There is this imperious sense of self-righteousness that I have often spotted in some believers who believe works are unnecessary in the lives of Christians, who do not realize that every hungry person they meet, every needy person they encounter is an opportunity to show the love of Christ, to show the grace, and the mercy of Christ and not merely talk about it.
There is something truly profound in what James says when he says I will show you my faith by my works. This is the role of works in the lives of believers; by our works we show our faith.
I have often been asked why as a ministry we still focus so much on benevolence, on orphans and widows, on helping the poor and feeding the hungry.
‘You yourself said you were called to preach the gospel, to encourage people to repentance, why all the other things?’
We do these things, we help the needy and clothe the naked, because by our works we show our faith. Because rather than build my own kingdom, rather than amass for myself, my faith compels me to give as much as I can to those in need, to be the hands of Christ in a world that is growing increasingly indifferent, and to be the heart of Christ in a world that is growing increasingly heartless.
We do works not in order to be saved, but rather, we do works because we are saved. The new nature, the new mind, the new heart, demand that we be the embodiment of Christ on this earth, His ambassadors, His representatives and as such we must possess His heart.
Now there is a caveat to all this, something we need to discuss and flesh out, and that is even though faith and works are symbiotic and they work together for a common good, faith is preeminent to works.
James 2:21-22, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works and by works faith was made perfect?”
I included both verses because I wanted you to understand the context, but what I want to focus on is the second part of this scripture reading, wherein Jude points out that faith was working together with Abraham’s works. It is his faith that fueled his works, and not his works that fueled his faith. Yes, his faith was made perfect by works, but his works were not the instigator of his faith. Abraham had faith, long before he was called to bring Isaac to mount Moriah, and because of his faith, he followed through with action and did as God instructed. A faith that is not active, a faith that is not working, a faith that is not evident, is a dead faith. Faith is made perfect by works, when our works are fueled by our faith.
Between the writings of Paul and the writings of James we see the inward state of the regenerate man, the inward state of a man who has been reconciled unto God and sanctified through faith in Christ, as well as the outward state of a man who has been saved and redeemed. While Paul deals primarily with the inward part, the unseen things of man’s nature, James deals with the outwardly manifestation of our inward faith, that which men must readily see in us if we are truly of Christ.
Paul details man in relation to God, digging deep into the spiritual implications of salvation by faith, while James details man’s relation to his contemporaries and fellow men. What we must understand, is that we need both in order to be complete believers, ready for every good work. The inward condition has no worth without the outwardly manifestation thereof, just as the outwardly manifestation has no worth without the inward condition thereof. As I said in yesterday’s post, faith and works are symbiotic and they make up a complete believer.
Abraham was counted righteous, or as James said was made perfect when he believed God. Abraham however was also made perfect when he took his son Isaac from home, and made the journey to the mountain God had instructed him to go to. In the first instance, wherein Abraham believed God, we see the inward faith of Abraham. In the second instance, wherein he took Isaac and was ready to sacrifice him, we see Abraham proving his inward faith before heaven and earth. It is worthwhile to ponder this difference, and realize that we must live outwardly what we have inwardly.
There must always be a balance between our faith, and its expression in good works. When faith is present in the life of a believer, God will speak to him time and time again directing him where to go, and what he must do, who he must help, who he must comfort, who he must lift up, and who he must correct. All these things are the expression of our faith toward God, and our obedience toward His sovereign voice. When we obey, God continues to send us, He continues to instruct us, He continues to task us with certain responsibilities, but when we refuse to heed His voice, when we reject His stirring, when He speaks and we pretend as though we did not hear Him, He will send another to do what we ought to have done.
God is God. He does not beg, He commands! Regrettably many believers today have relegated God to being some shut in that is just happy to have the company whenever we decide to drop by, who does not dare ask anything of us, but offers us everything He has just so we stay awhile longer. We dishonor God by minimizing Him and His attributes, by not seeing Him as He is, on the throne full of glory and power, but rather shrunk down to our level of a lowly bearded fellow who just wants to hug everybody.
He is God, and when His faith is poured into us, the outwardly manifestations of this faith must be evident in our lives. There is one last verse I want to touch upon before we end today’s teaching, and I believe it clarifies once and for all the symbiosis between faith and works, and proves Biblically that they are in fact not mutually exclusive but are rather integral parts of a whole.
James 2:24, “You see then that man is justified by works, and not by faith only.”
It is said that we are a product of our individual environment. Although I believe one can rise above their circumstances and their environment, I also believe that works of any kind must be a byproduct of our faith, wherein they have their root and their genesis. Men judge other men not by the words that come out of their mouths, but by their actions, their conduct, and even their reactions to certain things in their life. Someone can say they know how to tailor a suit, but if you give them the thread, the needle, and the necessary material and they can’t follow through and prove that they know that which they claimed to know, then they are, by their own inability to perform the task, liars. It is true that first and foremost one learns the theory of tailoring, but if they never progress and practice what they learn, if they never practically apply the theory of their learning, then they can never call themselves a tailor.
It is the same with justification. Yes, we are justified by faith in Christ Jesus, but if we have come to Him and have not learned a new life, if we have not been transformed in our thinking, our desires, our way of life, and our outlook, then that faith is dead. First comes faith, then due to the true and living faith that now resides in us, works must follow. First comes the tree, but then in order to know what sort of tree it is, whether good or bad, we must wait to see its fruit. Yes there are fruitless trees in the church, just as there are fruitless trees in an orchard, but those fruitless trees are soon cut down to make room for those trees that would bear fruit. As faithful servants of Christ, as followers of God, we must bear the fruit of our faith, and we must live this life with the full assurance that through faith in Jesus we will soon receive our eternal reward.
True faith, abiding faith, is one that is evident in an individual’s life. True faith is not something that can be hidden, but rather something that is made manifest in all we do, in all we say, it is who we are from the inside out, not temporarily but in perpetuity.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.