FAITH & WORKS, Part I –
Today I am going to share with you one of my favorite lessons that God taught me while I was on my first mission trip with Living Water Int. It revolves around the great discussion of faith and works. Can you have one without the other? Before we answer that question, I do want to be very clear that I wholeheartedly believe Ephesians 2:8-9, that works does not earn your salvation. Salvation is a free gift that Christ paid for on the cross.
In Part I, we are going to look at James 2:14-26. The theme of James is primarily about Living Out your faith: not only Hearing the Word, but being a Doer.
In Part II, we will dive into John 15 and what it means to bear fruit.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
We see in verse 16 how man can pat himself on the back for wishing good upon someone as he says, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” That’s like us saying, “I’m sorry you forgot your lunch. Bless your heart. I’ll pray for you.” Now praying is wonderful, but sometimes we don’t even follow through with an actual prayer for that person because our favorite song just came on the radio and we forgot in that 0.7 seconds what we had just promised. How much more like Christ could we be to that one in need if we offered to share our lunch, or pay for the person behind us in the drive through? A full belly is much more impactful than an empty promise of prayer.
Verse 17 does not allow much room for misinterpretation. “Faith by itself… is dead.” Dead! Void of life. It is basically useless to have faith and yet, do nothing with it.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
Verse 18 begins with a hypothetical situation based on popular Greek theology/mythology. His response is hard to contradict as James brings just a few well known Biblical accounts of faith in action! James concludes with a concrete statement leaving no space for ifs, ands, or buts… Faith apart from works is dead. Feeling convicted yet?? I sure do. Ouch!
But doesn’t James proclamation seem to contradict one of our favorite statements by Paul? Let’s quickly read Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
To answer this, I am going to directly quote commentary from my personal Bible regarding verse 22 of James 2. “James does not disagree that faith alone saves (Rom. 3:28). ‘Completed’ often means ‘to bring to maturity.’ Full-grown and genuine faith is seen in the good deeds it produces.” (Crossway, 2008)
If we fully understand what grace is and are living proof of our faith in Jesus Christ, our response should automatically be a desire to glorify Him in all we say and do.
So what do you think? Can you have one without the other?
Take a look at Part II as it discusses what it means to bear fruit and how our good works are used to serve others.
~ Lindsey Alaine
P.S. My book is now available on Amazon! Learn more about by clicking here: Scars of the Heart: Using Discernment to Avoid Your Worst Dating Nightmare Or purchase below.
Commentary from: The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (ESV). Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2008. Print.
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