Summary: If our faith does not lead to practical holiness of life, it is indeed just like a body without a spirit --having no value whatsoever.
Faith Perfected in Works
A crippled boy was once hurrying to catch a train. Carrying gifts under his arm, he was struggling with his crutches. Suddenly, a man bumped into him, knocking his parcels in all directions. The man then
paused and scolded the boy for getting in his way. Another gentleman, seeing the youngster’s distress, quickly picked up the scattered gifts and slipped a dollar bill into his pocket, saying, "I’m sorry! I hope this makes up for your trouble." The child who couldn’t remember being shown such kindness, called after him, "Mister, thank you! And sir, are you Jesus?" "No," replied the man, "but I am one of His
If our faith in Jesus was put to the test like this, which person would we be? I’m sure we would all immediately align ourselves with the kind gentleman, and say we would help the boy. But, maybe the first man was hurrying to catch his train also. Maybe the boy wasn’t paying enough attention to where he was going. In today’s world, these would both pass a valid excuses for most people to simply cuss out the poor youngster and be on their way. However, the Lord holds Christians to a much higher standard than that. And James very boldly and directly teaches us that our faith in Christ is to be abundantly more than mere words.
The book of James is a pastoral letter concerning the attitudes and actions affecting the spiritual life of the church. As the leader of the very first church, in Jerusalem, James felt an enormous responsibility for the spiritual growth of Christ’s followers everywhere. This epistle was written to encourage Christians who were suffering because of their faith, and it was passed around and read in several churches.
James writing may seem on the surface to contradict Paul’s emphasis on salvation by faith alone in the book of Romans. However, it is simply a protest against hypocrisy. He wants the world to know that faith is a transforming force. Salvation by faith results in holy living. This does not oppose Paul’s teaching - it compliments it!! The two teachings are the essence of a well-rounded Christian faith - redemption and holy living.
Let’s examine this passage more closely. Read v. 14
Notice - not "...if someone has faith..." , but "...if someone says he has faith..."
Tremendous difference - remember James is trying to refute those that have begun to abuse the doctrine of justification by faith. I’m sure the situation was similar to today. Many people were undoubtedly professing Christ one day and returning to their usual pagan ways the next with no evidence of God’s grace in their lives whatsoever!!
Similar to advertising of today. Extravagant soda commercials promise instant refreshment and popularity - end up needing another drink and no more near reaching the cover of Sports Ill. Or how about the last car you purchased? Is it as good as the salesman talked it up to be? Have any of you ever bought a car without first test driving it? That would be pretty foolish, but I wonder how many people do a similar thing by living their lives professing a saving faith in Jesus Christ; yet, show no true evidence of it. This is surely false advertising in its most dangerous form.
James uses a very common illustration to drive home his point. Read v. 15-16
The answer to his question "what does it profit?" is obvious - nobody. The person has done nothing to show his faith, and the brother and sister are still without food and clothing.
Albert Barnes - " It is not enough for salvation without the benevolent and holy acts to which it would prompt, any more than the good wishes and kind words of the benevolent are enough to satisfy the wants of the hungry, and to clothe the naked, without correspondent action."
How often do we hear of another’s situation and simply say, " I’ll pray for you "? Read 1John 3:17-18 - 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
James then moves on with a probable rebuttal to his position. Read v. 18a
We all know at least someone that fits this type of personality. "There’s always a catch" They are confronted with some tidbit of truth and they immediately counter with the exception to the rule. There will always be some whose worldly wisdom blinds them to God’s truth. Read 1Cor. 1:18 - The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned