Summary: Faith without works is dead faith, while faith seen by it’s works is a growing, mature faith.
Several years ago in my country there was an advertising campaign to get people to drink milk. It was simply entitled “Got Milk?” There would be a picture of a well known person holding a glass of milk and he or she had a moustache made of milk. All fine and dandy but I don’t like milk. If you stayed awake for our series on John it is pretty clear that you can only be saved by faith…that is believing in Jesus. John made that very clear in his gospel. Remember these verses?
John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--
John 3:16 ¶ "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
So I think it’s pretty clear that we can only have eternal life because we believe in Jesus, right? And remember there is only one work we can do to receive eternal life. Jesus was asked this question.
John 6:28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
John 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
OK, you tell me, all along you’ve been telling us that we can only have eternal life by believing in Jesus. Now you’re telling us something completely different. So I guess the Bible does contradict itself, doesn’t it?
Don’t go. Because we need to ask the question, what part do works play in our salvation? Now that we believe in Jesus are we supposed to just sit back and do nothing? Or is there something we need to do?
This passage is a difficult one, because we need to ask these questions. Works do play a part in our salvation, but let’s see exactly what part they do play. Let me also say that if you believe in Jesus, you don’t need to worry about losing your salvation. I don’t think that’s what James is writing. Remember who he wrote this to? To the 12 tribes scattered abroad. And remember I said earlier James is not teaching on how to become a Christian. No, he is teaching us how to live as a Christian. That’s why I said I usually don’t use this book when talking to someone who does not believe in Jesus. No, I’ll go back to John or to Romans. James is writing to those who already believe in Jesus. And remember this is a book on Christian maturity. If you want to know what the Christian life looks like, look no further than James.
Let’s answer that question that James begins with.
James 2:14 ¶ What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?
I’m sure all of us know people who claim to be Christians, but their lives don’t show it. Or as we would say, “all talk but no walk.” What James is going to show us is that works do not save but they are evidence that one is saved. You see there are people that really believe in Jesus. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Their lives show it. I’m also afraid that there are those who claim to be Christians but their lives don’t show it. This can mean one of 2 things. It can mean that they are not truly saved. Or they can be saved but their lives don’t show any fruit. I think James is talking to those who are truly saved but their lives don’t show any fruit. What does faith without works or deeds look like? Let’s look at the next 2 verses.
James 2:15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.
James 2:16 If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?
Someone, and I’m talking about a true believer in Jesus is lacking in his or her daily needs, food and clothing. Because remember Jesus said God knows our needs and if we seek Him, He will meet those needs. Remember this verse?
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
If you know someone has a need of food or clothing what are you going to do for them? Like James said, what good is it? Because these words cannot save a starving person, only food can do that.