Read Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith,and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God- 9 not the result of works,so that no one may boast. 10 For we are what he has made us,created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (NRSV)
Imagine you are struggling to stay afloat in deep water. You can’t swim. Someone throws you a lifebelt and you gratefully take hold of it. You are saved from drowning by someone providing the means of rescue. If you then proceeded to show off about how clever you were to grab the lifebelt it would be odd at the very least. Taking hold of the lifebelt was a necessary and desperate act. Your cleverness had nothing to do with it. In fact,if the lifebelt had not been thrown your way you would have been lost.
This is a picture of what Paul speaks of in the first verses of this passage. We cannot save ourselves,we cannot get right with God by our own hard work or genuine efforts. We need him to provide the means by which we can be friends with him. Jesus is that means. Trusting in what he has done rescues us from estrangement from God. And that trust is an act of helpless dependence. Nothing to boast about.
And yet Paul goes on immediately to remind us that we were made to do good works. These good deeds don’t put us right with God. They are the way of life of someone who is right with God. They are the outward evidence of our inward faith. Without faith,we are lost. Without good works,we are lost because it shows we lack faith.
No one gets to heaven by doing good works. But no one gets to heaven without doing them either.