Is there an interrelationship
between faith and good works? Some ask: is faith alone sufficient for
salvation, or are good works also necessary? The fact that many contemporary
Christians oppose faith to good works reveals how impoverished and distorted
their concept of Christianity has become. True faith extends not only over
man's mind but over all the powers of his soul, including the heart and
will. Many contemporary preachers have narrowed the concept of faith to a
rational acceptance of the Gospel's teaching. They declare: "Only believe,
and you will be saved." The error here, just as with the pharisaic
approach, consists in the formal and legalistic understanding of
salvation. The Jews in Christ's time taught justification by fulfillment of the
Mosaic Law, while Protestants since Luther's times teach justification by faith
alone, independent of good works. Traditional Christianity, however, calls for complete
spiritual re-birth: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation"
(2 Cor. ). Salvation is not only
the resettlement from earth to paradise but the grace-filled state of
man's renewed soul. According to our Lord: "The Kingdom
of God is within you"
(Luke ). In this renewed state
a complete harmony is established between internal convictions and external
behavior. Here good works become fruits which naturally grow on a healthy tree.
And on the contrary, lack of good works testify of an
ill and dying soul.
Now, spiritual re-birth is not achieved instantaneously. Christ's words to
those who believed, "Thy faith hassaved thee," (Matt. ) refer to that crucial turning point
made by those who have decided to break with the past and follow Jesus Christ.
Without this radical change in thinking, any improvement and spiritual progress
are impossible. Naturally, after a person has chosen the right path he must
subsequently walk on it, i.e., apply its high principles with patience
and perseverance. All New Testament books speak about working on oneself and
becoming more like Christ: "We were buried with Him through baptism
into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).
What is needed here is not abstract faith but that which acts through love
The Apostle James firmly rises up against those who separate faith from good
works, saying: "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he
has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister
is naked and destitute of daily food, 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? … 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. You believe that there is one God. You do well.
Even the demons believe; and tremble!" Further, the apostle gives
examples of righteous men and women of old who proved
their faith by their works, and he draws the following conclusion: "Do
you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was
made perfect? … For as the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is dead also" (James
The Apostle Paul likewise does not recognize faith without its fruit: "Though
I have the gift of prophesy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge,
and though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, and have not love,
I am nothing" (1 Cor. 13:2-3). Therefore, correct understanding of
faith dispels all doubt as to which is more important — faith or works. They
are inseparable, like the light and warmth of a flame.