By faith, not by works
My personal study of the Book of Acts has so far taken me to Chapter 15. In this section (Acts 15:6-21), the Jerusalem Council was convened to decide on whether circumcision is a requirement for salvation (Acts 15:1-2). In effect, it sought to answer the question, "What must a person do to be saved?"
After a lot of dispute, Peter stood up and said:
"Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (Acts 15:10-11)
By saying that, Peter asserted that salvation is only by grace through faith and not by works (cf. Ephesians 2:8). All the other requirements are simply an unbearable yoke.
James supported Peter's claim (Acts 15:15). In the end, the Council decided that a few of their chosen men were to go with Paul and Barnabas. These men, Judas and Silas, were to confirm Paul's message of salvation by grace through faith to the Gentiles, especially in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia.
Good works are not necessary for salvation; they are a result of it.
In this, the Lord demonstrates His mercy. We don't need to be good and do good to be saved—how can we? We're spiritually dead and incapable, in the first place (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:1).
However, by putting our faith in Him, acknowledging our sinful, wretched, helpless state, we are welcomed into the eternal embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ who willingly gave His life to save us.
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