I was recently asked, “I am a little confused as to the relationship between faith and works in the Free Grace understanding. My own understanding is that faith naturally has a corresponding action. It’s not that the action proves or adds anything to salvation, but that grace-born trust in Jesus could not fail to be accompanied by some corresponding activity emerging from the trusting heart. Doesn’t faith necessarily produce good works? And if not, why not?”
The answer is fairly simple: in between faith and good works there is a little thing called the will.
Just because you believe something is true, doesn’t mean you will necessarily choose to act on that truth. In that case, your failure to act is not a failure of faith, but of the will.
For example, take James 2. Imagine being faced with a brother or sister in Christ who is hungry, needs a job, or needs a place to stay. You believe a number of things about his or her situation—e.g., that God has commanded you to love your neighbors, that your neighbors need help, and that it would be good to help them. You may even believe that God will reward you for helping.
And yet, despite these beliefs, you choose to ignore the needy brother and spend your money eating out at a restaurant.
Why did your faith not produce good works? It was not a failure of faith, but of choosing. You didn’t do, because you chose not to act on those beliefs.
Faith and works are connected. But they are connected by the will.
Of course, you should choose to act on your faith and apply Bible doctrine to your life. You should choose to live consistently with your beliefs. You should do things like love your neighbor. But that is a moral imperative, not a causal necessity. In other words, it is a choice you must make. As Joshua challenged the Israelites, “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15).
Shawn Lazar lives in Denton, TX, with his wife Abby and their three children.