Sermons

Summary: When you think of some Christian you greatly admire, you are usually thinking of their loving kindness and Christian actions, and not their views of the trinity. It is by behavior that we impress people with our Christian faith and not by our belief.

The passage we are looking at has been greatly misunderstood.

Some have thought it contradicts what Paul says about being

justified by faith. James says we are justified by works. They

appear to be holding opposite views, but a close study of the words

reveals that they are in perfect agreement. When Paul spoke of faith

he meant a faith that works, and when he spoke of works he meant

works before salvation trying to merit salvation. James speaks of

faith as mere intellectual knowledge that even the demons have, and

which is not saving faith. When he speaks of works he means those

works after one is saved.

Let us not forget that the theme of James is always a practical

faith. In chapter one he talked of the trial of faith, to pray in faith,

and he begins this chapter withholding faith without respect of

persons. Faith is the theme, but because of mistaken ideas on faith

James stresses that true faith is a working faith. When Paul stressed

faith he did not emphasize works because he wrote to those who were

in danger of the deception that good works could save them. When

James stresses works, he writes to those who are in danger of being

so heavily minded they are of no earthly good. They are those who

say they have faith, and that is all they need.

The proof that God knew what He was doing when He inspired

two men to write about faith from two points of view is that two of

the heresies that have plagued the church have grown out of

extremes in one side or the other. Pelagians have said we'll work our

way to heaven. Antinomians have said that we will ride on faith to

heaven and do nothing. Paul and James are a team, and they strike

down both of these heresies. Paul says in Eph. 2:8-10, "For it is by

grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from

yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can

boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do

good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Paul

makes it clear we are not saved by good works, but for good works,

and that is what James is saying. If your faith is true, it will show

itself in works. James indicates that we can test the truth of our faith

by asking two simple questions. First-

I. IS THERE ANY PROFIT IN MY FAITH. vv. 14-17.

James asks them what does it profit to have a faith without

works? A faith that does not express itself in action is nothing but

words. He gives a rather humorous illustration. The wind is

howling outside as Christian A sets down by the fireside to eat a good

meal. There is a knock at the door. Christian A opens the door, and

there stands a member of his church, Christian B. He has no

overcoat, but only a shabby light jacket. He tells Christian A of the

fact that he lost his job, and hasn't been able to buy any groceries.

Christian A, with all the compassion of a phonograph record says,

"Well brother, you can count on me to pray for you. The Lord bless

you. I will see you in church on Sunday." He shuts the door and

goes back to his warm fireside chair and finishes his meal. Christian

B continues to hunger in the cold.

Where is the profit in such foolishness says James. Can you

really be so blind as to think that mere words can substitute for

food? Do you think that a faith that is mere words can save your

soul? The use of this illustration indicates that these Jewish

Christians were giving a wrong meaning to faith in contrast with

their old concepts of works. As Jews, before they became Christians,

they thought alms-giving was a way to salvation. Ben Sirach wrote,

"Water will quench a flaming fire, and alms maketh an atonement

for sin." In Tobit we read, "Everyone who occupieth himself in alms

shall behold the face of God, as it is written, I will behold thy face by

almsgiving." This is why the Pharisees wanted everyone to see them

giving alms.

What happened was that when the Jews accepted salvation by the

free grace of God, they forgot the other half of the Gospel, and they

said that since alms do not save us we can forget that aspect of our

old faith. But James is warning them that faith without works is

dead. We are saved by faith, but not by a dead faith. We are saved

by a living faith that loves God and man, and desires to express the

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