Summary: James says that a faith that will take you to heaven will always have certain characteristics.
Vs 18. James is not teaching salvation by works. We can’t “see” salvation; we can only see the results of salvation.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE SAVING FAITH
JAMES 2: 14-26
1. Illus. of funeral
• It was the first time it happened to me, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last time.
• As a young pastor, I had been asked to conduct the funeral of a man in our community.
• To be polite, let’s just say this man had lived a somewhat less than godly life!
• The night before the funeral I dropped by the funeral home to pay my respects to the family.
• A brother pulled me over to one side. “I want you to tell everybody my brother is in heaven. He and I made professions of faith at a revival service when we were nine. I know he hasn’t lived like it, but I’m certain he is saved!”
2. How do you know if that loved one’s faith (or even your own for that matter) is real or not? Is it possible to be deceived in this matter? How can we tell the difference between a faith that will take you to heaven and a faith that will not? James answers these questions in our text.
3. Structure- three verses that repeat a formula about faith without works. See vs. 17, 20, 26. The parts in between talk about the visible results real faith always produces.
4. Text: James tells his readers that a saving faith in Christ will always be accompanied by certain identifying characteristics.
5. Today: we can recognize saving faith by checking for the absence or presence of these identifying characteristics.
6. What are the characteristics of saving faith?
I. SAVING FAITH IS MORE THAN EMPTY WORDS
1. See vs 14. Literally, “can that faith save him?” Obviously James is expecting a negative answer. Here is a man who says, “I have become a Christian,” but his so-called faith doesn’t produce the godly works that should accompany salvation. James says, “That is not saving faith.”
2. To make sure we get it, James uses an analogy to make his point. Vs. 15-16. Just like words without works won’t fill a hungry man’s belly, words without works won’t get you to heaven.
3. Principle: A real faith encounter with Christ causes you to start producing godly fruit. If it doesn’t then all you really have is just empty, meaningless words!
4. Illus. of myself
• Very interested in girls, and noticed that boys who got saved were just loved on by the girls afterwards.
• Went forward at a crusade in our school and “prayed the sinner’s prayer.”
• My life didn’t change, and nothing was different. The only difference was that I had prayed a “magic” prayer and started calling myself a Christian. I shudder to think what would have happened if I had died during that time in my life!
5. What kinds of works is James talking about? Bible lists many, but here are a few examples:
1 John 2:4-5 says he will develop a deep desire to obey God.
1 John 3:6-10 says he will be convicted about his old sinful practices, so that one by one he lays them aside
1 John 3:14 says he will begin to love Christians, and love being around Christians.
6. Application: I’ve met many people who say, “I’ve been saved but I don’t care for God’s family, God’s will, God’s Word, or God’s plan.” Friends, I wouldn’t give you half a hallelujah for their chances in eternity. Faith in Christ will produce godly fruit in your life. James is plainly saying, “No fruit means no faith!”
II. SAVING FAITH IS MORE THAN DOCTRINAL ORTHODOXY
1. See vs 19. Remember that these were saved Jews. To the typical Jew, the ultimate test of orthodoxy was monotheism: “do you believe in many gods, or do you believe in only One God, Jehovah?”
2. James is saying, “Are you doctrinally orthodox? That’s good, but it is not enough to make you a Christian. Even the demons of hell are doctrinally orthodox.”
3. Principle: Saving faith involves more than just knowing the right answers to a set of doctrinal questions.
4. Illus. of Satan applying for church membership
• “Do you believe in the deity of Christ?” Oh yes. The Bible is very plain about that. I know He is God’s Son.
• "Do you believe Jesus lived a sinless life?" Yes, tried to get Jesus to sin many times, but He never would do so.
• "Miracles?" Saw each one. Each time a blind person saw etc. I got angry, because I knew I had lost another victim.
• "Substitutionary atonement on the cross?" Witnessed each act, heard each cry.
• "Physical resurrection?" Did my best to keep Him in tomb, saw it when He exploded in resurrection glory.