First of all, I think there is a great misundertanding of just what constitutes works.
Paul says in Eph. 2:10 that they were PREPARED BEFOREHAND that we should walk in them.
Works can be and are generated by the flesh. Is that the kind of work Paul and James write about?
James calls them deeds (well according to the NIV translation) and clearly states "that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone."
If James is making a statement about justification (before God) by works, then we have two contradicting opinions in the scriptures. You can't hold to that and say that there isn't contradiction. One is either right, and the other wrong. Or maybe there is another position from which to interpret this passage where it will harmonize with the rest of scripture.
Are works saying, "look at what I've done to prove I'm saved."
Honestly, that is the message I am getting from some of you. Or is it, "look at what God
is doing in me." (Obviously works should never be a matter of bringing attention to ourselves.)
Speaking from personal testimony, I can speak of a time where there was little if any sign of regeneration in my life. Yet, looking back I can see that God was working in me. Yes, today, as James says, there are visible signs of God's work in my life. And I do not say that to pat myself on the back, but as a testament to God's glory. Can a born again person fall back into a lifestyle of sin? I would say most definately, yes.
Many from the camp of eternal security trod under foot the Son of God. This is where we see the 'A,B,Cs' of becoming a Christian, and the, "repeat this prayer after me." That doesn't mean salvation isn't by believing and that it isn't secure. This gets back to the issue of right belief. What constitutes right belief? For me, I can't give you a list of all the things I specifically needed to know to trust Christ. But I can tell you very clearly, that when I knew my need for Christ, I knew. I don't mean I simply had head knowledge. I mean that I had heart knowledge that I was a sinner saved by grace. I don't want to water down with a poor analogy. When I fell in love with my wife, I didn't have to go through a check list. Yes I am attracted to her. Yes, I have a desire to be around her. Etc. My heart knew. How do you qualify right belief? Can you? If it is a heart motive, then how can we, people, properly measure whether the Lord has done a redemptive work in a person. I have never seen a convincing argument that one can. It is one thing to say that fruit WILL follow, but how do you measure?
Good point bringing up Kardia. In Acts 1 Peter described God as the Kardiagnosta. The heart knower. And God knows if a person truly trusts in the work and message of Christ, or whether they are giving it mere lip service. He also knows which works are genuine, since He prepared them beforehand. Walking in those things is also a repsonse of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. So, it doesn't matter how many Sunday school classes you teach, how many prayers you pray, or how much volunteer work you do. Without a right heart, the work is meaningless, and the faith is dead.
And so many from the 'works are necessary' crowd also trod under foot the Son of God. Because in their effort to establish their position, they also hang a neavy yoke around their own necks.
If works are necessary, then are your works sufficient? Is everything you have done sourced from a pure heart motive?
Yes, it is difficult for me to see a person with no walk, no love of God, no fear of God, no light, and to conceive that they had once ever truly trusted in Christ. Yet, I see people all the time who were once truly in love, and now have no evidence that the love was ever real. I can only trust God, and let Him deal with a person's heart. We preach Christ crucified to those who are lost, and we preach repentance to those who have broken fellowship.
-“The Bible treated allegorically becomes putty in the hands of the exegete.” John Walvoord
"I'm not saying scientists don't overstate their results. They do. And it's understandable, too...If you spend years working toward a certain goal and make no progress, of course you are going to spin your results in a positive light." Ivellious