From the writings of the Rev. Billy Graham
There is always debate about the doctrines of faith and works—and which should come first. Which carries the most weight with God?
Jesus Christ did not offer us a choice of faith or works. The Scripture teaches that works without faith have no meaning to God, because we cannot work our way to Heaven. Those who seek to testify of what they think is their goodness often talk about paying their taxes on time, never defrauding anyone, being faithful to their spouse, and giving to charity. But God is clear that our righteousness is like a filthy rag. There is nothing we can do to measure up to God’s standard.
Once we are saved, however, God expects us—in fact, He commands us—to not be hearers of the Word only, but doers as well. Works, when we are in Christ, are an extension of Christ’s ministry. In fact, works are not ends in themselves, but they demonstrate God’s love toward others so that they will know God loves them, and so that they will desire to learn about God’s provision for every need.
The Bible says a man in a ditch is not helped if we pass by him, wish him well, and tell him of God’s love. No, God’s love is demonstrated by attending to the man’s physical needs and helping him out of the ditch. This is how people learn that the Father has sent the Son. “Fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Works must never replace faith and the sharing of the Gospel, but they are a natural extension of faith.
(This column is based on the words and writings of the late Rev. Billy Graham.)