October 25, 2017

Faith and Action

James 2:14-26

Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

—  James 2:17

How do faith and actions (good works, obedience) fit together? While recognizing that salvation is completely a gift from God, including the faith necessary for believing in Jesus as Savior, the Reformers were sometimes troubled by James’s teaching about faith and actions.

For a while, Martin Luther was so adamant about justification through faith alone that he doubted the book of James even belonged in the Bible because of its emphasis on actions and faith. But other Reformers maintained that the importance of grateful actions as a demonstration of faith and a proof against hypocrisy show that James delivers a clear and authoritative word from God.

Perhaps it can help to say, as some have said, “Faith is the beginning of obedience, and obedience is the completion of faith.” That resonates with Ephesians 2:10, where Paul, after teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, adds that we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” In ­other words, a natural result of the Spirit’s work to bring us to faith in the loving God is to respond by showing thanks to God and by sharing his love with others. So good works are a natural outcome of faith.

Thankful works and obedience can also be a helpful indicator of our growth as Christ followers. In what ways are you showing God’s love lately?

Father, you have provided for our salvation in Jesus. Please help us also to show your love and share your good news with others ­always. Amen.

About the author — Kurt Selles

Kurt Selles is the director of ReFrame Ministries and serves as the Executive Editor of Today. He is a graduate of Calvin College and Seminary, and received his PhD from Vanderbilt University. Before coming to ReFrame, he served 19 years in Taiwan and China with CRC World Missions. Kurt later taught missions at Beeson Divinity School, where he also acted as the director of the school’s Global Center. Kurt and his wife, Vicki, reside in Grand Rapids and have three adult children.

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