Romans 9:31-32 “But Israel, who did strive for the righteousness that is based on the law, did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Why not? Because they did not strive for it on the basis of faith, but as if it were based on works.” (NRSV)
James 2:17 “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (NRSV)
I just want to quickly share some thoughts I had on these two verses this morning.
James says that faith without works is dead; Paul says that the Jews failed to obtain righteousness because they had works with no faith. In Romans Paul seems to say that the Jews tried to fulfill the law, but failed to do so because they approached salvation as if it were based on the things they were doing, not on the One whom they were doing things for. You must have both faith and works to obtain righteousness in God’s sight.
I imagine there are three approaches a person can take to obtain righteousness: Faith without works; works without faith; works with faith.
The approach to salvation with faith and no works assumes that simply believing in the idea of God but not following His commands is enough to be gifted with righteousness.
The approach to salvation with works and no faith assumes the law is a power unto itself; that the law is God. By doing the law I earn righteousness.
The approach to salvation with works and faith trusts that God will honor works, but that it is God who ultimately grants righteousness. This approach is not lazy and does not reduce God to a mathematical ‘earnings’ equation; it is uncomfortable and difficult.
What are you thoughts on the faith/works challenge?