Chapter 50 The Jesus Code: 52 Scripture Questions Every Believer Should Answer by O.S. Hawkins.
This week’s question: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2.14).
Faith or works? On the surface it seems like Paul’s emphasis was on faith and faith alone, while James emphasized the importance of works. So who was right? Are we saved by faith or by our works?
There has always been a battle within the church between the two. Some might say that the Apostle Paul is the champion of the “faith crowd.” After all, didn’t he say we were saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2.8-9)?
But then there is James reminding us that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2.20-26) and adding “even the demons believe and tremble” (Jas. 2.18-19).
The ongoing debate over the nature of salvation tends to gravitate toward two extremes. One school of thought is often referred to as “easy believism.” This overemphasis on faith and underemphasis on fruit, or works, leads some to say that people can pray a simple “sinner’s prayer” when they are children, live the rest of their days with no desire whatsoever for spiritual things, and still be saved from the consequences of their sin and God’s wrath to come. The other extreme overemphasizes works and underemphasizes faith. This ideology teaches that it is faith plus something else (like baptism or some other kind of human effort) that saves. Still other Christians believe God has some type of huge scale, and they hope that when the final bell rings, their good works will outweigh their bad, and all will end well.
In truth, all of these extremes are wrong.
Our salvation is by grace through faith. We were dead in our trespasses and sins and could do nothing to save ourselves. But God …, that wonderful phrase, but God offered us a free gift, a grace gift, if we would put our faith in what He did in sending His Son to die in our place.
However, that is not the end of the story. Genuine saving faith results in a change that will produce fruit, not always the same amount or at the same rate, but new creations (2 Cor. 5.17) have a new nature with new desires and new convictions that will result in different fruit.
The author goes on …
in the final analysis, these two men of God are saying the same thing … Paul is saying what James is saying: “We are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works!” (Ephesians 2: 10, emphasis added). And James is saying what Paul is saying: “Of [God’s] own will He brought us forth [chose us] by the word of truth” (James 1: 18). The teachings of these men of God complement each other; they are not contradictory.
… the Christian life is not about faith and works but about a faith that works. Thus works are never a requirement for our salvation; works are the result of our salvation. Yes, it is faith alone that saves, but faith that saves is never alone! Faith that saves is never isolated from works.
What about you? Does the fruit of your life reveal a heart that has been changed by God’s grace?
Next week’s question: “What is your life?” (James 4.14).
Last week’s question: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2.3). Read it here.
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