Friday, July 20, 2012

Faith or Works?

There are some that firmly believe that the Bible is full of contradictions. Are they right, does the Bible contradict itself? The most common one that people use to proof their case the Bible contains contradictions are the writings of Paul and James. Paul in his epistle to the Ephesians writes:
“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.” Eph 2:8, 9.
Paul clearly states that believers are saved through faith in Christ Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Saving faith is a gift and it was given by God to the believers. They cannot earn it by works or any other means. Salvation is truly by God’s grace and through faith in Christ alone.
Wait a minute some argue, what about James, he seemed to think that works are required in order to be saved. Is that what James is saying and people use it to point out a contradiction to what Paul wrote?  Paul wrote “not of works.” James mentions works. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 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 2:17, 18.
An obvious contradiction some would say. But is it really a contradiction? Let me first say that there are no contradictions in the Bible, there might be some words that got lost in translation from the Hebrew or the Greek into English where the  translators could have used a different word, but there are no contradictions.
Are these passages in conflict with each other? Did James contradict Paul when he wrote that faith without works is dead? I don’t think so at all. The most simplest way of looking at these two passages is that Paul wrote from God’s perspective or the divine level and James wrote from the human perspective, the human level.
Paul makes it very clear that man cannot save himself. No matter how hard someone might try to reach God by works or religious rituals. Salvation is a free gift of God by His mercy and grace. It is His divine action that saves the believers, not the other way around. God did what we could not do for ourselves. He made the way to be reconciled with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our propitiation. Many times in the Bible we read “I will.” It is God that saves.
James is saying that someone can say that they have faith which cannot be seen. Anyone can say, I have faith and I believe in God, but they do not show or bear any fruit at all. They may go to church, read their Bibles, look spiritual and act holy but in reality they are unfruitful. They go through the motions and that’s what James is saying, true saving faith should be evident in the believer by how they live and how their faith in Christ produces fruit, some thirty, some sixty and some a hundred fold.
What did Jesus say about faith and bearing fruit? There are many passages of course, I will use the gospel of John to show what Jesus said.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.: John 15:1-8.
Abiding in Christ is the key, faith in Him and Him alone saves a person, not works. Good works or bearing fruit is the evidence of faith. There are many within the Christian faith that teach that works are required and in order to be saved you have to do this or that. Those are either cults or legalistic people who do not know or understand the grace of God. They are in bondage to themselves. If anyone ever comes to you with that kind of doctrine, point them to the thief on the cross. He had no works to show for that would save him, yet Jesus told him that he would be in Paradise with Him. The thief on the cross believed Jesus and had a change of mind (repentance).
“Behold the proud, His soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk 2:4. 
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3.  James 2:23.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16.

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