This post last updated on July 4th, 2019
Faith Without Works Is Dead
In the garden, after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God and ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Genesis 3:7 tells us “…their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.”
The first thing they do is work to cover their shame, but their attempt to cover their own sin by their own work was not enough.
“And the Lord God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” (Genesis 3:21)
God is the only one who can cover our sin and shame. He does so with the blood of Jesus Christ. Our attempts are not enough; the work of our hands cannot cover our sin. Not by anything you’ve done, not by works, not by being “a good person”—there is no other way to God except through Jesus.
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” (Isaiah 64:6)
Our works that we may think are so good or even righteous—they are nothing but filthy rags when we display them. Our works do not give us salvation; our works cannot save us, but they can demonstrate our faith.
What We Do Matters
It’s like professing to believe wholeheartedly that the parachute you would wear when you jump from an airplane will open and save you, but you never take the leap. What good are all of your claims to faith if you don’t act upon it? Eventually, people will grow tired of hearing you talk about the parachute because your actions show that you may not actually believe the claims you are making. This is James’ point. You can say you trust God with your life, your family, your possessions, your job, everything; but if you constantly worry about those things, your actions may not be demonstrating your claims of faith. You may claim to love as Jesus loved, claim to be one of His followers, but if you don’t love others as yourself, your actions will not back up your claims.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
“‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.’” (Matthew 5:16)
“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:26)
“‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” (Titus 1:16)
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Romans 2:6-10)
“‘Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.’” (John 13:35)
The way we live should reflect our faith. Be sure that your works show your faith to those around you.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.