Summary: James says that faith will evidence itself in real works if it is a living faith
Faith and Works
7/25/05 am, SBC Philippi,
Rev. Jeff Simms
Faith and Works
Primary Purpose: To discuss what a real and living faith looks like
Let’s pretend for a moment that you’ve suffered a terrible loss of home, clothing and food in a terrible disaster. All you have is what you have on your back. In desperation, you reach out to the church for help. All your friends and even people you don’t know rush to hear what’s wrong. After hearing about your problem they say to you, “Okay, we see your really in a difficult spot. Hope things get better for you and you get some good food and shelter soon. Bye!” They wish you well, but don’t help you at all. I wonder what you would think of that kind of help? That’s not really help is it. If they really cared about you you would think that someone would perhaps offer a place to stay or invite you over to dinner or something. In other words, you would expect a response because of their relationship to you. You would expect for that love that you have as friends and brothers and sisters in Christ to result in some action wouldn’t you? That is in a sense what James is talking about here. He’s talking about the relationship between faith and works. (Read James 2:14-26)
The Reformed Martin Luther who lived in the 15th century didn’t like the book of James calling it the “straw epistle”. He thought that it indicated that a person is not justified by faith in Christ alone and added works as a condition for salvation. But, that is not actually what James is saying here. Paul is talking about what is required in Romans for a person to be saved. James is describing what a true faith looks like. First, he gives two examples of a dead faith and then he gives two examples of a living faith. The bottom line of it is is that true faith will demonstrate itself in good works.
James begins as I did with a story about someone who is without clothes or daily food and is ignored. He says to be ignored in a situation like that would demonstrate that that persons faith is worthless. It is all about the relationship between faith and works. Let me give you an example. When I was in seminary, I bought a small pine tree for my apartment in seminary. I bought a live little tree and put it in the front room. I don’t really know what I was thinking I would do with it after Christmas. After a couple of hours I started sneezing and realized I couldn’t keep the tree. So, I put it in the shed that we had behind the apartments intending to take it to a field somewhere and plant it as soon as possible. But, I completely forgot about it till spring!! When I saw it next April it was as dry and a bone and brown. It was completely dead. A result of my lack of care, no sunshine and no water had killed it pretty quickly. One thing resulted from the other. Likewise, James is saying that if you really have a true faith then you will see it demonstrate itself or show itself in these ways. It’s impossible just to say you have faith and not to see evidence of it.