There are many Scriptures which dogmatically emphasize that God provides our salvation by grace, through faith–not by works, such as Ephesians 2:8-8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Those who object to this doctrine (of salvation through faith alone) sometimes suggest that faith itself is a work, so we are actually saved by a “work.” This argument has two major problems, as follows:
1) This verse itself, as well as many others, clearly differentiates between faith and works. It says, “… by grace … through faith…–not by works.” Obviously, if faith were considered to be a “work,” this verse would not indicate that they are mutually exclusive.
2) To understand what is considered to be a “work,” we must look at the exact meaning of this word. As used in the ancient Greek language of the New Testament, the word for “works” here can mean:
– to toil–as an effort or occupation
– an act–deed, doing, labor, work
Obviously then, “works” refers to the physical deeds that we do–those that require physical exertion. This would include doing a good deed, such as helping an elderly person across the street, as well as simpler “deeds,” such as simply walking or running.
On the other hand, there are those “things” (not “deeds”) that we can “do” with only our mind, which require no physical exertion. Examples of this would be believing, or faith, as well as simply thinking, or deciding about something, before we take any physical action based upon our thought processes. When thought of in this way, faith is clearly not a “work.”
In fact, this brings up an interesting thing about faith itself. Faith is simply believing without actually seeing what we believe. So, if we believe in Christ and His death on the cross for us, His burial, and His resurrection, we are obviously using faith, since we did not witness these events.
However, we have sometimes asked God to make Christ visible to us, or to the world, in a physical way. For example, we sometimes request a miracle–one that we can see. Well, if God were to grant such a request, our belief would no longer be by faith, since it would be through seeing.