Friday, July 13, 2012

Faith or Works?

Photo by John Whittington

Are we saved by faith, works, or both?  wars have been fought over this question.  Those who study Paul say we are saved by faith alone (technically, by God’s grace, through faith - Ephesians 2:8).  Those who study James point out that a person is justified by what they do, and not faith alone (James 2:24).

First of all, I believe there are no contradictions in the Word of God.  Studying Paul and James together gives greater dimension than just one or the other.  It’s like the difference in depth perception between covering one eye, and using both.  Let’s get the whole picture!

I believe the tension of “faith versus works” is resolved by a little phrase Paul uses to open and close the book of Romans - Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26.  It’s translated, depending on what version you’re reading, as “obedience to the faith,” “obedience of faith,” or, “obedience that comes from faith.”
I believe this little phrase is two-fold.  First and foremost, Jesus calls us to believe in Him.  Faith in Jesus is the work He requires (John 6:29).  So when I believe that Jesus is my risen Savior, I have already completed everything required on my part for salvation.  My obedience is having faith in Him.  “The obedience of faith.”

This phrase also continues into the walk of a believer:  “The obedience that comes from faith.”  James adds that extra dimension, explaining that if I think I’m putting my faith in Jesus daily, but I don’t desire or aspire to live for Him daily (obey Him fully, so help me God), then my “faith” is no faith at all.  James calls such faith dead, useless and even demonic!

Martin Luther summarized it, saying, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”  If you really believe something then you’re going to act differently.  If I really believe the brakes are gone on a Mack truck headed my way at 80 miles per hour my faith is going to breed action!  If I really believe Jesus is going to judge the whole earth, there will be obedience that comes from that faith!

I encourage you to reexamine your relationship with God and see if your behavior has changed in such a way that it demonstrates your faith.  If not, spend some time prayerfully reading the Bible, and ask God to give you the gift of faith that leads to the good works God has prepared for you to do!

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