Summary: Real faith involves the whole man, & it must include the will. The mind understands the truth, the heart loves the truth, & the will must act on the truth for it to truly be faith.
Biblical truths demand demonstration in daily life. Real faith, dynamic faith, results in a changed life. James used Abraham and Rahab as examples of dynamic saving faith, since both of them responded in faith to the message of God.
Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. The man in the jungle bows before an object of wood and trusts it to help him. But no matter how much faith a person may generate, if it is not directed at the right object, it will accomplish nothing. Most, if not all people believe, but the great questions are, in whom do you believe and what do you believe? We are not saved by faith in faith or by faith in the right information. We are saved by faith in (eis) Jesus Christ who is revealed to us in His Word by the Holy Spirit.
Real faith involves the whole man, and it must include the will. The mind understands the truth, the heart loves the truth, and the will must act on the truth for it to truly be faith.
True faith leads to action. Living faith is not just intellectual agreement or emotional outburst it is also obedience by the will. And this obedience is not an isolated event; it continues throughout life and brings about good works. Where there is real faith, saving faith, there will always be good works.
James here illustrates genuine faith through the lives of two well-known Bible persons: Abraham and Rahab. You could not find two more different persons! Abraham was a Jew; Rahab was a Gentile. Abraham was a godly man, but Rahab was a sinful woman, a harlot. Abraham was the friend of God, while Rahab belonged to the enemies of God. What did they have in common? Both exercised saving faith in God. For faith that is not exercised in the real world is not real faith (CIT).
I. THE OBEDIENCE OF ABRAHAM, 21-24.
II. THE EXPERIENCE OF RAHAB, 25-26.
Verse 21 calls to mind the event where Abraham was asked to act in great faith upon God’s Word to him. Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?
The background for this illustration comes from Genesis 15 and 22. For emphasis James reverses the order of the events and places the verification deed (2:21) before faith (2:23). You will want to read Genesis 15 and 22 to get the background facts for the illustration. God called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees to lead him into Canaan and to make out of him the nation of Israel. It was through Israel that God would bring the Savior into the world. Abraham’s salvation experience is recorded in Genesis 15. At night, God showed His servant the stars and gave him a promise, "So shall thy seed (descendants) be!" How did Abraham respond? "And he believed in the Lord, and He (The Lord) counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen. 15:5-6).
The word counted is a legal or financial term that means "to put to one’s account." As a sinner, Abraham’s spiritual bankbook was empty. He was bankrupt! But he trusted God, and God put righteous in Abraham’s account. Abraham did not work for this righteousness; he received it as a gift from God. He was declared righteous by faith. He was justified by faith (read Rom. 4).
How can you tell if a person is justified by faith if this transaction takes place between the sinner and God privately? Abraham’s example answers that important question: the justified person has a changed life and obeys God’s will. His faith is demonstrated by his works.
James first used another event in Abraham’s life, an event that took place many years after Abraham’s conversion. This event is the offering up of Isaac on the altar (Gen. 22). Abraham was not saved by obeying God’s difficult command. His obedience proved that he already was saved because he lived by faith in God’s Word and not by sight. Abraham’s offering of Isaac was a proof of faith. It was evidence that his faith was alive.
James is not teaching justification by works but that true faith moves the heart and regulates the life. True faith does not lie dormant and inoperative but manifests itself in active obedience. True faith always results in deeds but the deeds themselves do not save us. Faith in God brings us salvation. Obedience demonstrates that our faith is genuine or living.
Verse 22 states two facts about Abraham’s faith. You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected;
Abraham’s deed was preeminently an act of faith, for it was his faith that prompted his obedience. His faith was spurring him on to do good works. These works prove the integrity of the faith.