Thursday, May 8, 2014

Faith: Understanding the Importance of Faith and Works

{I shared some of my thoughts about faith last night on Instagram.  I had time to think about it today, and with further study I've been able to more clearly communicate what I've learned.}

Do you ever participate in a Bible study and you wish all of your friends were in the study with you?  That’s how I feel about our current Bible study on Wednesday night at church. We are studying the book of James.  In this study, I’m learning a lot about spiritual maturity and true religion.  Last night we studied James 2.   It’s taken me a long time to reconcile the idea of faith and works when I study the Bible, and I had an “Aha!” moment that I wanted to share with you.  Things finally clicked and made sense.

We are told that if we have faith we will have works.
James 2:14-24.
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.”

I finally understood how that works with Romans 4, Galatians 3 and 5, and Ephesians 2.  Those Bible verses don’t contradict each other.  I’m sure other people have been confused by this before, too.  One of our elders said this in our study, and it was the best explanation I've heard concerning faith and works.  “We are not saved by works of the law (e.g. The Old Testament), and we are not saved by works of merit (because we’ll never be good enough), but we are saved when we have a working faith.”  It must be working because it says in verse 24 that it is “not faith alone”.  So a true faith must have actions or works with it or it’s a dead faith. 

We studied the life of Abraham as an example of a man who had faith.  He’s shown over and over again in the Bible as a man of faith, but the thing that stuck out to me when we looked at Bible verses about Abraham (Acts 7, Romans 4, Genesis 22, Hebrews 11) is that Abraham’s faith always involved action/works and obedience.  The neat thing when you study Abraham’s life is that you see he wasn't perfect--the perfecting of his faith was a process.  That was a big encouragement to me. 

It seems to be something James was reminding us of when he wrote that book; practical application and the process of being made perfect.  There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation because it is a free gift, but we can’t deny what James tells us about works.  James 2: 18 “ 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.”
God’s grace and working faith go together.  If we are Christians we will do good works and it’s by our faith working that we know we are saved.  Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Along with my study of James 2, the following Bible verses also helped me have a better understanding of faith.

How do we have faith? 
Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

What is faith?
Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Faith is what guides our lives.  
2 Corinthians 5:7 “We live by faith, not by sight.

Our faith produces works. 
1 Thessalonians 1:3 “We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Faithfulness to the end is our goal.
2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 

I hope this has made sense and that I explained what I've recently learned.  It was really exciting for me to better understand the relationship between faith and works.

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