There’s been a debate raging among Christians for a long time about whether we are saved by faith or by works. On one side of the debate are those who say that we simply need to believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord of our life. In the other camp are those that say we must earn our salvation by the things we do. I submit to you that the Biblical model is not a question of faith or works, but rather the combination of faith and works.
The early church shared all their possessions and cared for one another because of their faith in Jesus Christ. They did nothing to try and earn favor in God’s sight. Rather, because of their faith, they were compelled by the Holy Spirit to engage in acts that were consistent with the commands of Christ. Because of their faith in Jesus, they did the things He told them to do in order to bring glory to God alone.
In James 2:7, the author commends the people for believing in Jesus. However, he mentions that even the demons believe in Christ and so belief alone is obviously not enough. A few verses later (James 2:14), James asks the question of what good is it to have faith when you don’t do anything to demonstrate that faith? He sums it up by simply saying that faith without works is dead. A dead faith is no faith at all. The Bible makes it clear that faith alone will not save you.
Still, Ephesians 2:8-9 states plainly that it is by grace we are saved through faith. Reading on in verse 10 we find that the reason we have been saved is so we might do the work God has created us to do. So we are saved by our faith in Jesus but it is for the purpose of doing the work he commands us to do. It’s interesting that Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of the most memorized Bible passages, but few can tell you what verse 10 says. They stop at the grace and faith verse then fail to read about the work required by Christ. Jesus required His followers to leave everything; it wasn’t enough for people to simply believe in Him (Luke 9:57-62; Luke 18:18-23). The true followers were those who put their faith into action by doing the work of God by the power of His Spirit.
It’s not a works or grace situation, its works and grace. Somehow Western Christians are trying to make it one or the other, and that’s simply not what the Bible teaches. We have lost the balance and for the most part have opted for the easy and wide path of thinking that believing in Jesus is all it takes. We are saved by the grace of God through faith in His Son Jesus, and we work out that faith by doing what His Spirit leads us to do. Don’t get caught up in the faith vs. works argument; instead, live out your faith by doing the work Christ has given you to do. Don’t settle for easy; choose to live a life fully committed to following Christ.