You may have heard it said that faith without works is dead. This is often used as a way to push on the church that salvation is based on our works, rather than the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Some folks struggle to believe that Jesus covered everything for us, and the cross was enough, and instead live their lives trying to justify themselves to God so they can have Him in their debt for their good works.
Christ died for us so that we might be good in Him, through Him, for Him, by Him and because of Him. This means our righteousness comes not from our good deeds, but from Christ alone. We cannot be morally good enough to earn God’s love or our salvation.
We cannot save ourselves. Jesus said in Mark 10:23-27 that is impossible for anyone to have enter all life, but with God all things are possible. He was telling the people that we cannot save ourselves, it is impossible, but with Jesus we can be saved.
Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”
Let’s take look at Paul’s writings in the book of Romans and compare this to James’ writings, where some struggle to understand what James is talking about when he says “faith without works is dead”.
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
Paul’s words seem to be in contrast to the words of James who says that our “faith without works is dead”. Some take this passage to mean we must work to show that we are saved, or we must earn our salvation.
(I recommend reading all of chapter 2)
Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
James is not talking about salvation, he is talking about who we should work towards being as followers of Christ, that a follower of Christ, who is in Christ, should bear good fruit. The thing to understand here is that James is not setting a standard of laws/rules that we must all follow, instead he is showing fruitfulness under the cross.
Jesus said the following about bearing fruit.
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Paul reflects this in his letter to the Galatians.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
Again this is not about salvation, but about living a life in Christ, learning to love others. The does not mean there is a measure or standard which we must meet, after all the bible says we will each be judged relative or according to our own deeds. This means we individually will not be measured by somebody else’s measure or compared to somebody else’s fruit, but according to our hearts and our fruit. This means you cannot hide behind laws and good works, you have to mean what you do, it has to be real; God sees the fake people and the religious posers.
He will judge everyone according to what they have done. He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile.
The sabbath day was a day off for God and family. Not mixing fabrics was to keep people safe from dangerous fabric combinations that could be potentially harmful to wearers in a desert environment. The dietary laws were an attempt to help people live and eat healthy to have a longer life. All were an attempt to get people to learn to be like God, to love others and live a good life and serve one another.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)
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. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
Jesus came to give people hope for a new life in Him; He said He would take their burdens and make them light. The law had created burdens and a life of unreachable moralism that nobody could reach. People were more concerned with obeying the law, rather than being the law by understanding the heart of the law.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Jesus gave us freedom from the law, to live in Him without condemnation, to be able to fail and not carry that failure / sin as a heavy burden. Jesus has taken it away, paid the price for our sins, so that we can live in Him. The Holy Spirit in us should drive us to good things or good works as James said.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
“Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”
This is not about salvation. Our works do not save us, however our mind change, the Holy Spirit in us should be our teacher to good works. Jesus a said the Holy Spirit is our teacher.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.
Again this is not about salvation, but about living a life in Christ, learning to love others and be better people. Salvation is a gift from God, it is not earned or merited through good deeds or obedience to rules, but through faith, real faith in Jesus.