Thursday, November 13, 2008

FAITH AND WORKS, Jas. 2:18

"But someone may [well] say, "You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." - Jas 2:18
Am I saved by "faith alone" or am I saved when I believe in Jesus Christ, turn from sin, and get baptized? James illustrates that there is more than one kind of faith. But faith that is the saving kind is active and obedient to the will of God: "faith is perfected by works". It seems that God's point of view is that talking about faith without actually doing what He commands is little more than lip service. Some people talk about faith and some people do faith.

When a person hears the Gospel and turns away from sin, that is Biblical faith. When a person hears the command to be baptized and does it, that is Biblical faith. Faith works and anyone that says otherwise is a liar. Even our denominational friends who teach "faith alone" (a concept that is contrary to James 2:14-26) end up conceding that some kind of obedience is necessary to show faith. They end up calling for something like the "altar call", or a "sinner's prayer" (even though it's not in the Bible), or they will say something along the line, "if you will just open up your heart and let Jesus in, you will be saved." As close as these examples come to getting people to have a DOING faith, they fall short. The Biblical example is for people to "repent and return in order that times of refreshing may come" or "repent and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" (Acts 3:19; 2:38). Being baptized to be buried with Christ in order to walk in newness of life is a matter of obedient faith salvation, not "works salvation".

Look at the religious books on faith and you will see titles that encourage Believers to cultivate and nurture themselves to have a faith that works. This has always bothered me because the common narrative by denominational folks is that "if you have faith works will follow", kind of like when you pick up one end of a stick, the other end necessarily follows. No one needs to coax the other end to come along. So the very idea that a book must be written to nurture obedience in those who claim to believe contradicts the narrative. So why not admit that error and take another look at what the Scriptures say about saving faith?

If I believe in God, it shows in what I do. If I am standing before the cross of Jesus Christ, and if I believe that He died for my sins, then I necessarily cannot think, do, be the same person from that point on. Action on the part of the sinner is essential. If I believe in Jesus Christ, then I can no longer practice sin. As a believer in Jesus I make the choice to practice righteousness (1 Jn. 3:9,10). If I have faith in the power of the Gospel, then I want to be immersed into Christ and be born again. This does not imply that my faith was in the water or in any work. My faith was and always will be in the saving power of God which first saved me in Baptism. Faith and works go together.
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