Works of Merit vs. Works of Obedience
Is performing all these Steps to Salvation trying to “work our way to Heaven”? Not at all.
When we talk about works, we need to realize there are two different types of works: 1) works of merit, and 2) works of obedience. A work of merit is working to earn something, like working at a job to earn a salary. Works of obedience are done to be obedient, even if you don’t earn what you get.
Jesus was baptized, but He didn’t have any sins to wash away. He said He did it to “fulfill all righteousness.” "And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him." (Matthew 3:15) Righteousness is the commandments of God. "My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness." (Psalm 119:172) Therefore, Jesus was baptized as a work of obedience to God’s commands, even though He did not earn salvation. He did not need to be saved in the first place.
God’s grace gives us the opportunity to be saved. Without it, we would be lost, because we can’t earn our salvation through works of merit. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) However, God gave us freewill to either accept or reject the free gift. He wants people to willingly love and obey Him for what He has done. "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19)
So, God’s grace offers us the free gift, and then we perform works of obedience (Steps to Salvation) to obtain that gift. They don’t earn us salvation through works of merit, but they obtain the free gift through works of obedience!