Summary: The greatest tragedy of the church today is people who profess Christ and yet don’t live for Christ. This is the theme of this message.
The greatest tragedy of the church today is people who profess Christ and yet don’t live for Christ. This is the theme of this message. Millions profess Christ and are baptized and made members of the church and they think they’ve done all they need to do. They think that now that they are on the church roles, they only need to call on the church when they need something. They don’t follow Christ and certainly don’t live for Christ. They don’t witness for Christ to help lead the lost to Him. Some go so far as to not even live a pure life.
Are they saved? Do they have a genuine faith? This is what James is discussing in this passage of Scripture. This doesn’t necessarily mean they were not saved, but they fight the temptation to profess their faith without any works or deeds that show their faith.
READ verse 14. There are 2 questions that every believer needs to ask of themselves. Can a person have faith and not do good works? Can faith without good works save a person? Every person who is honest knows that the answer to these 2 questions is an emphatic, “NO!” A person who really believes something does something; they act. Yet this is kind of the curse of Christianity and of the church.
Millions profess faith in Christ and belong to the church. They are baptized, they join the church and attend worship services, but they basically do what they want when they want. They just go on and live like everyone else in the world. The only difference between their lives and unbelievers is that they sometimes get up on Sunday mornings and go to church. There is little if any difference between their behavior and speech during the week.
James asks a piercing question, “What good is it if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” So, the person claims to have faith. But it’s only what they claim. They do nothing to show that they really believe in Christ. Their faith is only faith in speech, only a faith of profession, not of possession. James is saying that kind of faith is a dead faith. James calls it a dead faith or useless faith 3 times in this passage (2:17,20,26). Let me ask you, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
That type of faith is just a vain, empty faith, an unprofitable faith. If we really believe, we will do what Christ says. We will live for Christ and do the works or deeds that please Christ. We will live a Christ-centered life, not a Christless life. James gives us 5 examples to illustrate his point.
READ verses 15-17. The first example is that of a destitute Christian believer. This example really rebukes most believers and most churches throughout the world. Again, the example is dealing with believers.
A brother or sister faces some need or problem that makes him or her destitute. They are unable to properly dress themselves, to stay warm, and to secure enough daily food. We see them and share words of comfort with them. We speak peace and sometimes give a few items to help them in their need as they seek to solve their problem for warmth and food. Most believers go this far. When a brother or sister in Christ has a need, we visit, comfort, and wish them well. But James says that’s not enough. What good is it if we don’t give them the things they need?
The point is this: faith, if it doesn’t do good works, is dead. A person can talk about believing in Christ repeatedly, but if that person is not reaching out and helping the destitute like Jesus did, his faith is dead.
True faith is an operative faith, a faith that really works. So, if we really believe in Christ, we will follow Christ. We will take all that we are and have beyond our own needs and help to meet the needs of the destitute brothers and sisters throughout the world. That’s what our missions offering are all about. We give what we can beyond our needs to the local association, the state, North America, and around the world.
READ verse 18. This 2nd example is of two arrogant men. James is painting the picture of two men, but only one man speaks and what he says is only one sentence. The man says, “You have faith; I have deeds.” The imaginary man has faith. He believes that he is saved by faith—that God accepts him because he believes in Jesus Christ even if he fails to live for Christ. Once he has believed in Christ, professed and been baptized and joined the church, God has accepted him and will take him to heaven when he dies. That’s what he believes.