October 4, 2013
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
Speaking of works – that was the focus of Wednesday’s blog, The Work That Will Get You Into Heaven! – too many people who name the name of Christ are confused about Works In The Christian’s Life. I can’t think of a clearer explanation of that subject than what Paul gives in Ephesians 2:8 through 10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared
beforehand that we should walk in them.
Notice a very important point: Salvation by grace through faith comes first! Works follow in the life of the believer as the result of that salvation!
This is the point James argues in his epistle. In chapter 2, verses 17 through 26 (some of which I shall reproduce here) James argues that faith result in works if it is genuine faith!
…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You
have faith, and I have work.” Show me your faith without your works, and I
will show you my faith by my works….But do you want to know, O foolish man,
that faith without works is dead? 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?…You
see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was
not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers
and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so
faith without works is dead also.
Yes, this passage in James has caused much misunderstanding. Martin Luther had so much trouble with James – especially this passage – that he called the whole letter, “a right strawy epistle” or “an epistle of straw”. I could not find who authored the following commentary, but the web address is www.stpeterscathedral.net
Luther was critical because he did not think it contained the meat of the Gospel,
justification and salvation by faith. He…perhaps missed the point. When James,
the brother of Jesus, wrote this letter to the church, he was not so much concern-
ed with how people were saved. He was writing to people who had already given
their lives to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and were now asking the
question, “How do we live now that we are saved?”
So how is your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ lived out? Is He manifested in your works? I have met too many ‘Christians’ who piously go to church on Sunday, but live like hell on Monday!
Owen was a case in point. I was concerned for my neighbor Owen because he did not come to church and had little interest in the Christian faith. This puzzled me until I heard an old-timer tell about Owen’s father. “Yes, he’d be in church on Sunday – a pillar of the church! But come Monday at the sawmill he owned, he’d cheat anyone he could!” It is no wonder he didn’t want to be part of his father’s faith! Thank God for Bob. This dear Christian man in his 90’s led Owen to Jesus one day a few months before my neighbor died. I guess Bob was one of the few who could say to Owen who was in his 70’s, “Now look, son…”!
Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 and 35, and Matthew 15:19:
…how can you, being evil, speak good things? Out of the abundance of the
heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart
brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth
evil things….For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,
fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
The heart has to be changed if good works are to flow out of a life! And only God can reach in and change a person from within! If that change is real, then good works will show forth – as proof of a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus! Faith needs works as proof of its reality, but works must have the basis of real faith!