JAMES 2:18: “But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Are we saved by grace through faith alone, or do we need works? This is one of the oldest and most debated questions in the entire Bible. When one reads Ephesians 2:8-9, and then James 2:18, it appears that they present a stark contradiction.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Here, Paul makes it clear that works have nothing to do with our salvation, period! Yet, James claims that faith without works is not really faith at all. So then, who is right? The answer is – they both are. They are simply looking at two sides of the same coin.
There is nothing that we can do that can earn our salvation. We were all born under the penalty of sin. The wages of sin is death, and there is no man that can escape from both the penalty and power of sin. The only escape available is to live a sinless life. There is only one who was able to do this – Jesus Christ, fully God, and fully man. He lived a sinless life for us, took our place under the judgment of God against sin, died, rose victorious over sin and death, and He now offers full pardon and eternal life to all who believe – apart from their own works or merit.
Yet, true faith, faith that is a gift from God, faith that flows from God’s Grace to the believer’s heart, produces a change. This change is not static, it is dynamic. It is the rebirth of the inner man, the spirit. The Old Testament spoke of it in Ezekiel as receiving a new heart, a heart made of flesh, replacing the cold heart of stone that was burdened and controlled by sin, and destined for eternal punishment and death. Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 2:10 the exact same thing that James is saying in James 2:18:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)
We are not saved simply to go to heaven, we are saved to serve God! We are saved to live a life that enters into the eternal destiny for which we have been created! We are saved and created in Christ Jesus for the very good works which God has prepared for us from the foundation of the world! Faith produces faithfulness. Faithfulness is shown through obedience. Obedience walks in the works and will of God. Therefore, faith, true saving faith, the faith that is the gift of God – is dead without the good works which God has prepared!
Lord, thank you for Your work of Grace in my life. This morning, may I enter fully into the partnership of walking after Your Holy Spirit, giving my life to fulfill the good works that you have prepared beforehand – by You Grace and through the gift of Your Faith in me!
In Jesus Name!