Summary: Faith - real & false! (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: chapter 2 verses 14-26


Alexander Graham Bell was an amazingly talented person.

• He invented the multiple telegraph,

• The audiometer - which is used to test your hearing,

• The tricycle landing gear you find on planes,

• And a host of other less well-known machines.

In addition to this he was cofounder of the prestigious magazine Science,

• Served as President of the National Geographic Society,

• And spent his life working with deaf people.

• But most famous of all his creations was the telephone.

• It also made his family and his descendents enormously wealthy.

But he almost lost it all.

• You see Bell never seemed to get around to submitting a patent application.

• Finally, his father-in-law, who had financed a lot of the research,

• Got so impatient that he filed the patent on Bell’s behalf.

• The date was the 14th of February 1876, Bell’s 29th birthday.

• And it was a good thing he did, because just a few hours later,

• Another scientist by the name of Elisha Gray;

• Went to the patent office to get a patent on a machine;

• He’d been working on for many years – you guessed it, the telephone.

This story reminds us that sometimes its not enough simply to have great ideas.

• We need to act on them.

• Bell & his father-in-law are a good example of the relationship between faith and works.

• Bell had faith in his telephone but did nothing about it.

• His father-in-law had faith and the works to go with it.


• The Bible teaches that we are saved by faith (Eph. 2:8-9),

• And every Christian is called to live by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).

• In fact, the Bible says; ‘Without faith it is impossible to please God’ (Heb. 11:6);

(a). Misunderstanding.


• It does not take a lot to cause misunderstandings;

• Just listen to these misprints from local newspapers.

• From the Chichester Evening News:

• Miss Hampshire ... is friendly, likeable, and easy to talk to. She has a fine, fair skin,

• Which she admits ruefully comes out in freckles at the first hint of sin.

• Or this from the Dublin Evening Herald:

• Fifteen churches have been closed in Dublin City because of swindling congregations.

• From the Yorkshire Post: Patricia Middleton sang 'Christians dost thou see them?'

• At the close of Sunday night's service. Miss Middleton is a qualified vice instructor.

• Or, even worse, from the Croydon Advertiser:

• Born to Rev and Mrs David Wilson of St James' Church, a git of a son.

This section of James letter (verses 14-26):

• Is the most misunderstood and controversial passage in the book of James.

• Many cults (e.g. the Jehovah Witnesses) completely misunderstand it;

• And it is one of their favourite passages to argue Christians with;

• As they try to prove you have to work your way to heaven.

Question: Why the confusion?


• The entire New Testament teaches that we are saved by faith alone. E.g. Apostle Paul:

• "By grace…. through faith and not by works, so that no-one can boast."

• Yet James comes along and says in these verses,

• “It’s not just faith but faith and works.”

• So the question is which one is right;

• James or Paul?

They are both right, because they are talking about different things.

• Context means everything;

• Just think about these two proverbs:

• “Too many cooks spoil the broth”.

• “Many hands make light work”.

• Both are good advice depending on the context they are used in.

• If we were weeding the Church car park “Many hands make light work” is best.

• If we were making coffee at the end of the service;

• “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is the best advice – context is everything!

Both Paul & James are right in what they say, because they are talking about different situations:

• Paul was fighting the problem of legalism;

• People were saying:

• "You’ve got to keep all the Jewish laws and regulations to be a Christian."

• Paul tells them quite clearly; that is wrong we are saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ!

• It is not keeping the law or even our own good efforts that saves us.

• It is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone that saves.

• James in this letter is fighting a different problem to Paul.

• His problem is not legalism but laxity.

• He encountered people who were saying;

• "It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe."

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