Rightfully so, many Christians have spent years wrestling with the relationship between faith and works. James, the Lord’s brother, provided some important clarity to the subject. James wrote, “In the same way faith also, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (Jas. 2:17). James also wrote, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:26). In my opinion, James is not suggesting that an apostate believer is going to Sheol (or Hades) after his or her death. However, I do believe that an apostate believer is functioning in a spiritually dead manner, having departed from his or her spiritual walk. An apostate believer is no longer spiritually sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Because of their spiritual insensitivity, many believers are going miss out on many fantastic blessings and rewards in this life and the next.
Much of the confusion is derived from our failure to understand the Christian Life. We are called to walk by the Spirit, wherein the Word is a light to our feet, trusting in Christ Jesus, while having no confidence in our inherent capacity to live our new, supernatural way of being (Ps. 119:105; Phi. 3:3). This is the New Covenant Spiritual Life. This is the Christian’s new way of being.
We should not seek to build a resume of random, self-directed works for presentation to the Lord at His Judgment Seat, and we should not seek to do so-called “random acts of kindness.” Instead, we should seek to do God’s will as to the totality of our existence, which includes the mediations of our heart, the words of our mouth, and our overt actions. Yes, none of us are perfect. If we commit a sin, we should confess our sin and get back into fellowship with God (1 John 1:9). After having believed that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, we are required to live the Christian Spiritual Life.
The writer of Hebrews wrote that we should “press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works …” (Heb. 6:1). Dead works are a product of typical human motivations, desires, and lusts. On the other hand, God instructs us to live in a new way. Our normal human desires must be subordinated to God’s Word, Spirit, and Providence. Additionally, faith must precede works. Our works should be the product of our faith (trust) in God. Our works should be directed by God. The works that we do should be the works that God provides for us to do.
James provided the example of Abraham. First, Abraham demonstrated his complete trust and obedience in God (Gen. 22:18). Additionally, before Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice, Abraham believed that God would fulfill God’s earlier promise to bless Abraham through Isaac (Gen. 21:12). In other words, Abraham believed that, if necessary, God would raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill God’s earlier promise to Abraham to bless Abraham through Isaac (Gen. 22:5; Heb. 11:17-19). Only one Son (Jesus) was required to die (Gen. 22:8). Abraham demonstrated a very high-level trust and understanding of God. James explained that Abraham’s faith was working (synergeo) with his works such that Abraham’s faith was perfected or completed (teleioo) in his works (Jas. 2:22). The Greek word synergeo means to cooperate or work together. From synergeo, we get our modern word “synergy,” which means that “the combined power of [two or more things] when they are working together that is greater than the total power of each when working separately.” God wants our faith and works to function in synchronicity and harmony (meaning God unites the two). The post-exilic Priest and scribe Ezra also provides us a good example. He firmly resolved in his heart to learn the Law of God and to practice and teach his faith (Ezra 7:10).
The writer of Hebrews also wrote that we should “cleanse [our] conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14). Every Christian is called to be a slave/servant of God. Sadly, most Christians will reject this calling. Jesus Christ was our example when He said, “I do not seek My own will but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30).
We have been warned that we will all appear before the Judgment Seat of God (Rom. 14:10). We will all be required to give an account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12). Ultimately, every knee will bow (Rom 14:11). At God’s Judgment Seat, we will be rewarded and/or compensated for our deeds or works accomplished, whether good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). We are saved by grace through faith, but we are judged according to our works.
Finally, if we understand how God wants us to live, we can begin to see why the unbeliever’s deeds/works will always fall short of fulfilling God’s will. God wants us to live in constant fellowship with Him. The pinnacle of human existence is fellowship with God. He wants us to live under the constant direction of the Holy Spirit. The moral unbeliever continues to live separately and independently from God. Human history establishes that men and women cannot continually and consistently distinguish between good and evil unless we remain in constant fellowship with God. We must depend on God’s wisdom to distinguish between good and evil. This is our new way of being. The sacred Scriptures are inspired by God and are beneficial for correction and instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Sacred Scripture can provide us wisdom and equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).
 “G4903 – synergeō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (nasb20).” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 22 May, 2023. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g4903/nasb20/mgnt/0-1/>.
 “Synergy.” Cambridge Dictionary, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/synergy. Accessed 22 May 2023.