Summary: In James 2:14-26 we find two great truths about genuine saving faith that are meant to give you a solid foundation upon which to build your life and ministry.
A Chicago-based newspaper, StreetWise, is sold by homeless people, who collect a portion of the proceeds. One day as Dr. Joseph Stowell, then serving as President of the Moody Bible Institute, walked to work, he passed a StreetWise vendor. It was a bitterly cold January morning, and he had already stopped by Starbucks and paid more than a dollar for a small cup of coffee. Feeling noble, he struggled to find his wallet, reached in, and took out a dollar.
The homeless woman asked, “Do you really want the paper, or can I keep it to sell to someone else?”
“Keep the paper,” he replied. Then he added, “How are you today?”
“I’m so cold,” she said.
“I hope the sun comes out, it warms up, and you have a good day,” he told her as he turned to go.
He continued on, with the cup of coffee warming his hand. About half a block later, the conversation finally registered. He wrestled for a moment with what he should do, but he was late, so he kept walking.
Dr. Stowell concludes this account with these words, “Ever since, I’ve regretted not giving her a cup of hot coffee in Christ’s name.”
We call ourselves “Christians.” But do our actions back up our claims? That is what James is addressing in today’s text. So, with that in mind, let’s read James 2:14-26:
"14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
"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. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
"20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 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. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
"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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:14-26)
James Dyer, a political scientist from Texas A & M, has been quoted as saying, “It’s fairly obvious that people are tending to measure their religious convictions by a different yardstick than people did thirty or forty years ago. Being in church on Sunday and how important religion is are not totally held as the same thing in everyone’s mind today.”
An overwhelming number of people call themselves “Christians,” but in reality are not. The problem is often called nominalism. The term nominalism is derived from a Latin term meaning “belonging to a name.” A Christian nominalist is one who claims to be a true Christian, but who has no authentic, personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. His allegiance to Christ is in name only. But that’s all. It’s a belief that doesn’t show itself in his behavior.
Oh, he says that he believes in the importance of Christ’s salvation, but he just never speaks of it. He is quick to claim to believe in the goodness of God’s will, but he just doesn’t submit to it. He speaks openly about the value of God’s word, but he never reads or studies it. He talks about the need to advance God’s kingdom, but he doesn’t ever participate in it. He claims to believe in the evil of sin, but he’s just not turning from it.
What’s the problem? Somewhere along the line, people have bought into the tragic idea that a person can be a Christian without being a true follower of Jesus Christ, that you can know Jesus as your Savior and just not ever acknowledge him as your Lord, that all you really need to do is at some point in your life be sure to “ask Jesus into your heart” or “invite him into your life.” People think that you can give just the barest intellectual assent to the fact of Christ’s death being for you, and then you can know for sure—whether you ever really follow Christ or not—that you have peace with God, and that you are eternally secure.