|It's rhetorical, man...|
And as Charles Hodge wrote, 'Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works.'
Let me repeat what has already been asserted countless time by many others, including myself. Good works are indeed necessary in a believer's life. We are called to obedience in Christ. Good works are believing in Christ (John 6:29). Good works are fighting (mortifying) sin through the blood of Christ and repentance. Good works are loving and serving others. In short, good works are our obedience and duty to God. But to what purpose are these works necessary in the one who trusts in Christ for salvation? They are necessary in that our obedience shows forth a true and lively faith. Good works or the fruit of faith is how one judges the presence of a saving faith (James 2:18). Yet those necessary works which follow after faith are not necessary works as a means or ground for the securing or ensuring of one's salvation. The weight of that burden was willingly taken for us by the One who was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8; Matt 11:28-30). When it comes to works, faith, and acceptance by God it doesn't get any clearer than this:
XII. Of Good Works. (39 Articles of Religion)All those whose names are written in the Book of Life (btw, written before the foundation of the world) will necessarily possess goods works (Eph 2:10) as evidence of their trust in Christ alone for eternal life - yet even more - evidence of Christ having chosen them not they having chosen him (John 15:16). So, the admonition to all is: Trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Know that you are called to obedience by him and in him. Know that you are by nature a sinner who sins. Daily walk the path of faith alone in Christ joined by a ready repentance for your sins. And seek to live obediently in a manner worthy of your Lord and Savior.
Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith; insomuch that by them a lively Faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.
Now to Hodge:
The manifestation of the grace of God is the great end of redemption. This is plain, for salvation is entirely of grace. Ye are saved by grace; ye are saved by faith and not by works; and even faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. We have then here a manifold assertion, affirmative and negative, of the gratuitous nature of salvation. It is not only said in general, ye are saved by grace,' but further that salvation is by faith, i.e. by simply receiving or apprehending the offered blessing. From the very nature of faith, as an act of assent and trust, it excludes the idea of merit. If by faith, it is of grace; if of works, it is of debt; as the apostle argues in Rom. 4: 4-5. Faith, therefore, is the mere causa apprehendens, the simple act of accepting, and not the ground on which salvation is bestowed.
Not of works. The apostle says works, without qualification or limitation. It is not, therefore, ceremonial, as distinguished from good works; or legal, as distinguished from evangelical or gracious works; but works of all kinds as distinguished from faith, which are excluded. Salvation is in no sense, and in no degree, of works; for to him that worketh the reward is a matter of debt. But salvation is of grace and therefore not of works lest any man should boast. That the guilty should stand before God with self-complacency, and refer his salvation in any measure to his own merit, is so abhorrent to all right feeling that Paul assumes it (Rom. 4:2) as an intuitive truth, that no man can boast before God. And to all who have any proper sense of the holiness of God and of the evil of sin, it is an intuition; and therefore a gratuitous salvation, a salvation which excludes with works all ground of boasting, is the only salvation suited to the relation of guilty men to God.Charles Hodge. Commentary on Ephesians