by Pamela Gonzalez – Director of Communications/Valpo FUMC
Great! Why did I get this topic? I said to myself when reading today’s devotional. The topic of grace only versus grace plus works is a hotly contested theological topic.
I must disclose that my personal beliefs might differ from yours in spite of the fact that my beliefs have changed over the years. I was raised Catholic where works is an absolute part of salvation. As an adult, I left the Catholic church, and having read the scriptures many times, have changed my opinion to faith only. Some have challenged me by quoting James.
What good is it my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (James 2:14)
James goes on to say that believing in one God isn’t the point, for even the demons believe that! Read James 2:14–26. He ends his explanation by saying, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (James 2:26)
This sounds suspiciously as if James were saying that works, or deeds, is a stipulation for salvation. I don’t believe this is what he is saying here at all. Just as I don’t believe this is what Tozer is saying in today’s reading.
Remember, the thief on the cross asked for forgiveness and Jesus, also on a cross, gave him forgiveness and told the thief that he would be in paradise that very day. There was no opportunity for the man forever known by his terrible deeds to make it right and to do good. His life was nearly finished. Yet he was forgiven. Works did not save him. Jesus saw his heart and knew his repentance and faith were real.
What I believe James and Tozer are saying is that if your faith is true faith, the evidence of the Holy Spirit within will not be quenched. One result of the power of the Holy Spirit is good works. If someone claims to have saving faith and yet their old ways are not changed, I would have to question whether their claim of faith is real to begin with. Remember, Jesus said, even so every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (Matthew 7:17) In other words the kind of fruit or deeds or works a person bears is evidence of their faith, or lack thereof.
Does this mean we will never do bad? No. There are times when we fail and do things that grieves God. But the question is, do we wish to remain in our sin or repent and change our ways? True faith results in true repentance which results in regeneration and reformation and is evidenced in a changed life. For me, works are a result of faith, not a condition for receiving it.