As we launch our new series on risk-taking faith, it’s important to understand the connection between faith and works.
Pastor Jeff Ziolkowski preached a powerful message to launch our new series, Risk Takers. He quoted from Hebrews 11 and James 2 and taught us how faith leads us to take risks and how risk-taking requires us to do good works for God’s glory.
Someone came to me after Jeff’s message and asked a question: “Rick, you’ve taught us that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So, how do works fit into the picture?”
Let’s take a quick look at a famous passage that connects saving faith and good works.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And if you will get these verses correct, you will never get skewed. You will never get confused.
Remember your high school English class? Remember what a preposition is? There are three key prepositions here. If we will keep them straight, we will keep our theology straight. To keep the faith-and-works relationship biblically correct, remember 3 prepositions:
These three prepositions are: by, through, and for. Let’s say them: “by, through, for.” Say them one more time: “by, through, for.”
We are saved by grace through faith for good works.
If we have real faith, it is going to be for good works. We are not saved by good works. We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. Again, we are not saved by good works. We are saved for good works.
You cannot save yourself. Good works, a little or a lot, don’t save. They don’t help save. You could no more save yourself by good works than if you were drowning could reach up with your hand, take yourself by the hair, and lift yourself out of the water.
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but the grace that saves through faith never stays alone. We are not saved by faith and works, but we are saved by a faith that works.
Is this a Paul vs. James issue? No! James is not pitting works against faith. Paul isn’t pitting faith against works. They are both fighting against a professed faith that is false.
Are we saved by our works? No. Are you crystal clear on this teaching? It’s His work apart from your works that saves you. But once you have been saved, then the proof of that salvation is good works. Faith alone saves. But the faith that saves is not alone.
- Faith is the root of salvation. Works are the fruit of salvation.
- Faith is invisible, the root beneath the ground. Works are visible, the fruit above the ground.
- Faith is the foundation of our faith. Our work is the building that is built on that foundation.
- Faith is inward. Works are outward.
- Faith is the provision of our salvation. Works are the proof of our salvation.
- Faith is the means of our salvation. Works are the marks of our salvation.
So, in 2017, let’s all live by faith. Let’s all take risks. Let’s all do good works. Not because they will save us, but because we are saved! The risk-taking will prove it!
And, as Pastor Jeff said, let’s not settle for small steps. Take a big leap of faith. Go out on a limb for Jesus in 2017. Why? That’s where the fruit is!