Re: Can someone help me understand the concept of faith w/works and Faith w/out works
Hi Lady e
Originally Posted by Lady e
What I am offering is my understanding of this. Don't take it as Gospel truth, but think through it by yourself, search the Scriptures and see if it makes sense to you.
First, Paul says we are justified by faith. Justified means God acquits us of our sins, and does not cause us to bear the penalty of our sins. We cannot be acquitted from our sins and made righteous by performing works, and works are simply obedience to God's commandments.
To understand this, imagine a private citizen in a country. He obeys the laws of the land perfectly all his life, but he only breaks one law once. He murders someone. His one breaking of the law immediately makes him a criminal, and the wages of his criminal act, is death. No matter how much he obeys the laws of the land even if he lived till 100 years, he will not make up for his crime.
It is the same way for us spiritually. When we break one of God's laws, we immediately become a sinner and the wages of sin is death. No matter how much we obey God's commandments, it will not make up for our sins.
Therefore, only faith in Jesus Christ will justify us and acquit us of our sins. He paid for our sins by his perfect life, and God forgives us on his account, if we believe in Him.
Why then does James say that we are justified not only by faith but by works? I will present my understanding, and you see if it makes sense for you as you read your Bible. I submit that when we read the word "works" we immediately think of good works, of obedience to commands. However I think this is not the kind of works James is talking about here.
James is talking about works which demonstrate and show that we truly believed in God, and in what God had said. James uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab. God had promised Abraham that he will make a great nation out of Isaac his son. Yet later God told Abraham to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering. Abraham had waited 25 years for this child. If he did not really believe God's promises, he would not have obeyed. Yet he obeyed, because Hebrews told us that Abraham believed that even if he had killed Isaac, God would raise him up again. So he was justified by God because of this act - which demonstrated that he really believed, that his faith was genuine.
Rahab was the same. Her act had nothing to do with obedience to commandments. She did not know God's law, and she had no relationship or familiarity with the Jewish religion. What she did - she saved the spies in order to strike a bargain with them for her life - showed that she really believed that YHWH was the true God, and that all that God had said will come to pass. She really believed, and her works showed she believed, because she risked her own life to save them in order to make a bargain with them for her life, and her family's life.
So both Paul and James are saying the same thing. Paul says we are justified by faith. James says not any kind of faith will do, but faith that really shows itself in our actions (works). When our faith is tested, what we do (our works) will show if we really believe God. And what we do in faith will justify us in God's sight. At the end of the day, it is still faith that prompts the actions, and it is still faith which justifies us, but true faith shows itself in action and decision, and only this kind of faith will save us. (the kind where you just say you believe, but when that faith is tested and your actions show you don't really believe, that will not save us).
The Bible gives us a long list of such works done by faith, and they are listed in Hebrews 11:7 onwards. These people acted, was prompted to action, because in their hearts they really believed everything that God had said. They had genuine faith, the kind that saves.
How does obedience factor into all this? Frankly I'm not sure. I'm still trying to work out that part.
Tit 3:2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.