The Belgic Confession (Art. 24) says this about good works:
far from making people cold
toward living in a pious and holy way,
this justifying faith,
quite to the contrary,
so works within them that
apart from it
they will never do a thing out of love for God
but only out of love for themselves
and fear of being condemned.
So then, it is impossible
for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being,
seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith
but of what Scripture calls
“faith working through love,”
which moves people to do by themselves
the works that God has commanded
in the Word.
Faith makes good works inevitable and in a sense necessary. Without faith, the motivation for works changes.
Faith also affects the way we view good works. It allows Christians to look to Christ’s righteousness as the basis for salvation even while pursuing good works, rather than asking, “have I done enough?”
although we do good works
we do not base our salvation on them;
for we cannot do any work
that is not defiled by our flesh
and also worthy of punishment.
And even if we could point to one,
memory of a single sin is enough
for God to reject that work.
So we would always be in doubt,
tossed back and forth
without any certainty,
and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly
if they did not rest on the merit
of the suffering and death of our Savior.
Even the language of saying works are necessary to, as opposed to for, salvation is to veer in the direction of making works one basis among others for our salvation.
Given the propensity of fallen human nature for self-righteousness, loose talk about good works is like what Mark Noll said about evangelicals and activism: “to urge activist evangelicals to get more active is like pointing an addict toward dope.”
To urge Christians to good works for final salvation, without lots of qualifications, is like encouraging a relapse.