What Saith the Scriptures About Faith and Works?
Steven J. Wallace
The Bible argues the importance of interlocking faith with works. To the contrary, much of the religious world argues for keeping only half of this "Biblical Marriage" Faith. The Bible enforces that man most not sever what God has joined together (Matt. 19:6). If God has united two principles, then we had better keep them together, or else our relationship to him will be put asunder.
God, through the pen of his servant James, has joined faith and works together (Jas. 2:17). If someone has works and has no faith, the end result would be futile, because "without faith it is impossible to please him" (Heb. 11:6). The same scripture also stresses that, "he who comes to God must believe (have faith) and He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek (form of works) Him." The same outcome is true to the one who has faith, but has no works. A marriage is successful when the bride and groom work together. The marriage would be incomplete if only one part was working; likewise, "Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect" (Jas. 2:22). When the religious world teaches "faith only," it is divorcing the two elements that God has joined together. Consequently, it is a total rejection of divine knowledge, and a total rejection of divine law by which the Holy Spirit wrote in James 2:24, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not faith only."
It is the purpose of this article to show the consequences of tampering with God's law (specifically his law about faith and works) which is really rejecting God's knowledge which is truth. Brethren, let us never reject the knowledge of God for fear of the consequences (Hos. 4:6). To illustrate how faithless this "faith only" doctrine is, let us look at some real Bible "faith heroes." Can the imagination conceive what the Bible would say about these heroes if they had no works?
Abel, for example, had faith (Heb. 11:4). His faith was made perfect when he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. If Abel's works were extracted, then he wouldn't have offered anything; consequently, the Lord would neither respect Abel's lack of offering (Gen. 4:4), nor witness him as being righteous (Heb. 11:4). It seems ironic that faith without works is dead, yet Abel, a man who possessed both faith and works, was murdered (Gen. 4:8). Even though he was murdered for righteousness' sake, because he demonstrated faith and works, "he being dead still speaks" (Heb. 11:4). Christians should understand the irony because there was a man who was greater than Abel and without sin (1 Pet. 1:9; 1 Pet. 2:22), who was crucified, whose "blood of sprinkling . . . speaks better things than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:24). Jesus Christ gave the supreme example of demonstrating faith and works.
Who would argue that Noah wasn't a man of faith (Heb. 11:7)? Noah was justified by works and not faith only. If Noah had refused to perform God-given works that he was commanded, he would not be regarded as a "faith hero" today. Hebrews 11:7 would read like this, "Because of faith only, Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, neglected to move with godly fear, did not prepare an ark for the saving of his household; consequently, he stood condemned with the rest of the world and all mankind perished in the flood." How absurd! We know that this is not the biblical Noah. Noah's faith was made perfect through works, and his works were done correctly because of his faith. Because of Noah's faith the scripture speaks of his works, "Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did" (Gen. 6:22). In other words, Noah built an ark from gopher wood and covered it with pitch (Gen. 6:14). He didn't build a yacht from cedar and cover it with paint. Noah made the ark according to the measurements given (Gen. 6:15), not measurements that he devised himself. Noah made the ark with a door in its side (Gen. 6:16), not with a door in its side and one in the ceiling. Noah's faith was proved by his works. "Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9), but if he possessed faith only, he would not have walked at all. People, who desire to divorce works from faith, must not have enough faith to keep the Lord's commandments as Noah did. The apostle John stressed, "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burden-some" (1 Jn. 5:3). Like Noah, when we obey God, God is working in us and we are working out our salvation (Phil. 2:12-13).
Abraham was a man of great faith because he had works. Abraham was also justified by works and not faith only (Jas. 2:24). His faith was working together with works because, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out" (Heb. 11:8). Without works Abraham would not have left his country or his father's house (Gen. 12:1). Without works, the Lord would not have shown him the promised land, because Abraham would not have left his father's house (12:1). Consequently, the Lord would not make him a great nation, or make his name great, or bless him, and all the families of the earth would not be blessed in him (Gen. 12:2-3). Without works, Abraham would have failed to offer up Isaac when he was tested (Jas. 2:21). Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac up from the dead because in a figurative sense he received Isaac in a similar fashion (Heb. 11:11-12,17-19). Abraham was old and Sarah was past the page of conception, but by the power of God, Isaac was born. We need to possess this type of faith that Abraham had so we will do the works that God would have us to do. Jesus is going to reward everyone according to his works (Rev. 22:12). Salvation will only come by doing the work which is according to God's purpose and not our own (1 Tim. 1:9).
Rahab was not an eyewitness of God's working at the Red Sea. She only heard about it (Josh. 2:10). She confessed her faith in Joshua 2:11 "... for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above and on earth beneath." It was by her faith that she produced works to God, such as receiving the spies with peace (Heb. 11:31). In the end she was justified by works (Jas. 2:25). Without faith, Rahab would not have believed that God dried up the Red Sea for his people, or believe the Lord's destruction of Sihon and Og, two Amorite kings (Josh. 2:10-11). Without works, Rahab would not have hidden the spies on the roof (Josh. 2:6). Also, she would not have bound the scarlet cord in the window (Josh. 2:18), or brought her family into her house where they would be safe (Josh. 2:18; 6:22-23). Rahab was consistent with all the other biblical heroes. She had to hear about God. She had to believe in God. She had to obey what was commanded. We can enter into the house of God, which is the church (1 Tim. 3:15), by these same principles, but not if we divorce faith from works.
As works that we devise ourselves cannot save us (Eph. 2:8-9; 1 Tim. 1:9), neither can faith in any other deity. Only in God can faith with works save us. Those that are wise do works in meekness and wisdom (Jas. 3:13). Those who believe in "faith only" must not be wise. That is why the Lord said, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will like him to a wise man who built his house on the rock" (Matt. 7:24). Let us not forget what the Holy Spirit wrote in Hebrews 6:10, "For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister."
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 8, p. 13-14