Summary: This two-part sermon examines faith as it is taught in the scriptures. Faith fundamental to the Christian life and without faith, it is impossible to please God; therefore, understanding faith is a foundational issue. Faith enables us to obey, overcome an
Living Faith vs. Dead Faith
Look at James 2:20 - 26
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
While it is true that we are saved by faith and not by works, it is equally true that there is a dead faith that has no power. As we studied earlier, each person is measured enough faith to believe God, but we also have the choice to act according to the flesh. The Spirit reveals the truth of God but faith cannot act according to the flesh. The flesh is dead and faith exercised in the flesh is dead too. This is true when we act in disobedience to God – whether we sin in omission or commission. Commission is doing the things God has commanded that we not do, while Omission is disobeying by not doing the things God has commanded us to do. James 4:17 states, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Whatever is not of faith is sin.
The point of this passage in James is to explain that we cannot claim to have faith without obedience. Faith is of the Spirit but disobedience is of the flesh. Believing is not enough. God reveals the path we should take while also giving us the power to believe. God reveals truth and measures us the faith to act on that belief. I cannot receive faith and reject obedience. God has a plan and has empowered us to walk in that plan. Look at Ephesians 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
There are many truths packed into this passage. We know that nothing in salvation is of ourselves. Salvation is a gift of God. The payment for our sins on the cross is a gift of God; grace (or God’s unmerited favor) is a gift of God; faith is a gift of God; the work God has prepared beforehand is a gift of God. Our only role is to let God be God and submit ourselves to Him. God has already prepared the path we are to walk in, equipped us to do the work, and set the work before us. The Spirit calls us by faith to meet the needs God places before us; however, the flesh calls us to act with selfishness, apathy, and disobedience. When we obey the flesh, we disobey God. When we obey the flesh we are not in the Spirit; therefore, our faith is in the flesh and is dead. Nothing in the flesh is of the Spirit. The flesh can believe and do nothing. The flesh can act and attempt to carry out its own plan. There are many people who do good deeds in this life but are not walking according to the Spirit. There are just as many people who claim to walk in the Spirit but are in disobedience to God by their unwillingness to act. Works without faith is dead and faith without works is dead. Both are in the flesh and contrary to God.
Our goal is not to do good deeds but to seek God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. Our goal is to allow God to do His work through us. I once heard someone teach that, “Where you see a need, you have the call of God”. In other words, if you recognize the need you are called by God to fulfill this need. There are times this is true but not always. I see thousands of needs but it is impossible for me to meet every need I see. Burnout is the result of man’s effort to fix every problem. If we see a physical need within our local sphere of influence, it is always our responsibility to meet it. We cannot see our brother hungry and claim to love God if we do nothing to meet that need. Faith that ignores God’s compassion on others is not faith at all. I can believe that God has the power to fill and clothe the needy; however, if I refuse to allow God to meet that need through me, I am walking in the flesh and my faith is dead. Faith never says, “I don’t want to get involved”. Look at 1 Corinthians 13:2-3