From the book “Rightly Dividing the Word”, by Clarence Larkin, 1920
We hear a great deal about “Faith” and “Works.” Some say we are saved by “Faith” alone, others make a great deal of “Works.” Some say that both are necessary to salvation for the same reason that a bird cannot fly without two wings, or that you cannot make progress in a boat without two oars. One quotes Paul, who says– “That a man is justified by FAITH, WITHOUT THE DEEDS OF THE LAW” (Ro 3:28), the other quotes James, who says– “Ye see then how that by WORKS a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Jas 2:24. But the Apostle James is not speaking of the “Doctrine of JUSTIFICATION,” but of a man justifying himself before men. The illustration he uses is that of Abraham offering up his son Isaac. Abraham was a man of faith, but the only way he could make it visible to the men of his generation was by his WORKS, so God commanded him to offer up his son Isaac. Ge 22:1-2. Abraham’s works had nothing to do with his salvation, but simply bore witness to his faith, for Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. Jas 2:21-26.
So great was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise as to Isaac being the one through whom the promised seed was to come, that he believed that if he offered him up as commanded, that God would raise him from the dead. Heb 11:17-19. In like manner Rabab’s faith was justified or made visible by her works when she tied the “Scarlet Cord” in her window. Jos 2:15-21. And to show the relation of “Works” to “Faith” the Apostle ends by saying– “For as the `body’ without the `spirit’ is dead, so faith without `works’ is dead also,” that is, is DEAD FAITH, for if a man does not make his faith visible by his works it is a question whether he has any faith at all.
Now it is noteworthy that the Apostle Paul uses this same incident of Abraham offering up his son Isaac to prove that Abraham was justified by “Faith” without “Works.”
“If Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; BUT NOT BEFORE GOD. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham BELIEVED GOD, and it was COUNTED UNTO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Ro 4:2-3; Ge 15:6. So we see that it was Abraham’s “Faith” that justified him before GOD, and his “Works” that justified him before MEN.
But I think I hear some one ask– “Does not the Bible say– That we are to `WORK OUT OUR OWN SALVATION?'” Yes, the Apostle Paul in writing to the Philippians says– “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is GOD WHO WORKETH IN YOU both to will and to do His good pleasure.” Php 2:12-13. But a man cannot work out what he has not got. He must first have “Salvation” before he can work it out. Paul was writing to the “Saints” at Philippi, to those who were already saved. The doctrine the Apostle desired to express was that “Salvation” included more than the mere escape from the “Penalty of Sin,” it meant also escape from the “Power” and “Presence of Sin,” and this meant that they must work or strive with “fear and trembling” to overcome indwelling sin, for it was God who would work in them, if they would let Him, to make the fruits of Salvation complete in their lives. So we see that we are saved by “Faith” and not by “Works,” but “Works” have their place in the Believer’s life as we shall see.
The Bible definition of “Faith” is– “Faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for, the EVIDENCE of things not seen” (Heb 11:1), and in the remaining verses of the chapter the Apostle illustrates his definition by the conduct of the Old Testament worthies that he names. I hold in my hand a check, it is the substance (on paper) of the money I hope to get when I cash it, and the evidence (in black and white) of the money that I have not as yet seen.
One of the most remarkable illustrations of “Faith” in the Scriptures is that of the Prophet Jeremiah when he was told to purchase the “Field of Anathoth.” Jer 32:6-44. At first sight it seems to be the wildest real estate speculation on record. Jeremiah had just prophesied that the Children of Israel were to be carried away into captivity to Babylon for 70 years, then why should he purchase the “Field of Anathoth,” for he would not live to return and claim it, and probably none of his relatives would. But to show his faith in the Divine promise that at the end of the “Seventy Years” the Children of Israel would return and claim their possessions, he tells us that he paid the money for the “Field,” and took the “evidences of the purchase” or deeds, and put them in an earthen vessel. Why in an earthen vessel? Because an iron vessel would have rusted, or a wooden vessel decayed in the “Seventy Years.” Now we learn from this transaction that Faith is an INVESTMENT IN THE DIVINE PROMISES.
This is beautifully illustrated in the lives of the Old Testament patriarchs. Noah invested in the “Divine Promise” when he built the Ark. Abraham invested in the “Divine Promise” when he left his home at Ur and journeyed to Canaan, and when his beloved Sarah died, he bought the “Cave of Machpelah” to bury her in rather than take her remains back to Ur of the Chaldees, because he believed the promise that his seed should inherit the Land of Canaan forever. Jacob invested in the same “Divine Promise,” when on his deathbed in Egypt lie charged his sons to carry his body back to Canaan and entomb it in the “Cave of Machpelah.” Ge 49:29-31. And Joseph did the same when he took an oath of his brethren that they would carry his bones back with them when they returned to Canaan. Ge 50:24-26. Moses invested in the same “Promise” when by faith, when he was come to years, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to stiffer affliction with the people of God, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense of reward, for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. Heb 11:23-27.
As Christians we should invest in the “Divine Promises” as to our PRESENT SALVATION. There are three elements in “saving faith.” (1). KNOWLEDGE. A man cannot believe in something he knows nothing about. (2). BELIEF. A man may know about a thing but not believe in it. (3). DEPENDENCE. A man may know about a thing and believe in it, and yet put no dependence on it. To illustrate, you are on a sinking ship, a lifeboat puts out from the shore and approaches the ship unknown to you. Some one tells you of the lifeboat, that is knowledge. You watch the lifeboat as it carries load after load of passengers safely to the shore and you are convinced of its saving power, that is belief. But your knowledge of the existence of the lifeboat, and your belief in its ability to save you, will not save you unless you get in the boat and depend on it to save you, that is FAITH.
Let us take a promise of Christ as to the PRESENT SALVATION of the Believer.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that HEARETH MY WORD (Knowledge), and BELIEVETH ON HIM that sent me (Faith), HATH (not will have some time) EVERLASTING LIFE, and shall not come into condemnation (judgment); but IS PASSED from death to LIFE.” Joh 5:24.
Now can you invest in that promise of Christ as to your heavenly inheritance like Abraham, Jacob and Joseph did as to their earthly inheritance? If so you have saving faith.
But you say I do not feel saved. Well, I do not know that when a man receives the “Title Deed” to a property that he has any peculiar sensation or feeling about it. It is not feeling but the “Title Deed” that evidences his right to the property. You cannot expect interest (feeling) until you have invested the principal, and then you have to wait until the interest is due. Feeling does not come first. Feeling is not the root, faith is the root, feeling is the FRUIT. See the diagram, Feeling is the Fruit not the Root of Salvation.
We must not only invest in the “Divine Promises” as to our Salvation, but we must TRAFFIC in them, conduct our Christian work and service in dependence on them. If God has promised to supply all our need in Christian Service “according to HIS RICHES IN GLORY” (Php 4:19), then let us bank on that promise and we will never lack the means to carry on His work.
While a Christian is not saved by “Works,” he is to be rewarded for his “works.” “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels; and then He shall reward every man ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS.” Mt 16:27. Believers will be rewarded at the “Judgment Seat of Christ.” “For we (Believers) must all appear before the `Judgment Seat of Christ;’ that every one may receive the things DONE IN HIS BODY (that is while he was alive), according to that he hath done, whether it be GOOD or BAD.” 2Co 5:10.
The character of these works must be Christian. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is JESUS CHRIST. Now if any man build upon this foundation (with) gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day (Judgment Day) shall declare it, because it shall be revealed BY FIRE; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a REWARD. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer LOSS; but he himself SHALL BE SAVED; yet so as by fire.” 1Co 3:11-15.
We see from this that even the works of the Believer are not all good or worthy of reward. Some may have been done with the wrong motive, or the “Hireling Spirit,” and they shall be consumed as wood, hay and stubble, while the good works, likened unto gold, silver, and precious stones, will pass through the “fiery test” untarnished. The rewards that will be given are “crowns.” See the account of the “Judgment Seat of Christ” in the chapter on “The Judgments.”
Such “works” as “penance,” “crucifixion of the flesh,” “fastings,” etc., done for the purpose of winning merit, are not counted on the balance sheet of works. The sad feature of the “Judgment of Rewards” is, that while those whose works are burned up are SAVED, they must remain rewardless, and therefore crownless, for all eternity.