The Fruitful Union: How Faith and Good Works Intersect in Our Walk with Christ
Our good works are the inevitable fruit of our union with Christ, not the root. We do good works not in order to be saved (or find acceptance with God) but because we are saved. But it is also true that faith without works is a dead faith. In his epistle, James asserts that a faith devoid of works is lifeless, akin to a body without a spirit (James 2:26). This stark metaphor captures the reality that genuine faith, when united to Christ, must inevitably produce good works as a natural consequence of that union. A faith that fails to produce such works, therefore, is not merely incomplete but is indicative of a deeper issue – that the faith is spurious, not joined to Christ.
1 John 3:9 states, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God." Notice the "why". It is because he has been born of God .. God's seed abides in Him. Here, John explains that those who are truly united with Christ, having been born of God, will not habitually engage in sinful behavior. The reason for this, as John points out, is the presence of God's seed within the believer – the transformative power of the Holy Spirit that alters the very nature of the individual.
Paul's teachings in his letter to the Ephesians provide a foundational definition of faith: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Here, Paul emphasizes that salvation is a gift of God's grace, received through faith and not by works. However, in Ephesians 2:10, Paul also acknowledges the vital role of good works in the life of a believer: "For we are his workmanship, created IN CHRIST JESUS for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (emphasis mine). This verse demonstrates that Paul, like James and John, believes that genuine faith, when united to Christ, will naturally produce good works. There are no good works to be spoken of outside of Christ Jesus. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
Imagine a fountain with a constant flow of water representing God's grace. The water fills a basin, symbolizing our faith, which then overflows into smaller basins, symbolizing our good works. This illustration demonstrates that it is the overflow of grace received through faith that leads to the natural production of good works. Good works are not the source of the water, but rather a natural consequence of the overflowing grace.