Sola Fide or Faith Alone is a most blessed Reformation statement based on Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” But is faith without works? James 2:17 says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
Is salvation by faith alone or is it by works also? The answer is straightforward and simple: Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is a faith that is alive, not dead. Faith and works are two sides of the same coin with a distinction—whereas faith is the root of salvation, works is the fruit of salvation.
This is an important distinction lest we fall into the error of Roman Catholicism which says that it is not faith alone that saves, works must be added into the equation (ie faith + works = salvation). This is no different from what the heretics in Paul’s day taught, which Paul in no uncertain terms condemned as “another gospel” (Gal 1:8–9, heteron euangelion).
The gospel truth which saves is this: Genuine faith (for there is such a thing as false faith) that brings salvation will surely produce a transformed life that is godly and good (faith = salvation + works). Good works come after one is saved, not before.
What then is the evidence of genuine faith? It is the obedient reception of God’s Word that results in a changed life that glorifies God.
Slow to Speak
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas 1:19). James says that genuine faith is evinced by being “swift to hear, slow to speak”. This is already taught in the wisdom books of Scripture. With regard to hearing, Proverbs 1:5 says, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning: And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” Proverbs 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” Proverbs 19:20, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.” Psalm 62:11, “God hath spoken once; twice have I heard….” “Silence is golden” is good advice.
With regard to speaking, we have Proverbs 10:19, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 13:3, “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” Proverbs 17:27–28, “He that hath knowledge spareth his words: … Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 21:23, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
Ecclesiastes 5:1–2 says, “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” True believers go to church, with a sensitive ear to receive and not a dismissive heart to resist the Scriptures when read or preached.
Slow to Anger
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (Jas 1:20). Anger is often a precursor to wickedness. An angry man speaks on the basis of how he feels. He does not think before he speaks, nor does he listen to what others have to say. His outbursts are often without reason and he becomes very unreasonable. Calvin says that anger prevents a person from hearing God’s Word—“God cannot be heard except when the mind is calm and sedate.”
“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (Jas 1:21). A believing man should be a gentle man, and not a brutal man. He is not proud but humble and meek. One evidence of faithlessness is this constant anger and resentment one has towards God or His Word especially when truth is preached and sin is rebuked. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word (rhema) of God.” (Rom 10:17). A faithless or an unfaithful man who is proud and conceited will not hear the rhema—the Word preached.
Hear and Obey
“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” (Jas 1:22). God is not only concerned that we hear His Word, He also demands that we do His Word. Mind and heart and hands must be involved in the reception of God’s Word. The exercise of listening to, believing in, and obeying God’s Word is an ongoing one. It does not stop. The food that we eat is converted into energy. The sanctification process is likewise.
If we only hear and do not do, we are deceiving ourselves. The word paralogizomai, “to deceive,” is used in Colossians 2:4 to speak of false teachers who deceive their hearers by seduction, “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words.” These are false teachers—“grievous wolves [who] enter in…not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). We deceive ourselves by becoming our own false teachers. This happens when we think it is enough to hear God’s Word without obeying it.
“For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (Jas 1:23–24). The word “behold” (katanoeo) means more than just a mere seeing. It means “to consider closely,” or “to understand completely”. This person who goes to the mirror, he goes there to inspect his face. He sees and knows his face is dirty; yet he convinces himself that it is clean when it is not. This is self-delusion at its height.
“But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” (Jas 1:25). The hearer and doer of the Word is the one who “bends over to look closely” (parakupto), who takes the time and trouble to study the Scriptures carefully, and having studied it, sticks closely to it. He seeks to observe every minute detail of the law of God. And the law of God is not a law of bondage, but a law of freedom. It is a law which sets one free from the bondage of sin when it is humbly received and obediently kept. Blessed is the man who is a doer of the law. The same beatitude is expressed in Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
Not Form but Faith
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (Jas 1:26). The word “seems” here is the Greek dokei which means “to appear”. It refers to a man who appears religious (ie outwardly). The word “religious” (threskos) speaks of the outward form of religion. This form-based religion is only a show. It is deceptive and empty—“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim 3:5).
Hence, a man’s spirituality is not measured by the length or eloquence of his speech or prayer (cf Matt 23:14), but in his ability to control his tongue to speak the good and not evil. Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” (Luke 6:45).
True religion is not a form of words, but a faith that works, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Jas 2:26). “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt 11:15). JK
CHILDREN’S DAY OUTING
The Children’s Sunday School had an outing to the Marina Barrage on Children’s Day, Oct 7. 22 children and 21 adults, comprising family and teachers, gathered outdoors on the green roof of the Marina Barrage for a time of learning of God’s Word, recreation and fellowship over a picnic.
There are many things to thank God for. We had been praying fervently for God to withhold the rain in light of the heavy downpours in recent days, particularly in the mornings. Our faithful God showed His favour upon us and sent us fine weather that morning. We are truly grateful to the Lord for answering our prayers so that we were able to sing praises to Him and hear the teaching of His Word in nice and cool weather. The children were exhorted from Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them”. We also thank God for providing for us a good spot that was conducive for our activities, before the crowds came.
After the Bible lesson, the children (and adults) had fun with kite-flying and other activities. Praise and thanks be to God for holding up the good weather, which made it possible for all to have an enjoyable time. God’s timing was perfect, and His loving watch over His children was evident. It was only after the Word was taught and the children had the opportunity to play, that dark rain clouds were noticed in the distance. We thank God that with the help of the parents, teachers and children, we were able to quickly move all our mats, belongings and food items to under the shelter where we could enjoy a blessed time of fellowship over the picnic before the heavy rain eventually came.
We thank God for all the parents and teachers who lovingly prepared and contributed food for the picnic. Most importantly, we give all praise, thanks and glory unto God for His bountiful blessings upon us as we experienced His goodness, care and wonderful provision. It is our prayer that the children will remember the Word of God that they have heard, and remember their Creator now while they are young, and continue to cling to Him even as they grow up. Joycelyn Chng
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