Works of Faith
The Apostle Paul says that "faith comes through hearing, and hearing through the word of God." Now, Christ compared the Word with a seed. Seeds bring forth a plant or tree that will yield a fruit. So, in a parable Christ said that if we were good soil, the Word of God would bear fruit. The fruit typically appears on a branch. Christ said we are the branch and he is the Vine. If we dwell in Him, we will bear much fruit. So, what is the fruit? All would agree that it is the fruit of the Spirit: ""But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Galatians 5: 22 – 23). Could it be that this is what James speaks about? Following is an old commentary that hopefully sheds light to that question.
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Degrees Of Faith
Comments on Lesson: A Devoted Soul and an Impending Cross
This lesson presents some of most popular stories of all time. The raising of Lazarus and Mary's anointing of Jesus are definitely two stories that are repeated time and again. We could be tempted to talk about these stories and not go any further. However, these two chapters bring forth examples and illustrations of what faith is and how it is shown. We see three categories of individuals with three different degrees of faith: a. those of no faith, b. those of little faith, c. those of great faith. But, first let define faith, then we will see how each group demonstrates their degrees of faith.
Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This is more so a description of faith. Faith is hope, trust and belief that the Word will do what it says, and waiting for the Word to do it. But how do show faith? What evidence do you have to show me you have faith? At first glance you say, "works." That is what James seems to say,
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works…But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James 2: 17-18, 20.
I submit to you that James is giving us the end result and that there is a middle step. "What is the middle step?" I am glad you asked. I submit to you that the middle step is the Fruit of the Spirit. In Galatians 5 Paul makes a distinction between those who fulfill the lusts of the flesh and those who walk in the Spirit. The only way to walk in the Spirit is by faith. Then in verses 22 and 23 it says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." You can have works without faith. But those who have faith will have works that are wrought from the Fruit of the Spirit. What changes here is the motivation of the work. The one without faith has a selfish reason. The one with faith is self-less and does it for God's glory. Many will confuse them. Some may even misinterpret works that come from faith. But, God always knows.
Those without faith, are under the law and follow the lusts of the flesh which are:
… Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…Gal 5:19-21
In this category we find Caiaphas and Pharisees in John 11 and12. You also have: those who told the Pharisees about Lazarus resurrection, and Judas. Even in the face of the evidence they chose not to believe in Christ as the Messiah, they chose not to have faith. They allowed their pride to tarnish their convicted hearts. They envied and hated Christ. In a seditious manner they plotted to murder Him. We who have no faith are no different. We kill God in our hearts.
Those of little faith include: Thomas, Mary and Martha in Chapter 11. Thomas had enough faith to follow Jesus, but thought that they would die on their way back to Jerusalem. They not only survived, but Jesus gave life to someone who had died. Martha and Mary believed in Christ as Lord and Savior. They believed the presence of Christ would have prevented Lazarus death. But, they lacked faith to believe that the power to prevent the death of Lazarus could also bring him from the dead. Those of us of little faith also lack faith to believe that that power is still at work today. We believe God can or will do certain things but not others. And, thus we miss out on the blessings God is willing to give us if only we believed and asked.
Those of great faith include: Those who moved the stone, those who spread the word about the raising of Lazarus, Philip, Andrew and the Greeks. Of course we cannot forget Mary in chapter 12. Those who removed the stone removed it without questions asked. They could have refused, like Martha did. But they did not. Do we do God's will without questioning or are we like Martha? Those who spread the word about the raising of Lazarus were witnesses to others that were seeking regarding Christ's famous miracle. Are we experiencing the miracles the Spirit works in us? Are we spreading the word? Philip and Andrew were always taking people to Jesus. Where do we take people we encounter? What do we tell them when they ask us about Jesus? Come to Church or Sabbath School? Come to the Bible study? There is nothing wrong with those answers, except that they may not find Jesus there. Philip and Andrew knew where Jesus was, do you? The Greeks traveled miles to see Jesus. How far would you have gone? You think your church is too far? What about a nice walk from Greece to Palestine?
We save the best for last: Mary's scandalous act of outpouring of love toward her Lord and Savior. I say scandalous because even in this day, what Mary did would be talked about and criticized. After seeing how Jesus resurrected her brother, Mary's faith deepened and grew to a point that she considered it not a waste to pour over Jesus an ointment so expensive it would take a year's salary to purchase it. Mary did not care if others saw her act as foolishness or scandalous. Mary's was an act of faith. Mary's was an act of love. Would you give to God a year's salary, let alone 10%? Or would you consider it a waste, like Judas? Would you wash his feet with your tears and dry it with your hair? Do you care more about, what others will say, then what God may think of you? "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Works without faith are to God like filthy rags. Works that are from faith are filled with the Fruit of the Spirit. And, its aroma is like a "burnt offering unto the LORD… a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD." Exodus 29:18.