What Does the Bible Say About Faith and Works?
Updated: Jan 17
Faith and works, or deeds, are interconnected in the Bible. So while it's impossible to enter Heaven without faith in Jesus, it's equally impossible to follow Jesus on earth without doing His work. So, likewise, our deeds connect to our rewards in Heaven.
Faith is about what we believe. Works are what we do with what we believe. Both faith and works are addressed throughout the Old and New Testaments. For example, they are found in Genesis through Revelation.
While there is variability in how many times faith and works appear in different Bible versions, they are central concepts to our faith. And faith and works appear with approximately the same frequency. For example, the King James Version mentions "faith" 247 times, while "works & deeds" combined are mentioned 288 times.
Perhaps God is telling us not to neglect faith or works in our walk with Him.
5 Bible Verses About Faith
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
John 3:16 is arguably the best-known of all scriptures related to faith. Why? Because in one sentence, God reveals
how much He loves His creation,
what He was willing to sacrifice for it,
the fate of those who either believe in His Son or not.
"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6
I selected this verse because it illustrates something about God's character. God values faith, our belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that He rewards those whose trust is in Him. Remember when Jesus appeared to Thomas after he doubted that He had returned. Thomas was thrilled when he saw Jesus, who said, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29
Frankly, the disciples had a distinct advantage over you and me. They lived and traveled with Jesus. They were first-hand witnesses to His signs and miracles.
But imagine how devastating it must have been to their faith immediately after they crucified Jesus. They no longer saw the Man they believed in. However, once Jesus conquers death and returns to His disciples, their faith is restored, and they go on to do great works. Now the disciples see and believe. But we are left to have faith without seeing.
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9
The reward of faith is the free gift of God's grace. We didn't work for it; we didn't deserve it. Remember, even if we believe in Jesus, we are still sinners. Our inability to keep God's Law forever disqualifies us from entering Heaven. However, God's gift is the Son, who sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes on our (believers') behalf. Our salvation is given freely, a by-product of our faith.
"He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." Matthew 17:20
Once we believe in Jesus, the question becomes, "how much do we believe?" Some people think Jesus used hyperbole, and the mountain is an exaggerated metaphor for life problems. But the more I study His Word, the more I wonder if He was serious! "Nothing will be impossible for you" is a bold statement from God Himself!
"In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17
Here we find the merger between faith and works. James understood the progression of faith. He knew that faith was a growth process. From initial belief in Jesus to expanding faith in Him, all believers must translate their belief into action at some point.
Failing to "do something" relegates the believer to the evangelical sidelines. They become content as spectators, watching others deny themselves as they pick up their crosses and do the works of the Spirit.
The consequence of "faith-only" Christianity is lukewarm faith. The believer no longer feels the "fire within" to repent, change their ways, and carry God's message to the world. Instead, they can quickly become lukewarm Christians and, in time, "nones" in faith.
5 Bible Verses About Works or Deeds
"And He said to them, 'What things?' And they said to Him, 'The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people.'" Luke 24:19
Do you remember this scripture? After Jesus had risen from the grave, two men walked on the road to Emmaus. As they talked about all the things that happened, Jesus joined them (they didn't recognize Him) and asked, "What things?" Without the things Jesus did, His deeds and words, we could never see Heaven. Once we have faith in Him, His deeds become ours to carry on. This is our cross to bear.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16
If we have seen the Light and believe, we are called to be the light in the world. Our good works are our way of glorifying our Father in Heaven. I suppose one can sit on the sidelines in the comfort of their easy chair and encourage their brothers and sisters to get in the fight! But that's not what Jesus did. He took on the world by Himself. He's asking each of us, "What have you done for me lately?"
God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continued to help them." Hebrews 6:10
This verse is important because it reminds us that God sees our works. So we raise our hand and say, here I am, Lord, if You need me! What can I do to shine Your light? If you do this, at least four things happen
God will give you something(s) meaningful and purposeful to do
You will move from lukewarm to on-fire
You will feel God's love, joy, and peace
God will assure you that He will not forget what you are doing.
"I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance..." Revelation 2:2
In the final book, Revelation, Jesus tells the Apostle John what to write to the seven churches. In this verse, He is writing to the Church of Ephesus. This church was doing good deeds and working hard, but Jesus reminded them to remember their first love. This is a reminder for us all. In our good works and deeds, never forget the importance of love.
"Then I heard a voice from Heaven say, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them." Revelation 14:13
Isn't that reassuring? Jesus is telling you and me that we are blessed when we die. We rest in His assurance that our deeds and hard work will be rewarded because we believed in Him and did His work. Thank you, Lord!
The Bible has much to say about faith and works. The critical takeaway is that both are important if we are following Jesus. Faith in Jesus is required before salvation, but works or deeds follow after one is saved. Works or deeds also help move us from lukewarm Christians to on-fire believers.