Faith & Works
James 2:14 NKJV and Amplified Bible
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV
Titus 3:8 NKJV
Faith and works are a sticky business to study and write about, but here goes. After all, as a professor of mine once said, ‘it’s in the Bible so we will unpack it.’
The reason studying faith and works can be tricky is that there are many schools of thought on the subject. Some people believe faith is more important because according to Ephesians 2:8-9, ““For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
I grew up with that scripture, memorized it in Sunday School, and carry the thought in my heart that I am saved by faith.
So, when James wrote in James 2:14, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
Hummmm…so the plot thickens.
Isn’t that contrary to what Paul wrote in Ephesians? Paul said by Grace we are saved through faith. Period. I’m okay with the first part of the verse, it’s the last sentence that seems to be confusing. “Can faith save him?”
I’ve found that when I’m perplexed by a passage, I probably need to unpack it in the original text. The Greek word for faith here is Pistis. After looking at the verse in the Greek, nothing jumped out that explained it further.
So, I looked at other translations.
Aha! There is the clue. In the Amplified Bible, it is translated as:
“Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.]”
Now we’re getting somewhere.
So, it seems like James is saying faith that is mature and full bodied is the kind of faith that PRODUCES belief that is strong enough so that it is genuine. Saying we believe is one thing, but ACTING on it is quite another. This is the kind of faith that is so strong that it produces action.
It’s like if someone asks you, “will you follow me?” And you answer, “well, yea, I guess.” But they really aren’t sure you really mean it because you don’t sound very convincing.
But instead if you answer, “Oh my yes, I WILL follow you!”
Do you see the difference? This is a kind of faith that says, “Oh my yes! I believe, and I will prove it to you!”
Expanding on what we read in Ephesians 8-9 about faith being a gift, in Ephesians 2:10 we read, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.“ So, we are saved by faith as a gift; we are God’s special creation made for good works that are a natural outpouring of our faith.
That makes so much more sense. Our works are a very natural outpouring of our faith. It’s so strong that we cannot hide it.
In the letter Paul wrote to Titus in 3:8, he put it this way, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”.
We have to remember the Apostle Paul was not a lukewarm kind of guy. Before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus he had made it his mission in life to kill every Christian he could get his hands on. After Jesus revealed who he WAS to Paul…as the Son of God, Paul did a total about face and he became the 12th Apostle (replacing Judas who betrayed Jesus).
I’m not sure that Paul COULD do anything halfway. It just wasn’t part of his DNA.
So, here’s our question today: Do we believe with an unction kind of belief that Jesus IS a Holy God who loves us with an everlasting love? Do we believe it to the point that when we see our neighbor hurting, we will find out why and we will offer love and comfort? We don’t have to be pushy about it. We can start by asking how things are going? If they choose not to share, we can say if they ever need anything we are right next door. We need to ease into it in a loving way. Then, if we still feel something is wrong with them, we can anonymously pray for them. We can ask the Spirit to help our neighbor feel like they can trust us.
We build a relationship with them. Steady and slow is best. Letting God be in charge and direct us as we pray for them.
We are acting on our faith. We are loving them in the name of Jesus. We are letting God be in charge.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: Love Someone
Pray and ask God to show you someone who needs care and compassion. Ease into it. Listen to the Spirit and let the Spirit lead you.
In God, Deborah