In the last several messages we have considered the grace of God in relation to our Christian walk and also as the foundation for how we interact with others. However, the area which probably causes the most contention is the role of grace in Salvation. Unfortunately, this debate is largely due to various sides not really understanding one another, and also to shifting the debate to the role of good deeds. For the purpose of this message, I will focus on those who agree that Salvation is completely through the grace of God but may disagree as to the role of good deeds.
For those who hold that good deeds do not have a part in Salvation we can point to, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). We have to admit that this seems clear: Our works, or good deeds, do not save us.
Now for those who hold that our good deeds definitely do have a part in Salvation we can point to, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?” (James 2:14). The implied answer to this question from James is a resounding NO! And yes, we have to admit that this seems clear: Our works, or good deeds, are necessary to save us.
There are several passages which can be used on either side of the debate, but these will suffice for our purpose in today’s message. I believe the answer to this apparent contradiction is found by looking closely at what James is really saying. And he seems to make his point abundantly clear in the next few verses.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
When combined with verse 14, James is equating the one who claims to have faith with the one who says “keep warm and well fed.” He is saying it does no good to verbalize these words, or claim to have faith, if you do not follow through with action – meeting physical needs or doing good deeds. A faith which does not result in action is useless – it is dead!
Now let’s be clear: Our good deeds cannot save us! Jesus makes this clear when He rebukes those who come to Him with their list of good deeds; “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23). Nor can simple belief save us; “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19).
How then is Salvation made effective? James gives us this answer through the example of Abraham as he offered Isaac to be sacrificed; “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22). In this we see that saving faith cannot be separated from good deeds; rather, a saving faith is defined as a faith which results in good deeds. Please read this again! Good deeds, which can also be defined as obedience or following Jesus, are an integrated, essential, part of saving faith!
Let’s hold on to a faith which transforms the entirety of our life by the grace of God. Let’s put an end to the divisive debate and live a life which properly reflects this transformation through the good deeds of faith.
Have a Christ Centered Day!
God’s Daily Word Ministries
**** Reading Plan ****
May 3 Judges 17:1-18:31; John 3:1-21; Psalm 104:1-24; Proverbs 14:20-21