“That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4:2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.”
How many works are necessary for final salvation? There are some out there who might be prone to see this question as indicating a legal spirit in the questioner. Well, inasmuch as the question relates to the recent discussions of “final salvation” or “final justification” they would be wrong. Rather, the question is asked not to pin down a quantifiable number of good works needed, but posed rhetorically to make the very important point that when it comes to the question, the answer is NONE. In the same way, one could ask, how sincere or of what quality must our evangelical works be in order to secure final salvation? If the answer is this or that level then, as the marine in the movie Aliens said, ‘Game over, man! Game over!’
And as Charles Hodge wrote, ‘Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works.’
Let me repeat what has already been asserted countless time by many others, including myself. Good works are indeed necessary in a believer’s life. We are called to obedience in Christ. Good works are believing in Christ (John 6:29). Good works are fighting (mortifying) sin through the blood of Christ and repentance. Good works are loving and serving others. In short, good works are our obedience and duty to God. But to what purpose are these works necessary in the one who trusts in Christ for salvation? They are necessary in that our obedience shows forth a true and lively faith. Good works or the fruit of faith is how one judges the presence of a saving faith (James 2:18). Yet those necessary works which follow after faith are not necessary works as a means or ground for the securing or ensuring of one’s salvation. The weight of that burden was willingly taken for us by the One who was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8; Matt 11:28-30). When it comes to works, faith, and acceptance by God it doesn’t get any clearer than this:
XII. Of Good Works. (39 Articles of Religion)
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God’s judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
All those whose names are written in the Book of Life (btw, written before the foundation of the world) will necessarily possess goods works (Eph 2:10) as evidence of their trust in Christ alone for eternal life – yet even more – evidence of Christ having chosen them not they having chosen him (John 15:16).