What Are "Works"?
There are two kinds of works:
- Good deeds
- Works of the law
Good deeds by themselves won't save you.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
- Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)
But once you are a believer, you are still required to do the works of the law (obedience).
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
- James 2:26 (KJV)
The word "works" here is short for "works of the law" which is mentioned several times in the New Testament.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
- Galatians 3:2 (KJV)
The law here is not Moses' law (which was nailed to the cross), but God's eternal Law, the Ten Commandments.
If you combine those two concepts ("through faith", and "faith without works is dead"), you can see that you are saved by grace through faith (which must have works).
For a better idea of what these works are, please read this parable about the sheep and the goats.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
- Matthew 25:31-46 (KJV)
Faith and works are intertwined, and your works are basically evidence of what you really believe.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
- James 2:18 (KJV)
If you really believe that God hates sin, you will stop sinning.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
- John 14:15 (KJV)