“Does faith work, when there are no good works?” That’s the question we asked on Sunday and in our small groups as we continue in our series in the Book of James.
When James the preacher writes his letter, he asks what many Aussies ask: ‘Does faith work?” That is, does having faith in Jesus Christ change the way we live? A central theme that runs through James is expounding what it means to ‘believe in Jesus and be more like Jesus.’ So back to our question this last week, what if there are no good works? To put it as bluntly as James does, “What good is it if someone says they have faith, but does not have works?” (James 2:14).
James is not saying that we are justified and therefore saved by our works, no, the point James is making is that saving faith in Christ ought to see the flow on effect of the fruit of good works. As John Calvin wrote, ‘it is faith alone that justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is never alone.’
So does your faith, work? Can you see the effect of saving faith of Jesus in your life? This is not a call to go and now do some good deeds, put selfies on Facebook doing said good deeds, and make seeing good works an exercise in showmanship. Rather, this ought to be seen in the natural fruit of a life that sees faith expressed through love (Galatians 5:6). It ought to be seen by others, and yet if it’s by faith it’s the sort of lifestyle that will work in glorifying Jesus and not ourselves because we’ll forget what we’re naturally doing – by faith.
You see, a wrong outcome of faith and works in our modern day is that we do make it all about ourselves – we have such a propensity to doing anything for ourselves. This is why everything must spring from faith in Jesus in the first place. If we do good things purely out of being motivated by self rather than motivated by God’s glory, that then actually reveals that we are no longer worshippers but idolators. Ultimately it will mean that your faith is not working for you, because it has been in yourself.
But faith in Jesus really looks different in every way, including in the fruit of good works it produces. The opportunity before you is to have a faith that actually works, by putting your faith in Jesus – the one who did his great work for you on the cross. Why not come and see how Jesus changes everything.