1. Today we come to what some consider the heart of the book of James. It is also one of the most passages in the Bible. It is one that can easily be misunderstood. It is one that challenges us again with the question as to whether or not we are really saved.
2. And so tonight as we consider this passage you are challenged to take a look at your faith.
3, Do you have faith? What kind of faith? Do you ever question your faith? Is it real?
1. The Heidelberg Catechism (60) says that there is only one way that we are right with God. One way. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. It goes on to say that all we need to do is accept the gift of God, which is Christ Himself, with a believing heart.
2. Yet James seems to say to us tonight that faith is not enough. 3x he tells us that faith by itself is dead. In vs. 20 he says faith without deeds is useless and in vs. 24 he says a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
3. Is James going against the rest of the New Testament? Is he saying that what we do is more important than our faith?
4. The two key words in the passage are faith and deeds or actions. Faith appears 11 times and deeds, actions, what we do are found 11 times - as I counted it.
5. But every time we find the word faith, the meaning is not the same. In fact, as Mark Copeland says, there are three kinds of faith mentioned here.
a. The first kind is found in verses 15-17. James is talking to those in the church. Those who consider themselves Christians. Those who have at least an intellectual understanding of the faith. They know all the right answers. James gives a hypothertical situaton. Another believer, a brother, comes to them with a dire need. The Greek shows they are without a coat and without food. They have a problem that needs to be dealt with. The "Christian" is aware of the need and he addresses it. They give a standard Jewish or early Christian farewell "Go, I wish you well". This could even be in the form of a prayer. Even offers some advise. Get yourself warm and get some food. Sound advise but that’s all it is. Nothing is done to help the other person. Faith that is only knowledge and advise is DEAD FAITH.
b. The second kind of faith is the DEMON FAITH. This faith is also intellectual. You believe there is one God. This would remind the Jewish Christians of the Jewish Shema, a daily confession of faith "The Lord God is one". Well, says James, even the demons know that. The fallen angels know that there is but one God. They even saw Him before they were cast out of heaven. And not only do they have this knowledge, but they are affected by it. They shudder to think of it because they know what that means. They know what it means that Christ came and died. They shudder to think of His victory over death. They know they will one day be judged.
6. Today there are many who have an intellectual understanding of God and Christ. They may even be emotional in there faith. They know the right things and they are able to worship with real feelings. But that is also faith that is dead.
7. And that leads to the third kind of faith that James talks about. This kind of faith will save a person . We are saved by faith alone, but only with this faith which is true.
8. This is not faith that is claimed or "such faith" as the first two kinds. It is faith that not only knows and feels, but acts, Faith that is accompanied by deeds
9. But this were we need to define what these deeds or works are. There are two kinds of works in us. Works of the sinful nature:
Gal 5:17-21 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.