How Does Faith Work?
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
This is a controversial passage. Martin Luther rejected the inspiration of the book because of this passage. But we need not fear nor reject this book or passage. There is no real confusion. In fact, this passage resolves confusion.
There is a natural relationship between faith and works in life. We live out what we actually believe. But, there is sometimes confusion about what we actually believe. We say we believe things that we do not actually believe. Let’s explore faith first this morning.
- What is Faith?
- An internal conviction that produces a response
Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
Confidence that what we do not see is real and true!
Those little painted lines on the road!
Examples from Scripture: Almost all of Hebrews 11.
There is something that we do not see: Creation: Hebrews 11:3
And we believe that all that is created was created by God. Is this important? It is foundational to all of our approach to life!
The people addressed in the book of Hebrews are being pressured to abandon their new faith. The are being persecuted, some have lost their homes. The conviction that God is there, is real and is the ultimate one who must be pleased in our lives is the key issue related to their faith. Is your faith worth suffering for? Parable of the sower and the soils. Receive the word with pleasure, persecution arises because of the Word, quickly fall away. This is not saving faith. But it can look like it at the beginning.
The obvious response of faith in Jesus is following Jesus.
- We must have faith in order to please God
Because God is invisible.
Because we cannot control God.
Because God calls us to behavior that is costly.
Again, the example in the Book of Hebrews is that the people there are suffering for their faith. They are to endure in being faithful, maintaining the standards of God for their behavior. What would indicate that they were not having faith? Their behavior!
- We are saved by God’s grace through faith
These are the works of Jesus on the relationship between faith and works:
28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
They ask Him for a sign. He offends them. And that offense is actually the sign that proves that they do not believe.
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit[e] and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
The reason that we can only be saved by trusting Christ is very simple really. It is rooted in God’s standards for our behavior. His standard is perfection. Any sin invites judgement and death. We do not meet God’s standard.
We recognize along with the Apostle Paul the struggle with sin in us. Our behavior in the present does not create forgiveness in the past, it just makes a smaller debt to be judged!
Romans 3: 21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Repentance and faith is the order!
Mark 1: 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Acts 2: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on urging them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 3: 17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers also did. 18 But the things which God previously announced by the mouths of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has fulfilled in this way. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, 21 whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things, about which God spoke by the mouths of His holy prophets from ancient times.
Romans 10: 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
- Faith and Works are Connected
So, in justification, faith and works are connected. This is also true in sanctification. In fact, what we should say is that justification and sanctification are connected.
- We can say we have faith but do not
19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
This is the problem. We can say that we believe, but not repent!
- We can say we have works but do not
16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
“I love my wife.” But at times do not act like I love my wife.
- If we have faith we will show it
Examples of Abraham and Rahab.
Abraham and Issac.
Abraham and the covenant promises in Genesis 15
Rahab believed it was better to help the spies.
III. Your Faith
- How perfect does your faith need to be?
Faith the size of a grain of mustard seed
“Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” That statement was good enough for Jesus.
God knows that we are in process.
Look at the Biblical examples! Lots of imperfect people who are working on their faith. They struggle, they seek God, God answers them and they trust!
- When struggling with your faith, obey!
You can activate your will and choose to believe regardless of how you feel and even how you think in the moment!
If you are having trouble believing, obey. If you are having trouble obeying, believe!
- Choose to believe that God will reward you
God is good
God is loving
God is wise
God is powerful
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work within you both to will and do His good pleasure.