We have seen very clearly so far that, although our approach towards our salvation should be taken quite seriously, our works do not put God in a position of “owing” us anything whatsoever. We are saved “by grace…through faith…not as a result of works.” (Eph. 2:8-9) This teaching is made crystal clear in a number of other passages, to the point that the “works-based” concept of salvation is seen to be absolutely indefensible and unbiblical.
We will take a look at one more passage in this study that has a significant place in this discussion: James 2:14-26.
Here are some of the key phrases in this passage that factor into a discussion on “works:”
- “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” – vs. 14 – The implied answer is “no”
- “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” – vs. 17
- “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.” – vs. 18 – This seems to mean that you CAN’T show faith apart from works!
- “Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” – vs. 20
- “You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works…” – vs. 22
- “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” – vs. 24 – faith alone is “incomplete;” faith that inspires obedient works is “complete” faith.
- “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” – vs. 26
Wow. These verses are every bit as clear as any/every other passage we’ve looked at thus far in our study, aren’t they? There are some very strong words used in this section of Scripture; words like, “dead,” “foolish,” and “useless.” These words indicate that our works are absolutely a “piece of the puzzle” when it comes to our salvation! What are we to take from this passage? Are Paul and James contradicting one another on this issue, or is there a way to harmonize these teachings?
Obviously, we believe that these teachings fit together perfectly, since God Himself breathed them both out. So what is the key to understanding them? The key seems to be a proper understanding of God and His saving grace, especially in consideration of the sacrifice of His only Son.
If a person claims to be saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, and yet has no “works” in his/her life, the question is “why?” I would submit that this person has misunderstood God and His purposes for His people on a basic, fundamental level. Consider the following thought process:
- “The sins in my life have put me in a hopeless spiritual position, and if I’m honest, they have also negatively affected the quality of my life.”
- “There is absolutely nothing that I can do to pay for my own sins.”
- “The Creator of the universe loves me enough to have sacrificed His only Son on a wooden cross in order to pay the price for my sins.”
- “If I am going to be saved from the consequences of my sins, I am going to have to place my faith completely in Him.”
- “I want to be saved, so I am going to put my faith in Christ.”
- “After I receive this salvation through faith in Christ, that’s pretty much the end of the process. I don’t really have to do anything else for God. In fact, I can go back to living in sin and I’ll still be saved! This is wonderful!”
Where do you think this person went “off the rails” in this thought process? At what point did this person become “foolish” and why? Here is the problem: this person has misunderstood (or been ignorant of) the reason(s) WHY this all-powerful, all-loving God would save him/her from sin.
You see, God has saved us, redeemed us, and bought us back for some very specific reasons, according to Scripture:
- 1.Because He loves us – John 3:16
- 2.To “purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works” – Titus 2:14
- 3.So that we would “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” – I Peter 2:9
- 4.So that God could use us as His “instruments for righteousness” – Rom. 6:13
In other words, God saved us because He loves us; but He also loves EVERYONE ELSE, and He wants to use US to reach them! This simply can’t be done without “working” for God! This should excite and motivate us to serve our loving Lord!
Keep studying this topic for yourself, and let’s continue to grow in our faith, and to show our faith through our obedient works for our great God!!