Summary: How do you know if faith is real? Is it possible to have a faith that is fake? How do you know the difference? Where do works fit with faith? Are they extra, needed for salvation?
This weekend was a cool weekend in the life of our church. On Friday, the women’s ministry had a come n go dessert, and even though I wasn’t there, I heard it was a good time.
Then on Saturday morning, we had a church and neighborhood clean-up. It was a great time to clean up our church, as well as some of the surrounding areas. Over the next few weeks, you will be hearing about another neighborhood clean-up that we will be doing shortly.
Today, we are continuing our series on the book of James. This morning, we are going to look at by far, one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. Throughout history, this has been one of the most difficult passages to understand. In fact, over 500 years ago, this was one of the passages that split the Catholic and Protestant churches. So before we dive in, why don’t we pray and ask God to guide our time.
If you have your bibles, you can open them to James chapter 2. We will be looking at verses 14 – 26 today. Just to recap to get everyone on the same page. James is a short letter, only 3 pages in my bible, that was written to Christians in the 1st century. The Christians he was writing to were people who were not living like Christians. There was nothing different about them from anybody else in the world around them. Christians were acted and reacting to life like everyone else.
We started off in chapter 1 looking at how we respond to trials and temptations. Then James head into how we deal with anger. And then last week, we looked at favoritism in our lives. And remember, because this is a letter, there aren’t any breaks. So when James was writing this, everything was connected. Trials and temptations are connected to anger, which is connected to favoritism, and then he connects faith with that.
Faith is an interesting topic. Most people, whether they know it or not have faith. Last night, you went to bed and you had faith that your alarm would go off. When you got in your car, you had faith that it would start and get you here. Right now, you have faith that the chair you are sitting in will hold you. Some of you are thinking, I hope mine doesn’t break. But we all have faith. Sometimes, we refer to it as wishing, hoping or believing. We believe our team will win, unless it’s the Cardinals.
Faith also comes into play when we think about religion and spirituality. One of the definitions that Webster uses for faith is “belief and trust in and loyalty to God.”
Have you ever heard the phrase “putting your faith in God?” For many people, this is what they believed they were doing when they became a Christian. And rightly so. We get this from Galatians 2:16 which says: 16yet we know that a person is not justified[a] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ
Or Romans 3:28 that says: 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
If you have been to church before, have you ever heard someone say, “All you need to be a Christian is to just believe. Just believe in God. We get this from 1 John 1:9 which says: 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Makes sense right. If you have been to church for any amount of time, you have heard these things. They are good and right, biblical things to believe in. Then we have James. I don’t know about you, but the more time we are spending in James, I love what he says, because he is blunt and just says it. But he reminds me of the guy you don’t want to get stuck next to at the punch bowl at a party. He ruins everything I believe in, everything I have been taught my whole life.
This passage that we are looking at this morning, is the passage that made Martin Luther in the 1500’s say that James is a second tier book of the Bible. Because he and others have felt throughout church history that James contradicts what Paul and others say. But I think with the opinions James held, he had to be a scrapper. As we dive in, keep these other passages in Galatians, and 1 John in your head.
This is what it says in James 2, verse 14: 14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[a] is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.