Opinions on faith and life

Faith and Works

2002-01-01

Mt 5:16,7:21, 28:20 Lu 6:46 Joh 14:15,21,23, 15:5,8,10,14,16
Ac 3:16, 15:9, 20:21, 26:18, 26:20 Ro 1:5,16,17, 2:6, 3:22,28,30, 4:4-6,9,13, 5:1-2, 9:30, 10:4,9-10 1Co 3:10-15
2Co 5:7 Ga. 2:16,20, 3:2,5,10,19,25, 5:22, 6:10 Eph 2:8-10, 4:12
Php 2:13, 3:9 1Ti 5:8, 6:18 2Ti 1:9, 3:15
Titus 1:16, 3:5, 14 Heb 10:24 ,38,39, 11:1 Jas 2:14,17
These passages show that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and that it is a gift of God. So works have absolutely nothing to do with salvation. But once the issue of salvation has been settled, works become very important.

1- Works are a visible sign of faith1

God judges the heart and knows who is saved, even if no works are evident. But since we can’t judge the heart, we must rely on outward behavior for evidence of faith. But most of the verses on using actions to judge faith have to do with SELF judgment. Too often Christians use these verses to kick other believers when they’re down.

2- Works reflect the Gospel to the world

Unbelievers watch us carefully to see if we practice what we preach. By our behavior we can either glorify or shame Christ.

3- Works will determine our reward in Heaven2

Some people think that just getting to heaven is all that matters. But the Bible says that some in heaven will “look as though they escaped through a wall of flames”. Apparently it is possible to be “embarrassed” in heaven!

4- Works are an indicator of our spiritual health

Being saved is like being born; it is normal to grow and mature. A Christian who doesn’t have any works is not growing and is out of fellowship with God.

5- Works are what God intends for every believer

God has a plan for the life of every Christian. But when we fail to do what God wants we can lose rewards and the abundant life we could have had here on earth. Sometimes God has to restrain himself from blessing us because of our behavior!

Definitions

1-- What is Faith/Belief?*

Hebrews 11:1 - “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” There’s a lot in that one verse! Notice that it says “being sure”. So first of all, faith is supreme confidence. Second, it is the answer to “hope”. By itself, ’hope’ is just a wish that may or may not come true. Third, faith is unseen. We don’t need faith in things that are visible or provable. So Biblical faith is absolute confidence in the unseen God.

The context of James 2:19 contrasts real faith with mere mental assent: “You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that - and tremble with fear.” The demons tremble because they know God is real! But to them God is neither unseen nor their Savior. James goes on to point out that living faith will produce good deeds. This does not mean that deeds are a part of faith, just the natural result or expression of it. Paul says the same thing when he urges believers to put their faith in action in various ways.

Faith is not some kind of force or magical power in itself. It must have an Object-- a basis in fact. God is that basis. So to have Biblical faith it must be in the God of the Bible.

Here’s a good illustration of faith in action:

You’re following a trail guide through the forest. You come to a narrow rope bridge over a deep ravine. The guide tells you it’s perfectly safe to cross, but you hesitate. He asks you to trust him as your guide. You can say the words “I trust you”, but if you still refuse to cross the bridge then your ’faith’ isn’t real.

So it is with faith in God. It means to put your weight on him, to trust him with your life. This is more than saying “Well, I’ll try going across the bridge, and I hope I make it, but I’m not sure I will”. It’s stepping confidently onto the bridge and smiling all the way across, knowing you’ll make it because you trust the Guide.

Jesus is the Guide. Trust him.

* Faith always means as described above, but belief can sometimes mean simple mental assent depending on context.

2-- What are “rewards”?

The rewards of the believer are separate from the gift of salvation. Rewards are something you earn. In this life there are many rewards: the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control), the Lord’s presence in our lives, the strength we need to live for him. But the real rewards are awaiting us in heaven. We are not told exactly what these are, but Jesus’ parables indicate that it at least partly involves some kind of privilege or responsibility. I’m guessing they’re so awesome we wouldn’t understand it if we were told.