New City Catechism – Week 33

<- back to catechism home

Read our weekly blog below. Here are other resources related to this week’s question:

Worship Guide
“Not In Me”
(Hymn #405 in Hymns of Grace)
View question on

Q33: Should those who have faith in Christ seek their salvation through their own works, or anywhere else?

A33: No, they should not, as everything necessary to salvation is found in Christ. To seek salvation through good works is a denial that Christ is the only Redeemer and Savior.

Most of us can probably guess the correct answer to this week’s catechism question. Of course, we shouldn’t seek our salvation in works. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). That is a basic tenant of Christianity, right?

However obvious that answer may seem, it’s one that is hard to grasp in practice. We must get to the point where we understand that we have nothing of value to add to our salvation. It’s not that Jesus contributes 50% and we contribute 50%. It’s not even that he contributes 99.999% and we have one little fraction of a percent. Unless our salvation is found completely, totally, in Christ, it is no salvation at all.

Tim Keller shares a helpful illustration:

Mr. A asked Mr. B to make him a wooden cabinet because Mr. B was a great cabinetmaker. Mr. B and Mr. A were friends, and therefore Mr. B said, “Well, I better make this really good . . . perfect.” So he worked and worked and worked on the cabinet till he got it to the place where it had been buffed and polished to perfection. He brought Mr. A into the workshop to see it, and Mr. A picked up a piece of sandpaper and said, “Let me just add one little stroke.” Mr. B said, “No! It is finished. It’s perfect. And there’s no way to add to it without subtracting from it.”

That’s how it is with our salvation. If we try to add something to it, we take away from the perfect nature of what Jesus Christ did, and it is no longer able to save us. We must come to him in a state of total helplessness.

And I must admit, that is difficult for me. I think it is difficult for many of us. Because we are taught to believe in ourselves, that we can do anything we want to do. Honestly, it’s offensive to my pride to say I don’t contribute to my salvation, and that I must humble myself and accept God’s free gift of salvation (Romans 3:24).

The Christian life is full of commands. We are told in the Bible to sing, pray, read, meditate, give, tell, and go. Yet we must remember that all these actions flow out of our status as children of God. They do not save us. Only Jesus does. And only Jesus keeps us saved by his sustaining grace (2 Tim 1:12, Jude 24). We obey because we are loved. The challenge is to kill the pride that sees our obedience and good works (necessary and expected elements of following Christ) as somehow making us more deserving of salvation. Instead, look to Christ alone, for “all other ground is sinking sand.”

-Pastor Jonathan