Salvation comes to us by God’s grace and not any work we could do to earn or deserve it. Romans 3:28 says, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified (legally declared righteous; acquitted; proven innocent) by faith without the deeds of the law.” We can say faith alone saves. We must also say that the faith that saves is not alone but produces good works James 2:14 (also vv.17, 20, 22, 26), “For what doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? Is this contradictory? Our faith alone justifies us before God but our works justify us before men. The salvation that changed you inside should eventually show up on the outside and result in doing good works.
Works are not the means of salvation but the result of salvation. These resulting works come from our continued walk with the Lord or continued growth in getting our walk to line up to His work. We work out in practical acts the salvation He worked in us Philippians 2:12, 13. Our works give evidence that our initial experience of salvation by faith was valid. Our life is not to be lived unnoticed and our works are to be noticed by others (1 Peter 2:12).
It is important to see the error Paul corrected in Romans 3:28 (as well as in all of Romans 3, 4, and Galatians 1-3) was legalism which is “salvation by works.” It is adding anything of man’s work to God’s work through Jesus on the Cross to merit salvation. The error James corrected in James 2:14-26 is lawlessness, that works are unnecessary after salvation, or that there are no restraints or requirements now that we are saved by grace. This is what we are seeing today through some of the extreme grace teachings. This twisting of the grace of God was predicted in Jude 3 where it was included in the prophecy of Scripture that men would turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (twisting grace into a message to give a license for them to live absent of moral restraints or requirements).
How can a person be saved? Only by faith and any good works are rejected Ephesians 2:8; Matthew 7:22, 23. Doing good works can only begin at the Cross, or when you come to God through Jesus’ saving work. How can a person show (or prove) they are saved? By their works and all of our good works will be remembered Hebrews 6:10.