Faith and Works

First, for your listening and viewing pleasure, in the wise words of Rich Mullins via Saint James: 

Many people believe, as my Protestant friend stated to me, that “Baptism falls into the ‘works’ category.”

I don’t see baptism (or feeding the poor, or loving my neighbor, or reading God’s word, etc.) as a “work” the same way that my friend does.  Rather, because I have trusted in Jesus as my Savior, because I have placed my faith in His work on the cross, I see it in a different category, one of obedience to what He commands.  In other words, it’s not either faith or works…but both/and (again) or more accurately,  since/then.

Putting a label of “works” on things Scripture clearly commands does not exempt us from obedience….wait…is obedience a work of righteousness?  If so, are we excused from obeying because it’s a work?

Of course not…in fact, according to Ephesians 2:8 and 9, the faith to believe in the first place is a gift from God.  Since He gives me grace (unmerited favor) as well as the gift of faith to receive that grace, then my response is to do what He tells me to do…as I already addressed in my Baltimore Catechism post “what shall we do and how shall we know”. and Baptism and Salvation.

The Bible is clear that God’s children are rewarded for their obedience to faith.  Consider…

Mt 16:27
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct.

1 Cor 3:8
The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.

1 Cor 15:58
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Col 3:23-24
Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance.

Heb 6:10
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.

James 2:14-18
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it     does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

James 2:20-22
Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works.

Even before I was Catholic, there was something just wrong about not recognizing that faith and works complete each other.  You can’t separate them, faith that just sits around “believing”, or inactive faith, makes me scratch my head and wonder “what’s the point?”  Put it this way.  You would be appalled if as a new mother, I didn’t hold, and cuddle, feed, clothe and nurture my baby.  It wouldn’t matter how much I plastered my facebook with sentiments of love for my child, if she were naked, hungry and neglected, my words would be completely void.  But isn’t that what faith without works looks like?  Because I love my kids, I am compelled to DO THINGS…to work, if you will…what I do proves what I believe.   In the same way, because I trust in Jesus, and believe in His finished work, I am compelled to obey Him.  Because he saved me, He becomes Lord, and I am his servant.  I DO what He tells me to do.  Paying lip service is not enough.  My faith compels me to action.

On the other hand, there are good people who do good things (even in the name of Jesus);  feeding the poor, visiting the homebound, speaking kindly, taking care of their environment, etc.  But if they don’t believe…if they don’t trust in what Jesus came to do for them, they are lost.  Their works won’t gain their salvation.  Please see:

Rom 9:31-32
Israel, who pursued the law of righteousness, did not attain to that law … because they did it not by faith, but as if it could be done by works.
Gal 3:11
And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for “the one who is righteous by faith will live.”

I do find it interesting that the determining factor in the separation of the sheep and the goats is Matthew 25 was….works?  Look at it:

Mt 25:31-45
31 “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Also, what did Paul mean when he said:

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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4 comments on “Faith and Works

  1. “Faith and works complete each other.” There is no “faith” without “works.” Our faith is “dead” if we do not do the “works” God commands us to. Jesus Himself would not have had Himself baptized if we were not to do it ourselves. So many go on what Paul says and fail to see he was speaking of “works under the law.” Where James and Jesus were speaking of “works under grace.” Paul never once said, “Oh there is nothing else for you to do, as Christ did it all.” Jesus never said that either. Jesus also said, “He had come to do the “works” of the Father. We cannot just sit on our “duffs” and think we are okay. It does not quite work that way. Good thought out post and well written, Lyn. God Bless, SR

  2. Works flow from faith, which is then strengthened by those works, in an interdependent cycle that ever increases. I wonder if some of the Protestant resistance to sacramental works comes from the teachings that what is flesh is not good, that the body is somehow bad, and only the intellect and spirit are to be taken into account. Or something like that. To regard Baptism or any of the sacraments as “works” was a surprise to me. I have seen it simply as a bodily expression of faith, of bringing the sacred from a place of only spirit to the wholeness of humanity.
    Works seems to me to be the feeding of the poor, etc,–the actions that emerge in response to grace and faith.

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