Faith and Works
This lesson that we're going to have today is related to the lesson that we had on God's grace and our faith. The reason that I want to expand our look in scripture, is that there are some objections to the idea of faith being an active faith. One of the main arguments brought to bear against it, is that we're not saved by works.
In my last lesson, we saw that grace, as a comprehensive Biblical term, represented everything that God did in providing salvation to mankind.
We see that “The wages of sin is death…” in Romans 6:23, which means separation from God. Sin is a violation of God’s law and causes mankind to lose fellowship with Him. God is holy and just, and He cannot overlook our sins. There has to be a punishment for sin, and that punishment is eternal separation from fellowship with God. The only way that man can regain that fellowship is if he pays the just penalty for that sin.
It doesn't matter what that sin is. The penalty is the same. We have all lost our fellowship with God and that cannot be restored unless we pay the penalty in full.
Thankfully for us, God is rich in grace and mercy and does not want to see us suffer for all eternity. He wants people to have a chance to regain that fellowship. He provides a plan where a person can have the hope of being reconciled.
We said that God was under no obligation to do this. There's nothing mankind can do to earn it or pay for it, and we don't in any way deserve it. Nothing man did compelled or can compel God to do this.
This means of reconciliation came at a great personal expense for God, namely the life of His Son as a substitutionary death penalty for us. God could have washed His hands of mankind and walked away to leave us to our fate forever. He would have been perfectly within His right to do that very thing.
He didn't owe us anything. We got into this predicament all by ourselves. God is absolutely blameless in all that we have done and God has no obligations toward mankind in this affair beyond what He has obligated Himself for.
Because God loves us so much, He graciously came up with a plan by which man could be reconciled to Him and escape this death penalty of sin. Grace can be illustrated as God reaching down from heaven toward doomed mankind with an offer of salvation. His motivation for doing this is entirely out of His love for us. That is grace.
Faith, as we learned in my last lesson, is a comprehensive Biblical term representing man's response to God's gracious offer. We respond to God's grace by and through faith. Grace alone cannot save us, because if it did, then everybody living would automatically have their tickets punched for the ride to heaven, no matter how they lived. We have to respond to God's gracious offer in order to receive it. The response we must give is represented in the Bible as faith. Ephesians 2:8 reads “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” .
Neither grace nor faith is mutually exclusive, meaning one does not rule out or cancel the other. Our salvation is not by grace only because we must have faith. Salvation cannot be by faith only because we must have grace. Salvation is made available by grace through faith.
Two roles, two actions, two responses working together. God responded to our situation with grace. We respond to God's offer through faith. In order for either one of these to be of any benefit to us, we have to have both.
When we read Ephesians 2:9, we see another point that Paul makes in that same context, “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” How do works operate in our faith response?
This is a very important question that needs to be answered because there are a vast number of people who believe and teach that faith is really faith only and that no works are necessary. They support this teaching by saying that works don't save us, and within the proper context, they are absolutely right. Works do not save us.
The remainder of this lesson is going to examine the role of faith and how it relates to work.
I. First of all, we need to define what a work is. A work is any mental or physical act that is intended to produce a result. The act of making a decision is work. Even the mental exercise of believing something is work, you've done something. Believing something requires the intake of information upon which a decision is made. That is an act which is intended to produce a result. It is therefore a work in and of itself.
A. The Bible even defines faith as a work in First Thessalonians 1:3, where Paul writes “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,”
1. Again in Second Thessalonians 1:11, Paul wrote, “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,” Faith is a work. And for those who believe and teach that biblical faith means faith only, i.e. that we are saved by faith without works, this becomes a problem.
2. If we are not saved by works, then we cannot be saved by faith, which is defined as a work in Scripture. Then how do we solve this? How can we be saved through faith, which is a work, but not be saved by works?
3. The simple answer to this is that the Word of God does teach us that we're not saved by works, but it never, ever, says that we can be saved without them.
4. Some people have the understanding that we are not saved by works, therefore we are saved without them. That understanding is an assumption that is totally foreign to what the Word of God actually teaches us about faith and works. Our understanding of faith and works must come from a comprehensive view of all that has been written about them.
5. Jesus declared in Matthew 7:21 that only the obedient would inherit eternal life. One cannot be obedient to Jesus without engaging in a work.
B. Not all works are the same, and not all of them have the same application in regard to our salvation, the same function. There is more than one kind of “works” and there is more than one way they are relevant to our salvation. One must ask, in what way do works save me and in what way do they not save me?
1. One. The gift of God's grace, which is everything He did in order to secure a means and hope of salvation for a person, cannot be bypassed by any work. God's grace cannot be taken away from, or diminished by any human work. God's grace cannot be earned, it cannot be paid for. It cannot be deserved or merited by anything that we could possibly do. In that way, our works cannot save us. Our works cannot save us by going around or bypassing God's grace.
2. Two. God was under no obligation to provide man a means of salvation. He would have been perfectly within His rights to just allow us to spend an eternity in Hell. Yet, God’s entire plan of redemption for mankind was all set in place before time began.
a. In speaking of Christ, Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:20- “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.”
b. Paul wrote in Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” No human work can add to or take away from that commitment. In that way, we are not saved by our works. Our works cannot save us by going around God's plan of salvation.
3. Three. Jesus gave His life for us. Galatians 2:20 – “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” He died the death we deserve. 1 John 2:2 – “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”[NIV] No human work can make that sacrifice unnecessary. In that way we are not saved by our works. Our works cannot save us by going around the blood of Christ.
4. Four. Jesus said in John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the mediator. No human work can bypass Christ and get us to the Father. In that way we are not saved by our works.
5. Five. We were dead in our sins before we came to Christ (Colossians 2:13). He purchased us with His own blood, (Acts 20:28). We were purchased with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20, and 7:23). He is the guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:14).
a. We were dead, and now we are alive. The cost was Jesus blood. We belong to God. He is rightfully entitled to everything we do.
b. Every work we engage in rightfully belongs to Him. Our works are not solely ours to decide what we're going to do with them. There's nothing we can do that will buy us back from God. We have nothing to offer that does not already belong to Him. In that way, our works cannot save us.
II. In the last lesson, we looked at the term “faith” as it was used in many applications in the word of God. We're going to go back through some of those. You're going to remember some of them, and we're going to make some observations as it relates to the subject of works.
A. Let's keep in mind as we go through this list that faith is defined as a “work” in the Word of God.
1. Remember in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 faith is a work. We're going to read that one again. “remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,”
2. Then again, 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,” The inspired Apostle Paul defined faith as a work.
B. The work of faith is our shield. Ephesians 6:16 – “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one”
1. Using our faith as a shield is a work of faith. We cannot use our faith as a shield and quench the darts of the wicked without doing something—engaging in a work. Using our faith as a shield requires a decision to do so, and the act of doing it.
2. God does not owe us anything when we do this. We don't deserve God's grace, nor can we merit our salvation by making our faith a shield. We have not bypassed Jesus with this work of faith. We have not added to or taken away from God's grace with this action in any way, shape or form.
C. The work of faith is both a sacrifice and a service. Philippians 2:17 – “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Sacrifices are things we give up. Service is something we do for one another and for those outside Christ. We cannot engage in a faith that sacrifices and serves without doing something. A faith without sacrifice and service would be a faith that is missing these works.
D. James wrote in James 2:14 - “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” That was a rhetorical question which had the implied answer of no…it cannot.
1. It is not possible for faith alone to be a sacrifice and a service. It is not possible for faith to be a sacrifice and a service without works. The work of faith therefore, includes the work of sacrifice and service.
2. That being said, this work of faith is not a merit of salvation. It doesn't pay for it. It cannot add anything to what God has done for us. It cannot save us apart from the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In these ways, our work of faith through sacrifice and service cannot save us.
E. The work of faith is a walk. 2 Corinthians 5:7: “For we walk by faith, not by sight”.
1. Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
2. Colossians 2:6 reads “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,”
3. The work of faith includes a walk. A walk is a way of life. It's the way our life is lived. It is not possible to walk a way of life without engaging in a work. Our work of faith must include our walk, our way of life. This work of faith is not meritorious. It cannot get us into heaven apart from Jesus Christ, nor can it make His sacrifice for us unnecessary. These are ways in which our walk of faith cannot save us. However this does not mean that our walk of faith is not necessary.
4. James wrote in James 2:17 – “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James says that faith without works is alone and dead. James made it clear in verse 14 that a claim of faith without works does not profit us, save us.
F. The work of faith is a trial. James 1:7 – “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” [KJV]
1. A trial is a test of faith, patience or stamina through subjection to suffering or temptation. We cannot endure the trial of faith without doing something. James wrote in 2:18 – “But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works.'' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”[NKJV] . We show our faith to others when we endure the trials of our faith and overcome suffering and temptation.
2. The trial of our faith cannot pay for our salvation. The trial of our faith cannot get us into a home in heaven apart from God's grace. We don't deserve God's grace when we work the trial of our faith. These are ways in which our work of faith cannot save us. It does not mean that our trial of faith is not necessary.
G. The work of faith is a fight. First Timothy 6:12 – “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” Fighting requires defensive and offensive actions. We have to defend the truth and carry God's word to the lost. One cannot engage in a fight without doing something. Fighting the good fight of faith requires action.
1. James wrote in 2:19-20 – “thou believest that there is one God. Thou doest well. The devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”[KJV] James declared that a faith with no works is a dead faith. A dead faith cannot produce a living soul.
2. Fighting the good fight of faith is a work. Does this work of faith merit God's salvation? No. Will this work of faith make Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins unnecessary? No. Will it make it unnecessary for Christ to die for our sins? No way. These are ways in which our fight of faith cannot save us.
H. Biblical Faith is a Shield, faith is a sacrifice, a service, a walk, a trial, a fight, and therefore faith must be a work. Yet, works cannot earn or merit of salvation. But we can't be saved without them, for Jesus declared in Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Since we cannot get into the kingdom of heaven without doing His will, then we know we can't get there without works.
III. Works cannot compel God to offer man a means of reconciliation, but we cannot be reconciled without them.
A. Paul wrote in Titus 3:5 – “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,” God implemented the plan of redemption all on His own, without any help or motivation from us. Works cannot place us in a position where we can boast of our salvation. We can never do enough. We can never be good enough that we can be boastful.
1. Ephesians 2:8-9 – “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.” Notice that grace is the gift of God. That's everything that God did for us. It is a gift of God; it is not because of our works, not because anything we did, so we can not boast.
2. Works cannot replace Jesus on the cross, but we can’t be saved without them. Works cannot bypass Jesus to gain access the Father but we can’t access Him without them.
B. 1 Corinthians 6:20 – “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.” The price that was paid for us has nothing whatsoever to do with our works. Works cannot repay that debt, and we certainly cannot be saved without them.
C. We cannot be saved without the faith response. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:8-9 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”.
1. God's grace was given to us through Christ Jesus. That decision was made before time began. Nothing we can possibly do can change that, add to it or take away from it. That does not mean that works, i.e. obedience to God is not necessary.
2. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 – “and to give you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,”
3. We cannot obey the gospel without working. It is just not possible. Those who fail to obey will be punished forever. Faith without obedience leads to destruction. Faith without works is dead.
4. Again in James 2:20-22 – “ 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?”
IV. We have looked at a lot of things that works cannot do. What can they do? Let's look at some things that the word of God says that works can do.
A. The work of obeying Jesus will make us wise. Matthew 7:24 – “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:”
1. On the other hand failing to obey Jesus makes us foolish. In that same context, starting in verse 26 – “Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:”
2. You all know how this ends, the house on a solid foundation withstood the storms but the house on sand, did not.
B. Works of obedience to God demonstrate our love for Him.
1. John 14:23-24 – “Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
2. Works of disobedience to God demonstrate that we do not love God: “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.”
C. Those who work the works of righteousness are accepted by God. Acts 10:35 – “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”
D. Works of obedience makes us servants of righteousness. Romans 6:16 – “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?”
1. Works of righteousness make us righteous. 1 John 3:7 – “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.”
2. Failure to work these works of righteousness results in our not being of God. 1 John 3:10—same context. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”
3. If we fail to work obedience to God's commands and claim that we know him, we are liars. 1 John 2:4 – “He who says, "I know Him,'' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
4. Those who do work obedience to God's commandments are in God, and also have God perfected within them. First John 2:5 – “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.” It's our works of obedience, keeping the Word, which perfects the love of God within us. By this same thing is how we know that we are in Him.
5. Those who work obedience have purified their souls. First Peter 1:22 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,”
6. Works of obedience will help us seek for glory and honor and immortality. In speaking of God, Paul writes in Romans 2:6-7 – “who "will render to each one according to his deeds'': eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;”.
E. Those are some of the things that works will achieve.
Those who do good will be resurrected to eternal life, while those who do evil will be resurrected to condemnation. Obedience to Jesus Christ results in Him being the author of our eternal salvation. The Hebrew writer, speaking of Jesus, writes in Hebrews 5:9 – “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,”.
Scripture shows us over and over again; “Good works results in good things. Bad works results in bad things”. But one thing we must never forget is that no matter what good that we may do in life, our works neither promotes or compels God to offer us salvation. Neither can they pay for it. They cannot earn it. No matter what good we may do, we don't deserve it. We can't work our way to heaven without Christ.
We can't work enough to get around the need for His death on the cross, the shedding of His blood. Those are the things that works can never do, and we must always keep that in mind. We can never work enough to gain an eternal inheritance in heaven apart from God's grace and our faith.
On the other side of the coin, we also can't get to heaven without works. If we want to be saved, we're going to have to work for something we can never earn, never pay for, never merit, never deserve and never get… apart from God's grace.
Jesus said in John 6:27 – “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” He said to labor. You can't labor without working.
We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and be baptized for the remission of our sins… If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.
If anybody needs to respond, either to dedicate themselves to Christ, be buried with Him in baptism, and become a part of the work He has for us; or if you need to ask for prayers on your behalf, won’t you come forward as we stand and sing our Invitational song.
Reference Sermon by: David Hersey
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