|Vol. 13 No. 5 May 2011||
There are so many “faith only” advocates in the religious world. It’s beyond me to understand this when the Bible is so explicit about faith and works. They go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.
Let’s examine this a little further. We know that one who practices Christian religion of any sort must have faith, that is, believe in God and His power, the gift of His Son, etc. One of the very first Scriptures that most Christian people ever learn about is Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God for the one who comes to Him must believe that He is [that is that God exists] and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” This is just a basic fact of any “Christian” religion because it makes sense. In the first place, if you don’t believe in something, you certainly are not going to make any effort to make it successful. In the second place, you must believe that there is reason for believing in an entity, in this case, a reward for our faithfulness and diligence.
Continuing in this 11th chapter of Hebrews, we see many examples of faith being exercised by different people: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the walls of Jericho compassed about and falling, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthae, David, Samuel, the prophets, etc. The list of faithful accomplishments is enough to impress and bring to attention even the greatest skeptic.
Others “through faith” (verse 33), subdued kingdoms, did righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouth of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, when weak were made strong, were valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens, women received their dead raised to life, others were tortured, others had trials of cruel mocking and scourging, bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, tormented; they wandered in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves (through verse 39). Why would anyone suffer the torment of all these things? Because they had faith that caused them to believe in the power of God to sustain, encourage and lift them up, calling them righteous and these were the fruits of their efforts in His service! They had work to do for God, and they never shirked their duty.
How does this relate to us today? These wonderful examples were given for our benefit: “whatever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The examples in the Bible are given to lend support to our courage and determination to do the right thing. Even though the faithful of old suffered horrendous things, they were given strength from God to endure and leave an example for us to do the same.
James said, “by works was faith made perfect” (James 2:22). This is the end result of Abraham being willing to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. God stayed his hand and provided a sacrifice, but Abraham had to have faith enough in God to show that he was willing to do what God requested. God operates just this same way in dealing with sin in our lives: “God is faithful Who will not suffer you to be temped above what you are able but, will with the temptation, make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Even though He could do so, God is not going to clear temptation to sin from your path. That would be preempting His cause – that of you demonstrating your faithfulness. Another Scripture bears this out: “The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9).
When folks try to tell you that they will be saved by “faith only,” don’t get caught up in their web. Instead, look at these great examples of faithful people of the Bible and take the same stance with those touting “faith only” that James said we should have: “Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). Ask God to give you the strength to always righteously do His works and be pleasing to Him.
David A. Sargent
B.H. McDaniel was a very successful orthodontist with a thriving practice. He also loved to fly his plane for a hobby. One day, he was flying from El Paso, TX to Lufkin, TX, when the engine stalled, and he couldn’t start it again. He was over the Davy Crockett National Forest, so an emergency landing was going to be almost impossible. However, God was with him every step of the way. He looked down and saw an opening among the trees. He tried to set the plane down in the little spot, but it was too short for landing. His plane hit hard, skidded into the trees on the other side of the field and broke into flames. B.H. broke his back in the crash and lay helpless as the fire began to burn.
By the providence of the Lord, a farmer saw the plane go down and hurried to the wreckage. He pulled the doctor to safety just in time, as the aircraft was engulfed in flames. B.H. was taken to a local hospital. That started the long journey of healing, then therapy. It was going to take over two years to get even limited use of his legs back. Naturally, that was to wreak havoc on his orthodontic practice.
Enter Dr. Stephen Kerr. Stephen had attended dental college in the early days with B.H., and they had become fast friends. One school day without really thinking about it, the two men made a “friendship pact” (much like David and Jonathan in the Bible) that they would take care of the other’s family in case something happened. Then, they went on without ever really thinking about it.
Now, something had happened! There was B.H. lying paralyzed in a hospital bed. He opened his eyes to see Stephen standing in the room. It was good of him to come to B.H. and give support in his darkest hour, but he did more than that. Stephen was there to stay. He was an orthodontist also. He immediately went home to Houston and shut down his own practice. He sold his home; then, he and the entire Kerr family moved to El Paso to run the clinic for B.H. He purchased a portion of B.H.’s practice (to give him cash), and then shared the profits with him to give B.H. an income.
That kindness lasted 12 years! That’s right! He did the work and shared the income with B.H. until the injured man could get around – first on crutches, then canes. When he could sit to do his work, only then did Stephen sell his interest in the business back to B.H. and go home.
“How do you thank a friend like that?” asked B.H. “You couldn’t if you tried 100 years” “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Because of our sin, you and I were facing the “plane wreck” of eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14), but Jesus came to us (see John 1:14). Yet, He did more than that. He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) so that we might live eternally with Him in heaven. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus demonstrated this kind of love for us. He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.
How do you thank a friend like that? You can’t, even if you tried 1,000 years! However, you can be grateful, and you can accept His offer of salvation by placing your faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10) and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Won’t you?