Ephesians 2:8-10 is another great Pauline passage to show the proper relationship between faith and works.
Have one the Witnesses read verse 8 aloud:
Ephesians 2:8: “By this undeserved kindness you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; rather, it is God’s gift.”
Say, “Paul speaks in the past tense. He says his readers have been saved. If salvation is based partly on continued works and faithfulness, how can Paul give his readers assurance that they have already received salvation?”
Given that the Watchtower teaches that salvation is based on a combination of faith and works, Jehovah’s Witnesses have no assurance of salvation.
The most they can say is that they believe they are saved up to this point in their lives.
Next ask, “According to this verse, what role does Paul say works played in his readers’ obtaining their salvation?”
Wait for their answer.
See if it is the same as Paul’s answer in the next verse, namely, that works have nothing to do with it.
First comes salvation by faith apart from works.
God credits us with righteousness as a gift purchased by Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:9: “No, it is not a result of works, so that no one should have grounds for boasting.”
If the Witnesses have said that salvation requires faith plus works, ask, “According to this verse, what role does Paul say works played in his readers’ obtaining their salvation?”
Follow up by asking, “According to this verse, if our works were involved, what would we be able to do?”
We could boast about our loyalty and endurance. But Paul says that no one can boast because our works do not contribute to our salvation.
This is the same point he made in Romans 4:2: “For instance, if Abraham was declared righteous as a result of works, he would have reason to boast, but not with God.”
Because of this Scripture, Jehovah’s Witnesses may tell you that they agree that salvation is a gift and that we can’t earn it by our works.
If they do, say, “I’m confused. Please explain to me the difference between meriting salvation by our works—which you just said we can’t do—and proving worthy of everlasting life by our works—which I understand the Watchtower teaches we must do in order to be saved.”
Many Christians stop by citing Ephesians 2:8-9, but verse 10 balances Paul’s teaching by telling us that works do have an important role in the Christian life.
Ask the Witnesses to read that verse out loud as well:
Ephesians 2:10: “We are God’s handiwork and were created in union with Christ Jesus for good works, which God determined in advance for us to walk in them.”
You can say, “It seems clear from this that works are important. God has good works for every Christian to do. But based on everything Paul has said in these three verses, doesn’t it seem that these works are the products of salvation, not the prerequisites to salvation?”
If they ask you what you mean by that, consider using two equations taught by Evidence Ministries founder Keith Walker:
It is NOT “Faith + Works = Salvation.”
Rather, it’s “Faith = Salvation + Works.”
In other words, it’s not Faith plus Works produces Salvation.Rather, it’s Faith produces Salvation and Works.
You can sum up your understanding of the biblical relationship between faith and works this way:
- I believe that a Christian doesn’t work for salvation
- A Christian works from salvation
- A Christian doesn’t work for God’s acceptance
- A Christian works from God’s acceptance
- The Christian life is not a matter of the Christian doing good works for God
- The Christian life is a matter of God doing good works through the Christian