“I was reading in the Book of James last night,” I said to Stan one morning while we waited for breakfast. “And I saw something that bothered me.”
“I like the Book of James,” Stan replied. “I think there’s a lot of stuff that has real application for my faith walk. What were you looking at that bothered you?”
“Where he writes that faith without works is dead.”
“Oh,” Stan replied, “I think a lot of people have had trouble with that over the years since James first wrote his letter. In fact, if I remember correctly, there was even some question about whether this letter should be included in the Bible.”
“Some misunderstanding of the difference between people working their way to heaven and doing something with their faith.”
“Surely no one could think that James was encouraging the notion of getting to heaven by works,” I replied.
“You might be surprised!” Stan said. “People get confused about a lot of stuff in the Bible.”
“In any event,” he continued, “it seems clear to me that what James is writing about is really no different from what the apostle Paul wrote about working out the salvation that has been worked in.”
“We’re supposed to do something with our salvation,” I replied, “not just sit on the train station platform waiting for the train. Is that it?”
“That’s it,” Stan said. “And it seems to me that when James wrote that our faith is dead without works, he was not warning that we will lose our salvation if we don’t do anything with our faith, he was just telling the truth that it’s dead, as contrasted to having life!”
“So,” I replied, “maybe it would be better to say that if we are not doing any works, our faith is without life rather than saying it’s dead.”
“You could be right.” Stan said. “People who have made a sincere commitment by accepting the finished work of the cross certainly have faith that will carry them into God’s eternal presence when it’s time, but it does not automatically mean that their faith has life on this side of eternity. Choices are necessary for that to happen!”
Bible verses to consider:
For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:26.
Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. James 2:17.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20.
Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your provision of life eternally with you through the finished work of the cross. Thank you, too, that you expect me to do something with the salvation you have provided, some things in accordance with your will to help build your kingdom. I confess that too often I am content to not do anything for you. Please forgive that foolishness. And please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead so I do, in fact, have works that manifest my faith in you and your provision. Help me to help others by doing all you have for me to do. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Think on this: Do you have salvation to work out because you have accepted God’s free and gracious provision of salvation and redemption? If no, why? What’s in the way of making that decision? If you are a Christian, how are you doing with working for God and His kingdom, works that manifest your faith? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense it’s time to make some changes in what you are doing for God, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?