It is not uncommon that I encounter people (through blogs or personal statements) who take such a hard stand on the debate between faith and action – on which of the two is needed to be saved and gain eternal life. I, too, once questioned myself whether I was on the right side or not. But in recent times I have come to realize that such argument is futile and even contradicts itself to its core. Is faith really in opposition to action, and is action totally separate from faith?
Let us begin with what faith is.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1
In the context of Christian faith, this is knowing that Jesus Christ is our ultimate Hope for salvation and provides us an assurance that eternal life is awaiting us because of what He has done at the Cross, even though we have not seen Him nor the Salvation that He promises.
Now let’s look at what action is.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Matthew 25:37-40
Thus action is anything we do out of our own comfort that alleviates pain from other people, or frees them from any kind of suffering – whether that be physical, emotional, or spiritual.
So what causes the contradiction? it may be these two scriptures that seem to suggest opposite things.
- “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” – James 2:24
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not by works so no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8-9
The confusion starts when we start limiting these two scriptures based on our own human understanding. Thus we may even end up questioning ourselves…
- If I only have faith, does that mean I can ignore my brothers and sisters who are in need of my help?
- If I only have actions, does that mean I can count on myself to gain eternal life and, effectively, any other person who does good is also on their way to the Kingdom of God, regardless if they believe the Gospel of Christ?
- And if I do both, then doesn’t that undermine Jesus’ perfect redemption at Calvary because the Bible says Jesus’ work has already sanctified me once for all time? (By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. -Heb 10:10)
When we end up with such questions, more often than not we panic. We get shaken. We fear that our own beliefs are logically incorrect, thus may not be true. And in time we see our faith dwindle. Definitely not a good sign.
But do we stop there? As Christians, the Bible has always taught us to persevere in all circumstances.
“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” -Psalms 27:14
Because if we go further into reading the scriptures…
- “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:24-25
- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not by works so 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.” -Ephesians 2:8-10
When we look beyond our human effort and seek God’s Words instead, we end up with answers that hopefully pacify our logical nature.
- Faith without Action is Dead. Dead Faith is not Faith at all. Thus true Faith naturally commands Actions. It is an automatic process, you cannot say you have faith when your hands are tied up selfishly to serve your own interests.
- When we have such True Faith, we believe that we are all God’s masterpieces who have been designed to do His will, through Christ. Anyone who has faith will feel the natural inclination to be charitable, joyful, peace-loving, patient, kind, generous, gentle, modest… all of which are fruits of the Holy Spirit that seals us when we TRULY believe in the good news of Jesus Christ. They’re neither forced nor imposed, because they flow naturally as His Spirit moves through us, giving us no reason to boast.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” -Ephesians 1:13-14
Thus my friend, when we talk about Faith separate from Action, we are not talking about the kind of Faith that Jesus is asking from us. Because Faith that, by itself, saves us comes along with power to do good deeds. All for His glory.
So in the end, is it truly “Faith vs Action”? No, because my heart and spirit say it should be “Faith In Action”. It is alive, active, and life-bringing.