Summary: James discusses the external evidence of one's salvation.
Faith is one of the great concepts of our Christian experience. Yet, some have pressed this to an extreme by implying that it makes no
difference how one lives - faith is all that matters. What I am referring to is what is referred to by some as “easy believism.”
Easy believism teaches that salvation is something a person can appropriate at a time of their own choosing. That “whenever I’m ready” I can pray to Jesus and be saved. However, the Bible teaches that if one is to be saved, he must respond at the time of God’s choosing.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them.” - John 6:44 (NIV)
The reason for this is that salvation is the sovereign work of God that He offers to perform within the hearts of all those who give heed to His call; and while a person does indeed have a choose to be saved, even the opportunity to choose is not theirs without the gracious work of God to call them.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” - Ephesians 2:8 (NIV)
“Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!” - Ephesians 2:8 (The Message)
In other words, true salvation results when God calls and man responds. Salvation occurs, not at a time and way of man’s choosing; but
at the time and way of God’s choosing. Salvation takes place when man comes to God on God’s terms and at the time God calls.
A lot of people point to a past decision in seeking assurance of salvation. But did you know that the bible never does that? It never points to the past. It always bases proof of real salvation on the evidence of the present. Saving faith perseveres and produces.
“And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.” - 1 John 2:3 (NLT)
“Since we know that Christ is righteous, we also know that all who do what is right are God’s children.” - 1 John 2:29 (NLT)
“These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.” - 1 John 2:19 (NLT)
“Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.
Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it shows that they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son
of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” - 1 John 3:6-10 (NLT)
“And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.” - 1 John 3:24 (NLT)
“And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us.” - 1 John 4:13 (NLT)
The Bible makes it clear that the internal evidence of salvation is the presence of the Holy Spirit (see also Romans 8:16); and the
external evidence of salvation are good works that reflect the character of God.
James is speaking in our passage for today about the external evidence of one’s faith. He addresses himself to the ever-present conflict
between mere assent to a creed and a vital, living, truly saving faith. He contrasts for us here a dead faith with a saving faith.
1. Dead faith - vs. 14-19
A. Illustrated by shallow concern - vs. 14-17
A concern that is all talk and no action is a shallow concern that does no one any good. Likewise, a faith that is all talk and no action is a shallow faith that does you no good.
If the only thing you can point to as evidence of your salvation is that you “prayed a prayer” years ago and were baptized, but now there is no reflection of the character of God in way you seek to live, there is cause for concern about the genuineness of your salvation.