By grace, God offers the righteousness of Christ to all who put their trust in Him. For all who believe, all who have faith in Him, the merit of Christ is reckoned to their account.
Does this exclude good works in the life of the believer? By no means. Our justification is always unto good works. Though no merit ever proceeds from our works, either those done before our conversion or those done afterward, good works are a necessary fruit of true faith.
“Necessary fruit?” Yes, necessary. Good works are not necessary for us to earn our justification. They are never the ground of our justification. They are necessary in a more restricted sense. They are necessary corollaries to true faith. If a person claims to have faith yet brings forth no fruit of obedience whatsoever, it is proof positive that the claim to faith is a false claim. True faith inevitably and necessarily bears fruit. The absence of fruit indicates the absence of faith.
We are not justified by the fruit of our faith. We are justified by the fruit of Christ’s merit. We receive His merit only by faith, but it is only by true faith that we receive His merit. And all true faith yields true fruit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.