Monday, April 09, 2007

Faith and Works

*UPDATE* I have recently added to this in the post Can Faith Without Works Save You?

Wow what a cool thing to learn about. My good friend Robb and I have been studying this "little" topic today and I've just learned something that has been a great help to me.

One of the toughest to understand sections of scripture surely is James 2:14-26.

Questions like can faith without works save a man? Mixed with statements like Abraham's belief was accounted him as righteousness. These are OFTEN taken to be contradictory statements and then things get added to Abraham's "works" to show that "good works" justify people. There is a multitude of scripture verses which indicate that a person is saved by Belief alone. So how do we reconcile that with statements such as Abraham being justified by works?

First part of understanding comes from seeing that Belief it's self is a work. Jesus said that Belief is a work we are to do.

Next we need to think about what Faith IS. Think about it for a moment, and see if you agree that Faith is simply "Belief in action". If we see a lake covered in ice we can believe the ice will hold a person, but we don't actually put Faith in it until we walk out on to the ice. This is when belief gets used, it becomes Faith or Faith comes out of it.

Now simply walking out on the Ice is a great thing. Putting your faith in God is great! But if our Faith is to be perfect we are to have "good works" Jesus says let your light (the light given to you by Him) shine through you so that the world will see your Good Works and glorify the Father.

See the Demons believe and tremble. By contrast we believe and do. But what is it that we do? Are "good works" or "upright works" the supposedly "good" things we do? No, not at all!! Remember what Jesus said about good works? That they are to bring glory to God, not ourselves. When people see our good works they should see the Father, not us. Surely not how good we are. Because Jesus said that none are Good except God. Paul said often that he preached in weakness, not with cleverness or in his own power so that he wouldn't rob the Cross of it's power!

Good Works are things we do, that couldn't be done without faith in God so that none can deny that God is involved so He gets the Glory. That is a "good" work. All other works are filthy rags.

Going back to James, we see that James 2:21 & 23 equate "works" and "belief". Belief is a work.

James 2:17 says that Faith without works is dead.

Let's work this through the story of Abraham in James 2 to see how it plays out.

Jas 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
Jas 2:22 Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and that by works faith was perfected.
Jas 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and he was called Friend of God.

We see first that Abraham was justified by works when he had offered Isaac on the altar as God had told him to do. The grammar of verse 21 is important. He was justified by works "when". This doesn't mean at that moment, it means he was justified "while" doing it. (I went to school when I could afford it, that sort of understanding) He was justified by "works" or belief, while he was exercising Belief or having Faith. It's also important to see how Faith is "wrought with" his Works, or "works together with" here.

In Gen 22:8 we see that Abraham believed that God would provide the sacrifice. God's purpose for telling him to sacrifice his son was to "perfect his faith" James 2:22, Gen 22:1 not to "save him" or "justify" him. He WAS justified already. Check these two verses out; Prov 3:12 and Heb 12:6.

So we see that Abraham believed God, then put his belief in action, his faith was perfected by this and the Word of God was affirmed that it said Abraham was made a friend of God through his belief.

Not all that hard after all eh? I don't know about you but it's been a two year process for me.

How does this apply to you and I? Well Heb 12 explains how God works with the Believer to "perfect his faith" just the same way as the example of God working with Abraham shows how He perfected his faith. Above I said putting your faith in God is great! And that we are to have Good Works. Here's the thing. Just as in Abraham's case, we WILL go through the Heb 12 process. God WILL try our faith and perfect it, and thereby we WILL have "good works". It's unavoidable if you're a believer. So Believe, and walk it out. :)

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