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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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FAITH ACCOMPANIED BY WORKS

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (James 2:14 ESV)

Is James contradicting Paul? Paul writes:

And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, (Romans 4:5 ESV)

Both James and Paul are addressing the topic of true saving faith. What is real faith? What is the relationship of works to faith and salvation?

In Romans, Paul is addressing a faith problem. Apparently, some thought that salvation was earned by good deeds. They acknowledged God and Jesus Christ, but they were still in bondage to the Law. The overriding motive for their good deeds was to earn a place in Heaven rather than to glorify God and live righteously. Paul is pointing out that righteousness before God is obtained by faith alone.

James is also addressing a faith problem. Some advocated that faith was believing in God and holding a right opinion of Him. However, even the demons believe! (James 2:19 ESV) Can their “faith” save them?

James is not saying that we are saved by faith and good works, nor is he saying we are saved by our good works. James is explaining that saving faith inspires a person to do good deeds. True saving faith inspires personal changes in morality, lifestyle, and interactions with others. These acts of righteousness are not performed to gain entrance into Heaven, but to glorify God for His grace and mercy while demonstrating the love of Jesus Christ. Holy and righteous acts are motivated and made possible by saving faith.

Therefore, we are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. True faith produces piety and good works. If a person claims he has faith and there is no evidence of virtuous growth and acts, it would be good for him to reexamine what he believes about saving faith.

Of course, Gospel progress usually takes time. Christians must be patient because observable transformation does not usually take place in an instant. Although we cannot work our way to Heaven, good deeds are a sign that we have been redeemed and have the love of Jesus in our hearts. If we have saving faith, the corresponding good works will follow. Trust in God:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

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