Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
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.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
Faith, if it hath not works, is dead
By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God
There is a famous debate in the Christian world, whether our works are necessary for us to be saved or not. Surely none of us believe that we “earn” our way into heaven, but doesn’t God expect something from us? James tells us that “faith without works is dead,” which suggests that works are necessary for the cultivation of faith, if nothing else. Meanwhile Paul told the Ephesians that they were saved by grace through faith (which remember James says exists by our works), though he stressed that that only came as a “gift from God.”
It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do
But rather than debate about which of these scriptures is wrong, why not accept that both of them can be true? Going back to our farmer analogy, the sower needs to do his part to plow the soil, plant the seed, and fend off the weeds, but still he depends on God to bring the rain, prevent the early frost, and divert the insects and diseases. More than anything he depends on God to even put the miracle of growth into the seed to begin with.
We do need to do our part. We need that sense of having put in our all. We need to try and fail and try again and feel ourselves becoming better. We need to overcome, surmount, and triumph.
And then, after all that, we need to be in awe of the fact that none of it is enough without grace. Our obedience is simply how we open the door to allow for God’s grace to bring us to heaven. And who appreciates the grace of God more than those who run out all their strength, falls short, and then feel God carry them the rest of the way? That is faith and grace.