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 knowing that a man is not justified by
the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed
in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and
not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh
shall be justified. Galatians 2: 16
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has
faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? James 2: 14
see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
James 2: 24
Apparent contradictions in the Word of God!
we saved by simply having faith in Jesus Christ, or is there something
that we must do to inherit eternal life? It is vitally important that
we understand this question as it effects our very assurance of salvation!
you need to know!
we be sure that faith is enough to save us in the light of James 2:
24? If there is something that we need to do in order to have eternal
life, then we need to know what it is! If we are truly sincere toward
God we must find out what part "works" play in God's plan
of salvation. However, we want to be sure that we don't become separated
from Christ by trusting in our own righteousness. "You have become
estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you
have fallen from grace." Galatians 5: 4 Look it up in your own
Actually it is grossly unfair to take a verse from the Bible out of
context and use it to prove an argument. I would encourage you to
read several verses before and after those quoted. Having done this,
you will notice that both sides of the argument use Abraham as an
example. Let's look briefly at the story of Abraham from Genesis 22.
Story of Abraham
it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said
to him "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." And
he said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love,
and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering
on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." So Abraham
rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey and took two of his
young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the
burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had toldhim.
do you think perhaps that Abraham knew all along that God would not
require the life of his son? Do you think that he chopped wood, saddled
the donkey and set out on his journey, knowing that he was, in some
morbid way, humouring his God by pretending to be sacrificing his
son? Not at all! For the Angel of the Lord plainly said, "Do
not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know
that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only
son, from me." Remember this was a test! If Abraham had been
unwilling to kill his son he would have failed that test. God was
testing Abraham's ability to keep the very first commandment that
he was to later give to Israel. After passing this test, God, swearing
by himself, reaffirmed the promises that he previously gave to Abram
before Isaac was conceived. And God did so because (note this well)
"because you have done this thing, and not withheld your son,
your only son, in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I
will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven .."
Genesis 22: 15-17
Abraham Had Works
we clearly see that Abraham had works. His unquestioning obedience
is clear. But did Abraham have faith? Hebrews 11: 17-19 tells us "By
faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had
received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it
was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," accounting
that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which
he also received him in a figurative sense."
did have faith, and it was this faith (in the resurrection) that enabled
him to do the "works". Without the faith, he could not have
done the works. Faith came first. Faith, then testing, then works,
then God's approval. It was faith that made him rise early, cut the
wood, and set out on his journey. "Do you see that faith was
working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?"
James 2: 22
Abraham didn't have faith in God to resurrect Isaac, and had refused
to offer him up. He would have had neither faith nor works. So works,
of the "justifying" kind, are dependant on faith.
Faith Without Works?
can one have faith without works? ".... faith by itself if it
does not have works,is dead." James 2: 17 You see the kind of
faith that does not show itself with actions, deeds, or works is dead
faith. Can dead faith save you?
Living Faith Saves!
when God says in Galatians 2: 16 that we are justified by faith in
Jesus Christ, is he referring to "living" faith or dead
faith? Of course He means genuine living faith, for the scriptures
also say that "a man is justified by works, and not by faith
only." So it is by livingfaith that we are justified.
Not Justified by Works Alone
The letter of James is not saying we are justified by works alone.
It is however clarifying the word "faith". The epistle of
James is preaching justification by faith, but is also making it very
clear that living faith is the kind that shows itself by works. Obviously
some of those to whom this letter was addressed, were claiming to
have a faith that was not shown by their actions. They were offering
lip service only. James counsels these people in Chapter 1 verse 22
be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."
This letter was not addressed to those who were servants to legalism
and trying to be justified by the law. It was written to those who
were trying to "... turn the grace of God into licentiousness...."
Jude 1: 4
Works of the Law
On the other hand, the verses from Ephesians and Galatians were addressed
to those who were being persuaded by those of the "circumcision"
group who insisted that the Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law
of Moses. For this reason there is an emphasis on justification by
faith in Christ Jesus not by works. Now the works referred to in Galatians
are the "works of the law". This letter was specifically
written to those who were seeking justification by the law, not by
faith. They were putting their trust in their own ability to keep
the law, rather than God's ability to conform them to the likeness
of Christ. The apostle Paul makes a clear distinction between the
works of the law and the good works of faith. He does this by using
a completely different term when referring to the good works of faith.
Notice in Galatians chapter 5 verse 19, where Paul lists the "works
of the flesh". Then in verse 22, in contrast to the evil works
of the flesh, he lists the good works of the Spirit. He distinguishes
these from the works of the law by using the term "fruit"
instead of works.
Fruit of the Spirit
In a Christian's life then we should see the evidence of the good
works of faith or fruit of the Spirit. A Christian cannot be saved
if his life does not show, to some degree, the fruit of the Spirit.
That person is deceiving himself. 1 John 2: 9 says "He who says
he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now."
The Role of Works
Let's look at the role of works in the Christian life. When Paul faced
Agrippa, he outlined the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles in
this way "that they should repent, turn to God, and do works
befitting repentance". Acts 26.20 Paul, in addition to belief
in Christ, actually preached works! And it is not surprising, because
true repentance is always followed by a changed life. True conversion
means turning away from a life of sin to a life of good works. Paul's
words in front of Agrippa were no slip of the tongue either, for in
1 Timothy 6:18 he advises Timothy to command the wealthy Christians
to "be rich in good works". Again to Titus he says, "I
want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God
shouldbe careful to maintain good works. These things are good and
profitable to men." Titus 3:8
Not by Works but for Works
We are not saved by works but for good works. Speaking of Jesus Christ,
the Bible says "who 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 Are you zealous for
good works? Then in Ephesians 2:8-10 the subject is fully explained
as follows "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.
By what means?
How do we accomplish good works? How can we overcome our sinful desires?
Only by faith in God who is able to give us the strength to put to
death the deeds of the body by his Spirit. "For if you live according
to the flesh you will die: but if by the Spirit you put to death the
deeds of the body, you will live." Romans 8:13
Let Your Light Shine
In summary we can clearly see that there is no contradiction in this
case. We are saved by grace, justified by faith in Jesus Christ, (which
shows itself in the fruit of the Spirit) for the good works that God
has prepared for us. Let's not be frightened to put our faith in Christ
Jesus to accomplish the good deeds that he required of us." Let
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16
copies of this booklet and other literature can be obtained by writing
to the address below.
D. Hill -- P.O. Box 7 Beerburrum Qld 4517 Australia