“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” Galatians 5:6
During the reign of Oliver Cromwell and the Roundheads, the British government began to run low on silver coins. So Lord Cromwell sent a detachment of soldiers to a local cathedral to see if they could find any silver. After conducting a search the soldiers returned and reported that the statues of the saints standing in the corners of the church were made of silver. Cromwell was delighted, and exclaimed, “Good! We’ll melt down the saints and put them in circulation!”
Now, although it wasn’t Cromwell’s intention to make a theological statement, what he said is excellent theology. His brief but direct order states the basic goal of authentic Christianity. It’s practical theology at its best. For we were never meant to be silver saints adorning cathedrals and churches, but melted saints circulating through the mainstream of humanity. That’s essential. One of the top priorities for a believer is to be in circulation – to be working out his or her faith in the world.
It isn’t always like that. There are so-called Christians who substitute words for deeds. They have a profession of faith without practising the faith. They believe their words are as good as works. They use Christian jargon, but their walk doesn’t measure up to their talk.
When this is the case, it’s nothing more than dead faith. For a purely intellectual experience has never been, and will never be enough. There are no two ways about it. The genuineness of a person’s salvation is evidenced by what a person does, and not by what a person says (cf. 1 John 3:17-18). Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life, and corresponding good works, is a false declaration. As John Calvin wrote, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.” Simply knowing theology or doctrine, and being able to quote Scripture or recite prayers, will never get you to heaven. Without good works you can have all the right spiritual words in the world and you’ll have nothing more than a counterfeit faith. For if a person professes Christ as Lord and Saviour and yet lives a life that doesn’t honour and obey Him, then such a person is a fraud.
James gets right to the point saying, “If you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, ‘Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!’ and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup – where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?” The Message.
That’s straight talk. Separate faith and works and you get a corpse. For the Bible has consistently taught that a profession of faith without sanctification is dead faith. Yes, knowing without acting on God’s Word, is simply proof of a false discipleship and nothing more. “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” Galatians 5:6. No wonder Jesus warned that “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matthew 7:21.
There you have it. Faith must be demonstrated. Words must be backed up by works. Faith is not a luxury; it’s something which, at the cost of effort, toil, discipline and sacrifice, must be turned into the stuff of life. For there is nothing more dangerous than intellectual assent with no attempt to put it into action. As John MacArthur says, “The church today desperately needs to recognize and deal with the soul-damning idea that mere acknowledgement of the gospel facts as being true is sufficient for salvation. We must clearly and forcefully counter the deception and delusion that knowing and accepting the truth about Jesus Christ is equivalent to having saving faith in Him.”
Now that’s not to say that we’re saved by works, far from it! We know that no one can be saved by works (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9); but equally, no one can be saved without producing works (cf. Ephesians 4:11-13). William Barclay puts it this way, “We are not saved by deeds; we are saved for deeds; these are the twin truths of the Christian life.”
So let’s make sure our thoughts are turned into deeds. As believers we must bear much fruit (cf. John 15:8). For in God’s economy, we must be melted saints in circulation.