God at Work Through Faith

We can very easily fall into a ‘performance trap’ in our lives. Our work certainly has value, but at times this value is misplaced or appraised too highly. A false belief within us says “I must meet or exceed certain expectations in order to have worth.” God’s Word has many expectations though doesn’t it? Many believe that the Bible is just a book of “do’s and don’ts.”

Paul writes;God at Work

Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds. It is based on our faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Rom 3:27-28)

James questions;

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-15, 17)

At surface level these two men seem to almost have conflicting viewpoints. Which inspired author is right? Which one is wrong? Both are right! This could be called divine tension. I want to call your attention to the following definition of tension:

A balanced relation between strongly opposing elements: “the continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative” (Haynes Johnson).  The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Paul and James are both right because of their differences! Paul speaks of the same faith, but different works than what James speaks of.
  • Different laws. Paul spoke concerning the Mosaic Law while James, the law of liberty. (Compare Romans 3:20 with James 2:12)
  • Different motivation. Paul warned that observing God’s law would not make one right with God in and of itself. He also makes the point that scripture has pointed this out all along. James encourages good deeds or works that are a byproduct of a faith that is genuine and alive. The motivation then would be helping others, not helping you (a means of justification). (Compare Romans 3:21 with James 2:15-17)
  • Different source of justification. Paul urges that we are made right with God (justified) when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. On this faith alone are we justified, not by anything we can do to earn it.  James speaks of works as a justification of our faith. To put it another way, what we do proves our faith, flowing out from it. (Compare Romans 3:22-26 with James 2:18)

 

The Bible speaks volumes about our actions as well as our work. Hard work is encouraged, while laziness is spoken of as sin. However, we can abuse how we perform or produce. God places our worth not in what we can accomplish but rather what Jesus Christ accomplished in our place. Our identity then is in Christ not what occupation or special skill set that we possess. He is at work through our faith!

  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (Col 3:23-24)