By Douglas M. Williams, Sr.
“But without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Jesus said, “If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sin” (John 8:24).
“Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22).
The Lord will take “vengeance on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
The above verses and others show the absolute necessity of faith or belief and obedience to God’s will to be saved. Surely, no one who believes the Bible would say that faith is not necessary for salvation, but the Bible teaches that we are not saved by faith only (James 2:14-26). Therefore, we are saved by faith and obedience as Paul says it is “faith working through love” that pleases God.
We now discuss different kinds of works that were mentioned briefly in last week’s article. To understand the relation of faith and works of obedience will help us to know what God requires of us.
The Bible speaks of “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19-21), which is sins that are condemned. We read of our “own boastful works” that will not save (Ephesians 2:8-9; Acts 7:41; 2 Timothy 1:9). We also read of “works of the law” of Moses by which one cannot be justified (Galatians 2:16). Then, we read of “works of obedience”, which are simply acts of obedience to the gospel of Christ. Without these works, we cannot “enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
We are to be “zealous for good works” and “ready for every good work” (Titus 2:14; 3:1). When one says we are not saved by works, but by faith only, they overlook the fact that faith itself is a work (John 6:29).
So, Paul could say in Ephesians 2:9 that we are not saved by works, while James 2:24 states that we are justified by works. Paul and James are talking about different kinds of works. Paul speaks of our own boastful works, and James was referring to the works of obedience. This does not mean that we deserve or earn our salvation because “it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). But this gift is received when by works we are obedient to God.