Romans 4:1-3 is clear. Abraham did not receive a right relationship with God because of any good works that he (Abraham) did. God gave that right relationship to Abraham because Abraham believed him.
And Romans 4:4-8 explains that the same is true for all of us. We can only receive a right relationship with God when we start to trust him. We receive it as Godís gift, because Christ died for us (Romans 4:23-25). We cannot earn it for any good works (Romans 4:4-5).
However, Hebrews 13:16 may surprise us, because it seems to say the opposite. God is pleased with our good works, it says. Especially, he is pleased when we share our possessions. In other words, when we use our possessions to help other people.
In fact, these passages are not opposites, because they are describing different times in a personís life.
Before a person invites God into their life, it is impossible to please God by good works (Romans 3:19-20). That is because we have all done wrong and evil things (Romans 3:9-18). Anyone who does not obey even one of Godís laws is still guilty in front of God (James 2:10-11). And so that personís good works cannot give them a right relationship with God. Their efforts to save themselves cannot impress God.
When God saves a person, his Holy Spirit changes that person completely (John 3:3). It is a new birth, from the Holy Spirit (John 3:6). God forgives that person (John 3:16-18). He gives that person a right relationship with himself.
After that, the Holy Spirit guides that person (John 3:8; Galatians 5:16). The result is that the person desires to do good things (Galatians 5:22-23). So of course those good works please God then. They are not an effort by the person to save himself. They are the result of Godís work in that personís life.
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© 2014, Keith Simons.