LUKE 3:10-14: So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” 11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.” 14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?” So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”
OBSERVATION: Can we profess to have faith in Jesus Christ without the evidence of a true change in the way we live? This is a question that has been debated for centuries. Martin Luther was so intent on protecting the doctrine of salvation by “faith alone” that he called the Epistle of James a “right strawy epistle.” This was in response to James’ teaching on the interworking of faith and works. James boldly proclaimed – “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)
I don’t believe that Martin Luther was advocating a life in Christ that was devoid of holy living. However, there are many today who do. These teachers emphasize the Grace of God above all else, to the extent that it really does not matter how we live, for we are covered by grace. This is the deception of “religion” that takes comfort in outward appearances and actions, or philosophical thought, without any need to really change either one’s heart or one’s actions. This was the hypocritical practice of the Pharisees and Sadducees. When John the Baptist saw them approaching him he cried out – “…You brood of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Yet, in Luke 3:10-14 we are introduced to another group that was sincerely seeking the Lord. They responded to John’s call to prepare their hearts for the coming Messiah through the baptism of repentance. They were not content in simply going through a ritual of baptism as a religious practice – they wanted to know how this should practically be expressed in their lives. John’s response was – a change in the inside must be manifested through practical expressions of change on the outside. This is the same thing James advocates in his epistle. While it is possible to feign outward works without an inner change (religious hypocrisy), it is impossible to have a true inward change through faith without tangible outward actions that validate this change.
Paul also agreed with this important truth. In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read the wonderful promise of salvation by faith – “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). However, we also read in Verse 10 these important words – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Faith and works always go together. True repentance is always manifested in outward change and action. Faith in Jesus Christ always impacts the way we live. To claim we have faith without works is only to deceive ourselves. True faith in Jesus Christ produces tangible change!
Lord, help me to live a life of sincere repentance, faith in Christ, and good works that have been “prepared beforehand” for me in Christ Jesus. Help my confession match my actions. Continue to change me from the inside – out. Help me live a life of faith that gives glory to You in all that I do. In Jesus Name!