Tuesday, February 7, 2012

114. What Place Works

114.0 Ridiculous Paranoia: Since the time of the Reformation, the Church has been unadvisedly paranoid about connecting good works to faith, as though this somehow diminishes the vitality of faith. However, in fact, works complete faith.

James, in the second chapter of his epistle, makes it quite clear that this is true. He indicates that the expression of faith (influential humility before God), in the form of obedient works, is not only possible, but expected. He also indicates that a faith that cannot express itself in actions is "dead." The direction which James give us is that we are to experience a faith that does, indeed, express itself in obedient actions.

He says it like this, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus 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 without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

"You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God.

"You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

Obviously, the teaching of the scripture is that people cannot gain heaven by their own self-determined good works. But certainly, those God-directed works resulting from humble obedience, designed by grace, and prompted and empowered by the faith of Christ operating within us, are of the greatest value. And, they are a natural necessity to God's plan for his people and a truly responsive faith.

As James indicates, these works are a true indicator of a living faith. And they are certainly not a threat to it. These Christ-directed works are faith expressed, and thus faith made complete.