I must believe. I must also act on my believe. I don’t get to say “Jesus has saved me” and then that be it. Jesus calls on me to be a disciple. Jesus calls on me to learn and grow. Jesus calls on me to act on my faith.
Goodness is virtue and holiness in action. Jesus calls on me to radically change how I think and do good. This is essential to being a disciple of King Jesus. It isn’t optional. It requires radical change.
Senseless person! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless? Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works in offering Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was made complete, and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works in receiving the messengers and sending them out by a different route? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. | Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Jas 2:20–26). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
Goodness results in a life characterized by deeds motivated by righteousness and a desire to be a blessing. It’s a moral characteristic of a Spirit-filled person. The Greek word translated “goodness,” agathosune, is defined as “uprightness of heart and life.”
Agathosune is goodness for the benefit of others, not goodness simply for the sake of being virtuous.
Justification is an important doctrine in the Bible. Justification is the act of God whereby He declares the believing sinner righteous on the basis of Christ’s finished work on the cross. It is not a process; it is an act. It is not something the sinner does; it is something God does for the sinner when he trusts Christ. It is a once-for-all event. It never changes.
How can you tell if a person is justified by faith if this transaction takes place between the sinner and God privately? Abraham’s example answers that important question: the justified person has a changed life and obeys God’s will. His faith is demonstrated by his works.
James used another event in Abraham’s life, an event that took place many years after Abraham’s conversion. This event is the offering up of Isaac on the altar (Gen. 22). Abraham was not saved by obeying God’s difficult command. His obedience proved that he already was saved. “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did” (James 2:22, NIV). There is a perfect relationship between faith and works. As someone has expressed it, “Abraham was not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith that works.”
How was Abraham “justified by works” (James 2:21) when he had already been “justified by faith”? (see Rom. 4) By faith, he was justified before God and his righteousness declared; by works he was justified before men and his righteousness demonstrated. It is true that no humans actually saw Abraham put his son on the altar, but the inspired record in Genesis 22 enables us to see the event and witness Abraham’s faith demonstrated by his works.