Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hidden Treasures: Are We Saved by Works as Well as Our Faith?

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

Many point to this verse and others in James 2 and try to use it to prove that salvation is by works.  What they fail to do is read the whole chapter.  When you read the chapter as a whole you will discover that the author is trying to make a point that if you are truly saved (i.e. Christian), then your life had better show it.  A Christianity without good works is no Christianity at all because God saves people to do good works. James is making the point that if your Christianity does not produce good works then maybe you never were saved by God to begin with and your "faith" is spurious.

Notice this contrast:

 Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

James 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

The Bible does not contradict itself, but don't these verses seem to be quite opposites?  It's because they are from two different perspectives.  Romans 4:2 is pointing out how to be justified before God, while James 2:21 is pointing out how to be justified before men.

They are two sides of the same coin.

We are justified before God by our faith.
Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
 5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
Our faith is justified before men by our works.

 Jamess 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
 18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

God saves us to do good works, so if we claim to have faith in God, our lives better back it up before men by what we do.

 Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

So if we say we have faith in God, then we will also have good works.  But we are not saved by our good works. The point is if good works are absent, then we need to ask ourselves, has God really saved us?  Is our faith in Him genuine or spurious?

It is possible to have good works and yet have a spurious faith in God.  Some do good works because they think it will gain them merit with God and save them.  It is important to not get the cart in front of the horse.

Faith in God (the horse) always goes before works (the cart) when it comes to salvation. It never works the other way around.  You can't have the cart leading the horse and neither can you have works bringing along salvation.  Salvation always brings along good works.

A Living Sacrifice by Adam's Road Band

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