the cup of wraththe cup of wraththe cup of wrath


Faith or Works: Do we Need to Bear Fruit in Christ?

The question of faith vs. works is one that comes up often among Christians, yet rarely is it answered in a satisfactory way. Often, the confusion about faith vs. works is greater at the end of the discussion than it is at the beginning. Most Christians agree that faith in Christ is fundamental, but then the question is how do works figure into that, if at all?

On the question of faith vs. works, we are often told that faith is all that matters. If we have faith we are saved, and the final goal and fulfillment of Christianity is salvation. So if we are saved through faith, then why be concerned about works?

Many reason that because faith is the key to eternal life (John 3.16), then works must be irrelevant. Sermons are given every Sunday where the importance of faith is stressed, and the importance of works is deprecated. In some evangelical settings, it has even become a creed that as Christians we "don't have to do anything", or that "our works don't matter".

On the other hand, there is something that seems specious with this thinking. The bible tells us that there is great work to be done, "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest" (Luke 10.2 KJV bible).

The problem is that our natural inclination is not to work. Spiritual work requires the dedication and sacrifice of our time and efforts away from worldy pursuits. Even if we are driven by the Holy Spirit to further God's Kingdom on earth, we still have to struggle to achieve our spiritual goals at the expense of our worldy ones.

"...If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16.24-25 KJV bible). It would seem that if one refuses to work, because they are devoted to their own life, then they are being disobedient and unfaithful to Christ.

What does it mean that we are saved by faith, and not by works?

In order to understand faith vs. works, we need to understand what the bible means when it says that we are saved by faith and not by works. There are many scriptures that make clear that faith, not works, is the cornerstone of salvation.

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified" (Galatians 2.16 KJV bible). Galatians is saying that it is not through rituals or obedience to a moral code that one can become justified in the eyes of God. Rather, it is through faith in Christ as the Son of God, who died for our sins.

This is a key point where biblical Christianity departs from many other religions and traditions. It doesn't prescribe a particular set of rituals, deeds, or actions through which one can find life and peace. Rather, faith in Christ is the foundation and root through which eternal life springs, "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3.15 KJV bible).

This "justification through faith" is a distinguishing feature of Christianity. It implies that there is no inherent righteousness or purity in man through which he can earn redemption. It is only by God's grace that the slate can be wiped clean, and one can become a new creature in Christ, having a true relationship with the Lord.

Justification through faith means that there is no kind of work or struggle in the world that has the power to redeem us from our sins, or deliver us to Christ. It is not on account of our own works or righteousness that we find Christ, but the mercy of God, after which comes the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2.8-9 KJV bible), "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus 3.5 KJV bible).

There is a relationship that exists between faith and works.

So if faith in Christ preempts everything else in our relationship with God, then where do works fit in? Part of the confusion stems from a tendency in people's minds to separate faith from works. It is often assumed that they are unrelated; works being external actions, and faith being an internal mindset.

However, the bible tells us that there is a symbiotic relationship between faith and works. Works are a consequence and obligation of faith, and faith is sustained and perfected in works, "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" (James 2.18 KJV bible).

We know that faith in Christ is the essence and foundation of eternal life, and that without faith we are estranged from the Lord. However, faith is also a process that prepares and matures us, not for our own purposes, but to be fruitful and productive in carrying out God's will, "If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2nd Timothy 2.21 KJV bible).

So it is through faith that we become qualified and useful as vessels of righteousness, "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2.13 KJV bible). Faith is therefore more than a mindset, but a process that results in our actions and lives being made fruitful unto God.

Therefore, if works do not follow faith, the process has been broken and frustrated in us. God's will is that our faith leads to works, but if we instead focus on our own desires, we become derelict in our service to the Lord, "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1.25 KJV bible). We must resist any tendency to shrink back as forgetful hearers, but move forward as doers, bringing forth the mature fruits of faith.

Jesus describes this process in John 15, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit...Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me...Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15.1-2,4,8 KJV bible).

Jesus is the true vine and we are the branches. Unless we are connected to the vine through faith, we can't bear any useful fruit. However, Jesus also tells us that the fruitless branches are taken away, so that they wither and die apart from the vine. So we must push forward in faith unto righteous works, while resisting the evil one's attempts to pull us away. Otherwise, we've allowed ourselves to become fruitless branches, to be excised by the Chief Vinedresser.

Faith is sustained and completed in works.

The book of James also speaks in detail about the inter-relationship that exists between faith and works, "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?" (James 2.14 KJV bible). This statement, "can faith save him?", seems to contradict a lot of other scriptures that tell us we are saved by faith, not by works.

However, the faith being described here is not the living faith of salvation, but empty faith. This is because living faith cannot be separated from works, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (James 2.26 KJV bible). Faith cannot survive apart from works, and it is only when faith is combined with works that it can mature and prosper.

So not only does faith push us toward works, but faith itself is sustained and completed in those works, leading unto salvation, "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (James 2.21-22 KJV bible).

Abraham's deed was an act of absolute faith in God, because he knew that God could even raise Isaac from the dead (Hebrews 11.19). So Abraham was justified by his actions, because his actions were an embodiment of his faith. When given a choice between obeying God in faith, or not, Abraham acted on faith. So in Abraham's righteous deeds, which were wrought in faith, his faith was fulfilled.

So we see the deeper relationship that exists between faith and works. Faith is what connects us to the true vine, Jesus Christ. It is through our connection with him that we are able to bring forth righteous fruits, or works, unto God. God then prunes the branches that are fruitful, which strengthens them and allows them to bring forth even more fruit. The unfruitful branches are removed from the vine and left to wither.

Therefore, as faith is fundamental to our relationship with Christ, works are necessary to sustain and strengthen that relationship. So works are an undeniable part of salvation, and an obligation in Christ, who alone is our redeemer, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1st Corinthians 15.58 KJV bible).

Comments: (12)
Topic: Faith vs. Works
Pastor Steve
Great article Doug. I might add that we are truly saved by grace thru faith and not by works thusly being His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for "GOOD WORKS". It is never implied anywhere in scripture we just get saved and set there waiting for Christ to return. We are to be about the works Jesus did as He said in John 20:21 "as My Father has sent Me, I also send you." and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil (Acts 10:38).

Now that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus our lives should be a "LIVING" example of that righteousness. That takes us living out in the routines of our lives the very salvation Christ purchased for us and that takes thought, effort, and faith which is clearly seen in what we do. We do good works because we are justified not to be justified.

If our faith is real it will be seen clearly in our works. If it is just a mental concept then all we have is a bunch of theologians setting around trying to figure out what real faith is like. Jesus said in John 7:17, "if anyone is willing to DO His Will, he will know of the teaching (doctrine) whether it is of God..." The key here of course is in the doing. Many blessings, Pastor Steve
19th October 2011 7:38am
Doug Buckley
Thanks Pastor Steve, I agree that the Holy Spirit leads us to good works and a purpose. Its like if a man's village was under attack and he just wanted to hide and save himself instead of helping and sacrificing with the others to defend the village. The Holy Spirit leads us to serve and have works.
21st October 2011 7:16am
Mark Bridges
I believe the key to a faith vs works question is in the Gal 2:16 ref. Works here refers to The Law, which cannot justify and itself brings death. Abraham is the prominent ex. of Faith coming by response to God's Calling (In Abraham's case, out of Ur).

God then Shepherded him, Tested him, and Used him to Accomplish his Awesome Plan in Type, and in The Messiah's human lineage. And He bore Fruit through Abraham, just as our "works" are really a continuation of Christ's Works through us as believers.

We are conformed to His Image and Ministry, which certainly involves work - His Work, not ours - to continue to do, to proclaim The Gospel in Word and deed. Paul says that his own faith is really Christ's Faith which works through him.

One reason I believe this Faith vs. Works question is always provoking strife is that religion is involved. Where denominational rules exist there is disunity over respect of persons (members). but The Truth is right there in The Word, if people really want it. But all to often, people want to think it requires their work plus Grace to be Justified. God will have none of that! Our true work is to labor to enter His finished Work. This is abiding In Him, so that He can Bear Fruit through us.
26th February 2012 9:26pm
Doug Buckley
Mark, I agree with some of your comments about faith vs. works. Its not really our works but Christ working through us that brings forth righteous fruit. This is why a nonbeliever can't work for God, because they don't have Christ in them and transforming them as a vessel that can work for God.

However, i would point out that its also true that we aren't robots. The bible tells us that we have responsibilities in Christ. Where much is given much is expected. Responsibility implies work and choices, and consequences for the choices. There are consequences for wrong choices. The transformation of faith might not be a choice, but what we do with it is, like whether we build our relationship with him or betray him for the world.
27th February 2012 4:06pm
I apologize ahead of time if this is repetitive of anything already mentioned. Yesterday I was reading about this in particular.

Matthew 7:22-23 "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible state: "This proves that, with all their pretensions, they had never been true followers of Christ. Jesus will not then say to false prophets and false professors of religion that he had once known them and then rejected them; that they had been once Christians and then had fallen away; that they had been pardoned and then had apostatized but that he had never known them - they had never been true christians. Whatever might have been their pretended joys, their raptures, their hopes, their self-confidence, their visions, their zeal, they had never been regarded by the Saviour as his true friends. I do not know of a more decided proof that Christians do not fall from grace than this text. It settles the question; and proves that whatever else such people had, they never had any true religion."

Also, in my opinion (which is not much as I am still VERY young in Christ), John 10:29 may give reason to believe "once saved..." "My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." I personally am uncertain, but I can understand the point of view that once you're TRULY saved (evidenced by works), he will keep you. I personally think that in any case, we probably shouldn't become too comfortable or too assured. Maybe?? As I said, it's all very new for me so please pardon my ignorance
15th February 2013 1:42pm
Doug Buckley
Hi Michelle, I often read Barnes commentary, and I'm disappointed that he would say something like that. The fact that Jesus will reject some believers as being false, doesn't mean that there can't also be believers that fall away.

If you look at some of the scriptures depicting Jesus' return, we see three types of Christians. There are the elect (called, chosen, and proven faithful), complete fakes (don't know Jesus), and lastly apostates (ones who fell away).

Notice how one of his "servants" receives the talent, and so are expected to bear fruit. So this servant does know him, and yet is rejected,

"His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents" (Matthew 25:26-28 KJV bible).

You're doing well as a new believer, and can understand this well.
15th February 2013 6:51pm
Great article Faith vs Works. It clarifies a lot, but leaves more to be learned. Lately, I have been wondering what people mean when they always say that works will never save you. Does it mean that by the context or purpose in which people work. I converted from Lutheran to Catholic and while the faiths have some similarities, their differences are worlds apart between faith and works. The Lutheran church does not believe in works, but the Catholic church does.

In the Catholic they always emphasize that what we do in our everyday life is how we serve the Lord, whether it be at our jobs or our recreation/play. No matter what we do in our everyday lives,we are serving God in some way. Our priest always emphasizes that everyone has different gifts and callings, whether it be a nurse, a firefighter, food service or retail. Whatever we do in our jobs or everyday lives we are serving God by being of service to others. One of the things that struck me when thinking about this is maybe being boastful or arrogant in our job titles and not taking the proper care is what would make our works sinful.
There are at least a few verses in the bible that recite works. My favorite one is James 2:14-17. To sum it up it states that faith without works is dead.
25th February 2013 7:08pm
Doug Buckley
Hi Ellen, you touched on the question of what is "work". What it means to "work" in Christ and what kinds of work are acceptable to God is an interesting question, that doesn't have an easy answer. It depends on alot of things, but in particular knowing what God's will is and what he expects of us. Where more is given more is expected.

We also have to have the humility to know what kinds of work God has prepared us for, because it's possible to cause harm trying to do God's work, especially if our motivations are wrong. What it boils down to is whether or not our "work" is serving Christ and his Kingdom or not.
1st March 2013 11:35am
Thank you all of you guys for this. It is so enlightining! As much as it looks like you guys have different views on this, you are actually saying the same thing.
When we accept Christ we get saved by faith, that's the first step and that's when we receive our salvation. After receiving salvation then the fruits follow. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God. As we read the Word and feed our spirits with His Word, we grow spiritually and this will be evident in our works.
As a result of being saved we get transformed n continuously die to our flesh (finding forma things that were so appealing to us, not attractive at all), for it is no longer us who live but Christ in us! Daily we get perfected, the more we seek Him, the more we are clothed to be like Him. He was a Master who was a servant to all. So faith and works cannot be separated.
5th March 2013 4:59pm
I'm going to have to appologize ahead of time for my awfull spelling. I beleive once saved always saved. I know paul says

"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow--not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love."

I am also a young Christian, But a very strong beleiver I do beleive that if you are a true beleiver Christ's sacrafice covers all sins except the unforgivable one. Christ has done the "work" he fufilled the law, his righteousness becomes our righteousness, and we are Sealed with the Holy Spirit, I do however beleive that when one becomes part of Christ good works will result,

But works are not required for salvation, they are just the result of it. In my take on the mater. Works will be tested but are not required for Salvation
9th March 2013 12:27am
Hi Doug... I read both of your articles "Can Nonbelievers Be Saved in The Resurrection" and "Faith or Works: Do we Need to Bear Fruit in Christ" . I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around how they fit together. As you've explained your take on the resurrection and how there will be a second chance for the sheep that are "non-believers" , to me, it conflicts with the ones mentioned in this article that will be torn from the vine and tossed away ("Faith is what connects us to the true vine, Jesus Christ. It is through our connection with him that we are able to bring forth righteous fruits, or works, unto God. God then prunes the branches that are fruitful, which strengthens them and allows them to bring forth even more fruit. The unfruitful branches are REMOVED from the vine and LEFT TO WITHER.")... Can you please explain what's going on here to me? Are you saying that the sheep that are good people will be left to wither... Not being granted eternal life and a second chance? It's driving me nuts trying to figure it out (I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and REALLY need to know the answer!)... Thanks! :)
18th July 2018 6:47pm
Doug Buckley
Hi Mike, thanks for the interest. Sorry for the late reply.

The branches as described in John 15.5 are believers. Believers are servants and vessels of the Spirit. So a branch the is cut off is an apostate. An apostate can never ever be the bride of Christ or reign with him.

So what does Jesus mean that they will be cast into the fire? It could mean eternal damnation, but maybe not. The end of the age will be baptized with fire and the elect will pass through it unscathed spiritually. So every reference to fire isn't necessarily the Lake of Fire. So then they would be in the second resurrection.

Bottom line is that where more is given by grace more is expected. We know that in 2nd Peter 2.20-21 its better to have never known than to have known and turned away. A lot of this has to do with putting ourselves first and serving our own desires which comes naturally, vs giving up ourselves. Every believer will have to reconcile this at some point.
24th July 2018 12:20pm
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