James – Faith and Works
Did you ever play the trust game where you fall backward into someone’s arm? It takes a lot of faith and trust to rely on someone to catch you. I had a friend that I trusted so much that she would stand on the opposite side of the room and I would trust her to run across and catch me as I fell. Never once did she let me hit the ground. I trusted her with my life, I had faith that she wouldn’t let me fall, that she’d be there to catch me.
When I showed this game to another one of my friends she excitedly said she wanted to try. I told her to stand in the middle of the room and fall back. I explained I would catch her like I had just caught my other friend. She nodded tentatively and started to fall. Before I could even begin to move her way she caught herself by stepping back. She kept telling me she trusted me to catch her but she didn’t put her faith into practice.
Are we not doing the same thing with God? We acknowledge that we know what is true but we fail to act upon that belief. Faith that acknowledges but fails to act is not really faith at all. It doesn’t matter how many times you say you believe, until you act upon your faith, it isn’t really faith.
James tells us of three types of faith, but only one type is true faith.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? >In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
-James 2:14-17 (NIV), emphasis added
First James talks about dead faith. What does a dead person do? Nothing! And it is the same with dead faith. Those with dead faith do nothing. You see it all the time. Those with dead faith will say that they are Christians and that they believe that the bible is true, but they do nothing. People with dead faith do NOTHING!
Read verse 14 again and answer his questions.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
-James 2:14 (NIV)
What good is it to believe in Jesus but no act like Jesus? NO GOOD! This faith cannot save you. If you say you have faith, that you believe in Jesus, but do not act upon that faith, that belief, you cannot be saved; you ARE NOT saved.
In verses 15 and 16 James tells us that saying, “I hope it gets better, I’m praying for you” to someone in need does not help them or display that you have true faith. Sometimes God sends us to help and not doing what God has called us to do is a sign of dead faith. In Matthew, Jesus tells us the consequences of dead faith.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
-Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV), emphasis added
They called Him LORD, just like those with dead faith might, and yet, because they did not act upon their faith and help those in need, their faith did not save them. Those with dead faith say they believe in Jesus, they say they trust in Jesus, but they don’t act like Jesus. They don’t serve, they don’t love, they don’t sacrifice, they don’t care. Their faith is dead and it will not save them.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
-James 2:18-19 (NIV), emphasis added
The second type of faith James tells us about is demonic faith. Demon believe that there is only one God. Demons know that there is only one God, they know who God is, they know more about God than most Christians know. They know God, but just that knowledge of God won’t save them and it definitely won’t save you. Just knowing that there is a God DOES NOT save you. Just learning about God does not save you!
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
-James 2:20-26 (NIV), emphasis added
Look at the two examples James uses, Abraham was so impatient he couldn’t wait on God and Rahab was a prosititute. Sometimes we think, “God can’t use me, look at where I have been and what I have done.” I am telling you now, that if God can use an impatient man, if God can use a prostitute, then no matter what you have done, God can use you too. NO ONE IS BEYOND THE GRACE OF GOD! You just need to have faith in Him and after you have placed your life in God’s hands you need to do what the Word of God tells you to do.No matter what you've done, God CAN use you. Click To Tweet
When Abraham was 75 and his wife Sarah was 65 God promised that Abraham would father a nation. Abraham and Sarah waited 11 years and still they did not have a child. In their impatience, Abraham has a child with Sarah’s slave. It caused problems for everyone involved.
But get this guys, even thought Abraham was impatient and took matters into his own hands, even though he didn’t wait on God’s timing, God still used him to be the father or the Iraelite nation. When Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 they had a son together, Issac. Wild right?! A few years later God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac. It doesn’t make sense why God would ask him to do that. But Abraham was faithful and sets off to go sacrifice his son. And when he goes to sacrifice his son, the angel of the Lord comes and tells him to stop and that the Lord God now knows that he fears the Lord and won’t keep his one and only son from him. James is telling us that this act justified and completed Abraham’s faith. Abraham’s willingness to say yes to God was authentic and real. Abraham didn’t just acknowledge God he acted upon his faith in God.
Rahab hid two Israelite spies, she covered for them so that they would not be killed and look at why she did it.
“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
-Joshua 2:8b-11 (NIV), emphasis added
She believed that their God was the God of heaven and earth so she saved the two Israelite spies. And because of her faith God saved her and her family and she was allowed to enter the promise land. That is working faith. She didn’t just acknowledge what was true, she acted upon it. To have working faith we need to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and then act upon our faith.
You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
-James 2:24 (NIV), emphasis added
I don’t want to confuse you. James is not saying that you have to do something to be saved. The way we are saved is by our faith in Jesus, not by following the rules. We are not saved by faith and following the rules or living a sinless life or giving everything we have away. It’s faith alone; it is our faith in Jesus that saves us.
Know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
-Galatians 2:16 (NIV), emphasis added
When I first saw this verse in conjunction with James 2:24 it looked like these two verses contradicted one another but they aren’t. We are saved by the grace of God, but when we become saved there is a change that should happen, a change that includes loving Jesus and making Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Galatians tells us to put our faith in Jesus and then James says we need to put our faith in Jesus into action!
The moment you put your faith in Jesus and you trust that Jesus is the only way out of sin, death, and hell God declares you righteous, God sees you as if you never sinned. And James says our faith justifies us before God and our works justify our faith. Look at it this way, if you tell me that you are going to go to bring me cupcakes next week, I am going to get excited and believe that cupcakes are coming my way. But if next week comes and there are no cupcakes, all you have done is lied to me and disappointed me. It is the same with our faith.
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
-1 John 2:3-6 (NIV), emphasis added
If you do not live as Jesus, but claim to know Him, then your faith is in question. It may mean you have dead or demonic faith which will not save you. Those who have saving faith don’t just acknowledge Jesus, they live like Jesus.
So what faith do you have, a dead faith that says you know Jesus but doesn’t show it, a demonic faith that is a faith where you know a lot about Jesus but you aren’t living as Jesus, or do you have a working, saving faith. If you answered anything but a working faith, know that your faith can’t save you. And today you need to put your faith in Jesus the only one who can save you and then put that faith into action.