“I believe in God” or “I’m a person of faith” are common phrases, but it is a far different thing to say those words or hold such a feeling and quite another to live out a life committed to God. Here is why more is required.
“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
The above scripture tells us that as sinners, we can’t get to heaven by doing good deeds alone. We must truly believe in our hearts and minds in God and put Him first above all else in every way. Then, and only by his grace, shall we be saved.
The apostle Paul doubles down on this, writing:
“For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”
– Romans 3:28
In other words, we can’t earn our way into heaven only by being a “good person” and doing “good deeds” or not even by never breaking any of God’s commandments. If we don’t possess true faith in God, we shall not receive His grace and salvation.
“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
People often point to the above verse, claiming it contradicts Paul’s teaching on faith superseding works.
However, James also wrote this:
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”
– James 2:18
Gotquestions.org explains it this way: “James is not saying that our works make us righteous before God but that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. Works are not the cause of salvation; works are the evidence of salvation.”
“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
– James 2:19
As the biblical scholar Ellicott points out, you “may even declare your internal faith by external confession.”
James gets to the heart of the matter. Anyone can say they believe in God and declare themselves to be “a person of faith,” but belief alone does not suffice as complete faith.
James rightly points out that demons believe in God, they know He exists, and they fear Him. Yet, despite these things, they are in opposition to God’s will, laws, and aims of holiness and righteousness. In other words, they believe in God’s existence, but they don’t operate according to faith.
Ellicott explains James’ meaning of deeds as a result of faith as the need to be a believer and person of faith in the full sense: “only by those who love God, and who are not only Christians in name, but in deed and in life.”
One needs to live out their faith in their everyday deeds and thoughts as instructed by the Bible, walking in the ways shown by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus explained this well in The Parable of the Sower, there are those that hear the word of God, they may even understand it, but it never truly takes root in their heart. Other believers eventually get caught up in the affairs of the world and their walk with God becomes unfruitful. However, those with true faith bear fruit. Thus, Jesus makes the point that faith results in fruitful deeds.