Dead Faith? (ATP)

Question: If we are “saved by grace through faith” and “faith without works is dead,” then if we don’t have works, our faith is dead. If our faith is dead, how can we be saved? We wouldn’t be, correct? So, while we aren’t saved by our works, if we don’t have works, then we must not have faith. And without faith, we’re not saved?

First, let’s look at what you are referring to in scripture as well as a couple of the surrounding verses in context. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” This is saying that no man has the right to boast as if salvation came from his own doing. It was God’s grace entirely and our trust in that grace that brought about our salvation in Him. Humans always seem to  think that they can do everything on their own. Human ambition and pride can get very ugly, especially as we are called to walk in His will and not our own. Paul is writing to the Ephesians to remind them of these truths. But look at verse 10, it’s so beautiful. We are God’s handiwork, and He created us to do good works that He paved the way for us to be able to do. When Jesus left this earth, He said that we would do greater works than He did while He was here. John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Our purpose, and the purpose of Him leaving, was so that we could do greater works than He did. I believe this is mostly referring to the idea that all of us working together can do even more than Jesus did while He was here. He created a multitude of laborers instead of just one.

This leads us to the other scripture you mentioned in your question. James 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” You see, this is not referring to spiritual death and losing salvation. What this means is that without good works, your faith is as good as dead, or really we could say as effective as something dead. When Jesus left us here to do works, it was because we were meant to be effective at reaching the lost. Consider the great commission, “go to all the world and preach the gospel.” God is not willing that any should perish, and He put us here so that we would not be willing that any should perish. If we won’t work for the Lord and for His will to be done on earth, as it is in heaven, then what are we here for? Let’s continue reading, James 2:18-20, “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?” 

Really you could ask if someone says they’re saved but has no desire to serve God or reach people, are they actually saved? Because of God’s grace and unmerited favor, I believe He has great mercy on us even when we fail. But our failure doesn’t excuse His plan for us as His laborers on this earth. If we call ourselves Christians but won’t be His laborer, we’ve missed the very purpose and act of salvation. 

If we truly learn to trust Him and look at the bigger picture other than just our own lives, we will understand that there’s no other way to live in faith than to live for Him and do what He has for us to do. Don’t let your faith be as good as dead. Seek Him, turn to Him, and submit your way to His.

Be Blessed,

Pastor Renée