Summary: You cannot separate faith from good works; they are interrelated.
Faith That Works
Text: James 2:19-26
1. Illustration: Rena was 3 years old when she went to her first baptismal service. It was new for her and a bit mystifying. As events transpired, she looked up at her father with surprise in her eyes, "Daddy, he pushed that guy under the water? Why did he do that?" The father tried to quietly answer her question during the service; but his answer did not satisfy little Rena. So when they got home he attempted a fuller explanation. "Well people do bad things; and they are being baptized to let everyone know they are now going to be good. The water symbolizes Jesus’ washing people’s sins away. When they come out ‘clean,’ they are going to try to be ‘good.’" Rena thought about that for a moment and then asked the simple question, ‘Why didn’t Pastor Bob just spank him?’ (Bob Beasley, Perfect Illustrations for Every Topic and Occasion, 112).
2. This morning we are going to continue a look at James teaching on faith and good works. In this section James uses three examples to illustrate his point.
3. These object lessons that James uses are not as important as what they convey...
A. Believing Isn't Enough
B. Shown Right By What We Do
C. Good Works Are The Breath Of Faith
4. Let's stand together as we read James 2:19-26
Proposition: You cannot separate faith from good works; they are interrelated.
Transition: The first example that James uses has to do with demons and it teaches us that...
I. Believing Isn't Enough (19-20).
A. Even The Demons Believe
1. James first of his three illustrations is an unlikely one...demons!
2. In v. 19 James says, "You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror."
A. The first example is devastating. What could there possibly be from which people of "faith" would want to distance themselves farther than demons?
B. You believe leaves the continuity of the theme of faith unmistakable. But it is a doctrinal belief (believing that something is true) rather than genuine Christian faith; therefore it is hardly a rebuttal to what the apostle Paul wrote about faith.
C. This is devastating again, for no one claiming to have Christian faith could dismiss this as a trivial example.
D. Even the demons believe in the sense of recognizing the truth, and they at least realize that it leaves them cause to shudder in fear rather than rest in confidence that they are saved.
E. James may well be remembering the one God fear that demons exhibited when confronted by Christ, for it made a powerful impression on observers.
F. Mark 1:23-24 (NLT)
23 Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting,
24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God!”
G. The point is that believing the truth without obeying the truth does not save us at all, any more than it saves demons.
H. In fact, the comparison to demonic "faith" implies that belief without obedience is even worse than useless (Stulac, IVPNT: James, 113).
3. Next James brings the hammer down even harder. In v. 20 he says, "How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?"
A. James addresses his hypothetical person who held the above views, calling that person a fool. The foolish person is literally a “hollow man.”
B. If the faith around which we build our lives turns out to be empty, we are truly hollow people.
C. When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless? There are times when we need more teaching or understanding in order to respond to God’s direction.
D. But most often we know what needs to be done, yet are unwilling to act. When it comes to putting into practice what we know, is it our habit to obey God? (Barton, Life Application New Testament Commentary, 1080).
B. Faith Useless Without Works
1. Illustration: "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works." Luther, Martin
2. A faith that doesn't act is not real faith.
A. Matthew 5:16 (NLT)
16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
B. A tree that doesn't produce fruit gets cut down.
C. A car that doesn't run gets taken to the junk yard.
D. A cow that doesn't produce milk gets taken to the slaughter house.
E. A faith that doesn't express itself in good works is not saving faith.