Faith and works, which is more important? When it comes to salvation, the Bible is pretty clear. So why are we still confused?
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him?
“If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.
Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected.” James 2:14-22
What is more important, faith or works?
It is a long held assertion that faith is more important than works Taking the verses Ephesians 2:8-9 at face value, this appears to be true. Indeed, through faith we are saved by grace. The verses go on to say that salvation is not from ourselves, that it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.
James clarifies this in chapter 2 where he states that faith without works is useless. Works are a natural manifestation of faith. That is to say that when you have true, genuine faith, you will naturally want to do good works.
Do I have to do works to be saved?
Well, no. Faith in Jesus as your eternal salvation is all that is required to be saved. If works are a natural manifestation of faith, however, not desiring to do works could be a sign that your faith isn’t as strong as you think it is.
Look at the life Christ lived. His faith was on display through the lessons he taught, the miracles he performed, and the people he loved. He didn’t just give lip service to the Father. He lived out his lessons, and led by example.
This was the point James was making when he said that Abraham’s works when he was willing to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice displayed his faith.
Do works prove I am saved?
Sorry, but no. While works are one sign to look for in a person claiming to be saved, it is not the only sign. Many “good people” do good works and are outspoken about their unbelief.
A great number of world faiths also teach doing good works. Buddhism, for example, teaches karma. Karma is the belief that whatever good or bad a person does comes back to them.
The message of Christianity is that we all deserve eternal death for the sin we commit, therefore God’s grace is required to escape eternal death. We don’t have to do good works to earn salvation because God has already given this to us freely. We are free to do good works because of God’s gift of grace.
How can I start doing good works?
Often, Christians get hung up at the beginning. With stories throughout the Bible of godly men like Moses, Joshua, David, and Peter, Christians tend to think big. We really don’t need to deliver the world to God. It already belongs to Him.
Start small. Ask your preacher how you can help at your church. Many churches have so many needs and so few people to help. Jobs like kitchen duty, help with children’s ministry, technical services, janitorial services, lawn care, and more are neglected because church staff can only do so much.
Contact a local charity. Don’t do this instead of helping at your church. Do this in addition to helping at church. Outreach needs to be all of our mission. Don’t leave this to church staff or those involved in “outreach ministry”. All kinds of opportunities exist from feeding the homeless to staffing a women’s shelter or joining a prison ministry.
After you start doing good works, now it is time to engage with others. Don’t do this with an argumentative heart, however. In love, you must learn to listen and address the concerns and issues others have. We don’t win people to Christ. That’s the job of the Holy Spirit. Our job is to spread His word and allow Him to work in the lives of those we share our lives with.