Faith How It Works – Out of the gate, James punches us in the nose with a startling fact. Faith only works if it is producing deeds. If I say I am saved, but I am not doing anything in the kingdom of God, I am deceived. Before we go any further, let’s make it clear what James views at stake here. James asked, “Can it save?” James views a person’s salvation at stake. Faith works.
The Book of James – How Life Works
By Pastor Delbert Young
Faith How It Works
Faith How It Works
Scriptures: James 2:14, James 2:15, James 2:16, James 2:17, James 2:18, James 2:19, James 2:20, James 2:21, James 2:22, James 2:23, James 2:24, James 2:24, James 2:25, James 2:26
This is our fourth lesson in our series on the book of James. We have looked at “How Trials Work,” “How Temptations Work,” and “How Anger Works.” Today we look at “How Faith Works.” The manners in which we handle these are very important in determining the success or the failure we experience in life. It’s ‘How Life Works.’ Let’s turn to James 2:14 and dive in.
James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
…my brothers . . . Again, James begins with his connection phrase of “my brothers.” James does not want to use his authority as an apostle or the church leader to bring obedience. He would rather connect as a brother in the Lord. This is so important to me. If I can’t connect with you, what good is teaching?
What good is it . . . ? Can it save? James asks two rhetorical questions. To James, at least, the answers are obvious. I wonder about the obviousness of the answers in today’s church. James asked, “What good is it if a person has a faith that does not produce deeds?” To James, the obvious answer is “A faith not producing deeds is worthless.” He follows it with another question. “Can such faith save?” The obvious answer is “No. Such faith cannot save.”
Out of the gate, James punches us in the nose with a startling fact. Faith only works if it is producing deeds. If I say I am saved, but I am not doing anything in the kingdom of God, I am deceived.
Before we go any further, let’s make it clear what James views at stake here. James asked, “Can it save?” James views a person’s salvation at stake. How horrible it would be to believe all my life I was saved and thought I would spend eternity with Jesus, only to awake in hell. James desires to let people know how to determine if they have a faith that will save.
James gives an example by using a hypothetical situation.
James 2:15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
James 2:16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
James 2:17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Suppose an individual needs assistance, but only words are given. James repeats his rhetorical question. “What good is it?” The obvious answer is it is no good. Such faith is worthless.
I want to touch this as the moment allows. Much of what we are taught about faith is concerning our own needs. I cannot remember a faith message concerning anything other than my personal ability to believe and access God for what I want. James sees faith as more. James sees faith as reaching others. James sees faith as touching the lives of others. If my faith is not helping and reaching others, what good is it? Can it save? No. If my faith does not have some accompanying action, my faith is dead.
I had to do a little soul searching this week. I hope you are doing some right now. What do you do in the kingdom to reach out to people? What do you do that touches the lives of people?
If the faith we have is only self-centered, then such faith is worthless and dead. It comes back to this: What are we doing to reach a lost and hurting world? Lip service is simply dead.
James 2:18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
James says he can prove his faith by what he does. There must be some authenticating actions. What is it we do in the kingdom of God? How do you and I touch the lives of others? A saving faith must do something to reach and to help people. If it does not then it is dead and can’t save.
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
So much of what we have been taught about faith has been a self-centered faith. The teaching goes something like this. I need to believe God for money, or a healing, or a car, or a house, or for my business etc. James says belief that is only self-centered is no different than the faith of demons. Demons believe in God and shudder, but their faith doesn’t save them. Self-centered faith is only demonic faith. It can’t save.
A person will not be saved because he or she has a great mental ascent and grasp on theology and can even quote scriptures. It’s not ascending mentally to believe in God. We preachers and teachers of the gospel are not immune to this truth. Saving faith is not my pumping myself up to believe in God or the oneness of the trinity. The demons believe – and shudder. They have mental ascent. Are they saved? What good is such faith? Such faith does not reach and touch people for good.
James 2:20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
“You foolish man . . . “The King James’ version says, “O vain man . . .” The Greek word is kenos(Strong’s #2756) and means “empty, vain, devoid of truth.” James said a person who does not realize deeds of reaching others should be the expression of saving faith is empty and devoid of truth.
James here adds a layer to saving faith. He will come back to his teaching about helping others. He used Abraham to show saving faith is also seen by obedience.
James 2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
James 2:22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
James 2:23 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.
James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
Another way of saying James 2:24 would be “You see a person is justified by what he does and not by BELIEF alone.” The Greek word translated faith is pistis (Strong’s #3982) and means “conviction of the truth of anything, belief; the conviction God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ” James said a person can and should believe, but believing with no corresponding deeds will not save us.
Abraham was very important in God’s plan for man. It was through Abraham God brought the nation of Israel and eventually Christ and the church. Abraham was very wealthy. The point James desires to make is no matter how important or how rich a person is, deeds must accompany belief. James asked another rhetorical question. “Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did . . .” The obvious answer is, “Yes.”
James saw an inseparable joining of belief and deeds. Abraham’s “faith was made complete by what he did.” The completion of faith is our salvation. Faith leaves unmistakable tracks in the sand. Those tracks are deeds. Whenever we find saving faith, we find good deeds.
It doesn’t matter how important we think we are. James said, “a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” Let’s look at the verse as we leave the thought of Abraham.
James 2:24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
I must ask. “What are you doing? What footprints are you leaving? Are you being obedient?”
James gives a second biblical proof deeds are required. This time he used Rahab the harlot.
James 2:25 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?
The truth stands no matter if a person is very important to the plan of God. Or, if a person is a prostitute. There must be good deeds. Rahab was a Gentile. Not a lot is said about Rahab, but still we find the unmistakable tracks of deeds in the sand.
Remember Rahab hid the spies Joshua sent into Canaan. It would not have been enough for Rahab to have said, “I hope you don’t get caught.” “Hide well.” Rahab was saved because she combined deeds with her belief to produce saving faith. She lodged the spies and sent them off in a different direction. God saved her because of this deed.
Saving faith works the same no matter if one was a Gentile or a Jew. Saving faith works the same no matter if we think we are very important to God’s plan or unimportant. Deeds must accompany my faith no matter if I was a patriarch or a prostitute. Belief must be combined with deeds that obeys and impact others. Only then is it a faith that works and a faith that saves. That’s how faith works. Any other faith is dead.
James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Here is the conclusion of James about how faith works. Deeds that reach and touch the lives of others is the very breath of a saving faith. Obeying God is the very breath of saving faith. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Reevaluate: If we take what James has said seriously, we each must look into our lives and perhaps reevaluate. We do not want to be a foolish man or a foolish woman. We must begin with the question, “What am I doing to reach and touch the lives of others?” Are there tracks in the sand when you look back?
A second question is this: “Am I obeying God and doing what God has told me to do?” It is amazing how many people tell me they feel God has instructed them to do something, but they never do it.
Belief and deeds are not a dichotomy, but a unity. One is the breath and the life of the other. Faith is dead without deeds. Without deeds, faith is only a demon faith that cannot save and is dead. Without belief, deeds are dead and are only humanitarian acts. This cannot save either. However, in unity, belief and deeds produce a saving faith.
The Lord shared a startling parable in Matthew 25:31-46. He talked about judging the nations and putting the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The sheep are blessed and invited into the kingdom. The goats cannot enter. The goats were sent to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Why? Both called him Lord. The difference was because one group reached out to people and did all they could to help and save. They gave food. They gave drink. They gave shelter. They gave clothes. They visited people in prison. (How many of us have ever actually done this?) By doing those deeds, they actually did them to the Lord. The reason the goats were sent to the eternal fire was because they did nothing to reach and help others. One group went into eternal punishment. One group went into eternal life. In which group are you and I? It’s too important to dismiss.
That’s how faith works. That’s how life works.