Much has been misunderstood in today’s churches with regards to faith and the state of faith. One side of the church clings to the scripture which boldly proclaims, “we are saved by faith alone” (Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9). Others cling to statements in scripture such as James 2:26 which tells us that “faith apart from works is dead.” Many speak about each of these ideas as if they are mutually exclusive and to some they seem to be, but are they? Are we saved by faith alone? Are works required for faith and if so can we honestly say that we are saved by faith alone?
What if we are approaching our thoughts on this subject all wrong? I think we often are. Faith and works are not, nor were they ever, mutually exclusive. I intend to explain briefly how each is a part of the picture of and how each is critical for the fullest expression of what God is doing in our lives as Christians.
First, let’s talk faith. What is faith anyway? I mean biblically speaking of course… “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We cannot, in our mortal bodies, fully perceive the works of the Spirit in us. We have somewhat of an understanding of spiritual reality, but not a full one. We cannot yet see fully. We have to trust that there is ground under us as we step out into the spiritual realm to which God is leading us. Faith is stepping out, though we cannot see. By it we are fully trusting that the Spirit is true and the he is leading us on firm ground rather than on quicksand. This is saving faith. It believes that God is true though all men be liars (Romans 3:4). Faith is trusting in God, it is believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Second, let’s talk the state of faith. If I fall into a pool, I get wet. I could talk about the concept of getting wet without actually being wet, but I’m not actually wet until I get into the water. Faith and the state of faith is a lot like this. Faith is a concept which must be lived out or it isn’t true in our lives. The entire idea of faith requires trust. We are stepping out onto ground which we cannot see. Does wetness exist without my getting wet? Sure, but without getting wet I am not wet. In the same way, faith exists whether I exercise it or not, but I am not a person of faith unless I act on it. Faith induces a state of faith.
Paul writes in Romans 1:17 that righteousness is revealed from faith to faith. These are like two dimensions of faith, or two sides of the faith coin. First is faith to believe which results in salvation. Second is the faith of regeneration. The former feeds the ladder and it must. For if one truly believes the gospel, how could he ever go about living as if the gospel were not true? If we have come under the Lordship of Christ, how shall we live as if we had another lord? Faith necessarily leads us into the state of faith. The state of faith is the natural plane of existence of the one who has true faith. In a sense he has fallen in and he is wet.
I could write much more on this, and perhaps more will come soon. For now, may we never presume on the grace of God by denying the life that comes by the faith we believe. In fact, I have a hard time believing that any true Christian would ever deny that a faith-driven life is critical to all who would claim faith. One who has been set free from sin and the letter of the law cannot help but to serve his savior, master, and Lord with pure joy. It is not a chore, but a joy for the redeemed!
We are indeed saved by faith alone, but that true faith cannot help but to produce works in us which bring glory to the Father.