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Turn with me to James 2:14-18.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
James says, ďFaith without works is dead!Ē And yet, when we read the writings of Paul, Paul seems to say that faith, completely apart from works, is what saves us.† Listen to Paul,
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:† Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Paul says we are saved by grace through faith apart from works, ďNot of works, lest any man should boast.Ē It seems that Paul and James are at odds here. But note that Paul mentions two types of work in the passage above.† Letís look at these verses closely.
8: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
These are works that boast of mans ability to be saved by his own fleshly efforts. And these are the works that Paul talks about as being fruitless for salvation. And yet Paul also speaks of another type of works; works that are ordained of God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
These are the works James talks about; works that are the natural outpouring of the Holy Spirit, alive and well, in the heart of the believer. The believer is not working for salvation.† He is working the works of Christ who dwells within in the power of the Holy Spirit. The believer serves God not to be saved, but because he is saved.
Turn with me to Matthew Chapter 25 for a perfect picture of this truth.††
31: When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
There is a day of judgment coming for all nations. The date, we donít know, neither did Christ; only the Father. (Matthew 13:32) But that day is coming ďsome dayĒ for all nations.
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
How wonderful to know that there is a kingdom all of Godís children will one day enter into. And I canít imagine how beautiful and wonderful this kingdom will be. In fact, the Bible says, ďEye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.Ē (1Corinthians 2:9) God has prepared a Kingdom for all of those that love Him, and, one of these days, He will come to invite His sheep to enter into that glorious kingdom. Why will they be permitted to enter? Listen,
For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Now we might say, is God allowing these people to enter His Kingdom because of their works? It is apparent that Godís sheep have been ministering to people. They have been working diligently; visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, refreshing the thirsty, and clothing the naked. Why did they do all of this? Was it because they expected one day to receive a great reward from their LORD? Surprising as it may seem, Godís sheep didnít even know they were ministering to Christ when they ministered to others. Letís read on,
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
The righteous, in their service to others, out of hearts of true love for others and for the LORD, didnít even realize that every time they served others, they were serving Christ. They served out of a heart of love, first for the LORD, and then for others. This is the work that James speaks about. It is a work energized by the indwelling Holy Spirit in the heart of Godís people.
But now the LORD turns to the goats,
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Here are the people who say they have faith, but their works are not reflective, at all, of an indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. These people had opportunity after opportunity to serve Christ by opening their heart to others. Yet, they closed their hearts to others, and by doing so, closed their hearts to Christ. They would have given if they had known it was going to benefit them in some way. Listen to their response,
Matthew 25:46-49: Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
James says, faith without works is dead.† These people no doubt said they had faith, but their lack of service to the LORD and to others, when opportunity presented itself, exposed them for the empty heart that they truly had.
Now, when we read Paulís letter to the Ephesians, we can understand very clearly that when Paul refers to two sets of works in Ephesians 2:8-10, he is speaking of those works for Christ and others that is blessed, and the work of others for selfish gain, that will no doubt suffer, one day, great loss.
What is your motive for serving Christ today?
Are you serving Christ Today?