Reading 4 – Tuesday, December 5, 2017
The Relationship between Faith and Works
By Rafael (Felipe) Acuña Sanchez, Costa Rica
Faith should always be accompanied by works, because works are the fruit of faith.
We are told in James 2:14-24: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vainman, that faith without works is dead?
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”
“… Are good works of no real value? Is the sinner who commits sin every day with impunity, regarded of God with the same favor as the one who through faith in Christ tries to work in his integrity? The Scripture answers, ‘We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.’ In His divine arrangement, through His unmerited favor, the Lord has ordained that good works shall be rewarded. We are accepted through Christ’s merit alone; and the acts of mercy, the deeds of charity, which we perform, are the fruits of faith; and they become a blessing to us; for men are to be rewarded according to their works. It is the fragrance of the merit of Christ that makes our good works acceptable to God, and it is grace that enables us to do the works for which He rewards us. Our works in and of themselves have no merit. When we have done all that it is possible for us to do, we are to count ourselves as unprofitable servants. We deserve no thanks from God. We have only done what it was our duty to do, and our works could not have been performed in the strength of our own sinful natures.” –Review and Herald, January 29, 1895; Our High Calling, p. 122.
Thus the Bible tells us that faith goes hand in hand with action.
“ ‘Without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.’ Hebrews 11:6. There are many in the Christian world who claim that all that is necessary to salvation is to have faith; works are nothing, faith is the only essential. But God’s Word tells us that faith without works is dead, being alone. Many refuse to obey God’s commandments, yet they make a great deal of faith. But faith must have a foundation.
“God’s promises are all made upon conditions. If we do His will, if we walk in truth, then we may ask what we will, and it shall be done unto us. While we earnestly endeavor to be obedient, God will hear our petitions; but He will not bless us in disobedience. If we choose to disobey His com mandments, we may cry, ‘Faith, faith, only have faith,’ and the response will come back from the sure Word of God, ‘Faith without works is dead.’ James 2:20. Such faith will only be as sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal. In order to have the benefits of God’s grace we must do our part; we must faithfully work and bring forth fruits meet for repentance….
“Faith and works will keep us evenly balanced and make us successful in the work of perfecting Christian character. Jesus says, ‘Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.’ Matthew 7:21. Speaking of temporal food, the apostle said, ‘For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.’ 2 Thessalonians 3:10. The same rule applies to our spiritual nourishment; if any would have the bread of eternal life, let him make efforts to obtain it.
“We are living in an important and interesting period of this earth’s history. We need more faith than we have yet had; we need a firmer hold from above. Satan is working with all power to obtain the victory over us, for he knows that he has but a short time in which to work. Paul had fear and trembling in working out his salvation; and should not we fear lest a promise being left us, we should any of us seem to come short of it, and prove ourselves unworthy of eternal life? We should watch unto prayer, striving with agonizing effort to enter in at the strait gate….
“While we are to be in harmony with God’s law, we are not saved by the works of the law, yet we cannot be saved without obedience. The law is the standard by which character is measured. But we cannot possibly keep the commandments of God without the regenerating grace of Christ. Jesus alone can cleanse us from all sin. He does not save us by law, neither will He save us in disobedience to law.
“Our love to Christ will be in proportion to the depth of our conviction of sin, and by the law is the knowledge of sin. But as we see ourselves, let us look away to Jesus, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity. By faith take hold of the merits of Christ, and the soul-cleansing blood will be applied. The more clearly we see the evils and perils to which we have been exposed, the more grateful shall we be for deliverance through Christ. The gospel of Christ does not give men license to break the law, for it was through transgression that the floodgates of woe were opened upon our world.
“Today sin is the same malignant thing that it was in the time of Adam. The gospel does not promise the favor of God to anyone who in impenitence breaks His law. The depravity of the human heart, the guilt of transgression, the ruin of sin, are all made plain by the cross where Christ has made for us a way of escape….
“We are workers together with God. You are not to sit in indolence, waiting for some great occasion, in order to do a great work for the Master. You are not to neglect the duty that lies directly in your pathway, but you are to improve the little opportunities that open around you….” –Faith and Works, pp. 47, 49, 95, 96, 47. Obedience comes only from faith, because it is the fruit of it. Faith, on the other hand, is always the natural result of something else. Jesus said, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4, 5.
When it is genuine, obedience is natural and spontaneous, not forced. In Steps to Christ, p. 61, we are told that obedience is the fruit of faith; therefore, one is the result of the other.
“Abide in Me, and I in you.” This means to have Christ in you, or to be related to Him, to have fellowship with Him every moment of your life. The inspired pen tells us that we should meditate every day for at least one hour on the life of Christ, and especially on the final scenes of His life. The word “abide” means to stay, like the two men on the road to Emmaus said to the Stranger: “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” Luke 24:29.
According to the book of Luke, two men were walking to Emmaus. They were deeply grieved and disappointed as they discussed what had just happened. A Stranger approached them, listened to them, and commented. Somehow they felt confident and requested Him to stay. Their faith and hope began to revive. One of them, Cleopas, is mentioned by name, while the other is not. Like these two disciples, perhaps you, too, have come to a moment when you have lost faith and hope and, like Cleopas, you don’t see that Jesus is by your side. But if you ask Him to abide with you, your eyes will open, and you will run to Jerusalem to testify of His love. However, only if He remains in you will you see your faith develop and work by love, based on a personal encounter with Christ.
Jesus says that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit; but without Him we can do nothing, so what does that include? The passage tells us that we can do nothing to produce fruit, while on the other hand we are told: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13.
There are two things necessary in the Christian life. One is to find Christ, and the second is to abide in Him. How does one do that? In the same way as one found Him; everything is by faith and is the result of faith–the means of spiritual communion.
“Man is to cooperate with God, employing every power according to his God-given ability. He is not to be ignorant as to what are right practices in eating and drinking, and in all the habits of life. The Lord designs that His human agents shall act as rational, accountable beings in every respect….
“We cannot afford to neglect one ray of light God has given. To be sluggish in our practice of those things which require diligence is to commit sin. The human agent is to cooperate with God, and keep under those passions which should be in subjection. To do this he must be unwearied in his prayers to God, ever obtaining grace to control his spirit, temper, and actions. Through the imparted grace of Christ, he may be enabled to overcome. To be an overcomer means more than many suppose it means….
“But though Christ is everything, we are to inspire every man to unwearied diligence. We are to strive, wrestle, agonize, watch, pray, lest we shall be overcome by the wily foe. For the power and grace with which we can do this comes from God, and all the while we are to trust in Him, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. Never leave the impression on the mind that there is little or nothing to do on the part of man; but rather teach man to cooperate with God, that he may be successful in overcoming.
“Let no one say that your works have nothing to do with your rank and position before God. In the judgment the sentence pronounced is according to what has been done or to what has been left undone. Matthew 25:34-40….
“Everyone who has a realizing sense of what it means to be a Christian, will purify himself from everything that weakens and defiles. All the habits of his life will be brought into harmony with the requirements of the Word of truth, and he will not only believe, but will work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, while submitting to the molding of the Holy Spirit. –(Review and Herald, March 6, 1888.)
“When it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit. But He will not accept those who claim to have faith in Him, and yet are disloyal to His Father’s commandment.
We hear a great deal about faith, but we need to hear a great deal more about works. Many are deceiving their own souls by living an easygoing, accommodating, crossless religion. But Jesus says, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ ” –(Signs of the Times, June 16, 1890) Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 380-382.
It is abundantly clear: Faith without works is dead. God help us to move forward in our lives and to accept Christ as our personal Saviour. This is my great desire for us all.