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Faith Works

This entry is part 22 of 54 in the series

"One Thing Have I Desired"

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Many believers are tormented by a kind of introspection that keeps any assurance of salvation at arm’s length. They are possessed with the fear that their faith is not genuine or sincere. Fortunately, God has given an external, visible form of verification for faith: 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)

Is this salvation by works? No. We are justified by faith alone. But the works are there to give evidence of the faith that justifies, and the faith that justifies is never alone. Therefore, we must earnestly desire to produce and see these works, not because they save us or keep us saved, but because they reveal that we possess a living faith. Apart from these fruits, we should not presume that we have faith. John’s epistle was written to list out evidences of eternal life in the form of outward professions and practices, that give assurance to a believer that he possesses genuine faith (1 Jo 5:13)
These works can also function negatively.

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (Titus 1:16).

Perpetual disobedience, perpetual unrepentant worldliness, and perpetual living for the flesh are acts of denying Jesus Christ (2 Peter 2:20-22 ).

A Promise of Perpetual Faith

The thoughtful believer will have one more question on the matter of security: how do we know we will keep believing? How can we rest if our faith could fail and we might perish? Two answers can help us. On the one hand, this thought is meant to be a healthy goad to enduring faith. True faith endures, so each day is a fresh opportunity to lay hold on the promises of God. We do not place our present-tense faith in our past faith. We place our present-tense faith in our Lord and Saviour.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; (2 Peter 1:10)

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

On the other hand, God promises to graciously sustain the faith of his own.

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24)

Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6)

To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5)

God will keep you believing, and you must fight the fight of faith to continually confirm that you are saved. These two truths are complementary, not contradictory: like parallel lines that exist side-by-side, without intersecting. God’s grace assures through a faith that endures. In reality, there is no other kind of faith. This is the point of the parable of the sower. Only the last soil brought forth fruit which remained – illustrating true faith.

But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:13-15)

Our security is found in God’s promises to those in Christ. We experience those promises to the degree that we have present-tense faith. Present-tense faith, which is manifested in works, gives us the subjective assurance that God’s promises of eternal security are ours. This delivers us from the two errors of complacency on the one hand, and servile fear on the other. People who are complacent about assurance do not feel the need to fight for faith. However, people who live in perpetual fear that they will be cast off from Christ cannot trust him or love him.

Here is the first way our new natures lead us to ultimate love: the Father’s love for us prompts us to worship. His love has chosen and secured us, leading us to a relationship of trust and assured confidence. We can boldly keep communing, knowing that we are not seeking to earn merit, but desiring to please the One who has loved us in spite of ourselves.

The second aspect of our new natures has to do with the work of the Second Person: the Son’s merit upon us is our permission to worship. We will consider this next.

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David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.

2 Responses to Faith Works

  1. Thank you David. This all makes sense. One thing that may need clarification is the difference between fruit and works. Maybe fruit is simply the attitude behind the works: as 1.John states, we need to love our brethren. This love would be expressed by works, and as such become visible to others and ourselves as well.

    I would also add that works will flow from a quest to know God (Jn 17:3). As we learn more about how God is and what He wants, the forgiveness we have received, etc. we will be motivated towards works. These works then flow from faith, rather than some other motivation. We can then explain why Gandhi’s works are not of the same salvific quality as ours.

    Another area is the tension between faith and doubt. I think we need to make some room for doubt but as you wrote, faith is necessary for salvation. So doubt that is not dealt with wholesomely may ultimately lead to shipwreck in the faith. But some doubt (questions) will always remain this side of eternity, and faith must be stronger than our doubts. Does that make sense?

  2. Yes, certainly. I do not think doubt nullifies faith, for faith is not perpetual certainty, as much as it is enduring trust and commitment. Doubt that progresses into unbelief, and unbelief that hardens into rejection will certainly lead to shipwreck.

    Works that do not flow from faith, are of course, no fruit of faith. But therein lies the difficulty: outward works sourced in different motives and beliefs may look identical. Nevertheless, this is our only test for the presence of faith: not the mere profession or memory of belief, but the ongoing presence of works related to faith. When such works persist and develop into character, without the conspicuous denials of faith or glorifying self, we have fairly good grounds to say that the tree is good.

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