Faith Without Works is Dead

Someone recently gave me a list of Bible verses on obedience. The most familiar passage to me was James 2:14-17 (ESV):

“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

As I read that, I feel that we must have both. I know lots of people who have works without faith – I’ve heard them referred to as “moral athiests” or “moral agnostics”, and I used to be one of them. But they aren’t Christians. I see faith and works as two legs – you can’t stand as a Christian without both of them. They go together, and talking about one without the other is similar to asking whether your liver or your kidneys is more important.

Actually, I don’t see how it is even possible to have faith without works. If God is really in one’s heart, then works will naturally flow from that faith. I have to question anyone who claims to have a relationship with God who isn’t fairly well compelled to be doing lots of works. In the same way, I don’t see how a person can have God in his heart and not feel tremendous compassion and empthy for everyone he meets. I think there are a lot of people who claim to have faith, but are just putting on a mask, and unfortunately for them, God sees right through that.

I also suspect a lot of people try to work their way into Heaven, but I don’t think it can be done. In my walk with God, I’ve never really thought about being rewarded in Heaven, or punished in Hell. I’ve come to see it as C.S. Lewis puts so well in Mere Christianity (p. 147):

“Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

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