The first thing that strikes me in this passage is the discussion in verse 2 about us being able to brag if we are accepted by God through our works. I think that, too often, we like to toot our own horns when we do something good. We feel like the world and God owe us thanks for our good works and our good deeds when nothing could be further from the truth.
We should do our good works and love our neighbors because that is what we are called to do Biblically.
Look at Mother Teresa. Did she go around wanting everyone to thank her and love her because of the work she did with the poor in India? Of course not, and because of her quiet humility in doing her work she became beloved the world over.
God does not love us because of what we do for Him. He doesn’t need us to do anything for Him, He is perfectly capable of accomplishing whatever He desires without any help from us whatsoever. Furthermore, Paul points out that if it is works that save us and set us apart then some will be able to brag about living better lives than others. Some will be able to say that they were not quite as bad in terms of being a sinner than others because their good works make up for it.
Sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. Now, we are still called to accomplish good works in the Lord’s name. James tells us that a faith apart from works is dead, and we are called to be Christ-like examples. But, there is a big difference between being a Christ-like example through our works and being saved by our works.
No one can earn their way into Heaven.
In verses 3 and 5 the passage discusses, again, how we are saved by faith and faith alone. Being saved by faith alone is a major theme of this passage. It’s pretty neat to me to know that I don’t have to do anything to be saved other than to believe. Belief is all God asks for now, it’s all He’s ever asked for in the past since the time of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, and it’s all He will ever ask for in the future in order for us to be saved. Unlike some other religions, an example comes to mind of Mormanism that once taught that the Blacks were a cursed race something we can all agree that the Bible teaches to be demonstrably false, there are no specific requirements in Christianity in order to receive the God’s Grace and Salvation.
Sometimes faith is hard. Sometimes faith is easy. But, in the end faith is all that it takes. Nothing more and nothing less.