Faith That Works

February 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Warren Mueller –

The role of faith and works in salvation is a topic that has been, and continues to be, debated among Christians.

Clearly, faith and good works are related and without works faith is dead or useless (James 2:20 NIV). There are a number of paradoxes in the Bible associated with faith and works that would disappear if Christians would realize that it is who they are that should drive what they do. In other words, “be to do” not “do to be.”

Our human thinking and culture tells us we need to work hard to gain skills and knowledge to be successful and attain a better way of life. This is “do to be” thinking. I believe this thinking has pervaded Christianity such that the motivation to do good works, receive the sacraments, achieve status and rank by becoming a priest, deacon, elder, etc. is based on the desire to accumulate spiritual rewards and a better place in heaven. Another problem is that some Christian denominations teach that works are an essential part of salvation. In other words, the grace needed to reach heaven is imparted through the sacraments of the church which again is “do to be” thinking.

So what is “be to do” Christian thinking?

The basis for this thinking rests on a spiritual birth, through faith in Jesus Christ as personal savior (John 3:16-17; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:23 NIV). Jesus said one must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3 NIV). The death of Jesus on the cross provides payment for the penalty of the sins of mankind. This is a legal transaction that enables those who accept this by faith to become children of God indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 3:24; Ephesians 1:13-14 NIV).

This spiritual birth is like the natural one in that growth in knowledge of the new identity of self, the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit and the works that result are progressive. From this theological view, good works are a result of changes that God has produced inside me and not changes that I try to achieve by doing something. Thus, the meaning of Jesus in saying that in order to gain life you must lose it means that you must be born again or changed spiritually through faith in Jesus. When this happens, there is a fundamental change in self-identity in which a person’s thinking shifts from “me” to “we” as a result of the presence of the Holy Spirit. In my case, I began to live for Jesus and not just for myself so, in this sense, I have lost my life but found new life and joy in serving Jesus.

Likewise, faith without works is dead means there can be no genuine change within (i.e. spiritual birth in Jesus) without changes in outward actions. The outward actions or good works result from the reality of spiritual changes within and not visa-versa. Thus, the greatest in the kingdom of God are servants or slaves who, like Jesus, follow the will of God. What they do is a result of what God has already done within them. Good works becomes an expression of love, gratitude and obedience that desires to give God joy. The result of such good works is a deeper experience of the presence of God within.

I am afraid too many Christian denominations stress works because they are led by human understanding and a desire to self-improve or control others rather than as a result of being fundamentally changed by a spiritual birth.

About Warren Mueller

Warren Mueller is a Christian author of books and articles based on what the Bible teaches as well as fictional books with Biblical themes. Among his books are Truth Seeker: Bible Topics and The Past And Future King which are both published by American Book Publishing. You can learn more about Warren and his writings by going to his web site at www.warrenmueller.com
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