Faith and Works
Text: Matthew 25 : 31 - 46
Paul, the master-theologian wrote most skillfully about the doctrine of salvation in many of his epistles. We must not think that Paul focused on the theological exposition of the doctrine of salvation. He made sure that he struck a proper balance with reference to practical expressions of genuine faith. Let us consider what he wrote about “works” in the life of the professing believer.
“This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm
constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful
to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable
And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet
urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”
TITUS 3:8, 14
James would agree wholeheartedly with Paul’s emphasis. In his general epistle, he wrote,
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…”
Strengthening his thoughts further, James went on to argue that faith must lead a person to produce fruitful works, or else that profession of faith is vain.
“You believe that there is one God. You do well.
Even the demons believe – and tremble!
But do you want to know, O foolish man,
that faith without works is dead?
Do you see that faith was working together with his works,
and by works faith was made perfect?
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works
is dead also.”
JAMES 2:19-20, 22, 26
AN APPRECIATION OF THE JUDGMENT THAT JESUS GAVE
As we look at what Jesus said in commendation of “the sheep”, we might misread the text to mean that Jesus is admitting people into heaven by their works! Only a careful reading of this text, in combination with other texts found in the Scriptures would yield the correct interpretation. Jesus was not advocating salvation by works, for that would be contradictory to His purpose of dying on the Cross of Calvary as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (Cf. John 1:29).
The commendation of the good and kind works of “the sheep” must be read against the backdrop of first having found faith in Jesus as Saviour. The focus on “works” is not without significance. He emphasized works as “fruit” or proof of genuine faith in Him. He who professed faith in Jesus must indeed take care that he maintains good works (Cf. Titus 3:8).
Let us now look at the commendation that Jesus gave to “the sheep”.
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food;
I was thirsty and you gave Me drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you visited Me;
I was in prison and you came to Me.”
The faith of “the sheep” was not mentioned, it was simply assumed. The deeds mentioned in this text represent the fruit of faith. Let us ponder what the apostle Paul wrote concerning the concept of faith leading to good works.
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil.
Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another
with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another,
not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly
in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints;
given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you;
Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice,
and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward
This list of things is not even exhaustive! However it served a special purpose. There must not just be a profession of faith. Genuine faith in the Lord must lead a person to bear fruit, as expressed in the text above!
Jesus’ list of things was not exhaustive either! He was just citing some examples of the good deeds done by those who had acknowledged Him as Shepherd. But of course they must have accepted Him as their Good Shepherd, for how else can they be called His sheep. He, the Good Shepherd, knew who His sheep were. He knew each sheep by name. His sheep recognize His voice and they follow Him (Cf. John 10).
HAVE WE BEEN MINDFUL OF MAINTAINING GOOD WORKS?
While good works cannot bring about salvation (for we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus), we must find ourselves naturally given to doing good deeds. There should be a heart that cares for others in need! The plight of the unfortunate and the under-privileged should touch our hearts deeply, causing us to respond appropriately. Deeds prove the genuineness of our profession of faith!