The Two Oars of the Christian Life

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:11-12


An old Scottish man was responsible for transporting passengers in his small rowboat.  One day a man asked him, why do you have “faith” etched on one oar and “works” on the other?  The man started rowing with only the “faith” oar and boat went in a circle. Then the man rowed only with the “works” oar and the boat went in a circle in the opposite direction.  The old man said, “"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.”[1]

The Christian is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. And although the Christian is saved through faith alone, true faith is never alone.  We show ourselves to be God’s chosen race and royal priesthood in our zeal for good works (1 Peter 2:9-10, Titus 2:14).   True faith will always show itself in good works.  If a person claims faith in Jesus Christ yet is without the evidence of a changed life, then that person should not have assurance. And yet the opposite is also true, if we have been changed by the gospel and practice good deeds then we can be confident that God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. 

For the believer good works are not done in drudgery, but with joy.  Our hearts have been changed by the Holy Spirit so we delight to do the Lord’s work.  Our joyful, thankful obedience to God for His love serves to show the power of the gospel to the lost. Beloved, let us put both oars in the water, first faith then works, so that the Gentiles would see our good deeds and praise God on the Day of the Lord. 

[1] Illustration by Dennis Davidson
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