8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
We are all very familiar with this verse simply because it holds a very personal truth in our hearts. Our salvation is a gift from God, presented freely and not in exchange for anything when we place our faith in Christ. It therefore magnifies God alone, since He is the One that blesses us not because of our good works, but simply because of His goodness.
There is a large controversy between Faith and Works. Many churches say you must have works to get to heaven, others say it is “Faith Alone” that saves. So...which one should we believe? Let us look at James has to say in this matter...
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
By looking at the two books in that we have just read, how can James and Paul contradict each other? They don’t! They actually compliment each other.
When Paul talks about works, he is usually talking about the “works of the law.” in which we know it cannot save anyone. James uses the term works to describe “works of God.” from within.
Paul and James had two different audiences. Paul’s audience was struggling with the Law and Salvation. James’ audience was content with a simple belief with no actions. Paul explains that it is the faith that saves only by the grace of God.
A crippled boy was once hurrying to catch a train. Carrying gifts under his arm, he was struggling with his crutches. Suddenly, a man bumped into him, knocking his parcels in all directions. The man then paused and scolded the boy for getting in his way. Another gentleman, seeing the youngster’s distress, quickly picked up the scattered gifts and slipped a dollar bill into his pocket, saying, "I’m sorry! I hope this makes up for your trouble." The child who couldn’t remember being shown such kindness, called after him, "Mister, thank you! And sir, are you Jesus?" "No," replied the man, "but I am one of His followers."
If our faith in Jesus was put to the test like this, which person would we be? I’m sure we would all immediately align ourselves with the kind gentleman, and say we would help the boy. But, maybe the first man was hurrying to catch his train also, maybe he was rushing to get to church, not wanting to be late? Or, maybe the boy wasn’t paying enough attention to where he was going. In today’s world, these would both pass a valid excuses for most people to simply call out the poor youngster and be on their way. However, the Lord holds Christians to a much higher standard than that. And James very boldly and directly teaches us that our faith in Christ is to be abundantly more than mere words.
The book of James is a pastoral letter concerning the attitudes and actions affecting the spiritual life of the church, and the believer. As the leader of the very first church, in Jerusalem, James felt an enormous responsibility for the spiritual growth of Christ’s followers everywhere. This epistle was written to encourage Christians who were suffering because of their faith, and it was passed around and read in several churches. As we are also learning about them today.
Again, James writing may seem on the surface to contradict Paul’s emphasis on salvation by faith alone. However, it is simply a protest against hypocrisy, of being saved by doing good works. He wants the world to know that faith is a transforming force. “Faith is a transforming force” Salvation by faith results in holy living. This does not oppose Paul’s teaching - it compliments it!! The two teachings are the essence of a well-rounded Christian faith - redemption and holy living. Must be evident. Hence the title “A Working Salvation”.
Let us go back and read verse 14 closely... “14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him”?
Notice - not "...if someone says he has faith..." , but "...if someone says he has faith..." and not have works”
Tremendous difference - remember James is trying to refute those that have begun to abuse the doctrine of justification by faith. I’m sure the situation was similar to any modern churches, and believers today. Many people were undoubtedly professing Christ one day and returning to their usual ways of life the next day with no evidence of God’s grace in their lives whatsoever!!!
Just like the story that we just heard about the boy and the kind man. James uses a very common illustration to drive home his point. Let us now look at verse 15-16... “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” No help or action was given... The answer to his question "what does it profit?" is obvious - nobody. The person has done nothing to show his faith, no evidence, no transformation of a changed life, no reflection from the true Light and the brother and sister are still without food and clothing.
1 John 3:17-18 ( NIV )
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
The most common and innocent sin a Christian can make is “I’ll pray for you, and then we forget”. Again, no action was taken. “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth”.
Mutual love in the fellowship of believers is evidence of a new, and transformed life. It is based on the love of Jesus Christ, who laid down His life unselfishly, in our place. James further strengthens his case --especially with his Jewish readers-- by sighting Abraham as an example of faith and works, which says...
21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
Combining to compliment each other and result in justification before God. Again we see the idea that faith is shown through works. Again, action took place, and not just mere speech. James concludes with a vivid comparison of faith with the body. Read v.26...
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.
Human beings are made of both body and spirit just as we read in the book of Genesis. Read Gen. 2:7 - the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Anyone who has been to a funeral can certainly attest to the emptiness of a deceased human body. The emptiness is amplified when the person is someone that they were familiar with. All of the unique characteristics that made up his or her personality are gone.
Without the spirit, a human body is merely an empty, useless shell that once manifested their very being. Likewise, faith devoid of works is empty and useless --or to use James’ choice of words-- dead! Faith in words alone will not save you, we have received faith from our God, by the works of His hands, by sacrificing His only Son on the cross. That is not just by speech, but by action.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.
The Apostle Paul now writes to the church of Philippi as a thank you letter for the believers there for their help in his time of need. When Paul tells us to “work out your salvation”, he means that we are to give careful attention to our actions and behavior, making sure that they, or we should well represent the One who saved us. Again, this involves the work from the inside out. “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” ( Verse 13 )
The Lord desires His people to live out what God has already worked within that life when that person trusted in Christ. The purpose is to challenge God’s people to diligently work out what God has worked within in total commitment to the Lord. The word “work out” This is salvation in the fullest redemptive sense with a particular stress on the sanctification of the believer. This is the proof of works from within. The sanctification process calls for obedience to the exhortation of the Holy Spirit.
We are called to work out what God has already worked in. Salvation, you see, is a process. Sometimes we forget that because of the way we use the word salvation, we’re just saved and that’s it, just wait for the return of our Lord. On the other hand, it refers to the fullness of God’s redemption. ( being saved) Salvation begins with regeneration–– we call it being born again. It continues with sanctification––it does not stop from the time that we were drawn to the Son. The process of spiritual maturity whereby we are progressively being conformed to the image of Christ.
GOD WORKS IN A WILLING SERVANT! Keep in mind that God knows those who are His, and those who are His will be an OBEDIENT Servant not a NEGLECTFUL Slacker “Work out your salvation (v. 5) — “Work out” is a word which always has the idea of bringing to completion. Remember, “the author and perfecter of our faith”. It is as if Paul says: "Don’t stop halfway; go on until the work of salvation is fully brought out in you." So what are you to do? While there is a beginning point in our salvation experience, there’s the point of repentance and justification—the time of our faith commitment to Jesus Christ, and this is only the beginning. We are to "work out" our salvation, to grow into maturity, we dont grow onto maturity just by sitting around. Reading our Bible, that involves action. Going to church, having fellowship...all involves action. The Holy Spirit will work in and through us into the full stature of Christ. Everything in the believers life will involve action...works, good works, which is lead again, by the Holy Spirit.
The Philippian Christians had been obedient to the Lord and to His servant Paul in the past . Even though Paul was no longer with them and might be unable to return to them, he wanted them to continue in their obedience. Note that Paul did not say "work for your salvation." We obtain salvation by receiving it as a gift (Eph. 2:8)
The apostle Paul had in mind the present aspect of our salvation, sanctification, in which we are laborers together with God...
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
We work out our salvation by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit who leads us in the will of God. Gal 5:16, reminds us that, “ walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh”. The working out of this means the realization of the power of God to do His will, victory over sin was done with by Jesus on the cross and the enjoyment of communion with God. They were responsible for living out the meaning of their salvation, for moving toward that goal in obedience and loving commitment to their Lord.
We are called “for His good pleasure”, as we read on our earlier verse... ( Phil 2:13 ) It is comforting that the apostle adds for His good pleasure. Every good is freely given of God; no man deserves any thing from Him. It is for the sake of, and with a view to the execution of God’s good pleasure that God, as the infinite Source of spiritual and moral energy for believers, it causes them to work out their own salvation. This verse gives us confidence that God desires both to motivate and to enable us in all that we, “for His good pleasure”.
There was a little girl, whose father was a pastor. One day, she came to her father and said, "Daddy, can a person go their whole life without sinning?" The father answered, "No, honey, I’m sorry, but that’s just not possible." "What about a year, daddy? Can a person go a whole year without sinning?" She continued. "No, I don’t think that’s possible either." "What about a day, can a person go a day without sinning once?"
"It’s very unlikely, no, I don’t think they can."
"What about one moment, daddy, can a person go one moment without sinning?" "Yes, that is possible." "Then daddy, I want to live my life, moment by moment."
Isn’t that how we should live our lives? It’s hard yes...that’s why scripture said, “with fear and trembling”. So, live life moment by moment, as if this moment where your last one before we reach eternity.
God works through a watchful servant. Meaning, that this is a believer who is careful in his walk with the Lord, always alert in the prompting of the Spirit. Be an ongoing reflection of the Light, and not an outright Whiner as mentioned on (Phil 2:14-16) “Do all things without complaining and disputing” He challenges God’s people not to murmur and complain with one another. He exhorts them to “Shine as lights in the world.”
The word "without" suggests isolation, so Paul was saying that the believer is to be isolated from murmurings and disputing. Murmuring arises in discontented souls. The problem is that many cannot live their lives in being patient and contented with living out your life in the Lord. There lies the work part in our spiritual life, do i continue to do things my way, or let God lead the way? The tragedy is that we are like children at times, but in the wrong sense, in the way that we bicker over nonsense, which again, profits no one.
Paul says that, to be a child of God...to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ, is to quit complaining. We can be discontented with our lives, our circumstances... someone seems to be getting ahead of us, there lies jealously or things are not working out as we planned, there lies selfishness,and as a result we complain. It can easily overtake us, if we are not careful, “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump” and become an on going habit that profits no one.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Here lies again a source of action, and not just in speech. We are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. One being holy, because being holy is the only thing acceptable to our God. Which has been performed by the unselfish act of sacrifice by His Son.
Our faith in Christ must bring us to the point of abandonment, a willingness to "pour out our lives," become that living sacrifice, believing that we don’t need to, nor can we, control the future. Our future belongs to God, and no one else. As an apostle of the Gentiles, Paul saw himself as the priest presenting to God the Gentiles as an acceptable offering. Paul also saw himself as an offering, a sacrifice on behalf of others. Paul is saying: "our Christian life and loyalty are already a sacrifice to our God, and if death for Christ should come to you and i, we should be willing and glad that our life should be as what God wants it to be. This tells us, that sacrifice and not self-indulgence is the basis of living a life that is pleasing to our God.
In conclusion on Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.
Paul is comparing his imprisonment to that of a priest in the O.T. who pours out a drink offering. A drink offering was a portion of wine that was offered burned by fire that had an aroma pleasing to the Lord. Paul’s imprisonment was a trial by fire, there was the possibility that he would be put to death. Yet, from Paul’s vantage point, it would be a joyful and willing sacrifice for Christ’s sake on behalf of the church. Sacrifice and service are two qualities that mark a humble, obedient, Christ-like spirit.
Therefore... the Christian life is to be lived in a spirit of joy, obedience, and humility by means of “Incarnation” where the person of Christ lives within us to give us power to live the life that God expects of us. Where our lives as believers are attractive to the lost in a spirit of unity. He has given us all the power to accomplish our purpose here on earth, and that power comes from God.
Pastor Richard Santos
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