Faith is a principle of action. We say we have faith in Christ and are saved, but that is just the beginning of the path that Christ has asked us to follow.
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” – Galatians 2:16
The scriptures here and elsewhere show that the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ and done away with. The law was never intended to be followed to bring salvation, only to point people to Christ and to focus their faith on Him in order to be saved. It was specifically put in place to be a method of schooling the people. In fact, the law was really impossible to keep and only showed how short we had come. It was as a mirror to show our imperfections.
Of course we can ask – what about works in general, outside of the Law of Moses, such as acts of service? What would we consider things like visiting the sick and lonely, or giving time and means to the poor? Of course these “works” are not the same as the “works” in the Law of Moses mentioned in these verses. The Law of Moses required specific rituals and requirements to teach the people. We can simply say that the good works that a person performs brings rewards. Ultimately, as we find in Titus 3:5 we are justified by the grace of Christ:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” – Titus 3:5
Ok, so don’t be confused. I keep saying and quoting scripture that clearly states that all we need is faith alone to be saved by the mercy of God. So it is truly Jesus Christ alone that saves us as we have faith in him. Yet faith will never be alone in our lives. It must always be accompanied by something else. We will see fruits of righteousness appear in our life. Paul taught that faith must also be accompanied by charity, which is a pure love as Christ has for each of us.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal…And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.” – 1 Cor 13:1, 13
Charity is mentioned as the most important of all! Without it, our faith would be in vain and is just a little “tinkling cymbal” or a “sounding brass”. “Sounding brass” was an ancient means of using hollow resonating wood or metal chambers to help amplify the sounds in outdoor theaters. Our faith is hollow if we are not also filled with charity.
It seems tricky to interpret the true meaning behind this doctrine in the New Testament, but don’t get hung up on it. It really is simple. We must perform good works as a manifestation of our faith, but that is not what saves us in Christ. Charity is a natural outcome of being a Christian where we should want to reach out and help people. Christ often went out of His way to minister to someone.
“shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works” – James 2:18