Our faith allows God to supernaturally infuse us with an ever increasing desire within us to obey Him. So obedience is the evidence of faith while faith is a fruit of obedience, and the source of and impetus for both is the power of the Holy Spirit. It is true we first surrender to the gift of God's grace by faith and not our obedience, because, being lost, we do not yet know how to obey God.
I also believe God deals with each of us individually concerning our faith and obedience. Paul wrote to the Philippian assembly, "... carry out and fully complete your own salvation with reverence and trembling, carefully watching out for temptation...that you may show yourself to be blameless and innocent children of God."
Our faith and obedience open our lives to Him so He may accomplish His will through us. Without both, our praise, worship and prayers would mean nothing. Without both, it would not be possible to bear spiritual fruit, and therefore bring no substance to our works. Without continued faith and obedi-ence to His Word, we would simply be unsaved hypocrites.
What is Fruitfulness?
By "fruit" we are not just talking about the results of godly acts. We are also talking about the building up of spiritual character as a result of godly obedience. Since faith is a fruit of the Spirit, one who consistently shows no fruit also shows they do not have an interest in pleasing God. Remember earlier how we covered the degrees of faith? One can believe in the gospel and the Christian doctrine without exercising the personal faith and obedience that would activate the awaiting Spirit. This explains why so many who have vowed to give their lives to Christ and been baptized, go on to live eventless spiritual lives.
* "I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that stops bearing fruit He cuts away and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit...Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without being vitally united to the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me."
* “Remember from what heights you have fallen. Repent and do the good works (of love) you did when you first knew Me, or I will visit you and remove you from your place."309 This essentially means that God will compromise our relationship with Him, our service to Him or worse.
* In II Peter 1:3 through 11, we read, “ For whoever lacks these godly qualities (fruit of the Spirit mentioned in verses 3 thru 8) has become spiritually blind. Not only have they not moved forward in the full knowledge of God, but they cannot even remember back when they were cleansed from their sins. They cannot see beyond earthly things to the heavenly. So because of this, be virtuous, and strengthen your calling and election so it may be steady and sure, and you will never stumble. In this way, your entry into the fullness of eternity will be assured.
* John gives this example, "But if anyone has this world's resources for sustaining life and sees his fellow believer or neighbor in need, but closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the agape love of God live and remain within him?
"For we are God's handiwork, born anew. Our creator has taught us His good works He planned beforehand which we should continue to live by to bring His will to pass." (Eph. 2:10) Notice we do not do good works to earn God's grace, but rather because we appreciate the grace of God and love Him. Second Corinthians 9:8 assures us that He will continue to supply us with whatever we need to do His good works. These works glorify God and also help to bolster our faith.
Works has become a dirty word in many churches. It is easy to see how a casual Bible reader may get the impression that righteous works, even those inspired by the Holy Spirit, amount to nothing:
* Paul wrote to Titus, “The love of the Savior appeared to man not because of righteous works we have accomplished, but rather by His mercy...”
* He also wrote to Timothy, “God has given us the hope of salvation and called us not because of the works we have done, but according to His divine purpose."
* Ephesians 2:8 and 9 is more specific. We read, “By grace you are saved through your faith and not by anything you have done. Salvation is a gift of God and cannot be gotten through works that are inspired by man, for it is something man cannot achieve."
These verses are referring to what man believes are righteous or moral works, but are actually outside the Spirit in purpose and motivation. It is a dangerous mistake to neglect teaching the importance of good works. God does not intend for us to rest on the laurels of His grace and become "lazy servants". If we do not perform works of love, we are not allowing God's divine grace to work through us. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus and born anew that we may do those good works which God planned for us ahead of time, and that we should continue to walk in them."
Now, James wrote, "By works of obedience we are justified and not just by faith." He explained, “What does it profit a man if he says he has faith but cannot show the works to back it up?..Likewise, faith is powerless and ineffective if it does not have good works to support it. You believe there is one God and you believe correctly. But even the demons believe and tremble at the mention of His name. Was not our forefather Abraham justified by his works when he brought his own son to the altar to be sacrificed at God’s command? You can see that his faith worked in tandem with his actions, and his faith was completed and reached its supreme expression through his actions. Abraham had trust in God's promises and proved it by his actions, and it was the source of his righteousness... So you see that we are justified through works of obedience and not just faith.” In other words, faith and works cannot be separated, because they are dynamically related. Even Jesus spoke of Abraham's acts of obedience in terms of works.
Surprisingly, there is no contradiction between Paul’s and James’ writings. Paul often corrected Jewish Christians who were still looking to the works of the Old Law to earn their salvation. A main focus of James' epistle was obedience to the Royal Law and the Ten Commandments, both of which are fulfilled by the practice of love. In both cases, a multitude of good works and deeds that are accomplished by our own volition and motives cannot earn our justification. Only those acts guided by and accomplished through His Spirit will be fruitful in fulfilling His purpose and bringing us to spiritual maturity.
Also, consider this; Paul described faith as an inward commitment to God, while James was speaking of works as a complimentary outward commitment. Where one is present, we will find the other. The Holy Spirit often emphasizes different facets of the same doctrine. These two views must be combined as a whole before it can be seen that they are not contradictory at all.