I am studying the book of James; His letter is very vocal about works (James 2:26). You’ve heard it said: Nothing is ever truly free. Yet, in the case of our salvation, Scripture says it’s a FREE gift to all who believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Many may be trying to earn favor by keeping checklists of what to eat, what not to eat, church attendance, serving in soup kitchens, donating to food banks, and other activities. Doing good things is good but it’s not what gets us into heaven.
How do we reconcile these passages? The answer is bigger than my blog space today but let me offer a few thoughts to ponder.
1. We believe in salvation in Jesus Christ by grace, by that I mean we don’t deserve it.
2. God’s mercy gives us what we don’t deserve.
What Jesus did on the cross accomplished it all. By His death and resurrection, sin is paid in full. We are made clean, acceptable to a holy God.
There’s always been the need for sacrifice in order to receive forgiveness. In the Old Testament, it was by the blood of a spotless animal. This foreshadowed what Jesus would become for us. Jesus was the perfect, sinless and final sacrifice. He offered Himself willingly in our place because He loves us.
But, if that’s all God cared about I think we would’ve been beamed up to heaven as soon as we professed Christ as Savior. Instead, we receive the Holy Spirit – God’s very presence to give us power to be witnesses and ambassadors in the world for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Ephesians 2:10 says He prepared work for us to do ahead of time – this work touches those who need to see God through the work we do; we reach out and become His hands and feet. As we meet their physical and emotional needs their spirits are touched as well.
So our works can’t save us. Only the blood of Jesus can do that; so, why the importance in James’ letter?
Our works are evidence of faith’s transformation. A result of the outpouring of God’s love and grace on us. He died a gruesome death to take our punishment so we can have life. When we as unworthy sinners grasp how much it cost, we desire to offer our lives in return – to serve him and share his message with a needy and dying world. We respond in love by surrendering our lives to Him; Romans 12:1 calls us a “living sacrifice”.
Gratitude for what God has done spills over into working to spread the hope we received—we must share it. Not everyone will receive it but that’s not our concern – ours is to touch the world with God’s love and leave the outcome in God’s hands. The same grace we received is offered to everyone who receives Jesus as Savior and Lord. Works are simply a vehicle to transport the understanding of God’s grace to the world.
I love the quote by St. Francis of Assisi:
“At all times share the gospel and when necessary use words”
Works don’t save us, but they are faith’s footprints, echoing from the heart God has redeemed.
I know I need to be more willing to serve in response to what I have received from God. How about you?