of sacrifice that had to do with animals. Later in, during the time of Moses, God gave more specific instructions on the animal sacrifices, and what they were supposed to be done for. We are beginning to see the picture of what is called, 'The Atonement'. We needed an atonement because of our sin. Whenever someone sins, there has to be something to cover that sin. There is no peace between humans and God without an atonement. Then, something amazing comes about; the Passover. During the Passover, the Israelites were trying to get out of Egypt, yet God seemed to be stalling by hardening Pharaoh's heart. God used this to bring about plagues in Egypt to punish the Egyptians, but the last plague, before the Israelites actually were able to leave Egypt, was the worst one. God instructed the Israelites to take a lamb and slaughter it. The blood of the lamb was to be placed on the door posts of every home. Every door post that was covered with blood was protected from the Death Angel who was to come out and kill every firstborn male in the homes in Egypt. There was great wailing that night because of the deaths in the households that weren't covered by the blood of the lamb.
Passover is a serious holiday for the Jewish people, but sadly, many of them missed the point of the event. Today, in the 21st Century, the memory of the Passover, along with its meaning, is lost. In fact, the meaning of any animal sacrifice is lost. That is why we don't make the connection of the reason why Jesus came and died. Jesus is called the 'Lamb of God' because He was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. We don't kill lambs today to cover over our sins, but sadly, this is why we don't really understand the Gospel. But even throughout the Old Testament, people didn't understand the Gospel either. Much like people today think, the Hebrews thought that by producing their sacrifices they were saved. They didn't understand that the sacrifices were to cover their sins. They thought that by doing the sacrifices, they were saved. It became a 'works' salvation mentality, much like it does today.
We can be doing many good things, but our motives could be totally wrong. Salvation comes from God providing a sacrifice for us. If we 'get it' we will see the ugliness of our sin and want to turn from it in repentance. I think many people think that by going to church on Sunday (or Saturday), giving tithes, sharing the Gospel, and praying, will save a person, or at least earn brownie points with God. Those things cannot atone for our sins. But they are the result of a new heart that has been given by God to a person who is saved. A saved person will produce good works in his or her life, but those good works are not the means to salvation. Faith (trust) in God produces good works. A person who truly knows God will produce good works, but the Ultimate Sacrifice to atone for our sins is Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who died to pay for all our sins.