Watchman Willie Martin Archive

Faith Without Works Is Dead

An issue that has been the subject of controversy in Christendom for decades is the subject of FAITH VERSUS WORKS. In the first place, it is absolutely essential to learn to walk by faith, for faith is requisite to finding favor with God. This is impossible where there is disbelief. To approach His Written Word in an attitude of skepticism has the immediate effect of erecting a roadblock in the way of understanding. Paul expressed it in well-put words when he said:

“Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

A Christian believes God without reservation. The old maxim states it concisely: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it!” On the other hand, those who manifest “the faith” will demonstrate their faith by their works. James had this thought in mind when he said:

“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. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 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. YE SEE THEN HOW THAT BY WORKS A MAN IS JUSTIFIED, AND NOT BY FAITH ONLY.” (James 2:18-24)

                                       The Essence of Faith

Stated simply, faith is the belief that engenders conviction and conviction energizes the believer into action. If a man insists that he has faith, but his conduct belies this claim, it becomes obvious that there is no strong spiritual persuasion engendering within him a fixed belief that motivates his actions irrespective of the burden of consequences. Paul stated:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

The apostle was stating, in effect, that faith is SUBSTANCE and faith is EVIDENCE. In fact, a marginal rendering gives this translation: “Now faith is the SUBSTANTIATING of things hoped for.” To substantiate is “to establish the existence or truth of something by proof or competent evidence.” Evidence in court is that which ascertains the truth in order to decide the case. All of these characteristics define what faith is.

                                           Faith and Works

A man of faith must act upon his convictions. If one truly believes, he cannot refrain from behaving accordingly, for THE ABSENCE OF WORKS BRINGS HIS FAITH INTO QUESTION.

Let us, therefore, focus our attention upon the relationship between faith and works. We obtain the salvation of our souls by faith, relying upon Christ as our Redeemer, Savior and King. We are not justified (i.e., made righteous) by works alone, but through faith in Yahshua, whose righteousness is imputed to all those who have been called by Yahweh and put their trust in Him, accepting the atonement He made for sin. As the result of His sacrifice, we are rescued from the penalty of sin, which is death, having the promise of eternal life. He has provided this for all those who believe in Him. Paul sums it up:

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Having taken this step, and having become convinced that Yahshua can do all that He has promised to do, the next step follows. The believer will then make every effort to obey all of His commandments and be obedient in regard to what is expected of him. Christ, Himself, said:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

This constitutes action on the believer’s part and this growth in grace inspires him to strive to overcome and gain the victory over self and the world. What, then, are the results flowing from faith and what is accomplished by works? Is faith opposed to works or is the opposite; works against faith, true? The rendering of James’ discussion by J.B. Phillips is very clear in answer to this question:

“To the man who thinks that faith by itself is enough I feel inclined to say, ‘so you believe that there is one god. That’s fine. So do all the devils in hell, and shudder in terror!’ For my dear shortsighted man, can’t you see far enough to realize that faith without the right actions is dead and useless? Think of Abraham, our ancestor. Wasn’t it his action which really justified him in Yahweh’s sight when his faith led him to offer his son Isaac on the altar? Can’t you see that his faith and his actions were, so to speak, partners; that his faith was implemented by his deed?”

                                       Walking In The Way

It must not be overlooked that, when we have by faith accepted the call and accepted Christ as our Savior and obtained the assurance of eternal life, we have entered THE WAY. The road the believe is then called upon to travel is a way of self-denial in conformity with the rest of discipleship given by Yahshua:

“He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and come take up his cross daily , and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Paul stated:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections [passions] and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

This is the way in which the overcomer must walk. First, the believer reiterates Paul’s affirmation:

“I know whom I have believed [trusted], and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Then, because he who would truly overcome must also strive to attain the higher calling, he must, along with Paul, be able to say:

“But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” (1 Corinthians 9:27)

The Phillips translation is:

“I run the race then with determination. I am no shadow boxer; I really fight! I am my body’s sternest master, for fear that when I have preached to others I should myself be disqualified.”

Ferror Fenton relates:

“But instead, I train my body and lead a slave’s life; for fear that, after having trained others, I myself should be disapproved.”

                                        The High Road

Paul was not fearful of being a castaway as far as eternal life is concerned; he knew he had that promise as the result of his reliance upon Christ as his Savior. He was greatly concerned, nevertheless, lest he fall short of being counted worthy of the higher calling. (See “The Prize Set Before Us,” Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, MA 01860-0177)

This is the prize set before every Christian for, having the assurance of eternal life, he must labor unceasingly to overcome the world and its temptations. Paul explained in the 8th chapter of Romans that those who overcome may look forward to being “joint-heirs with Christ,” but there is a stringent qualification:

“If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)

Yahshua said:

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We can do no less than emulate to the best of our ability as Christians the example Yahshua gave us as He walked among men upon the earth and became the greatest Overcome of all time. Rewards, then, will be according to the outcome of the conflict as we earnestly contend for our faith and substantiate it in our lives by our works. Paul recognized the necessity to run the race and strive to gain the prize. Prefacing his statement concerning the need to keep his body under subjection, he said:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air. (1 Corinthians 9:24‑26)

The incorruptible crown to which Paul alludes is the prerogative to reign with Yahshua and not many, comparatively speaking, will win this greatest of all gifts. We find that this was uppermost in Paul’s mind at all times as he devoted all of his faculties toward the attainment of perfection:

“Not that I have secured it yet, or already reached perfection, but I am pressing on to see if I can capture it, because I have been captured by Jesus Christ. Brothers, I do not consider that I have captured it yet, only, forgetting what is behind me, and straining toward what lies ahead, I am pressing toward the goal, for the prize to which God through Christ Jesus calls us upward.” (Philippians 3:12-14, Smith & Goodspeed Translation)

The King James version renders the fourteenth verse of this quotation:

“ press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

                                       Essential Foundation

The Scriptures make it very clear that we do not have to struggle to obtain eternal life; it is the free gift of God to all who put their trust in their Savior. However, above and beyond eternal life is the higher plane of immortality, which is a state of being reserved for those who gain the victory and reach the goal of the overcomer. (See “by the Renewal of Your Mind,” Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, MA 01860-0177)

It is nevertheless true that no one may enter the contest for the highest of all callings until he has taken the first step and received salvation through Yahshua. This is the foundation upon which the Christian can build and grow in spiritual living. Therefore, Paul said:

“According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11)

Having laid the foundation; salvation through Yahshua, our building is the result of our labors and works. Paul pointed out:

“Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble.” (1 Corinthians 3:12)

The kind of building erected is determined by the individual’s selection of materials; that is, his works. The value of our labors in serving Yahweh may be small or great, for this will be according to the choices made by the Christian. Are we growing in grace and spiritual understanding, molding character in conformity with the requirements of His Written Word or are we catering to worldly pleasures, pursuing “fun and game?” Are we yielding to the pressures and temptations around us and succumbing to the “cares of this life?” Yahweh’s warning words were never more germane than they are today:

“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Paul went on to explain:

“Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15)

Then Paul issued the following admonition:

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

                                    The Garments of Victory

The way to salvation is so simple that a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err in finding it. (Isaiah 35:8) However, after receiving our call, accepting Yahshua as our Savior, and then taking our stand as a Christian (a follower of Yahshua), it is immediately essential to put on the full armor of God. The reason is stated:

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

The J.B. Phillips translation is extremely thought-provoking:

“For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.”

Again; and it is unfortunate that this is so, multitudes of Christians have only put on the helmet of salvation and have undertaken no training in order to be able to wield the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Is it any wonder that they fail again and again in the conflict as Satan doubles and redoubles his attacks against them?

The way of the overcomer is not easy; it means MAXIMUM EFFORT and the one who would win the proffered prize must indeed don the WHOLE armor of God. Then, when the victory is won and the goal attained, he will exchange his battle-worn armor for the bright garments Yahshua has already made arrangements for those to wear who will be chosen to be in His retinue in the coming New Order of the Ages.

As published in the pamphlet, “By the Renewal of Your Mind:”

“The words of the Prophet Daniel come to mind, for he was referring to the resurrection to come when he prophesied:

“‘Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contemp.’ (Daniel 12:2)

“Then he stated specifically:

“‘And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament: and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)

Daniel was referring in the main to the exalted position that will be occupied by the wise and the righteous, but the degree of brightness in the clothing, or uniform, worn in the service of the King of Glory is also implied here. The question arises: Will the extent of the color and brightness of the light in which each will be clothed reveal the rank of the official position of the one so attired? It goes without saying that grade and rank in that army (Revelation 19:11-14) will be distinguished as readily by the type of uniform worn as is true in any earthly army. The radiant display, as this August company winds its way to earth will be beyond description.

                                    Inheriting The Kingdom

When Paul came to the conclusion of his presentation of the fact of Yahshua’s resurrection and the order and method of the coming phenomena called the First Resurrection, he made this unequivocal pronouncement:

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1 Corinthians 15:50)

To inherit means to become an heir and the inheritance is possession of the Kingdom of God (an attainment that comprises far more than entrance alone into the Kingdom as a citizen). Those who receive the crown of rulership will be directly associated with Yahshua in His reign over the restored Kingdom. Paul defined the change that will bring immortality to those who qualify. They will then know what the Apostle John meant by his statement:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)

While Paul was very positive in his declaration that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, he was just as decisive in suggesting conversely that “flesh and bone” will inherit the Kingdom, for his very next statements were:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-54)

When we turn to the Book of Revelation, John informs us:

“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)

In the previous chapter it is shown that a special blessing is pronounced upon those privileged ones who are invited to be present at the Marriage Supper:

“And he saith unto me, Write Blessed are they which are called into the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19-9)

Yahshua confirmed to John that it is the overcomers who will inherit all things:

“And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.” (Revelation 21:6-7)

                                           The Chosen Few

The race that is entered by the overcomer requires unstinted work; it requires wholehearted effort; it requires self-denial without reservation in order to win through to victory.

James said:

“For as the body without the spirit [breath] is dead, so faith without works is dead also ... Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him shew out of a good conversation [behavior] his works with meekness of wisdom.” (James 2:26; 3:13)

Salvation is free, with its gift of eternal life, or life everlasting, but a price must be paid in spiritual toil, sweat and tears if one is to gain the crown of immortality. It is not a reward that is promiscuously given; it is reversed for the few. Only those whose works have kept pace with their faith can finally say with Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7-8:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (Taken, in part, from a booklet titled “Faith Without Works Is Dead,” by Howard B. Rand, Destiny Publishers, Merrimac, Massachusetts 01860-0177)

Reference Materials