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. James 2:18 NKJV.
One of the things drummed into my head since the beginning of my Christian journey was the doctrine that we are saved by faith alone and not by works. I get it. I believe it too; and Ephesians 2:8-10 is the primary proof text for that idea. But there is another side to this simple truth and it has become the source of fierce debates among Christians today. One camp likes to say that salvation is all faith and no works, while another camp likes to say that works are also essential.
The weakness of the "faith only" camp is that salvation is reduced down to merely reciting a prayer (formula) while being required to possess nothing more than a mental belief in God. This often results in people who profess Christianity but do not live for God. The error of the "works" camp is that salvation becomes some kind of performance oriented arrangement where the individual is always trying to measure up and please an angry God; producing very insecure Christians.
But in the Bible no such dichotomy (or division) exists between faith and works. They are BOTH SEEN AS ONE; with each being an essential part of the other. The verse quoted above (Eph. 2:8-10) actually makes the case for both faith AND works.
Jesus taught us that a tree is recognized by the fruit it bears – good or bad - (Matthew 7:16; Luke 6:43-44). A tree and its fruit are not in conflict with each other; rather, one is the natural product of the other. The fruit comes from the root. Therefore, faith and works should not be seen as two opposing ideas, but as TWO MANIFESTATIONS of the SAME IDEA.
This faith-verses-works argument has caused different groups of Christians to take sides in a conflict that should never have occurred because the Bible views them explicitly as being one. But a split in Christian theology - especially in America - resulted in a deep divide over the roles of faith and works in ones salvation. That argument continues to this very day and it’s easy to see how dividing works from faith has resulted in both sides being left with only a half gospel.
The false notion persists that committing ones life to Jesus Christ begins and ends by simply reciting a brief prayer that activates one’s “fire insurance” policy. The parts about ‘living the life’ and bearing good fruit are seen as optional. If the truth be known, authentic saving faith is always demonstrated by accompanying good works.
To drive home the point, consider what Jesus taught. “You are the salt of the earth," He said, "but if the salt loses its saltiness (i.e., works) it is no longer good for anything except to be cast out….” (Matthew 5:13). We can only be saved by embracing the whole gospel of faith AND works. Faith and works must be PUT BACK TOGETHER again. After all, the Bible never separated them; we did. We must move beyond this weak, anemic view that our faith is only a personal and private matter with no visible outward evidence.
Faith without works is dead, being alone (James 2:17; 20).