What comes first Faith or Works?

In the bible James states in the 2nd chapter of his letter: “As the Body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead”. This I find interesting because my instinctive usage of this analogy would be quite the opposite of James statement here. I would have said: “As the body without the spirit is dead so works without faith is dead”. Can you see what I’ve done? I’ve switched works and faith round. Faith would be equal to the spirit and works would be the result. This runs true in other parts of this letter – (If a man has faith let him show it by his works etc). Jesus hinted in a similar fashion in John Chapter 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” It is in the doing that we discover a knowing. Action precedes revelation and not as one may think the other way round.

There is the story of a Dr Crane – it goes like this:

Newspaper columnist and minister George Crane tells of a wife who came into his office full of hatred toward her husband. “I do not only want to get rid of him, I want to get even. Before I divorce him, I want to hurt him as much as he has me. Dr. Crane suggested an ingenious plan “Go home and act as if you really love your husband. Tell him how much he means to you. Praise him for every decent trait. Go out of your way to be as kind, considerate, and generous as possible. Spare no efforts to please him, to enjoy him. Make him believe you love him. After you’ve convinced him of your undying love and that you cannot live without him, then drop the bomb. Tell him that you’re getting a divorce. That will really hurt him.” With revenge in her eyes, she smiled and exclaimed, “Beautiful, beautiful. Will he ever be surprised!” And she did it with enthusiasm. Acting “as if.” For two months she showed love, kindness, listening, giving, reinforcing, sharing. When she didn’t return, Crane called. “Are you ready now to go through with the divorce?” “Divorce?” she exclaimed. “Never! I discovered I really do love him.” Her actions had changed her feelings. Motion resulted in emotion. The ability to love is established not so much by fervent promise as often repeated deeds.

CS Lewis said it this way: “Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”

So in all this the works precede the revelation of love and its power. In this way: “As the body without the spirit is dead so faith without works is dead.”


However more generally in the Bible we find the other way of seeing things. If a person believes he has eternal life. The Kingdom of God is at hand – it is time to repent and believe that we may be partakers of Kingdom life. He that believes should not perish but have eternal life.

What comes first Faith or Works? Both and Neither! Having both these ideas perhaps we could conclude that neither are wholly right or wholly wrong but both must work interchangeably. My faith is the result of my actions and my actions are the result of my faith. Let’s squeeze things a little more tightly and say “my faith is my work and my work is my faith”. They are no longer separated – faith is no longer an adherence to a belief system dictating some future response but rather a dynamic, existential, interactive relationship with a l(i/o)ving God moment by moment unfolding collaboratively his loving purposes.

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