In my previous blog I reasoned that the word “faith” is used in scripture in a comprehensive sense – ex. Romans 16:26 – “obedience of faith”, Hebrews 11, and that mental ascent or acknowledgment of facts in respect to salvation is insufficient for one to claim what Hebrews 10:39 calls “saving faith”.
It was shown that Romans 4 and James 2 talk about the SAME type of faith because both scriptures talk about the faith of Abraham – quoting Genesis 15:6.
We then note that Romans 4 speaks of the TYPE of works NOT reckoned as righteousness while James 2 speaks to the necessity for the TYPE of works that are needed for one to be justified!
So what TYPE of works are “reckoned for righteousness” (ei. what type of works appropriate the blessing of God)?
In this context there are –3- types of “works” to be considered in scripture:
1.) Works of merit:
These are works performed to earn something – called “boastful works” in Eph. 2:9. Those works which would allow us to brag that we earned, and therefore merit our salvation and that we do not need God. “Works” that would let us say God owes us salvation for what we have done. This is the type of “works” mentioned in Romans 4:4 – “of debt”.
2.) Works of “the law” (OT):
No one is “accounted righteous” in His sight by these “works” – Romans 3:20. If you attempt keep one point of this law (OT) you must keep it all, sinless perfection required – Gal. 5:3, Jas. 2:10.
3.) Works of God:
John 6:29 – “This is the work of God that you believe on Him whom he hath sent.”. There are “works”, chosen by God, that appropriate the blessing of God. This is just as God designed it to be.
When the astute reader recognizes the different TYPES of works mentioned in scripture, problems harmonizing how works complement faith are remedied.
“8…for by grace have you been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: 9 not of works, that no man should glory.” ASV
By grace – we are saved – through faith. Grace is God’s part and faith is man’s part in salvation. God has done His part – God’s grace has appeared bringing salvation to man (Tit 2:11-12), but His grace instructs us to live soberly, righteously, and godly.
Man needs only to do his part to appropriate God’s gift of salvation. The gift of salvation is offered by grace and appropriated by faith – faith as defined in scripture.
Many casual readers do Ephesians 2:9 a disservice by imposing the thought into it that no works of any kind are involved in our salvation – this is a mis-reading and has caused too many to errantly conclude they need do nothing to appropriate salvation. This verse says that our salvation is not of BOASTFUL works, works that would allow one to boast about it or say salvation had been earned. Again, knowing the TYPE of works from the context is critical to a proper understanding of the passage.
Works complement faith. Faith complements grace. This is how God designed it to be.