James 2 – Living Faith
[Last week we heard James reprimand the church for showing partiality to the rich and famous, the beautiful people, in their church and in their evangelism. But when we heard from our missions trip to Kenya, the response of the poor to the gospel was amazing. So we are challenged to love our neighbor, even when they don't look like us or act like us. Because we "hold the faith of our Lord Jesus" (James 2:1) as a sacred trust, not for our own benefit or purpose. That passage concludes with verse 13, which sounds like it came from the Sermon on the Mount:
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
So James here connects being a good trustee of faith, with extending mercy, especially to the poor, because their natural inclination had been to ignore the poor.]
Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
[Now if I just gave you the last 4 words of that verse "can faith save him?" I could probably get almost all of you to agree. Yes, faith can save you. But to ask the question that way is to take it out of context. Verse 14 qualified of restricted this faith to a specific category. A faith that could not be identified by any outward expression. Then he asks, can that kind of faith save you?]
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
[So James answers his own question. He says that expressionless faith, faith without works, is an ineffective faith, in fact it is dead. Here he uses a great example, would you believe in a compassion that only consists of well wishes "be warmed and filled"? Put yourself in the shoes of the homeless man, do you want to hear "be warmed and filled" unless it comes with a blanket and a sandwich? No! James asks, what does it profit? The answer is nothing. If the well wishes have no substance, then you are still poor and hungry. No matter how much compassion you feel you have, no one else can feel your compassion if there is no substance, no compassionate works that go with it. So also, faith without works ineffective, cold, and dead.]
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
[Hebrews and James together talk about 3 kinds of faith:
- Faith in your works
- Faith without works
- Faith that works
Faith in your works – We read about in Hebrews when Jews left the church to return to the works of the Law, they needed the sacrifices and the Day of Atonement to feel right. They could not just trust in Jesus and believe that Jesus atonement was sufficient for my righteousness. Hebrews clearly settled that faith in your works cannot save you, so James doesn't talk about that kind of faith.
Faith without works – This is big for us because 20th century evangelism tried to turn the life changing conversion Jesus offered, into just an intellectual decision where all you do is say that you agree that Jesus is God's son. Like salvation was a test with one question; True or False Jesus is the son of God; circle the correct answer. Jesus compared salvation to being born, that's a traumatic event, a life changing event. Any woman in here would say that there is a difference between saying "I want a baby", and actually giving birth. James calls faith without works ineffective and dead.
Faith that works – We will read in a minute, is an effective living faith. Faith that expresses itself in love and compassion that would be noticeable by any casual observer. Faith that works, is a faith that makes a difference.
I don't know about you, but I see verse 18 a joke; because it's a paradox. "Show me your faith without your works", that's a paradox because the word for show means to demonstrate or prove; but you can't use works to do it. How can you demonstrate your faith without works? You can't, that's why I take verse 18 as a joke. It's like pole-vaulting with no pole; you just can't do it. But apparently there were some people claiming to be a Christian saying its all inside, so they don't need a changed life; they were pole-vaulters with no pole.]
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
[Now it gets tough; James says to these fools, your intellectual agreement to believe in God is a demonic illusion. Your belief did not save you, if you did not repent. Repentance means to reconsider and change direction, it's not like picking a movie at the theatre. The will of man is by nature sinful, Romans 3:11 says that no one seeks after God on their own. But we respond to the call of God, by surrendering our sinful will to Jesus as savior and Lord; and that surrender to God's grace changes you in faith.]
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
[James gives us two examples of faith demonstrated by works. Abraham offered his son Isaac because he believed that God would either rescue or resurrect Isaac, because God promised to make a great nation through Isaac. His actions proved his faith. Even in the day of Jesus, Jews still called themselves children of Abraham.
Rahab was different story. A prostitute who lived on the edge of the city, guess who gets hit first when the city is invaded? Those who live on the edge are the first to go. But a Canaanite harlot believed that God was going to give her city to the people of Israel, so she made a deal to save herself and her family. Her belief moved her to action. So we are not saved by this illusion of faith, as some claimed. Faith that works is evidence of true conversion.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
"All new", is the sign of a new creation in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 is good. It also has these two phrases "For the love of Christ compels us", it moves us to action. How about this: "those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again". Does any of that sound like faith without works? Of course not because faith without works is an illusion, it's not real.]
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
[All of Christianity is based on the resurrection. If Jesus stayed in the grave, we would not be meeting here. Baptism is a symbol of the resurrection; raised from the death of sin, to walk in new life. A living savior makes living disciples, actively following Jesus; but this illusion of faith without works, makes nothing. Faith without works is dead, because it does not change you. But true faith, is demonstrated by works.
Faith in your works, faith without works, or faith that works; which is yours? How is your faith demonstrated to those around you?]