What is the Relationship Between Faith and Works
In response to the Weekly Briefing that salvation is not based on our performance, a leader wrote that believer performance is required — that “faith without works is dead.” I’ve learned that we often think we disagree because we are using the same terms differently. Here is my letter back to him.
First, thank you for writing. Also, I’m glad you’re grappling with the Gospel. I think we’re probably on the same page. Any differences we have are probably based on how we are defining terms.
The issue you bring up has been discussed and debated for many, many centuries. Basically, I take the view of Martin Luther, who (unwittingly) started the Protestant Reformation. His lieutenant, Philip Melanchthon, who systematized Luther, said this, “Justification is by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.” (BTW…I have both of their pictures and 7 other reformers hanging on my office wall!). In other words, works are the necessary by-product of faith. So, I agree — faith without works is dead!
Here are some texts I rely upon…
John 6:44: No man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (or, we can’t come on our own..too sinful, proud, and stubborn). He initiates salvation with us, not us with him.
Romans 9:16: Salvation does not depend on our desire (will) or effort (works), but on God’s mercy.
Ephesians 2:8-10: We are saved by grace through faith, not by works. But we are created to do good works once we have been saved.
Another fine point of this debate is whether God sovereignly calls us to Himself or we come to Christ of our own free will. The Bible says both. Basically, God sovereignly draws us to himself of our own free will. In other words, he sovereignly makes our lives so futile that we turn to him of our own free will. Quite difficult to grasp for humans limited to the four dimensions of time, width, depth, and length.
To sum up, I would change your sentence to “actions are required, but as a result of the salvation process.”
Thank you again for writing.
Your brother in the battle,