“For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).
FAITH IS ABOUT AS BASIC A CONCEPT AS THERE IS IN THE GOSPEL. Its importance in our response to God is immense (Philippians 3:8,9). But faith, or trust, is not easy. It requires a good deal of courage. For example, it takes faith to accept whatever the Lord’s commandments are in cases where what He requires goes against our preferences and preconceived notions. But if we do not trust the Lord enough to comply with His instructions, it is vain for us to think that He will save us anyway. Think about it: if the attitude that led us into sin initially was “I don’t think I really have to do what God commanded,” what possible hope of salvation do we have if we exhibit the same attitude about what the gospel requires of us? Like it or not, distrust of God is at the root of sin — and deciding to trust Him again is at the heart of how we must respond to the gospel.
Genuine faith will always show up in action, often at great risk. We see this in each of the amazing examples in Hebrews 11 of people in the Old Testament who did what they did because they trusted God. We do not earn our salvation by our works, but the fact remains, if faith does not obey God, it is not real faith. James put it unmistakably: “Faith apart from works is dead” (2:26).
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” may be a crude saying, but it is true. Many a good-intentioned person knows what he should do, but not many make the choice to carry out their intentions. And this failure to act on our best impulses is a serious matter; it compounds our sin. “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). So I would suggest that the gospel calls us to do not one but two things: we must think rightly and then do what our thinking tells us is right.
If you’re not a Christian, it may be you don’t yet agree that the gospel is true. If so, I hope you’ll keep studying. But if you are convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and you know what the gospel requires for your salvation in Him, my prayer is that your newfound faith will move you to humble, obedient action.
“Faith and works are bound up in the same bundle. He that obeys God trusts God; and he that trusts God obeys God. He that is without faith is without works; and he that is without works is without faith” (Charles Spurgeon).