God of His own kindness extends grace only to those who come in faith. Those to whom He does not extend grace receive punishment and judgment. Having heard that only those who come in faith will receive the gracious forgiveness of God has led many to claim that they have “faith.” Sadly, a categorical misunderstanding of saving faith has led many of those who have claimed “faith” to continue life convinced that they are saved from the impending wrath of a just and holy God, while all the while being positioned directly beneath that wrath and judgment.
It is because of this that we must be very certain that we don’t just assume that we have saving faith, and end up like the poor soul Jesus describes in Matthew 7, “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.” Here a poor soul was convinced that they were truly converted, when in reality, something was regrettably missing. They did not truly have saving faith, rather, they had convinced themselves that they were converted while all the while remaining under the wrath of God.
For this reason, understanding saving faith and how one is truly saved is vitally important. Saving faith is a reliance and dependence on what Jesus Christ accomplished in His perfect life, substitutionary death, and enlivening resurrection as our only hope for peace with God. We cannot be stuck in the mindset that there is anything we can do to earn right standing with God, instead, we must realize that through this resting and relying faith in Jesus alone, we can have forgiveness of our sins and peace with God. Like the hymn writer August Toplady wrote, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”
When we come to James, we must understand that God extends grace alone through faith alone. Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that, not of yourselves it is a gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” However, we must realize that what James writes is equally true since the Holy Spirit inspired both Paul and James, and both of their letters are the very Words of God. James writes that there is another indicator in the type of faith that you have whether or not it is saving faith. What indicator does James give? Your works, or your lifestyle.
John Calvin is often quoted as saying, “We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but not by a faith that remains alone.” In essence, what Calvin is trying to say is that those who come in faith to Christ will be saved, but a great evidence that they have been saved is that their faith causes an outworking of obedience to God. Saving faith breeds obedience. A lack of saving faith breeds constant disobedience to God.
So what do we do with this news? I think we should constantly look to Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves.” You can continue on self-convincingly damned, or you can continue on in the confidence that you are trusting in the work of Jesus Christ to save you. What will it be? Examine yourselves.
Food For Thought: What evidence does James teach will exist if someone truly has saving faith? How are you doing?