"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Faith Without Works Is Dead

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27)

Oftentimes I've told people on blogs and elsewhere that I believe our good deeds flow out of us
as a result of salvation. Not as a means to save us. In other words, we do good because it's the fruit or expression of what we are in Christ and evidence of what God is doing through us. We don't work to earn God's favor and, hopefully, His salvation.

I was reading James 2 the other day and came across these verses and then I also read something in a publication which I wanted to share. The quote from the publication shares how our inner attitude is reflected outwardly ... how our saving faith means God works through us to produce works pleasing to Himself.

My blogging friend Sanil mentioned yesterday how some Christians she know almost have an attitude that things will be sorted out in the afterlife, therefore, they can't be bothered with helping the oppressed or the poor or righting social injustices. It's like they figure God will make it all better in the end so why should they even try. I disagree with this view. We shouldn't throw our hands in the air in defeat and say "what's the use?"

I believe James is teaching that our faith is active! It doesn't have a defeatist mentality or a lazy, uninvolved, uncaring mentality. It's proven alive or real by how we treat others! This is why he concludes "faith without deeds is dead."

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If 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? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. . . .

26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

And now for the quote I mentioned above:

A difficult lesson for all followers of Christ is that our spiritual fruit can come in two forms: fruit of activity and fruit of attitude. Activity, obviously, refers to the things that we do, the works we accomplish for the Lord. While these deeds can be wonderful, we cannot always trust them. Jesus Himself warned about the error of placing too much confidence in our actions (Matt. 7:21-23).

The fruit of attitude, however, is a far better indication of what is happening in our spirits. You see, as the Holy Spirit works in our lives, His fruit is manifested first in our attitudes. As we come under the influence of His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, our inward attitudes will begin to affect our outward behavior. The change comes from within as the Holy Spirit modifies our thinking (Rom. 12:2). This inner transformation is squarely in line with the very definition of repentance: a change of mind that results in a change of behavior.

When we give the Holy Spirit free reign in our lives and focus on our growth in Him, we will begin to notice changes in our thoughts and deeds. It is as though when we are filled with the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is simply the natural outflow of what is happening within our hearts. Then we can't help but show the world what sets us apart as different.

What do you think?

(emphasis mine -- quote from Charles Stanley - In Touch magazine, May 2010,
pg. 9)


Amber said...

Well, I don't have much to say because I agree with you entirely. :)

But I think this flaw, that people don't reach out and help others because 'God will sort it out' comes from too much focus on the Protestant idea of 'faith alone'. It's gone too far, much father than what was originally meant, I'm certain, and has hurt people now. They fear 'doing works' because then they might be trying to work their way into heaven. *sigh* In the mean time, people who we should be reaching out to and helping continue to suffer when it is our responsibility, not just as Christians, but as human beings.

Susanne said...

Amber, yes, I agree. Thankfully I know of MANY Protestants and Protestant groups who do have living faith (read: faith that works!). In fact the man I quoted in this post is a Baptist preacher. And I support various Protestant ministries that go throughout the world to actually meet needs (feed the hungry, provide medicine, doctors, clean water, wells, mosquito nets, etc.) So I am happy that not all Protestants are sitting doing nothing, but your point is valid! I often wish I were a doctor or nurse so I could go to other countries and help meet medical needs. I still think I could do it, but I'd just have to offer hugs and Band-aids since I don't have any medical training. Still, I think it's a fantastic way to be the "hands and feet" of Jesus to a hurting world. :)

Thank you for your great comment!

Unknown said...

Yay, you posted it!

I like the comment about change of attitude, I think that is a good way to put it. I always understood it more as "change of heart", which is impossible to see since I didn't view it as having anything to do with behavior, but rather belief. Attitude is a type of behavior/action, so there is definitely a difference here that just the act of "believing" and choosing to follow means that even if you have bad habits and you're a little slow to follow through with your every outward action, the action is already taking place inside you. So there is already works and no such thing as faith as described here without some kind of action/work.

Suroor said...

What a lovely post! I agree with you completely.

I have often said to you that I don't believe in redemption or salvation. However, what I really mean is that I don't have to believe in Jesus as God or that he died for our sins. But I know, accept and believe that all religions preach salvation and redemption. I just find it difficult to make a choice when religions start to preach that salvation lies only within them.

For example, Christians believe you can be saved only if you believe in the divinity of Christ. I can understand how to you I may seem arrogant not to accept him as God. Muslims believe you can't be pardoned if you reject Muhammad. If you are exactly like a Muslim in all aspects but you deny Muhammad as a prophet then you are doomed. To Jews Christians and Muslims are following false prophets and will be punished. It is quite confusing.

This post has helped me understand all these difficult issues so thank you so much.

Susanne said...

Sanil, enjoyed your comment! Yeah, James is pretty adamant that "faith without works is a dead faith." :)

Susanne said...


"For example, Christians believe you can be saved only if you believe in the divinity of Christ. . . . It is quite confusing."

Yes, that's so true! Maybe we could pray for GOD to save us and lead us to the right path - no matter what that is. If He reveals it's through Jesus, great. If it's through Muhammad, OK....or if it's through no one but Him! Just so long we know and do what pleases God!

Thanks much for your comment!