SDA Sabbath School Lessons
Thursday July 11, 1996

Works of Faith
(John 3:20,21)

Jesus concluded His interview with Nicodemus by contrasting the evil deeds of those who refuse to come to Him with the good deeds of those who accept Him as Saviour and Lord. "For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God" (John 3:20, 21, RSV). "Wrought in God" means that the good works of Christian believers are performed only through the power of Christ. Those whose sins are forgiven and who are experiencing the gift of Christ's righteousness have the power of the Holy Spirit to do works that are acceptable in the sight of God.

Note the contrast in the New Testament Epistles between "works of law" and "works of faith":

Paul doesn't oppose works of obedience to God's law, and James doesn't oppose the truth of righteousness by faith alone. When Paul speaks of "deeds of the law" (Rom 3:20, KJV) or "works of law" (Rom. 3:20, RSV), he is referring to works performed apart from God to earn His favor. James speaks of works that result from faith, works that have been "done through God" (John 3:2 1, NIV).

Like James, Paul praises works of faith (Rom. 2:13; 3:31; 8:4). Like Paul, James believes in righteousness and salvation by faith (grace) alone. James's point is not that we earn righteousness by works but that living faith always results in works of obedience to God's will. "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:17, RSV). Abraham was indeed justified by faith (grace) alone (Rom. 3:21-30; Gal. 2:16), but his faith led him to obedience to God's law (Rom. 3:3 1; compare Gen. 26:5). James says: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altars" (James 2:2 1, RSV). James is not contradicting Paul. Abraham's faith, which alone resulted in God's gift of righteousness to him, was living faith because He was willing to obey God's commands. His works demonstrated the faith by which he was justified.

When do our works cease to be works of faith and become works of law? How can we solve the problem?