Three Taverns Church

Faith and Works

10 Comments

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?

10 thoughts on “Faith and Works

  1. “I imagine there are three approaches a person can take to obtain righteousness: Faith without works; works without faith; works with faith.”

    Good comment.

  2. Spot on with the three approaches. Another take on the “works with faith” approach: if you have been saved, if you have submitted your life to God out of love and gratitude for what Jesus did for you, then your spirit will seek to perform works. In John 9:4, Jesus told His disciples, “We (some translations say ‘I’) must do the works of Him who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work”. So we are called to the works God has planned for us (also see Eph 2:10). Also in John 15, Jesus speaks of being “the true vine”, that “every branch in Me that does not produce fruit[works] He(God) removes…”. So if we are not producing fruit/performing works, we need to closely examine our hearts and lives, and reach out to God through prayer, that He will either show us where we are producing forks that we are not yet seeing, or that He would change our hearts, that we would have the burning desire to perform works as evidence of our gratitude and love for Him.

    • Hey fastmov4, thanks for the comment. Would you mind reading my response above to savedbygrace and respond to my assertion of what is meant by “works”? I’m not necessarily disagreeing with your post, but I would challenge you to expand your understanding of “works” to things beyond what could be described as ‘acts of charity’.

  3. fastmov4 :
    that He will either show us where we are producing forks that we are not yet seeing, or that He would change our hearts, that we would have the burning desire to perform works as evidence of our gratitude and love for Him.

    Sorry, that should be “producing works”, unless God’s plan for furthering His kingdom on earth is by producing forks, or spoons, or knives for that matter…

  4. @”James says that faith without works is dead;
    Paul says that the Jews failed to obtain righteousness
    because they had works with no faith”
    ——————————————————

    “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law”
    – Romans 3:8

    “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
    – James 2:17

    I believe what the Jews did was works, which is works of the Law.
    and Paul maintains that, “Justification is by faith alone and not works of the Law”

    the Law cannot justify anyone

    “You who are trying to be justified by law have been
    alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”
    – Galatians 5:4

    I think James was referring not to the works of the Law,
    but rather the works produce when you believe

    • Yes, I agree that James was referring to works resulting from belief. Think about it this way: obedience to God seems ridiculous unless you believe God. God’s commands often run contrary to the world’s ‘wisdom’, so you must believe God is right while everyone and everything else is telling you that you are wrong. Of course we know that “God uses the foolishness of the world to shame the wise”, but it can still be a daunting task to remain obedient to God in the face of worldy ‘wisdom’, especially when that ‘wisdom’ is offerred to you from people you love and otherwise trust.

      I also don’t think that ‘works’ is necessarily charity, as I have heard many Christians limit it to. When Paul cites Abraham’s faith he was referring to Abraham’s obedience in nearly sacrificing Isaac, not some act of community service Abraham did.

      To be clear: I believe “works” is doing the will of God, whatever form that takes, because without faith these “works” will often seem silly or foolish.

      • Sorry for the delay in replying, RM. I absolutely agree with you that “works” encompasses more than just acts of charity. To me, “works” = proof of your faith. If that proof takes the form of simple obedience to God, so be it. If that proof takes the form of acts of charity and service, so be it. A question we also have to ask ourselves regarding our works is this: why am I doing what I’m doing? Am I being obedient because it takes less energy (in some cases) and I just want to be lazy? Am I doing this act of charity/service out of unconditional love for someone with no expectation of earthly reward, or am I doing it because I am a self-touting “Christian” and people expect it of me (i.e., maintaining my self-image)? Am I doing it out of fear – fear that, if I don’t do it, God/the person won’t love me? Am I doing it out of a sense of obligation (“I don’t really want to help this person/love this person, but the Bible says I should, so I guess I’ll begrudgingly do it”)? Both Francis Chan (Crazy Love) and Timothy Keller (Prodigal God, King’s Cross) have written extensively that it is not just our “bad” behavior for which we need to repent and seek forgiveness; it is also our “good” behavior done with less-than Christ-like intentions for which we should also repent and seek forgiveness. Both are outpourings of our sinful hearts. But the “good” behavior may be the greater of the two evils, because it cloaks itself in the perception of Godly behavior.

      • First, thanks for getting back to me! And thanks for the reading ideas, I need to check those books out. I agree with you that ‘works’ does equal proof of faith, in whatever form that takes. I agree that ‘good’ behavior for the wrong reason is insidious and is a real threat to Christians who may have false motivations and are fooling themselves.

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