Which Came First..Faith or Works?

(Today’s post by Adam Cooper)

James 2:14-26

eggJames 2:17, “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.(NIV)” For a lot of us this is a rather eye opening verse to read. There has always been confusion between Christianity and other religions, and even between denominations within Christianity itself concerning the relationship between works and faith. It is almost a Biblical “which came first” type of confusion. Unfortunately, that confusion has led many would be Christians astray, following a life of trying to earn their way into God’s kingdom. In James chapter 2 God lays out through James the true relationship between faith and works: works do not imply faith, works cannot earn you entrance into God’s kingdom, and faith alone is not enough (I will clarify this statement in a moment so don’t think about lynching me yet!)

Sometimes it is easier for me to put things into perspective by utilizing a practical comparison. Call it oversimplification if you will. Imagine you have an alarm system on your house but when you leave you do not set it. You do not have faith that the alarm system will work so you figure “what’s the use?” If someone breaks into your house while you are away is it the alarm systems fault? No. Your lack of faith in the alarm system is to blame. Look at this from another angle: you have faith that your alarm system will work, but when you leave you do not set it. You figure “no one will try to break in here.” Your faith in your alarm system is not to blame it is your inaction, your failure to set your alarm system that is to blame. Your faith in your alarm system must be accompanied by the action of setting your alarm system for it to be effective. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that we have been saved by grace through faith. That same verse continues by telling us that this saving grace is a GIFT from God. Digging into the Merriam-Webster for a moment, gift means, “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation.” God transfers grace to us through faith in Jesus Christ without expecting compensation.

Now back to my controversial statement from earlier: “faith alone is not enough.” We are saved by grace through faith and that grace is sufficient for our salvation. In that sense of the word faith alone is enough. However, as we grow in our walk with God and grow closer to Him and love Him more, what we do to bring God glory, to further His kingdom, to spread the good news, will REFLECT our faith. If we do not do the things that bring God glory, that further His kingdom, that spread the good news, we are STILL saved by grace through faith but we have nothing to show for it. When someone gives us a gift we are not required or even expected to reciprocate; however, how we use that gift lets the giver know that we are grateful.

Abraham had such tremendous faith that he was willing to sacrifice his son for God’s gift to him: that same son that he was prepared to sacrifice. James even tells us about Rahab’s faith in God and her work of sheltering the spies. Both of them had faith but it took action to demonstrate their faith; to let God know they appreciated His gifts.

So which came first? Biblically it was faith. In regards to the chicken or the egg…who really cares!

Apply James to your life. Do you live constantly in a quest to do more and more hoping for God’s approval, hoping for a free pass on judgment day? Or, do you live a Spirit-filled life that demonstrates you are grateful for God’s gift of grace? I know I am grateful for God’s gift of grace but I also know that there are many times that things I do don’t display that gratitude. I know that I need to do better. However, I also know that God’s gift of grace is sufficient and as I grow to love Him more, even though I may struggle, I will strive to show Him that I am grateful for His gift.

My prayer for you today is that you will realize God’s gift to you is free. It does not cost you anything. It does not require anything from you other than faith. But it is how you use that gift that will show God you are grateful!

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