God’s grace abounds for those who receive and activate it by faith. Grace is God’s part, and faith is our part. Of course our faith in God’s Son is critically important not only for our initial salvation, but for our entire walk with Him: a believer’s faith in Jesus Christ activates God’s exceedingly abundant grace minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
Many Scriptures speak of our faith releasing God’s grace, but I’ll just mention some from the book of Romans. Verse 16 from chapter four tells us the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring. Then Romans 5:2 tells us that God’s grace is accessed by our faith: through [Christ] we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. In Romans 1:16-17 Paul boasts that the gospel… is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… for in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (emphasis added).
Again, our part in this is faith, not works, “from first to last.” Even our obedience is by grace that comes from faith (see Romans 1:5 NIV).
Christian works follow our resting in Christ via our faith in what He accomplished on our behalf. The good news (gospel) is that everything God demands of us, He provides for us as activated by our faith in Christ. Christ Himself accomplishes the works of God through us, the members of His Body, according to our faith in Him.
Just as Paul used Abraham to illustrate that our righteousness comes by faith alone and not works, James used Abraham to illustrate that our faith is then made complete by what we do in faith: Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and that his faith was made complete by what he did…. You see that a person is made righteous by what he does and not by faith alone (James 2:21-22, 24).
Of course Scripture never contradicts itself; any apparent contradictions indicate we have more understanding to gain! James is NOT contradicting Paul’s statement that our righteousness is by faith alone “from first to last,” nor is James contradicting Jesus who taught that we are to rest and abide in Him and let Him bear the fruit (see Matt. 11:28-30; John 15:5-8).
Faith is the evidence of the unseen things we hope for (see Hebrews 11:1 NKJV); our faith activates God’s infinite grace, and makes what is already real in the spiritual realm become manifest in the physical realm. God’s will is accomplished on earth through His submitted servants’ faith in the risen Lord Jesus. James’ teachings on faith and deeds, taming of the tongue, and wisdom all lead up to his exhortation: Submit yourselves, then, to God… Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:7a, 8a, 10). Obviously, James is indicating that our faith-demonstrating works are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and not of our flesh; this is the only way that fresh water is produced through what used to be our salt spring (see 3:12).
It is through our intimacy with God that we truly know and rely on the extravagant love our Father has for us in His Son (see 1 John 4:10-16). It is by truly knowing and trusting Christ Jesus as the ever-present Way that we joyfully enter into His rest like Mary of Bethany and cease from worthless presumptuous “works” of our own like Martha (see Hebrews 4:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Luke 10:38-42).*
Therefore, it is our faith in Christ’s continuous ability to lead us that activates God’s abounding grace, transforming us into His image. This is how Christ is manifest in us! This is how we love one another deeply, from the heart (1 Peter 1:22b), with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18). This is how His kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is on heaven!
Filled with an inexpressible joy with you as our faith activates His grace, your sister deanna
*See previous posts “Resting in Christ,” “Be Still and Know that I Am God,” and “In Quietness and Trust is Your Strength.”