Summary: Faith that work
Topic: FAITH AND WORKS.
14 Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it?
15 For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved
16 and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you?
17 Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?
18 I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, "Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I'll handle the works department." Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.
19 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That's just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them?
20 Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?
21 Wasn't our ancestor Abraham "made right with God by works" when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar?
22 Isn't it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are "works of faith"?
23 The full meaning of "believe" in the Scripture sentence, "Abraham believed God and was set right with God," includes his action. It's that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named "God's friend."
24 Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?
25 The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn't her action in hiding God's spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God?
26 The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.
This is the very heart of the Epistle, showing that real living faith is always known by its fruits. Many have imagined that James wrote these verses to fight Paul's teaching concerning justification by faith, as explained in the Epistle to the Romans.
As a matter of fact, James wrote his Epistle some years before Paul wrote Romans.
There is no conflict between the two Epistles, as the one is the complement to the other. Faith and works are inseparable, as the following proves.
"Thus it is," he added, "that faith worketh by love." So faith without works, or works without faith, will not suffice to bring us unto our desired haven. But let there be both, and the haven will be safely reached.
I. A Live Faith. Works are an evidence of a real live faith. The possibility of the possession of a dead faith is here declared (14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 26). Just as a live body will manifest its life in action, so live faith will move.
II. A Profitable Faith. Works make faith profitable (14). "What doth it profit?" is a great question. Here we have profit associated with faith. It is essential that we should have a profitable faith.
III. A Working Faith.
1. Faith Leads to Shuddering (19). Real faith leads us to believe in a living God. But what does such a faith lead to? It makes even devils tremble, or, as it could be rendered, "The devils also believe and shudder" meaning shaken (M. reads, "So do the devils, and they shudder"). Has your faith in the existence of God led to shuddering yet?
2. Faith Leads to Sacrifice (21). Abraham's faith led him to Mount Moriah, and to offering his son. Real faith will lead us to Calvary, and to accept the sacrifice Christ has made.
3. Faith Leads to Justification (24). That is, real, living faith.
IV. Perfection of Faith (22). Faith can mature. The proof of a strong and maturing faith will be seen in a plenitude of works.