Monday, January 14, 2008

The Balance of Faith and Works


Yesterday's podcast begs the question-"When you put so much emphasis on following Jesus in order to get into heaven, isn't that saying that salvation is of works and not faith alone?"

To answer this question I want to deal with a few passages over the next few days that will most surely give some clarity on this truth.

You see, I didn't say that certain believers will not enter the kingdom of heaven-Jesus did! And there are all kinds of Scriptures that bring clarity to this. I can't get it out of my mind the two most important words that have changed the world-FOLLOW ME! Jesus is still calling us today to follow Him.

Stepping out in faith, believing and trusting Jesus, requires some follow-through. That follow-through is to follow Him with all your heart. I referred to the false prophets/teachers and the devils as two groups that are believers in Jesus, but they won't be entering into the kingdom of heaven according to Jesus. Why? Because they have chosen NOT TO FOLLOW Jesus.

Following Jesus is the necessary and natural "work" of genuine faith. So there is a certain balance of faith and works. One of the earliest writings is by James. He deals with this balance of faith and works in the following way:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:14-26).

NOTE the primary points James makes: 1. Faith without action is dead. 2. You show your faith by what you do. 3. Abraham's faith was made complete by his actions. 4. People are justified by what they do and not faith alone. 5. Faith without deeds is dead.

I have always liked this statement which sums it up best for me. FAITH ALONE SAVES, BUT THE FAITH THAT SAVES IS NOT ALONE.