Every so often, I like to increase the amount of hate mail I receive. There’s no better way to assure this than discussing the faith (or grace) vs. works topic. As I have stated previously, I don’t fall into either the faith or works camp. I believe one without the other is useless, and believe there is strong Scriptural support to say the answer isn’t either faith or works, but rather faith and works. James says plainly in his letter faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26).
Coming from the brother of Jesus, I’m going to consider him a strong authority. There’s more to say about this, however. To those in either the faith or works camp, I urge you to keep reading. Not so I might persuade you to agree with me, but rather to take an honest look at what Scripture says about this and consider the eventual logic behind each view.
Let’s first take the issue of faith (or grace) alone. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” Pretty clear. However, if we keep reading the next verse (Ephesians 2:10), we see it says, “For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.” Immediately following the confirmation salvation is by faith alone, we see the result of our salvation is we do the work God created us to do. The conclusion I draw from this is we are saved only by the grace of God, but the proof of our salvation is the work we do on His behalf.
I have a more difficult time trying to understand the Scriptural basis for the “saved by works” crowd. Yes, Jesus confirmed the commandments and even pointed out the most important one of all was to love God with all your heart and to love your neighbor the same (Matthew 22:36-40). So yes, there is work we must do to follow Jesus. But I submit we will have no desire or success doing such work if we have not first committed ourselves to Him in faith. If He never draws us to Himself, we will never be aware of the work He has called us to do. Having head knowledge of what we should do is different from having the heart change required to actually pull it off.
If we stick to faith alone, little work will be done for the Kingdom. On the other hand, if we only do good works, the true character and love of Christ will never be demonstrated. It is the love of Jesus which draws people to Himself and then compels them to live as He lived by doing the things He did and commanded us to do. Too much unity in the body has been sacrificed by the militant insistence of one camp over the other being correct. Paul implored the Church to be united (Ephesians 4:1-6). It’s time we put aside the foolish arguing and come together around the Scriptural emphasis of faith and works. Let’s compel people by the love of Christ and demonstrate this love by serving their needs. Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is useless. Love, serve, and look like Jesus. God will take care of the rest.