This Week's Gospel Sermons
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March 31, 2013
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
Ephesians 2:8 tells us we are savedby grace through faith. This tells us that we are not saved by God’s provisions only. Man has to do something. There are works of man’s own device and there are works that man does which are required by God. Having faith, or believing, is a perfect example. Man has to believe. This belief, or faith, is a work—”Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’” (John 6:29).
Recognize that there is also such a thing as having no faith. Jesus exposed this fact of His own apostles after calming the stormy sea: “And He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’” (Mark 4:40). In a request for prayers, Paul equates evil and perverseness with having no faith. “Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord will spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you; and that we will be rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith.” (2Thessalonians 3:1‑2). In this condition, there is no way to please God. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6).
Just as there are different kinds of works discussed in the New Testament, there are different kinds of faith. It all depends upon what you are talking about as to whether or not faith saves. One kind of faith saves. Some kinds don’t. What “faith” doesn’t save?
Faith That Doesn’t Save
There is little faith. Little faith is very much the same as no faith. Matthew, in recounting the previously mentioned episode of Jesus calming the stormy sea, uses this language: “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.” (Matthew 8:26). Jesus teaches that those who are His disciples cannot focus on things of this world instead of focusing on spiritual things. “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (Matthew 6:30). Peter had little faith and was rebuked by Jesus. His little faith would have cost him his life had Jesus not taught him the lesson of faith. Jesus had invited Peter to come to Him walking on the water. “But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:30-31). Jesus had to continually teach this lesson of faith to the apostles. After seeing Jesus feed multitudes who had no food, the apostles discussed how they had forgotten to bring bread to eat. “But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?” (Matthew 16:8). These had faith but not much faith, and it is apparent that such faith does not save one.
There is also such a thing as dead faith. Dead faith is worse than useless, it is destructive. However, there are those who promote the false idea that man must do nothing in order to be pleasing to God—we are pleasing to God simply because God has provided His grace. But, God’s word is clear: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17). James continues: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:19-26). Who would hazard a conclusion that dead faith saves anyone?
There is such a thing as vain faith. “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain … and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1Corinthians 15:14,17). The very nature of this description tells one that such faith can’t save. Any faith that is not built upon the Bible is vain faith. Any number of Bible examples of people believing the wrong thing can be cited.
Faith That Saves
There is a working faith. Remember James 2:22? “You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected.” Faith is made complete when it works. Consider also, the way faith works. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6). Is not this the faith which saves? Salvation comes at the point of obedience. “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17,18). “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1Peter 1:22). This is the obedience which comes as a result of faith.
Won’t you believe with a faith which works with love?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.