Faith and Works

Saturday, February 18, 2017, 8:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Saved, Saved.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 2:14-26 (ESV).

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

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. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Some people have accused James of teaching works-based salvation. Yet, if we believe the Bible (Genesis-Revelation) is God-breathed, we must accept that these are God’s words to us. And, they are consistent with the writings of Paul, too, though some people would have you believe not.

So, what is James saying here? He is saying that it is not enough to just believe on Jesus in our hearts, but that our actions must accompany our profession of faith, or else our faith is dead (useless, of no value). Interestingly enough, we call Hebrews 11 the “faith” chapter of the Bible. Have you ever noticed how, in most cases, these people’s faith was described? They believed God, but then they did something in obedience to the Lord. For instance, Noah, if he had merely believed in his heart that a flood was coming and that God wanted him to build an ark, but he did not act on that faith, then what good was his faith? Just like love is action, so faith is also action. A true understanding of the word “faith” tells us that faith is not only a gift from God, but it is God’s divine persuasion (convincing) of his will, i.e. it is God moving us to a course of action.

So, what did Paul teach along these lines? How did he describe the salvation we receive by faith? He said we died with Christ to sin so that we might live with Christ to righteousness. When we believed in Jesus, if we had God-given faith, “our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” So, we are to count ourselves “dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

He went on to say that God, by sending his Son Jesus to be a sin offering for us, “condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” He said “we have an obligation – but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (See: Ro. 8:1-14). If we continue living sinful lifestyles after we profess faith in Jesus Christ, we will die in our sins. If, by the Spirit, we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live.

So, what is it that Paul said here? Genuine faith is proved genuine by its actions. John said something similar when he said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars, and we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6). He also said: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (1 Jn. 2:3-5a). Jesus said something similar when he said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (Jn. 14:23-24a). To love God means to obey him and his Word. To know God is to love God and to keep (obey) his commandments.

Yet, many people today are teaching that all we have to do is believe in our hearts that Jesus died to take the punishment of our sin, and then to say out loud, “Jesus is Lord,” and then we are saved from judgment and heaven is guaranteed. They cheapen God’s grace and majorly dilute the gospel message. Jesus didn’t die on a cross for our sins just so we could escape hell and have heaven guaranteed to us when we die! He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. And, he died that we might no longer live our lives according to the flesh, but that we might walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. They forget that James said that “even the demons believe and they shudder.”

God’s grace is not a mere get-out-of-jail-free card. His grace does not give us carte blanche (free rein) to live however we want and to still have the promise of heaven when we die. There are many scriptures in the Bible that teach that our salvation is conditional. They teach that God has reconciled us to himself, by Christ’s blood shed for us on the cross for our sins, IF we continue in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. They instruct us that we have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. And, “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—even eternal life” (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:6, 14; I Jn. 2:24-25, etc.).

So, what is God’s grace then? God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (See: Tit. 2:11-14). God’s grace to us delivers us out of slavery to sin and it sets us free to now walk in victory over sin and in Christ’s righteousness. If all grace does is give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but it does not deliver us out of bondage to (the control of) sin over our lives while we live on this earth, then that is not grace, but a lie from Satan, because it leaves us still dead in our sins and condemned to die.

The wonderful truth about God’s grace is that we can be free from the control of Satan and sin over our lives. No Christian should ever be still under bondage to sin, because Jesus set us free! We should not have sin addictions, because “addiction,” by definition, has to do with something which controls us, i.e. we are “hooked, dependent, obsessed and captivated” by sin. Addiction comes from Satan, so if we are being controlled by sin, we are being controlled by Satan, not by the Spirit of God, at least this is certainly true in the areas of our sin addictions, if we still have them.

Yet, with this “false grace” teaching that dilutes the gospel to merely an escape from judgment and the promise of heaven when we die, comes this idea that we can still live in “addiction” and still have eternal life with God, and that God is still pleased with us. Yet, the Bible teaches that “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Heb. 10:26-27). So, know God’s true grace today, i.e. the grace that sets you free from bondage to sin so that you can live in Christ and to his righteousness!

Saved, Saved / Jack P. Scholfield

I’ve found a Friend, who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.

He saves me from every sin and harm,
Secures my soul each day;
I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm;
I know He’ll guide me all the way.

When poor and needy and all alone,
In love He said to me,
“Come unto Me and I’ll lead you home,
To live with Me eternally.”

Saved by His pow’r divine,
Saved to new life sublime!
Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,
For I’m saved, saved, saved!

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