Faith & Works

Hello! Through our response platform, I’ve received a question from my sermon on August 16th. The title of the message on the 16th was “Putting Skin on the Gospel” and focused on our calling as Christians to incarnate, or put flesh on, the gospel to those around us. The question was this; “Romans 10:17 teaches that the gospel is not preached without the word of God being heard and that cannot happen unless we speak. Actions alone are insufficient. If we only do good works, the gospel is reduced to community service. It must be both words and actions. How does your sermon square with this bible verse?” Great question!!

First, it’s important to remember that when learning and discerning what the Bible is teaching, we always use the Bible as a whole. It’s never wise to pull out a single verse and use that as a basis for a decision, lifestyle or teaching. So while Romans 10:17, which says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” teaches our need to speak the word of God, passages like James 2:14-26 and 1st John 3:16-18 teach us to “act” the word of God.

James 2:14-17 says, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

1st John 3:17-18 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees their brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in them? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.”

Now, if we were to take these two passages by themselves, we could easily conclude the Bible is teaching that what really matters is our actions and words are secondary. But it’s only when you take the Bible as a whole, and include a verse like Acts 5:31 – “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”, along with Romans 10:17, that you see disciples of Jesus are called to have both.

You can think of it like the wings of an airplane. If you took away one wing, what would happen? The plane would crash. It is the same in the Christian life; you can’t have one without the other. Someone who has been remade on the inside by Jesus, given His Spirit and a brand new heart, will produce both actions and behaviors that line up with that new heart and long to declare the goodness of Jesus to a broken world.

1st Peter 2:9 says, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who you called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

If I accurately understand what my Savior has done for me, I will want to speak, proclaim, declare and announce his beautiful transformative work. In any other area of life, to experience something amazing, incredible and life transforming, and then never say much about it, would be unthinkable. It is the same with our faith.

So, if I find myself talking about Jesus, but not living how He commands, I’m hypocritical and discredit my witness for God as people see me “not walking the talk”. What this reveals is that I don’t actually believe what Jesus says is true. Jesus is trustworthy in my secondary beliefs (those I publicly say), but not in my primary beliefs (those I privately believe).

On the other side, if I’m seeking to follow Jesus’s commands in my life, but rarely mention his name, or my faith, I could be a slave to people pleasing and desire the approval and affirmation of others more than God himself. People will often say the famous quote, “preach the gospel; use words if necessary” to support this position. This sounds religious, but does not reflect the Bible’s teaching (i.e. verses mentioned above, Romans 10:17 and 1st Peter 2:9). I think if we’re honest, this quote is used more often as a smokescreen to hide the fear of possible rejection in sharing the name of Jesus more then a genuine desire to put skin on the gospel.

To summarize, a disciple is someone who has both gospel proclamation and gospel presence. Because they love Jesus with all their heart, soul, mind and strength they, above all else, want to honor Jesus with their daily decisions, habits and actions while taking every opportunity to share his truth and grace. By God’s grace, may we be those kind of people!