JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH & WORKS
“….So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. (Mark 1:24); But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (Gen 22:10); You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend….”
JAMES 2: 17-23 ( NET BIBLE TRANSLATION)
The express statements in the Book of James, and the various passages by the Apostle Paul, which unequivocally convey the truth that we are justified INITIALLY by Faith alone ( as Clement of Rome also confirms in his Epistle to the Corinthians) and CONTEMPORANEOUSLY ( as well as subsequently) by meritorious Works ( of “Righteousness”, in OPPOSITION to futile Mosaic “ Works of the Law”), clear up all presumptions and suppositions adequately. The polarization of the Western Christian world since the time of the Reformation into two opposing camps where NEITHER side has the full and actual truth on the subject of “ Justification”, shows clearly the depth of ignorance that has prevailed, and continues to prevail, on this matter amongst Theologians, Ministers of Religion, and Christians in general. This “ bone of contention” has been gnawed by the two parties from both ends simultaneously, yet neither has managed to tug the bone from the jaws of the other, and in the minds of the average Christian, the matter remains a concern of “ lobe-splitting” proportions. Converts from “ Faith to Works” ( from the Reformed point of view to the Roman Catholic one), or from “ Works to Faith” ( from the Roman Catholic to the Reformed view) interchange constantly. This two party system in Theology and Religion, with it’s final goal of doctrinal “ synthesis” for the purpose of an ecumenical “ status quo”, or “ peace”, has proven to be a bane to one and all, and has served to divide not only congregations, but entire nations, into warring camps that are entirely devoid of the complete truth. The confusion in the minds of Believers between the futile and now abrogated “ Works of the Law (of Moses)”, and the very necessary “ Works of Righteousness” subsequent to Faith and Regeneration ( which are essentially “personal” in nature and NOT merely “ imputed” to the individual), has not been allayed in the Western Churches to this day. The Greek Orthodox Church and some of the other Eastern Orthodox Churches have ( though neglecting their rich doctrinal inheritance in many, if not most, other areas), however, maintained in large degree a thorough and accurate definition and stance regarding the intricate relationship between Faith and Works in Justification.. To quote from McClintock and Strong’s “ Cyclopedia” again:
“….2. The Greek Church. — Little discussion and little controversy has occurred on this doctrine in the Greek Church. Faith and works together are regarded as the conditions of salvation. The words of James are referred to first, yet faith is declared to be the stock from which the good works come as the fruits. The description of faith proceeds from the definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews to the acceptance of the entire ecclesiastical tradition. Man is said to participate in the merit of the Mediator not only through faith, but also through good works. Among the latter are comprised the fulfilment of the commandments of God and of the Church, and, in particular, prayers, fastings, pilgrimages, and monastic life. They are considered useful and necessary not only as a means of promoting sanctification, but also as penances and satisfaction….”
McClintock and Strong’s article, in their “ Cyclopedia”, is a reasonable synopsis of the definition and historical interpretation of the doctrine of “Justification”..
(some form of the verbs צָדִקδικαιόω), a forensic term equivalent to acquittal, and opposed to condemnation; in an apologetic sense it is often synonymous with vindication or freeing from unjust imputation of blame.
I. Dogmatic Statement. — This term, in theological usage, is employed to designate the judicial act of God by which he pardons all the sins of the sinner who believes in Christ, receiving him into favor, and regarding him as relatively righteous, notwithstanding his past actual unrighteousness. Hence justification, and the remission or forgiveness of sin, relate to one and the same act of God, to one and the same privilege of his believing people (Act 13:38-39; Rom 4:5; Rom 4:8). So, also, “the justification of the ungodly,” the “covering of sins,” “not visiting for sin,” “not remembering sin,” and “imputing not inequity,” mean to pardon sin and to treat with favor, and express substantially the same thing which is designated by “imputing or counting faith for righteousness.”
Justification, then, is an act of God, not in or upon man, but for him and in his favor; an act which, abstractly considered, respects man only as its object, and translates him into another relative state; while sanctification respects man as its subject, and is a consequent of this act of God, and inseparably connected with it.
The originating cause of justification is the free grace and spontaneous love of God towards fallen man (Rom 15:3; Rom 15:24; Tit 2:11; Tit 3:4-5). Our Lord Jesus Christ is the sole meritorious cause of our justification, inasmuch as it is the result of his atonement for us. The sacrificial death of Christ is an expedient of infinite wisdom, by which the full claims of the law may be admitted, and yet the penalty avoided, because a moral compensation or equivalent has been provided by the sufferings of him who died in the sinner’s stead (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Rev 5:9). Thus, while it appears that our justification is, in its origin, an act of the highest grace, it is also, in its mode, an act most perfectly consistent with God’s essential righteousness, and demonstrative of his inviolable justice. It proceeds not on the principle of abolishing the law or its penalty, for that would have implied that the law was unduly rigorous either in its precepts or in its sanctions.
Faith is the instrumental cause of justification, present faith in him who is able to save, faith actually existing and exercised. The atonement of Jesus is not accepted for us, to our individual justification, until we individually believe, nor after we cease to live by faith in him.
The immediate results of justification are the restoration of amity and intercourse between the pardoned sinner and the pardoning God (Rom 5:1; Jam 2:23); the adoption of the persons justified into the family of God, and their consequent right to eternal life (Rom 8:17); and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Act 2:38; Gal 3:14; Gal 4:6), producing tranquillity of conscience (Rom 8:15-16), power over sin (Rom 8:1) and a joyous hope of heaven (Rom 15:13; Gal 5:3).
We must not forget that the justification of a sinner does not in the least degree alter or diminish the evil nature and desert of sin. Though by an act of divine clemency the penalty is remitted, and the obligation to suffer that penalty is dissolved, still it is naturally due, though graciously remitted. Hence appear the propriety and duty of continuing to confess and lament even pardoned sin with a lowly and contrite heart (Eze 16:62).
II. History of the Doctrine. —
1. The early Church Fathers and the Latin Church. — Ecclesiastical science, from the beginning of its development, occupied itself with a discussion on the relation of faith to knowledge; but even those who attributed the greatest importance to the latter recognized faith as the foundation. A merely logical division into subjective and objective faiths and an intimation of a distinction between a historic and a rational faith (in Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromata. 2, 454; Augustine, De Trinitate, 13, 2), were of little consequence. Two conceptions became prevailing: Faith as a general religious conviction, particularly as confidence in God, and the acceptance of the entire doctrine of the Church, fides catholica. The formula that faith alone without the works justifies is found in the full Pauline sense in Clemens Romanus (1 ad Corinthios. c. 32) and is sometimes used by Augustine polemically in order to defend the freedom of grace and the priority of faith. More generally it is used as an argument against the necessity of the Jewish law (Irenaeus, 4:25 Tertullian, adv. Marcell. 5, 3). The oecumenical synods were instrumental in gradually giving to the conception of fides catholica the new sense that salvation could be found only by adherence to ecclesiastical orthodoxy. But as a mere acceptance was possible without a really, Christian sentiment, and as the Pauline doctrine was misused by heretics in an antinomian sense, it was demanded that faith, be proved by works. Church discipline developed this idea with regard to the sins of the faithful, so as to demand a satisfaction through penances and good works (Augustine, Serm. 151, 12). It became, therefore, the doctrine of the Church that such faith alone works salvation as shows itself in acts of charity, while to merely external works faith or charity is opposed as something accessory. Pelagius assumed only a relative distinction between naturally good works and the good works that proceed from faith; in opposition to which Augustine insisted that the difference is absolute, and that without faith no good works at all are possible. As salvation was thought to be conditioned by works also, it was, even when it was represented as being merely an act of God, identified with sanctification. The importance attributed to abstention created gradually a distinction between commands and advices, and the belief that through the fulfilment of the latter a virtue greater than required would arise (Hermas, Pastor Simil. 3, 5, 3; Origen, In Epistolam, ad Romans 3; Ambrose, De Viduis, 4, 508).
2. The Greek Church. — Little discussion and little controversy has occurred on this doctrine in the Greek Church. Faith and works together are regarded as the conditions of salvation. The words of James are referred to first, yet faith is declared to be the stock from which the good works come as the fruits. The description of faith proceeds from the definition in the Epistle to the Hebrews to the acceptance of the entire ecclesiastical tradition. Man is said to participate in the merit of the Mediator not only through faith, but also through good works. Among the latter are comprised the fulfilment of the commandments of God and of the Church, and, in particular, prayers, fastings, pilgrimages, and monastic life. They are considered useful and necessary not only as a means of promoting sanctification, but also as penances and satisfaction.
3. Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. — The Scholastics regarded faith as an acceptance of the supersensual as far as it belongs to religion, differing both from intuition and from knowledge; and although essentially of a theoretic character, yet conditioned by the consent of the will; which, however, in the description of faith, is reduced to a minimum. Originally only God is an object of faith, but mediately also the holy Scriptures; as a summary of the Biblical doctrines, the Apostles Creed, and, as its explication, the entire doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. As an accurate knowledge of the doctrines of the Church cannot be expected from every one, the subjective distinction was made between fides implicita and explicita; the former sufficient for the people, yet with the demand of a developed belief in some chief articles. There was, however, a difference of opinion on what these articles were, and even Thomas Aquinas wavered in his views. Faith may, even upon earth, partly become a science, and appears in this respect only as the popular form of religion. It is a condition of salvation, but becomes a virtue only when love, as animating principle [forma], pervades it [fides formata]; with a mere faith [informis] one may be damned. The fides formata includes the necessity of the good works for salvation, but they must be founded in pious sentiment. All other works not proceeding from faith, are dead though not entirely useless. The necessity of good works is fully carried out only by the inculcation of penance as satisfactiones, but with constant reference to a union of the soul with Christ, and the moral effect of the good works. Justification, according to Thomas Aquinas, is a movement from the state of injustice into the state of justice, in which the remission of sins is the main point, though it is conditioned by an infusion of grace which actually justifies men. As an act of God which establishes in man a new state [habitus], it is accomplished in a moment. Among the people the Pelagian views prevailed, that man, by merely outward works, had to gain his salvation, and the Church became, especially through the traffic in indulgences, a prey to the immoral and insipid worship of ceremonies. In opposition to this corruption, many of the pious Mystics pointed to the Pauline doctrine of faith.
4. Doctrine of the Reformers of the 16th Century and the old Protestant Dogmatics. — The Reformation of the 16th century renewed the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith alone, emphasizing in the sense of Augustine, the entire helplessness of man, and made it the fundamental doctrine of the Reformed Church. This faith is represented as not merely an acceptance of historic facts, but is distinguished as fides specialis from the general religious conviction, arising amidst the terrors of conscience, and consisting in an entire despair of one’s own merit and a confident surrender to the mercy of God in the atoning death of Christ. Worked by God, it does not work as virtue or merit, but merely through the apprehension of the merit of Christ. Its necessity lies in the impossibility of becoming reconciled with God through one’s own power. Hence this reconciliation is impossible through good works, which are not necessary for salvation, though God rewards them, according to his promise, upon earth and in heaven; but, as a necessary consequence, the really good works will flow forth from faith freely and copiously. The opinion of Amsdorf, that good works are an obstacle to salvation, was regarded as an unfortunate expression, which may be taken in a true sense, though it is false if understood in a general sense. As man is unable to satisfy the law supererogatory works and a satisfaction through one’s own works are impossible. Justification through love is impossible, because man cannot love God truly amidst the terrors of conscience. Hence justification is a divine judicial act, which, through the apprehension of the justice of Christ, apprehended in faith, accepts the sinner as just, though he is not just. This strict distinction between justification and sanctification was maintained on the one hand against Scholasticism, which, through its Pelagian tendencies, seemed to offend against the honor of Christ, and to be unable to satisfy conscience, and on the other hand against Osiander, who regarded justification as being completed only in sanctification. The works even of the regenerated, according to the natural side, were regarded by the Reformers as sins. The Reformed theology in general agreed with the doctrine of justification as stated above, yet did not make it to the same extent the fundamental doctrine of the whole theology. According to Calvin, justification and sanctification took place at the same time. The dogmatic writers of the Lutheran Church distinguished in faith knowledge, assent, and, confidence, assigning the former two to the intellect, the latter to the will. From the fides generalis they distinguished the justifying faith (specialis seu salvifica), and rejected the division into fides informis et formata. As a distinguishing mark, they demanded from a true faith that it be efficient in charity. For works they took the Decalogue as a rule; a certain necessity of works was strictly limited. But, however firmly they clung in general to the conception of justification as something merely external (actus forensis) and foreign (imputatio justitiae Christi), some dogmatic writers held that justification had really changed something in man, and indeed presupposed it as changed. Hollaz pronounced this doctrine openly and incautiously, while Quenstedt designated these preceding acts as merely preparatory to conversion.
5. Doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church since the Reformation. — The Council of Trent, in order to make a compromise with the Pauline formula, recognized faith as the beginning and the foundation of justification, but the full sense which Protestantism found in it was rejected. This faith is the general belief in divine revelation, though in transition to a special faith, yet a mere knowledge which still gives room to mortal sins. Justification is remission of sins and sanctification, through an infusion of the divine grace, in as far as the merit of Christ is not merely imputed, but communicated. It is given through grace, but as a permanent state it grows through the merit of good works according to the commandments of God and the Church, through which works the justified, always aided by the grace of God in Christ, have to render satisfaction for the temporal punishment of their sins and to deserve salvation. Not all the works done before justification are sins, and to the justified the fulfilment of the commandments of God is quite possible, although even the saints still commit small, venial sins. A further development of this doctrine is found in the writings of Bellarmine. He admits faith only as fides generalis, as a matter of the intellect, yet as a consent, not a knowledge. Though only the first among many preparations for justification a certain merit is ascribed to faith. The Council of Trent had rejected the imputation of the merits of Christ only as the exclusive ground of justification; Bellarmine rejected it altogether. He explicitly proclaimed the necessity of good works for salvation, though only a relative salvation. “The opera supererogationis, which were not mentioned at Trent, though they remained unchanged in tradition and practice, are further developed by Bellarmine. According to him, they go beyond nature, are not destined for all, and not commanded under penalties.
6. Modern Protestantism. — Socinus denied any foreign imputation, also that of the merit of Christ. When supranaturalism in general declined, the points of difference from the Roman Catholic Church were frequently lost sight of Kant found in the doctrine of justification the relation of the always unsatisfactory reality of our moral development to the future perfection recognized in the intuition of God. De Wette declared it to be the highest moral confidence which is founded on the communion with Christ, and turns from an unhappy past to a better future. Modern mystics have often found fault with the Protestant doctrine as being too outward, and approached the doctrine of the Roman Church. The Hegelian School taught that justification is the reception of the subject into the spirit, i.e. the knowledge of the subject of his unity with the absolute spirit or, according to Strauss, with the concrete idea of mankind. According to Schleiermacher, it is the reception into the communion of life with both the archetypal and historical Christ, and the appropriation of his perfection. Justification and sanctification are to him only different sides of the carrying out of the same divine decree. Many of the recent dogmatic writers of Germany have again proclaimed this doctrine to be the essential principle of Protestantism, some taking justification in the sense of a new personality founded in Christ, others in the sense that God, surveying the whole future development of the principle which communion with Christ establishes in the believer, views him as righteous. One of the last dogmatic manuals of the Reformed Church distinguishes conversion and sanctification as the beginning and progress of a life of salvation, and assigns justification to the former.
Bishop A.R.Fausset, in his “ Cyclopedia”, has the following definition and exposition of the term “Faith”:
Heb 11:1, “the substance of things hoped for (i.e., it substantiates God’s promises, the fulfillment of which we hope, it makes them present realities), the evidence (elengchos, the ‘convincing proof’ or ‘demonstration’) of things not seen.” Faith accepts the truths revealed on the testimony of God (not merely on their intrinsic reasonableness), that testimony being to us given in Holy Scripture. Where sight is, there faith ceases (Joh 20:29; 1Pe 1:8). We are justified (i.e. counted just before God) judicially by God (Rom 8:33), meritoriously by Christ (Isa 53:11; Rom 5:19), mediately or instrumentally by faith (Rom 5:1), evidentially by works. Loving trust. Jam 2:14-26, “though a man say he hath faith, and have not works, can (such a) faith save him?” the emphasis is on “say,” it will be a mere saying, and can no more save the soul than saying to a “naked and destitute brother, be warmed and filled” would warm and fill him.
“Yea, a man (holding right views) may say, Thou hast faith and I have works, show (exhibit to) me (if thou canst, but it is impossible) thy (alleged) faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.” Abraham believed, and was justified before God on the ground of believing (Gen 15:6). Forty years afterward, when God did” tempt,” i.e. put him to the test, his justification was demonstrated before the world by his offering Isaac (Genesis 22). “As the body apart from (chooris) the spirit is dead, so faith without the works (which ought to evidence it) is dead also.” We might have expected faith to answer to the spirit, works to the body. As James reverses this, he must mean by “faith” here the FORM of faith, by “works” the working reality. Living faith does not derive its life from works, as the body does from its animating spirit.
But faith, apart from the spirit of faith, which is LOVE (whose evidence is works), is dead, as the body is dead without the spirit; thus James exactly agrees with Paul, 1Co 13:2, “though I have all faith … and have not charity (love), I am nothing.” In its barest primary form, faith is simply crediting or accepting God’s testimony (1Jo 5:9-13). Not to credit it is to make God a “liar”! a consequence which unbelievers may well start back from. The necessary consequence of crediting God’s testimony (pisteuoo Theoo) is believing in (pisteuoo eis ton huion, i.e. “trusting in”) the Son of God; for He, and salvation in Him alone, form the grand subject of God’s testimony. The Holy Spirit alone enables any man to accept God’s testimony and accept Jesus Christ, as his divine Savior, and so to “have the witness in himself” (1Co 12:3). Faith is receptive of God’s gratuitous gift of eternal life in Christ.
Faith is also an obedience to God’s command to believe (1Jo 3:23); from whence it is called the “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; Rom 16:26; Act 6:7), the highest obedience, without which works seemingly good are disobediences to God (Heb 11:6). Faith justifies not by its own merit, but by the merit of Him in whom we believe (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6). Faith makes the interchange, whereby our sin is imputed to Him and His righteousness is imputed to us (2Co 5:19; 2Co 5:21; Jer 23:6; 1Co 1:30)…..
McClintock and Strong in their “ Cyclopedia” have the following definition of the term “ Works” (of the Law as well as of Righteousness):
(ἔργα), “works, or deeds, of the law,” is equivalent to the works which the law requires, or the entire performance of those works which the moral law, whether written or unwritten, i.e., law in general, whether applicable to Gentile or Jew, demands (Rom 2:15; Rom 3:20; Rom 9:12; Rom 9:32; Rom 10:6; Rom 11:3; Gal 2:16; Gal 3:2; Gal 3:5; Gal 3:10; Eph 2:9). On the ground of works, i.e., of perfect obedience and therefore of merit, none can be justified, because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” If, then, any are justified at all, it must be of grace; but this grace, although freely bestowed and without any just claims on the part of the sinner, is still not unconditionally bestowed. Faith in him who died to save sinners is requisite to prepare one for the reception of pardon; and he who is justified in this way, as a consequence of his faith, is still justified in a manner altogether gratuitous. The reader will mark the difference between the phrase “works of the law,” in the above passages, and the expression “work of faith” or “good works” (1Th 1:3; 2Th 1:11; 2Co 9:8; Eph 2:10; Col 1:10; 1Ti 5:10; 1Ti 5:25; 1Ti 6:18; 2Ti 3:17; Tit 1:6; Tit 2:7; Tit 2:14; Tit 3:1; Tit 3:8; Tit 3:14).
In the writings of Paul, works of the law always designates the idea of perfect obedience, i.e., doing all which the law requires. But works of faith or good works are the fruits of sanctification by the Spirit of God; the good works which Christians perform, and which are sincere, are therefore acceptable to God under a dispensation of grace, although they do not fulfil all the demands of the law. On the ground of the first, Paul earnestly contends, at length, in his epistles to the Romans and Galatians, that no one can be justified. The latter he everywhere treats as indispensable to the Christian character. So also the apostle James, when disputing with those who make pretensions to Christian faith, and mere pretensions, maintains that no man has any good claim to the faith of a Christian who does not at the same time exhibit good works; in other words, he avers that a mere speculative faith is not a real Christian faith (Jam 2:14-26). In a word, Paul has taught us that justification is not on the ground of merit, but of grace: James has taught us that a faith which will entitle one to hope for justification must be accompanied with evangelical obedience. Both are true and faithful teachers; the doctrines of both are equally the doctrines of the gospel. Good works, in the gospel sense of these words, are an essential condition of our acceptance with God; but on the ground of perfect obedience to the divine law, no one ever was or ever will be accepted.
In an evangelical sense, good works are those actions which spring from pure principles, and are conformable to truth, justice, and propriety; whether natural, civil, relative, moral, or religious. The phrase is often used of acts of charity. The qualities of a good work, in the Scriptural sense of the term, are,
(1) That it be according to the will of God; (2) that it spring from love to God (1Ti 1:5); (3) that it be done in faith (Rom 14:23); (4) that it be done to the glory of God (1Co 10:31; Php 1:11).
The causes of good works are,
(1) God himself (Heb 13:21); (2) union with Christ (Eph 2:10); (3) through faith (Heb 11:4; Heb 11:6); (4) by the word and spirit (Isa 3:3; Luk 8:15; 2Ti 3:16).
As to the nature and properties of good works in this world,
(1) They are imperfect (Ecc 7:20; Rev 3:2; (2) not meritorious (Luk 17:10; Tit 3:5); (3) yet found only in the regenerate (Mat 7:17). The necessary uses of good works,
(1) They show our gratitude (Psa 116:12-13); (2) are an ornament to our profession (Tit 2:10); (3) evidence our regeneration (Job 15:5); (4) are profitable to others (Tit 3:8).
Perhaps we should not allow Scripture itself to remain silent for too long on the matter of the correct reception of the “ mustard seed of Faith”. Truth so often is conveyed, at least in the infallible Word of God, through parables..
“So listen to the parable of the sower: (Mark 4:13; Luke 8:11); When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path. (Matt 4:23); The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing. (Matt 19:23; Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24; 1Tim 6:9); But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13: 18-23 ( NET BIBLE TRANSLATION)
The following passage from James 2: 14-26 conveys the most remarkable Scriptural concert of truth on the real relationship between Faith and Works ( of Righteousness). It remains to this day, along with the expositions on the subject by the Apostle Paul, the only full Scriptural exposition, and forms the foundation of a thorough reconciliation between Faith and Works in Justification.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (Matt 7:26; Jas 1:23); 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (Luke 3:11; 1John 3:17); 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.7 18 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.8 19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (Mark 1:24); 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? (Gen 22:10); 22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?9 23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6); 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (Josh 2:1; Josh 6:23; Heb 11:31); 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Clement, Bishop of Rome, writing in the first century A.D., conveys the Apostolic teachings on the matter accurately in the following excerpt from the Ante-Nicene Fathers of the First Century:
Chapter XXXI.—Let us see by what means we may obtain the divine blessing. Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac, with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen, cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice. Jacob, through reason of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Chapter XXXII.—We are justified not by our own works, but by faith. Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart;
but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chapter XXXIII.—But let us not give up the practice of good works and love. God Himself is an example to us of good works. What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immoveable foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He commanded by His own word into existence. So likewise, when He had formed the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him— the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God: “Let us make man in Our image, and after Our likeness. So God made man; male and female He created them.” Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, “Increase and multiply.” We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.
Chapter XXXIV.—Great is the reward of good works with God. Joined together in harmony, let us implore that reward from Him. The good servant receives the bread of his labour with confidence; the lazy and slothful cannot look his employer in the face. It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things. And thus He forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord [cometh], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work.” He exhorts
us, therefore, with our whole heart to attend to this, that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work. Let our boasting and our confidence be in Him. Let us submit ourselves to His will. Let us consider the whole multitude of His angels, how they stand ever ready to minister to His will. For the Scripture saith, “Ten thousand times ten thousand stood around Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him, and cried, Holy, holy, holy, [is] the Lord of Sabaoth; the whole creation is full of His glory.” And let us therefore, conscientiously gathering together in harmony, cry to
Him earnestly, as with one mouth, that we may be made partakers of His great and glorious promises. For [the Scripture] saith, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which He hath prepared for them that wait for Him.”
Chapter XXXV.—Immense is this reward. How shall we obtain it? How blessed and wonderful, beloved, are the gifts of God! Life in immortality, splendour in righteousness, truth in perfect confidence, faith in assurance, selfcontrol in holiness! And all these fall under the cognizance of our understandings [now]; what then shall those things be which are prepared for such as wait for Him? The Creator and Father of all worlds, the Most Holy, alone knows their amount and their beauty. Let us therefore earnestly strive to be found in the number of those that wait for Him, in order that we may share in His promised gifts. But how, beloved, shall this be done? If our understanding be fixed by faith towards God; if we earnestly seek the things which are pleasing and acceptable to Him; if we do the things which are in harmony with His blameless will; and if we follow the way of truth, casting away from us all unrighteousness and iniquity, along with all covetousness, strife, evil practices, deceit,
whispering, and evil-speaking, all hatred of God, pride and haughtiness, vainglory and ambition. For they that do such things are hateful to God; and not only they that do them, but also those that take pleasure in them that do them. For the Scripture saith, “But to the sinner God said, Wherefore dost thou declare my statutes, and take my covenant into thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee? When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him, and didst make thy portion with adulterers. Thy mouth has abounded with wickedness, and thy tongue contrived deceit. Thou sittest, and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother’s son. These things thou hast done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest, wicked one, that I should be like to thyself. But I will reprove thee, and set thyself before thee. Consider now these things, ye that forget God, lest He tear you in pieces, like a lion, and there be none to deliver. The sacrifice of praise will glorify Me, and a way is there by which I will show him the salvation of God.”
CLEMENT OF ROME First Letter to the
Corinthians Chapters 31,32,33,34,35..
So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that – and tremble with fear. Mark 1:24; But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? (Gen 22:10); You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Now Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend…
JAMES 2: 17-23 ( NET BIBLE TRANSLATION)
Then Jesus said to him, “‘If you are able?’ All things are possible for the one who believes.” Luke 17:6;
Immediately the father of the boy cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
MARK 9: 23-24 (NET)
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” LUKE 17:5 (NET)
He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20 ( NET)
Jesus answered them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen…
Matthew 21:21 (NET)….