Summary: Salvation is only through faith and the redeeming work and grace of God. However, I do say that if our faith is not accompanied by works, then we can’t say that we have a genuine faith.
I want to start today’s service with a joke. There was this very rich man who lived in the United States, who had heard of a man that lived in France that was very famous for walking the tightrope. According to what he had heard, the Frenchman had the reputation of walking the tightrope at high altitudes, while blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow; however, this was something that the American couldn’t believe. The American then wrote to the Frenchman and said; I don’t believe that what I’ve heard about you is true; I don’t believe that there is a person who can do what you're credited with. However, I offer you a million dollars to come to the United States, and perform your act over Niagara Falls and walk the tightrope from Canada to New York. The Frenchman immediately replied and said that he would do it.
The day of performance finally came, and many gathered to see this dangerous act. The Frenchman climbed up to the tightrope, someone blindfolded him, and then he started to walk across it pushing the wheelbarrow, while the American looked on and waited for him at the other end of the rope. Everyone was fascinated to see the agility that this man demonstrated while walking, and he soon crossed from one side to another without any problems. Upon reaching the other side, the Frenchman approached the American and said: do you believe that I can do this? To which the American responded; I just finished seeing you with my own eyes, this was something impressive. And the Frenchman answered; no, no, do you believe that I can do this? To which the American answered; we all saw what you did, it was something genuinely worthy of appreciation. And the Frenchman replied; but do you believe that I can do this? And the American answered; I just finished witnessing it with my eyes, of course I believe. To which the Frenchman answered; then get in the wheelbarrow, we are going back. Funny, isn’t it? This joke serves to illustrate the subject that we will be exploring today. Today we are going to explore our faith. Let’s now turn to the Word of God.
James 2:14-26 - What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! 20But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. 24You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. 25Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
One of the more serious problems that has confronted Christ’s church from the very beginning is that through history, and at present time, there are many that profess the Christian faith, but that do nothing or very little to prove their faith. In other words, that don’t behave and act in the ways that a Christian should. How must Christians act and behave? The main way that Christians should act and behave is clearly defined in 1 Peter 1:16 when we read: “…Be holy, for I am holy...” In other words, we have to persevere in leading a holy life. But this is something that we are not always willing to do.
I would say that one of the greatest temptations that we confront is to profess our faith, and not having works to back it up. But the truth is that faith without works is a contradiction in terms. Now, I want to make a brief pause here to clarify something. I want to do this because some may think that there is a contradiction between what Paul teaches about salvation, as found in Ephesians 2:8-9 when we read: “…For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast…” And what James teaches us in these verses; however, there is no contradiction at all.