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Bryan Matthew Dockens
Inasmuch as "it is impossible to please" God "without faith" (Hebrews 11:6), scripture also affirms that "without works" that faith is dead (James 2:20, 26). Although we are "justified by faith" (Romans 5:1), it remains equally true that we are "justified by works" (James 2:21). "Without works," in what condition would we be?
"Without works" we would provide no opportunity to the faithless to glorify God, our Father. Christ commands His disciples, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Echoing the Master's sentiments, the apostle Peter wrote, "Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Peter 2:11-12). If we were to live day to day "without works," what would others observe whereby they might glorify God?
"Without works" we would be displeasing to the Lord (Colossians 1:10), for He "gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works" (Titus 2:14). By failing to practice good works, we would deny the very purpose for which we were redeemed!
The apostle Paul argued, "those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8). The appropriate outcome of belief is action! "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice" (Hebrews 11:4); "By faith Noah... prepared an ark for the saving of his household" (Hebrews 11:7); "By faith Abraham obeyed" (Hebrews 11:8). When faith fails to produce obedience, what kind of faith is it? "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17)! This is the faith of the many Jewish rulers who "believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42-43), which was the same faith held by King Agrippa, who, according to Paul, was a believer (Acts 26:27), but who was not persuaded to "become a Christian" (Acts 26:28).
Make no mistake, beloved, we dare not assert that, by our good works, we may earn salvation, "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" (Ephesians 2:8-9). While salvation can in no wise be earned by works, neither can it be achieved apart from works, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). What, then, are the works involved in our salvation?
In order to believe, we must first learn. Since "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17), it is our duty to listen. "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear" (James 1:19)!
Jesus identified faith, itself, as a work when He said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). Since unbelief can be equated to disobedience (Hebrews 3:18-19), we must understand faith to be an action. This is the work of the heart, "for with the heart one believes unto righteousness" (Romans 10:10). Nevertheless, "a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24), meaning that the work of faith must be the impetus for many more works!
"Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11), for "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:10). This verbal action is a condition of our salvation (Romans 10:9), which must not be neglected, "For whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
Furthermore, God "commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30), and Christ testified that "unless you repent you will... perish" (Luke 13:3). Repentance is the conversion of heart that causes one to change his actions; when we "turn to God" we should "do works befitting repentance" (Acts 26:20). "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).
Moreover, baptism "now saves us" (1 Peter 3:21). When we hear and believe, we ought to be baptized (Acts 8:12; 18:8), because "he who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Baptism must be accompanied by a confession of our faith (Acts 8:36-38), so "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Repentance must be accomplished prior to baptism, as well (Acts 2:38).
"If someone says he has faith but does not have works... can faith save him?" (James 2:14). No, because "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20, 26).Download the PDF Back to the archives...
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