By what WE do, as well?
So if we’re saved by the Holy Spirit (yesterday’s title), why does Scripture talk so much about what we do?
Like the example of Abraham and the blunt question in James 2:21, “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” The implication being verse 22, that “his faith was (only) made complete by what he did.” So is believing that we’re saved by the Holy Spirit only half the story, or not the complete story? Because it sounds like action on Abraham’s part was what made him righteous.
But Romans 4:2 comes back with: “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about – but not before God.” So according to Paul, Abraham wasn’t “considered righteous” (or justified) by his actions – the opposite of what James wrote.
But James comes bouncing back with: “But what good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?” James 2:14. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” verse 17. It was Abraham’s action, the willingness to sacrifice his son, that credited him with righteousness. So, verse 24, “a person IS justified by what he does,” right?
But Paul quotes King David, who spoke “of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works,” Romans 4:6. To Paul, “righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” Romans 3:22; and we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus,” verse 24. So NO action of ours, or work we do (including “observing the law,” verse 28) leads to, causes, or makes us righteous. That’s Paul’s reason for using the example of Abraham.
But James’ reason for using Abraham is quite different. He’s not dealing with Paul’s people who thought faith wasn’t enough to be righteous and they needed their own works as well. James is dealing with people who thought faith was enough and they didn’t need works as well.
Two different situations. But we’re still left with the question: “So where does what WE do come in?”…(more on this tomorrow)