Righteous Works Keep Us In A Live Faith
March 24, 2017
Christians may admit, “I absolutely believe we must obey the Lord.” But if that is the case –that to be saved requires obedience to God– then the “faith alone” doctrine cannot be true. –Because obedience, being necessary for salvation, means it is faith plus obedience. Obedience is another way of saying “deeds” or “works” or “actions” or “behavior” or “conduct”. Ja. 2:24 says, “We know that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” We must understand then: “Faith, without works of obedience to God, won’t save.” Thus we can say, “Faith, without actions in line with God’s preordained plans for us [Eph. 2:10], won’t save.” God’s Word tells us that only those who do the will of God inherit eternal life. (Mt. 7:21 & 12:50 // 1 John 2:17) This doing of His will is called obedience.
We can say it this way as well, as James 2:22 does: Our faith is made complete by our actions. In other words: Obedience completes faith.
Faith is not mere belief, for even the demons believe and shudder. (Ja. 2:19) Faith is active, which means it involves actions, and those actions must be acts (works / deeds) of obedience to Christ’s commands (Word and Spirit). “Indeed, just as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (v. 26) Dead, useless, lifeless. Thus outright rebellion, or simply the neglect to walk in the plans God has ordained for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10) –those plans which will involve that of offering ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1,2) so that we are serving God’s purposes with our whole heart (1:9a) and becoming more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ (8:29)– is to have a useless, counterfeit, non-saving faith.
These truths make up what is taught in God’s Word. However, we also read there that growing in Christ-likeness in thought, word, and deed is a process, thus Jesus’ analogy of fruit production. We start out as a spiritual infant and hopefully move quickly to toddler stage and beyond. Of course toddlers aren’t Olympians yet. Of course twigs need time to blossom and bear fruit. So the obedience required of those new to the faith-walk is what any loving father would require of his young child. But everyone is certainly expected to progress to adulthood (spiritual maturity) as we strain toward perfection daily, doing so by diligently studying God’s Word and eagerly putting it into practice. Of course God is merciful and kind, but He is never pleased with disobedience. Whether the command is simple or advanced, He expects us to obey it.
Certainly the maturing process takes some longer than others, and likely those who have been fed major falsehoods will undergo painful confusion that will slow them down as they try to understand and adjust to the Truth. But God’s Word is there to comfort such people, not just to teach them. Truly, “A bruised reed He [the Lord] will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.” (Mt. 12:20)
But, does God’s Word teach that He requires His people to obey Him? Or is it that we are simply covered with Christ’s righteousness so that whether we obey God’s commands or not there is no difference made in God’s view of us? Is it true that once we are in Christ, we can neither please God nor displease Him by anything we say, think, or do? No, it is not true. Instead Scripture tells us that we are required to obey the Lord and that if we do, we are pleasing to Him, and that if we do not, we are displeasing to Him. (Gen. 4:7 // 1 Sam. 15:22,23 // Rom. 8:8 // 1 Thes. 4:1) Regardless of our claim of faith, faith is made complete by righteous works, and it is by both that we are justified. (Ja. 2:14-26 // Rev. 3:1-3,15,16)
Yes, we must obey the Lord. It is necessary for salvation.