Faith and Works What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?James 2:14 NASBSome people believe that James preached a different Gospel than Paul did. Paul laid the foundation of believing faith throughout his letters. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9 NASB). How do we reconcile what James said about faith and works with what Paul taught?There is a difference between saying that you have faith and actually demonstrating that faith. I knew a man some years ago who evidenced knowledge of the Bible. He told me he believed the Bible, but his life did not demonstrate a believing faith. Saying, “I have faith”, is one thing, but living that faith is something totally different. We expect to see evidence of faith in the person who says, “I have faith.” As we grow in our faith, a greater demonstration of our faith will be seen.Paul taught: “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.” (Titus 3:5a NASB). Redemption comes through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial work. We had nothing whatsoever to do with that work. Jesus went to the cross for you and me while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins. All that is required of us is to receive what Christ has accomplished. What James addressed in his letter is the wrong attitude that all I need to do is to say, “I have faith.” Saying it and believing it are two totally different things. Sincerely believing what Christ has done for you will produce a demonstration of faith in you. Do others know your faith by what you say or by what you do? Repentance, as mentioned above, is the beginning evidence of believing faith toward God.It is the Holy Spirit who gives us the ability to believe. He grants to us the gift of repentance. He reveals to us the need for the work of Christ to be applied to our lives. He regenerates us, causing the life of Christ to be lived out through us. Through believing faith, we can be filled with the Holy Spirit daily and live out Christ’s life. We then demonstrate our faith by our works.Trust Christ completely for your salvation through the work He did on the cross. Don’t just talk about your faith; demonstrate your faith by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through you in serving others.
To live victorious lives, we must understand the application of the following seven principles to our triune nature: our spirit, soul and body. It is upon these principles that we must build our new creation life in order to fight the good fight of faith.Repentance from Dead WorksRepentance from dead works is the first principle we will consider. Dead works are our works that do not accomplish God’s purposes.God gave a clear command to Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He included a consequence of disobedience that “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 NKJV). Adam passed this command on to Eve. The serpent deceived Eve when he asked her, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1b NKJV). In Eve’s response, she added to what God had said by saying, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Genesis 3:3b NKJV). This revealed one of the enemy’s schemes: to question God and get us thinking by using our own natural reasoning. The serpent planted doubt in Eve and curiosity about the knowledge of good and evil. She wanted that knowledge. So she bypassed God’s way and took the short cut, her way.Adam was not deceived. He made a conscious choice between the woman and God. Adam should have rebuked Eve and driven the serpent from the Garden of Eden. Had he done that, this story would have been vastly different. Instead, he also wanted that knowledge. So he partook with his wife. The result was that man fell and the serpent received legal rights on the earth. It would take God and His redemptive plan to right that wrong. In God’s plan a redeemed mankind will bring the final blow to the serpent and his minions.The beginning of death started with death in Adam and Eve’s spirits which disconnected them from enjoying God’s abiding presence. It established a self-consciousness for all mankind that put self on their heart’s throne. Only through God’s redemptive plan can man be restored back to intimacy with the God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Only through God’s redemptive plan can man enjoy His presence once again.
One aspect of liberty is rooted in remembering what kind of person we have been. As I read God’s Word, I am always reminded of the true lost condition I was in before I met Christ. Many believers hear the Word but continue to camp around their fallen nature rather than entering into the new man in Christ. The liberty James addressed comes not only from hearing but by becoming a doer of God’s Word. The “perfect law of liberty” is located in what Christ has done for us and our response by doing His will and work. The forgetful hearer is limited in hearing the Holy Spirit in the warfare in which he finds himself engaged. Remembering what I was without Christ leads me to what I am in Christ and doing of His work and will.The Doctrine of ChristRemember that the battle is the Lord’s. His life overcame the evil one; He went to hell and took the keys of death and hell from the Prince of the Power of the air; and He was raised up and seated above every principality. A major key to our victory over the world, the flesh, and the devil is found in knowing and being thoroughly established in the doctrine of Christ, also known as “the first principles of the oracles of God.” (Hebrews 5:12a NKJV).The Doctrine of Christ is a life style that we enter into through the preaching of the Word of God and through the working power of the Holy Spirit. Together the Word and the Spirit create a new creation within us. This establishes a New Covenant with us made through the blood and crucified body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew wrote:And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”Matthew 26:26–28 NKJVThe writer of Hebrews chided the believers for not developing beyond being babes that could only receive milk. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God.” (Hebrews 5:12a NKJV). The writer’s statement is still a valid point for the body of Christ today. I dare say, most believers have not learned these principles of God’s Word, let alone apply them in their daily lives.The writer of Hebrews stated that we should “move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity,” (Hebrews 6:1 NIV). It should not be necessary to lay these foundational principles of our faith again. We build strong and mature lives upon these eternal truths when we are clear in our understanding and the truths are fundamental to a life style that we live through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.Here are the seven principles upon which we must build our new creation life in order to fight the good fight of faith:Repentance from dead worksFaith toward GodDoctrine of baptismsLaying on of handsResurrection of the deadDoctrine of eternal judgmentIn the following chapter we will examine these seven principles one by one and learn how they apply to the subject of spiritual warfare.
Paul stated: “We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16b KJV). He made that statement in the context of talking about the natural man verses the spiritual man: “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14 KJV).This book on spiritual warfare does not make sense to the natural mind. The principles given in 1 Corinthians 2:14 do not make sense to our natural reasoning. Only a person who is spiritual can judge these things and know how to apply the truths that are revealed in the Bible. The spiritual man learns by experience. He judges all things, yet he himself is not judged by any. When we have the mind of Christ there is no natural reasoning of this world that can understand our thinking. In other words, the natural man cannot instruct the spiritual man.The spiritual man is the one who has the mind of Christ which affects his thinking in godly ways. In Romans, Paul stated this line of thinking in another way: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. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1–2 NKJVThat was a tremendous challenge that Paul gave to those Roman believers. Those saints were living in the very center of the beast’s dominion spoken of by Daniel. In Daniel 7 we read of a vision of four beasts. The fourth beast was “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong with huge iron teeth.” (Daniel 7:7 KJV). The fourth beast was a prophetic picture of Rome. So in God’s plan His church was birthed during the time of this fourth beast. The Romans were killing the Christians in the Colosseum. Their bodies were being thrown to animals and torn apart before the Roman citizenship. Paul was beseeching them by the mercies of God to “present” their bodies as a living sacrifice to the Lord.That was radical thinking in the midst of the spiritual warfare they faced. Paul called them not to think like the world, but to have a renewed mind for the purpose of proving what is good and acceptable, and perfect as it relates to God’s will.