Evidence of Living Faith
Nothing in the Bible is stated more clearly or with greater emphasis than the blessed the Apostles Paul’s revelation of justification, or right standing with God, as coming to us only by grace, through faith, without works.
“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5)
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
Yet James states, just as clearly that “faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). He challenges professing believers: “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith BY my works” (Ver. 2:18), and declares that “by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (Ver. 2:24), since “faith without works is dead”.
Some have imagined a contradiction here, while actually there is none. There’s simply a dispensational distinction, as the age had changed from the time of Jesus and the twelve Apostles for Paul, to whom had been committed “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph.3:1-2). Paul’s was of the Kingdom gospel for Israel, but rather “the preaching of the cross” (ICor.1:18), offering “all men” salvation by grace, through faith alone… to all who would trust Christ as their Savior.
James, on the other hand, was an apostle of the kingdom for the circumcision (Israel), proclaiming the kingdom rights of Christ and offering a changed way of life on earth which had already been experienced by Jesus’ disciples in Judaea (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-35).
Hence with James the emphasis is on “works,” not because good works can save or even help to save, but because true faith inevitably bears fruit and we can judge true faith only by the fruit it bears. Jesus of Nazareth said: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Hence James’ epistle abounds with such phraseology as, “ye see,” “show me,” “I will show you,” etc.
What we must be careful to remember is that according to both Paul and James, faith comes first, then good works. Faith is the root, while good works the fruit. The absence of fruit indicates that the root is dead, it indicates that while there may be an intellectual assent to the truth of the cross, but there is no true heart faith, and the fact is that “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6).
We could summarize justification or right standing with God as follows:
- the source of justification in this age of the grace of God is grace;
- the basis of justification is the Cross of Calvary;
- the means for being declared justified is faith; and
- the evidence of a justified soul is the justified one’s works.
Think this through; accept God’s grace and trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord. He will then work in you to cause you to produce good fruit. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)