Faith is necessary for salvation. This is something most all agree on. But what kind of faith is debated. There are various kinds of faith mentioned in the Bible. There is faith that is not perfected, Jas 2:22. Faith is perfected when accompanied with obedience. There is also the doubting faith, Jas 1:5ff. This is the faith of a double-minded, or two-souled person whose allegiance with God is divided with the world. There is the worrying and anxiousness of little faith, Mt 6:30; Mt 14:31. Those with little faith have trouble turning their needs and concerns over to God. But faith that is pleasing to God is unique and always the same.
There’s only one faith that pleases God. By this kind of faith men of old gained approval, Heb 11:2. The same chapter is filled with people like Noah, Abraham, and Moses who had this obedient kind of faith. It’s the faith that is confident and convicted about God and His promises, which always shows by one’s deeds, Heb 11:1. This faith that pleases God always does what God calls for the person to do. When God says repent of your sins, faith begins repenting. If God says go and confess the good news to the lost, faith starts talking. If God says to be baptized, faith gets in the water. If God says to give liberally and sing spiritual songs, faith starts giving and singing. The point is that saving faith, the only kind that God approves of, is always doing the will of God.
If a man is confronted by the will of God and that man does not act, then that man does not have the saving faith that’s described in the Bible.
Some people try to start their walk with God by faith but afterward they seek to be perfected by their own works. In other words, they wind up putting their faith in their own works. This was the problem with the Galatians when Paul said to them, “3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”, Gal. 3:3. This error of trusting in owe’s own works is also what Paul was combating against in Rome. By preaching justification by faith, Paul was slanderously accused of teaching a license to sin. It was a slanderous accusation against Paul that he was teaching, “let us sin that grace might increase.” Paul explained that faith doesn’t mean you may do what you please since it’s sin that separated you from God, Rom. 6:21-23. Since Paul explains that sin separates man from God, obviously he wasn’t telling Christians they may sin because grace doesn’t cover willful sin. However, though Paul had to combat the Judaizing “Christians” by assuring the reader that being “released” (Rom 7:1-7) from the Law of Moses doesn’t mean you have a license to sin, Paul also did not back off from his message that justification comes by faith in God and not by works. This is why he said in 1:17, after saying that the Gospel is God’s power to save, that, “for in it the righteousness of God is revealed ‘from faith to faith'”. This odd phrase “faith to faith” is Paul’s inspired refutation against the Judaizers and Christians who were being fooled to seek to be perfected by their own works. No, from the first time one draws near to God to the time of your very last breath they breathe on this earth, God’s righteousness is attained by “faith to faith”, first to last.
“Faith without works is dead”. James said this in James 2:14-26. If you are saying you have faith are not doing God’s will, then your faith is not the kind that pleases God. The saving, justifying kind of faith is always doing what the will of God requires in the moment. Some people will pit this passage in James against what Paul said in Romans, particularly what he says in Romans 4, that Abraham was not justified by works. The question for these people becomes “to work or not to work?” They decide “not to work”. But an honest reading of Paul’s words make it clear that Abraham’s obedience wasn’t the issue. The issue in the Roman letter was WHERE Abraham’s faith was – in his works on in God’s grace. The question was never whether Abraham had to work or not. The faith of Abraham was always the same. Abraham didn’t have one kind of faith that Paul saw and a different kind of faith that James saw. The faith of Abraham in James and Romans was the same kind of faith. Whenever Abraham was confronted with the will of God. his faith did what God said – which is James point. If it was to leave his parental homeland, he left by faith in God – Paul’s point in Romans. If it was to offer his son as a sacrifice, he did it by faith – Paul’s point in Romans. If it was to be circumcised, he did it by faith. The point Paul is making to the Romans is that Abraham’s FAITH WAS NOT IN HIS WORKS. In all that he obeyed, Abraham’s faith was in God. Paul does not want the Romans trusting in their own works as if a person can become perfected by works after having started by the Spirit. James, on the other hand, while still speaking of Abraham’s same kind of faith, is dealing with the other aspect of the same faith that it is always obedient. A person can’t say, “fine, God’s grace is what makes me righteous, therefore I don’t have to do anything.” That attitude or response makes ones’ faith dead (which is why denominations are leading many astray, teaching that justification comes by this kind of dead, disobedient faith). So that’s the two aspects of same faith as dealt with by Paul (Rom 4) and James (Jas. 2).
The only kind of faith that pleases God is always obedient to God, doing whatever the moment requires, and this faith does not trust in the work itself to save but it always trusts in God who justifies.
Why do I bring this up? Because as I stated earlier, the only kind of faith that pleases God is always of the same nature. From beginning to end. From the beginning of time until the end when Jesus returns, the faith that saves is always the same. There’s not one kind of non-working faith prior to salvation that afterward becomes an active and obedient faith. The faith that pleases God after salvation is the same faith that pleases God before salvation. It’s always obedient and it does whatever God’s word confronts the person to do.