A couple of months ago (August 8th), I talked about the relationship of faith and works. There I made the point that the Bible says good works are fruits of faith – that they result from faith. Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. Some Mormons feel that this is a distinction without any meaning – that it doesn’t really matter if we see works as part of faith itself or as a result of faith. To Christians, however, there is a huge difference between the two – the difference between works being part of the cause of salvation compared to them being the effect of salvation. It’s important to keep clear the difference between causes and effects.
Now, however, I want to address the question posed in the title of this post, namely, is faith itself a work? More than once it has been stated by Mormons that just by our saying that we have to believe, we are saying that we have to do something to be saved.
But that’s not what the Bible says. It describes faith, not as something that we ourselves produce but rather something God creates within us. For example, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says: “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” A little bit earlier in that same letter, Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2: 14) From the context, it is evident that the spiritual things Paul is talking about is nothing less than the fact that Jesus died for our sins. Without the Holy Ghost we cannot know that – or believe that.
Another way that the Bible shows that faith itself is not a work is by making works and faith mutually exclusive. “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The rule of grammar is that the “it” refers back to the complete concept of “grace are ye saved through faith”. Included in the gift of God is faith. Salvation and faith is not of ourselves.
Or look at how Romans 11:6 makes grace and works exclusive of each other. “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.” If faith was a work then we are not saved by grace because works and grace don’t mix.
Faith in Jesus’ saving work is not a work we must do in order to be saved. Faith that Jesus saved us is something God creates in us.