Saved by Faith, Rewarded for Being Faithful

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. Galatians 2:16 NKJV

Fact: No created being unfallen or fallen has ever earned salvation. Life always has been and always will be a free gift we have never earned and never will earn. Life was a free gift to Adam and Eve before sin just as much as it was after sin. So when Paul said “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law,” he was not saying anything new. He was simply stating an eternal fact. Even after I have lived a million years of perfect sinless living in the new earth, I will always sense my need of Jesus, and will depend on my relationship with him for all eternity. In heaven I will cast my crown at the feet of Jesus because I know even in heaven I will be nothing without Him. He is everything to me here on earth and He will be everything to me throughout all eternity. I sing “I need thee every hour” here on earth and I will still be singing “I need thee every hour” after a million years on the new earth. 

Fact: While Adam and Eve were given paradise as a free gift, they lost it because of disobedience. The Bible speaks of disobedience and unbelief as synonyms. 

And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief. Hebrews 3:18-19 NKJV 

Disobedience and unbelief go together just like faith and good works go together. Wherever you find faith you will also find good works.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

Good works are the evidence of our faith. This is why James writes, 

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without our works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:18-26 NKJV 

Our works are evidence of our faith. So when God acknowledges our works He is acknowledging the evidence of our faith which we express by acts of love. 

And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. Revelation 22:12 NKJV

While Jesus and the Bible are clear that we are saved by grace and not by works, we still see Jesus acknowledging the works of the saved. 

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Matthew 25:34-36 NKJV

Notice Jesus does not tell those on His right, “you only believed so come right on into my kingdom.” As James 2:19 says, even demons believe and tremble. Jesus welcomes those on His right into His kingdom because of the good works that gave evidence of their faith. In Genesis 15:6 Abraham was credited for righteousness by his faith. James 2:21-24 explains that Abraham’s good works of obedience were evidence of his faith. In other words Abraham’s good works justified God in calling Abraham righteous because of his belief. Likewise in the parable in Matthew 25:34-36 Jesus shows the good works of those on His right as evidence of their faith, thus welcoming them into His kingdom.

This is why Galatians 5:6 does not speak of faith or works, or even faith and works, but rather a faith that works, not motivated by reward or punishment, but by love. Just like Abraham, all who are saved by faith exhibit good works.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

James; Practical Theology

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion [is] vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.  James 1:26-27

James teaches us practical everyday religion. It reminds me of what an inspired commentator said about Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan.

“In the story of the good Samaritan, Christ illustrates the nature of true religion. He shows that it consists not in systems, creeds, or rites, but in the performance of loving deeds, in bringing the greatest good to others, in genuine goodness.”  {Desire of Ages 497}

I remember years ago, a lady who loved to study her Bible.A tornado hit our community and the church asked her to help with our community service center in aiding those who needed help. Turned out she was too busy studying her Bible to help. Later we needed her help with VBS but once again she was too busy studying her Bible. Nothing wrong with Bible study, but there comes a time to put into practice all those wonderful things we have learned.

James tells us in chapter 1, verse 22, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” When we are not genuinely putting the Word of God into practice we fool no one but ourselves. Everyone can see right through a phony Christian.

James gives us a practical lesson on faith and works.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, 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?” James 2:20-22.

James teaches us that Faith works. In Genesis 15:6 it says that Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to Him as righteousness. Later, in Genesis 22, we see that belief and faith at work when Abraham went to offer Isaac on the altar just as God had commanded. When we believe in God’s love and that He has our best interest in mind, we act upon His commands. If I believe God loves me I won’t be afraid to obey Him. Eve disobeyed God when the serpent convinced her that God did not love her and have her best interest in mind. When we have faith in God’s love we then act like we have faith.

“Here is the patience of the saints: here [are] they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Revelation 14:12.

This verse in Revelation sums up what James is saying. Those who have faith keep the commandments. There is no true faith without commandment keeping. When we trust we obey.