Since “faith alone” has been drummed into your head for so long, it’s almost impossible for you to believe otherwise. Dozen of websites proclaim: “Faith Alone in Christ Alone” or “By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” I understand that strong adherence to Reformation dogma provides a neat path for many to follow. However, these “doctrines” can be in conflict. For example, “sola fide” (faith alone) does not fit well with “sola scriptura” (scripture alone). I just looked at one web site where the 5 “sola’s” of the Reformation are briefly explained. There was not one Bible reference supporting “faith alone.” (I also heard one youtube sermon where guys like myself are called “liars” and “of the devil.” Watch out!)[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
The Christian life or salvation is impossible without faith. However, what do New Testament writers actually teach about faith? They teach that faith always involves effort.
The Example of Rahab
“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies” (Hebrews 11.31).
Her faith involved a) obedience and b) giving a friendly welcome to the spies. Her faith was not “faith alone.”
In Joshua 2 we read of Rahab’s interaction with the two spies sent by Joshua to scope out Jericho. She hid them, protected them, expressed trust in their true God, agreed to their terms, helped them escape, and finally tied the scarlet cord in her window. This is hardly a story of “faith alone.” If she had not tied the scarlet cord to her window would she have been saved? No. Her life and the life of her family were spared because she, in faith, did what the spies told her to do.
As James writes:
You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2.24-26)
As is said of Abraham: You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works…You see a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2.22-24).
How could it be more clear? Faith by itself is incomplete, unfinished, inoperative without work or effort.
Faith With Effort
Here’s the reality for all of us. You cannot be saved by faith alone. Faith must be accompanied by effort or it is dead.
Put another way: You cannot be a Christian without effort.
As Dallas Willard, Christian sage, writes: “Grace is not opposed to effort. It is opposed to earning.” Effort is doing something; it is action. Earning is an attitude that implies merit; one is trying to obtain something by their labor or service.
Rahab did not earn her salvation by her actions. She put forth effort in faith, participating in the mercy offered to her, and as a result, was saved. She did not save herself. Joshua spared her as she acted in faith.
Actions of faith energized by grace are what define us as Christians. You cannot be a Christian otherwise.
Both faith and effort that are necessary for God to save us. They cannot be separated. They need not be separated.
Follow Rahab’s example of faith-filled efforts to discover God’s saving power and abundant life.