Summary: To trust is to obey.
Let us imagine that you are the president of a company. You need to travel abroad and stay there for an extended time. Before leaving, you instructed your employees, “I want you to take care of business. I will e-mail you regularly on what you should do from now until I return from this business trip.”
Imagine your dismay when you returned and discover that your office is in shambles, some employees are sleeping and the others horsing around. And instead of making a profit, the company lost a lot of money while you were away.
I imagine you would demand, “What’s going on? What did you do while I was away? Did you receive my e-mails?” Then one of your key employees approaches you. “Yes, we got all your e-mails. We have printed it and bound it all in a book. And some of us have even memorized them. In fact, we have ‘e-mail study’ every Sunday. You know, those were really great e-mails.” I think you would shout, “What else did you do with my instructions?” How would you respond if your employee gives this answer? “Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!”
The scenario is really unthinkable. But, sadly, it actually happens in another arena… among people who claims to be believers. We claim we are the only Christian nation in Southeast Asia. Yet, we are considered the most corrupt country in the region. Are the words “Christian” and “corrupt” becoming more and more synonymous here? Instead of blaming others, I think we all need to face a mirror and ask, “What was my part in the problem? How can I be a part of the solution?” I believe national transformation starts with personal transformation. It starts with you and me. Whenever I reflect on this sad situation, the book of James comes to my mind. I could summarize it in two words: “Faith Works.” We are to “Do Something” with our faith. Let us pray first…
Keep your Bibles open in James 2:14-17 as we got through it verse by verse. Let us first look at the big picture. James was one of the half-brothers of the Lord Jesus in the flesh. At first he did not believe but after Christ rose from the dead he became a follower. He later on became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. He wrote this book that bears his name. It was the first book written for the New Testament. As I have said, the message of James can be condensed into two words: “Faith Works.” I have always told you, the faith that saves is the faith that works. To TRUST is to OBEY. Faith is not just BELIEVING but also BEHAVING.
In James 1:1-18, he talked about the test of faith. We are commanded in verses 2 to 3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” The purpose of the test is to prove that our faith is genuine. It is basically the preparation of faith. Then from 1:19 to 5:6, James talked about the traits of faith. He detailed the proofs of faith. We read in 2:17, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” So we see here that works are the proofs of faith. That’s the context of our Bible passage today. Then in 5:7-5:20, James wrote about the triumph of faith. He wants to showcase the power of faith.
Verse 14 tells us, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” Many people make a mistake in their understanding of this passage. They thought that this verse proves that we are saved not only by faith but also by works. But that interpretation would run counter to what Ephesians 2:8-9 told us: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We are not saved by works.
I believe these are two sides of the same coin. Ephesians teaches us how to know we’re Christians. James teaches us how to show we’re Christians. Ephesians teaches us how to become a Christian. James teaches us how to behave as a Christian. That’s why I said that faith is not just believing but also behaving. Ephesians teaches us that faith, not works, is the root of salvation. James teaches us that works are the fruit of salvation. In others words, works are not a requirement for salvation. It is the result of salvation. The faith that saves is the same faith that works. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, we will obey Him as Lord. I am not saying that we receive Jesus as Savior now and then as Lord later. What I am saying is that the call to faith is also the call to follow. We are called not just to believe but also to behave.