Summary: We are going to see living faith in the lives of two people who couldn’t be more different than they were. The contrast between these two personalities would be complete if it had not been for one characteristic that would forever link them.
Examples of Living Faith
Preached by Pastor Tony Miano
Pico Canyon Community Church
April 22, 2001
Introduction: During the two weeks prior to Easter, we considered what James had to say about faith and good works—how the two are related and how the two are different. We saw how James made a clear distinction between a professed faith and a genuine faith. We also saw that James and Paul agree that the Christian is saved by faith alone, apart from good works.
Today we’re going to finish our study on faith and good works as we take a look at verses 21-26 in James, chapter two. As we do that we’ll notice that James shifts gears from exposing dead faith to giving examples of living faith. As is the case with most of chapter two in James’ letter, much of what James says in these last six verses have been the subject of passionate and sometimes bitter debate. We will find a verse that seems to contradict everything we’ve been studying about justification by faith alone. Once again we will learn that what you see is not always what you get.
As I’ve already mentioned, we are going to find examples of living faith in James 2:21-26—two in particular. We are going to see living faith in the lives of two people who couldn’t be more different than they were. The contrast between these two personalities would be complete if it had not been for one characteristic that would forever link them.
One was a man revered by his people. The other was a woman probably reviled by hers. One was a patriarch the other was a prostitute. One was a Jew, the other a Gentile. One is best known for the life he lived. The other is probably best known for the lie she told. The two people James writes about at the end of chapter two were from different genders, different cultures, different races, and different times. Yet they shared something in common that will bind them together as brother and sister for all eternity, though they never met here on earth. Both of these people were examples of genuine and living faith.
Let’s begin by reading James 2:14-26.
In reading this passage, I’m reminded of how important what we do here on Sunday morning really is. What if I had decided to pull James 2:21-26 out of the air and preach it one morning? Let’s say there was some confusion in our church regarding faith and good works. I know some of you are new in your faith. Others of you have just begun to really study God’s Word. Still others of you are investigating the claims of Christianity, having yet to commit your life to Christ.
Now, certainly, I could preach this passage of Scripture, by itself, and explain the relationship between faith and good works. But how much easier will it be for us to truly grasp what James is saying in these last six verses having already done our homework in the first twenty verses in the chapter?
Our study has shown us that James and Paul agree theologically. Our study has shown us that there is a difference between a professed faith in Christ and a genuine faith in Christ. Our study has shown us that a faith of the lips, that kind of faith, does not lead to everlasting life. We’ve learned that a genuine faith is a working faith. We’ve learned that we don’t work for our salvation. We work because of our salvation. We’ve learned all of this by doing a verse-by-verse-study of James’ writing in chapter two.
This verse-by-verse, sometimes word-by-word study of the text has equipped us to approach another difficult passage with confidence because we already know where James stands. We know that James believes as Paul does—that the believer is justified by faith alone, apart from works. Knowing that, not because it’s something we want to believe, or because it’s something we feel right about, but because we’ve studied the text and, I believe, rightly divided it, gives us a much firmer foundation for today’s study than if we had randomly chosen these last six verses to try to explain with a snapshot approach the relationship between faith and good works.
So when we see words or phrases today that seem to contradict one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, we don’t have to walk away scratching our heads. We don’t have to walk away assuming that there is a mystery here that is too far over our heads for us to understand. We don’t have to walk away frustrated and thinking of words such as study and teaching as laborious, tiresome, and boring.
We know, because we’ve seen it before, that the fog will lift and our eyes will clear if we will just take the time to dig a little deeper. And I’ve had the great joy of seeing that happen firsthand in some of your lives. I’ve seen some of you dig for the first time and surprise yourself because you’re finding yourself excited to learn more. I’ve seen it in the way your questions have matured just in these first six months that we’ve been studying the Word together.