In a recent podcast episode posted on Desiring God, pastor John Piper shared a thoughtful answer to the question of one listener about "how to distinguish an act done from faith and an act done from unbelief."
Bringing Romans 14:23 for question, the listener asked, "Romans 14:23 says that 'whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.' Could it be said that anything that does proceed from faith glorifies God? Is that also true? If so, how do I know if what I'm doing proceeds from faith? "
Pastor John firstly agreed with the verse, "Actions without faith is not pleasing to God." He emphasized that the deeds that externally conform to God's commands may be sinful because they may be done from a heart that is not trusting Jesus or the Father or the Holy Spirit.
"You see this not only in Romans 14:23, but also in Hebrews 11:6, where it says, 'Without faith it is impossible to please him [God].' Nothing we do, no matter how kind it is or how good it is or how it looks on the outside - none of it is pleasing to God if it's not coming from trust in God's forgiveness and guidance and power," The pastor explained.
Then he answered to the second question, "The reverse is true; whether doing something from faith does please and glorify God?", "The answer is resounding yes," he added.
"The Bible verse 1 Peter 4:11 says, in every kind of obedient service, we perform in reliance on God, the strength and the wisdom. The more we rely upon power and wisdom from God for our obedience, the more he will get the glory for our obedience," Piper continued.
For the final question of how do we identify a deed done from faith as opposed to a good deed done from unbelief, Piper brought one more Bible verse, 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.
"First, it involves a resolve for good. In other words, it to be involve in God's will that is in His word. Secondly, it involves trusting God's power to enable us to do it. We cannot do anything apart from God's grace and power. Third mark of a work of faith is that it aims at the glory of the name of the Lord Jesus," The Baptist theologian pastor made the point clear.
"To say it one more way, acting by faith means (1) what we do is shaped by the word of God, (2) how we do it is in the power of God, and (3) the aim in doing it is the glory of God. That's what changes a so-called "good deed" from being sinful and displeasing to God into an act that is truly virtuous and pleasing to God."