Hello Summit Family!
James has been leading his reader on a journey where the final destination is a perfect/mature faith. He has addressed several subjects in the first couple of chapters already. The primary subject of chapter two has been evaluating one’s faith. Verses one through seven challenged his reader to consider how someone can live their lives in a way that denies their faith. Verses eight through thirteen have drawn his reader’s attention to being obedient to their faith. Verses fourteen through twenty-six explain how we can prove our faith. Today, we are going to look at verses fourteen through seventeen were James talks about faith and deeds.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them: ‘Go in peace; keep warm and be 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.”
For those who may be thinking that James is suggesting that salvation by faith is a false claim, remember that he began this chapter with “My brothers and sister, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ…..” He is not questioning whether they are genuine followers of Christ. No, he will be presenting that our faith is a demonstration of our salvation by our actions. As we study these verses, we need to remember that: “We are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) He is not going to dispute that faith is the foundation of what it means to be Christian.
He has also been providing examples of how our actions either prove our faith or deny our faith. The example of judging people by outward appearances was just one example. We know that a Christian’s ultimate victory will be realized on judgment day. When genuine Christians appear before the judgment seat, the books will be opened and those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s book of life will not be subjected to eternal punishment, separation from God. That salvation is guaranteed through faith in Jesus Christ. For that reason, James is going to take the time to show what a true and saving faith really is.
The questions being addressed: What makes faith real? Can we be sure that our faith is a saving faith? Is just believing the answer? “As a believer, does my belief result in a wishful thought that in fact everything will turn out for the best and one that is based only if one believes!” The proposition that James will present is that genuine faith is verified by our actions. He is going to present four illustrations to make his point:
The brother and sister without clothes and without food. (verses 15-17)
The believing but troubled demons. (verses 18-20).
Abraham, the friend of God. (verses 21-24)
Rahab, the prostitute that welcomed Joshua’s spies. (verses 25-26)
Notice that in verse fourteen James is not declaring the person HAS faith, but it is a person who “CLAIMS” to have faith. It is clear he is expecting the answer to his question to be “NO!” James probably knows that his reader understands that “salvation is by faith.” He would also support the conclusion that faith alone is enough for salvation, but he wants his reader to know what ‘faith alone’ really means – a saving faith will be demonstrated in a Christ-like life.
James is proposing that an ingenuine faith is one that lacks evidence. He is going to draw our attention to the fact that genuine faith determines what we do. Should we not conclude that those who have a strong faith (perfect/mature) will respond differently than those who do not have a mature faith. The way we respond will be a demonstration of our faith.
He is suggesting that genuine believers will demonstrate the same characteristics Christ shared while He was living on this earth – compassion for the down and out, a concern for those less fortunate. The character of Christ includes: compassion, mercy, grace, etc. God wants us to become obedient to the same standard Jesus Christ exhibited.
His question: if we are not going to demonstrate the character of Christ, do we really have faith…..even if we claim to possess it?
We have the same expectations in our world. If someone accuses a person of a guilty offense, they must provide evidence to support that claim. A person is not found guilty in a court of law by what they “say” but by what they “do.” If we claim to be people of faith, we should have evidence to support that claim.
James is saying in verses fourteen through seventeen that people of faith should be concerned about meeting the needs of others. If we are aware of those needs and choose to do nothing about them, can we really claim to be people with a “living” faith? James is stating unequivocally that the answer to that question is “NO!”
James is proposing that such faith, if it is not evidenced by our actions, is dead. We know that when something is dead, that means it has NO life. When something dies……it no longer exists!
These passages should speak not only to those who were receiving James’ letter, but it should speak volumes to Christians today. How well do our actions provide evidence of our faith? Do our works provide evidence that we possess a genuine faith? The proof is in the pudding so to speak!
Tomorrow, we will start looking at the next two examples: the believing but troubled demons and Abraham, a friend of God.
Have a blessed day!