Summary: James continues to remind us that faith is active. It is not mere mental assent but obediently imitating God by loving our neighbors.
1. Secret Service
A man was coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. (You know. The preacher’s job is to: shake them in, shake them up, and shake them out!) Well, he grabbed the guy by the hand and pulled him aside.
The preacher said to him, "Hey, brother, you need to join the Army of the Lord!" The man replied, "I’m already in the Army of the Lord, preacher."
The preacher said, , "How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?" The man whispered back, "I’m in the secret service.”
2. In the first part of the chapter, James hammers us on showing partiality – many applications
3. Now, the end of the chapter describes the relationship of faith and works – based on observing the command to love our neighbors as ourselves (Royal Law)
4. James 2.14-18
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
5. Faith is shown in our actions – not secretively, openly (Matthew 5.16)
I. Faith and Works: An Apparent Contradiction
Martin Luther said that the book of James was a “strawy epistle” because it emphasized works; he “discovered” faith in Romans
A. Faith without Works – Romans 4.1-5
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
1. Faith IN Christ
2. Western Tendency to “Cheap Grace” via mental assent
B. Faith with Works – James 2.18
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
1. Standard in Judgment – Matthew 25
2. Faith OF Christ – Romans 3.20-26
20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Paul’s Commentary on Psalm 143
3. Not a legalistic approach – Galatians 2.16 (AMP)
16Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God).
4. Have the Kind of Faith that Comes from God (is like God’s faithfulness)
a. Righteousness of Doing Right Things
b. Legal/Forensic Righteousness – cleansed of guilt of past sins; develop an obedient spirit rather than a rebellious one;
1) Made available by the DBR and meeting God’s requirements for justice – “tasted death for every man”