Summary: A youth devotion and contemporary message regarding faith and works from James.
No Such Thing as Secret Faith
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder.
20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
On the surface James seems to contradict Paul’s many writings that we are saved by faith and not of works. In order to understand what James is saying we need to understand the context and the audience. He is writing to the Jewish believer and attempting to clear up the confusion between law and grace, and an apparent prejudice that is prevalent among them. Here is what we are to learn from James teaching.
I. Faith without works is ineffective faith.
a. Demonstrate with an empty gallon jug. Shake it, open it and pour out the air. Then place some marbles in it and shake it.
b. Point – Faith and works makes some noise!
II. We need a little less talk and a lot more action
a. We can speak great spiritual words, but if we don’t show love toward our neighbor, our words are empty.
b. Vv. 16 & 17 – When we patronize those around us with words like – “God Bless” and “I’ll be praying for you”, and then harbor dislike for them or ignore their needs then our faith is dead.
III. Put your faith into motion
a. Abraham is our model here – It was not enough to believe God, he had to raise the knife. If he stopped at the bottom of the mountain then there was no proof of his faith. If he only built the altar then there was no proof of his faith. If he had only put Isaac on the altar there would be no proof of his faith. It was only when he raised the knife to slay his only son that God honored his faith.
b. Faith and works working together communicated the message.
Conclusion: James sums it up succinctly – just as the body without the spirit is dead, so our faith without works is dead.