“An old Scotsman operated a little rowboat for transporting passengers. One day a passenger noticed that the old man had carved on one oar the word ‘Faith,’ and on the other oar the word ‘Works.’ Curiosity led him to ask the meaning of this. The old man happily replied, ‘I’ll show you.’ He dropped one oar and pulled the other called Works. The boat just went around in circles. Then he dropped that oar and began to pull the oar called Faith, and the little boat just went around in circles again in the opposite direction. After this demonstration the old man picked up Faith and Works and began plying both oars together. The boat sped swiftly over the water. The old man explained, ‘You see, that is the way it is in the Christian life. Dead works without faith are useless, and faith without works is dead also, getting you nowhere. But faith and works pulling together make for safety, progress, and blessing’” (Sermon Illustrations).
The old man had it right. Faith and works are meant to work together. If one only has faith, then the Lord explains that this person’s faith cannot bring salvation (James 2:14). Ultimately, it is a nothing more than a “dead faith” (2:17, 26). It makes one no better than the demons (2:19). It even makes this faith useless (2:20). The Lord is making the point abundantly clear that we need both faith and works.
Salvation doesn’t come through faith alone, nor does it come through works alone. Salvation is a result of both faith and works. Not that salvation is earned, as if we deserved such and incredible gift. Salvation is something that God has offered to us. It takes faith to believe we can actually obtain it (John 8:24). Then our faith should drive us to take the necessary steps to accept that salvation (i.e. Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).
Works alone gain us nothing. Faith alone is useless. Let’s grow a faith that produces works, and take bold actions because of the faith within us. To make true progress towards heaven, let’s make sure we are pulling on both oars.