My Sunday School class had a great lesson yesterday focusing on the James 2:17-26. We examined scripture to clear up confusion about faith and works. Paul is clear in Ephesians 2:8-9 (CSB):
For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.
We cannot work our way into relationship with God; it is by God’s grace through faith. At the same time, as a result of our faith we (like Abraham) are to live righteously. Our faith is to express itself or give evidence in works.
During class, I described faith and works as before and after salvation. Faith is all that is required of me before salvation. But both are required of a disciple after salvation. In fact, faith should result in works. A growing disciple should be careful that works are not out of guilt, appearance, or only habit.
But Why Do Many Struggle?
Many young and more mature disciples struggle in understanding and practice here. They have been taught wrong or never taught at all. This creates confusion about works. They believe they have to earn salvation or they have to work to keep their salvation.
God provided for our salvation even before we expressed faith or works, even while we were sinners:
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8, CSB)
God provided for our salvation through the gift of Jesus that we receive through faith. Jesus’ payment for our sin does not run out. It is not a partial payment; it is a complete payment. His gift changes everything. As an expression of love and appreciation we have the opportunity and responsibility to live out faithful, righteous works before God and man.
Check on your personal beliefs as well as those of your disciples. Look for teachable moments to reinforce the truth of scripture. Release yourself and your disciples from the burdens of misunderstanding scripture here. Make disciples!