Showing faith by what we do

Showing faith by what we do

We are only saved by grace. That is a wonderful truth. We can only be counted as one of God’s people by what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection. He paid the debt we could not pay. Jesus took our sins upon himself. All we need to do is trust in Jesus.

That’s true. It is a truth we must never forget.

With that in our minds, we come to places like Matthew 7 and the emphasis on what we do is concerning. There are strong warnings about not bearing fruit, about being obedient, and about living out Jesus’ words, not just hearing them. And in several places, the things we are called to do are linked to the judgement we will face one day. Branches can be cut off if they have no fruit, and a house that is not built on the foundation of hearing and doing Jesus’ words will face terrible destruction.

How can we reconcile salvation by grace with this emphasis on doing?

It is easy to point out what it cannot mean. It cannot mean that we just have to do certain things, a checklist of sorts, and if we have done enough, then we are in. That would contradict so many other places, not least the episode with the thief on the cross saved with no opportunity to do much after he trusted in Jesus. It cannot mean that Christians live with the fear that we have not done enough and God might not accept us.

No, it has always been the case that believers trust in God and then are called to live out their faith in practical ways. It was this way in the Exodus. The Israelites were saved by God’s mighty works in the plagues, and then they were called to respond in the law. Paul describes us as actively rejecting the old way of life we had before Jesus and striving to produce the fruit of the Spirit, fruit in line with what we are in Jesus.

Salvation first, obedience later. But obedience is always part of the deal. Trusting in Jesus leads to a changed life. It has to. If we believe that Jesus has saved us, that we are not our own, that our priorities are different to before, that needs to lead to a changed life. Measurably changed. In what we think, what we speak, and what we do…even down to what we want. To use James’ words, we show our faith in what we do. If there is nothing to show, if our lives are no different to before, then we are not trusting in Jesus. The way we live is evidence of the faith inside us.

In Matthew 7, Jesus is urging a consistent Christian life. One that includes hearing his words and doing them, trusting in our mind and in how we live. We need both. We need to rejoice in grace and respond with our lives, thanking God for his kindness to us.