An important point in any discussion between Mormons and Christians is seeing the differing role good works play to each party. Are they part of the root system from which the tree (ie.salvation) grows? In other words, are they one of the causes of salvation as Mormonism teaches? Or are they the fruit on the tree, are they the result of being saved, not contribituing to salvation, as historic Christianity has always taught? These are not trivial questions. That is apparent from the intensity of the discussion. How one views good works makes all the difference – for time and for eternity.
The Bible clearly sees them as a result of salvation. It makes this point in a number of different ways. It pointedly excludes them as a cause of salvation. “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested.” (Romans 3:21) “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righeousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.” (Romans 4:5-6) Many other passages make that same point.
How then does it describe good works? As something only believers can do. “without faith it is impossible to please him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Good works are fruits of faith. For example, in John 15 Jesus tells his disciples that they are clean through the word – v. 3. By abiding in him they will bring forth much fruit – v. 5. Notice that the fruit doesn’t make them clean. Because they are clean they can bear much fruit.
In a previous comment I referred to the following illustration. I am going to repeat it here. In ancient times a man was passing by a slave market when a girl was up for sale. He stopped and after spirited bidding, bought her. As she was brought to him, he told her: “I hate slavery. I bought you in order to release you. You are free.” In gratitude, she fell to her knees and said, “I will now use my freedom to serve you for the rest of your life.” According to the Bible, good works spring out after a person is brought to saving faith. They are expressions of gratitude for what God has done. I do good works not because I think they are a requirement that I need to do in order to be accepted by God, but freely and joyfully because God has already accepted me in Jesus.
Probably no place says it better than Ephesians 2:8-10. “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. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
We are not saved by works but we are saved to do good works. Keeping that straight is vitally important. Mixing that up is tragic. There is a tremendous difference between a root and fruit – between cause and effect. Don’t make the fruit the root.