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Christian Faith-vs-Religious Works covers the ancient debate as to whether faith requires certain actions, to be genuine. We show the dangerous error in faith that some risk and how to avoid it.

Christian Faith-vs-Religious Works

I guess it started with the seeming argument between Paul and James as to whether faith can always be seen in a physical action or is just a spiritual reality.  Sadly, there are Christians today, so strongly believeing either side of this issue that they won't talk to each other.  Some believe faith must be accompanied by certain outward actions or it isn't real, while others believe faith requires no action at all.  This article is dedicated, first, to show both sides they are wrong, and, second, to show that Paul and James were in agreement on the issue of faith and works.  A tall order, I know! 

Looking For Evidence:

The "religious works" camp seems bent on finding physical evidence for every spiritual act of faith.  For instance, have you ever heard someone say, in order to show that you believe in Jesus, you must be baptized, testify to one or more people, publicly confess sin, publicly express regret for sin, or pray the "sinner's" prayer?  These are all a result of religious people demanding a physical sign so they can be "shown" your faith.  Other religious people expect you to publicly display certain "gifts of the Spirit" so they can be shown you have faith that you've received the Holy Spirit.  Still others demand you show answered prayer, personal wealth or personal poverty, all as signs or faith.  Over the years, these demands for religious works and signs have acted as stumbling blocks to keep people from a relationship with Jesus because they wanted their spiritual life to be private, between themselves and their God.  Many baby Christians have been led to doubt their own salvation or to fake signs in order to accommodate the expectations of others. 

Modern Day Judaizers:

People who place these stumbling blocks and doubts in front of people are not acting out of faith, but a religious works mentality.  In Paul's time there were "Judaizers" who traveled around the churches to tell people they were not real Christians unless they were circumcised.  Paul cautioned the churches that, in fact, performing a religious act to be saved, is the opposite of faith.  If you believe you have to be physically circumcised or physically baptized (or any other physical act) to be saved, you can't believe Jesus saved you.  You either believe Jesus can save you without your religious act or you believe your religious act has saved you.  Where do you place your faith?  People who teach the need for physical evidence of a Spiritual act are running a grave risk...they risk the very faith they proclaim.

Who Judges Faith?

The mistake these people make is in thinking there will be some outward sign they can see and agree upon that "proves" a spiritual thing has taken place.  The Bible never gives us the responsibility, authority or ability to judge the salvation or Holy Spirit baptism of someone else.  In fact, it's clear from the Bible, we're incapable of judging even our own hearts and motives...even unable to refrain from sinning, according to Paul, John and Peter.  Since Jesus said to perfect ourselves before we go to judging others, where do we get this idea that we can judge whether someone is saved and has the Holy Spirit, based on a few outward acts?  Jesus warned us that there would be many deceived by false signs and wonders.  He is the only one who can judge true faith.       

What Is Christian Faith?

True faith is defined in the Bible as belief in things unseen and hoped for.  If we require a sign, we lack faith.  Does this mean that James was wrong to say that faith without works was useless?  Not at all!  Paul, in fact, quotes the Old Testament in saying, "By faith, the just shall live."  Our every act is shaped by what we believe...we can't do otherwise for very long.  Are Jesus and the Apostles wrong to ask for confessions or baptism of those coming to Christ?  Of course not!  It's just that we are wrong, and not acting in faith ourselves, if we believe these acts "prove" a work of the Holy Spirit...or worse...are required so that the Holy Spirit can work. 

Jesus said "if you believe" you have eternal life, and, if you "don't believe" you are condemned.  What is it about our sinful nature that makes us want to make it  more complicated than that?  A woman who had not displayed any spiritual gifts was asked once how she knew she had received the Holy Spirit.  She said, "God promised it!  I asked for it!  That settles it!"  Her bottom line is ours, as well.  When we look for more than faith, we're looking away from faith to other things.  I believe Paul and James would agree, while faith without works is useless, looking for works to prove faith, is both useless...and faithless.

What do you think?

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