THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT FAITH
Text: James 2:14-26
1. Read James 2:14-26
2. Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works again -- until they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.
William Booth in The Founder’s Messages to Soldiers, Christianity Today, October 5, 1992, p. 48.
3. If Missouri is the "Show Me State," then James is the show me Epistle.
Proposition: James says, don’t tell me about your faith; show it to me.
Transition: James challenges us by asking us three questions about our faith.
I. Do You Have a Living Faith? (14-17)
A. Can This Kind of Faith Save?
1. James begins by asking two rhetorical questions. "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?"
2. The two questions posed in this verse actually declare that faith not accompanied by good deeds is of no saving value whatsoever. - Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM
3. The emphasis is not on the true nature of faith but on the false claim of faith.
4. What James is saying is that this kind of faith, which is actually no faith at all, is useless.
a. The word profit here is "pertaining to a benefit to be derived from some object,—Louw & Nida: NT Greek-English Lexicon
b. When someone makes an investment he expects to receive a profit from his investment. Otherwise the investment is useless.
c. If you expect that belief that is not back up by action will save you then you are going to be sorley disappointed.
d. Jer. 7:8 "Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit."
B. Faith That Does Not Have Works Is Dead
1. James illustrates his point by saying "If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?"
a. Pay close attention to what James is saying. The person is naked and destitute.
b. This is not a person with little or raggedy clothes; they have no clothes at all - naked!
c. This is not a person with little food; they are destitute - starving.
2. The purpose of the overstatement is to emphasize the drastic need of this believer. His is no mild case of need. He is desperate. - Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM
3. Illustration: A young boy, on an errand for his mother, had just bought a dozen eggs. Walking out of the store, he tripped and dropped the sack. All the eggs broke, and the sidewalk was a mess. The boy tried not to cry. A few people gathered to see if he was OK and to tell him how sorry they were. In the midst of the works of pity, one man handed the boy a quarter. Then he turned to the group and said, "I care 25 cents worth. How much do the rest of you care?" James 2:16 points out that words don’t mean much if we have the ability to do more.
4. True faith transforms our conduct as well as our thoughts. If our lives remain unchanged, we don’t truly believe the truths we claim to believe. —Life Application Bible Notes
5. James tells us that if this is the kind of faith we have our faith is dead.
a. If we are going to have a living faith then we have to have a faith of action.
b. If we are going to have a living faith then our actions must be a mirror of the actions of a living Savior.
6. Deeds of loving service are not a substitute for, but rather a verification of, our faith in Christ. —Life Application Bible Notes
Transition: The next question that James asks us is...
II. Do You Have a Showing Faith? (18-20)
A. I Will Show You My Faith
1. In verse 18, James can already hear the argument against his, so he begins to build his case.
2. He indicates that someone will say "I have faith," and another one will says "I have works."
a. He is saying that some people believe "faith and works are not necessarily related to each other and that it is possible to have either one without the other" - Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM
b. James is going to take this false hypothesis and put it to the test.
3. James challenges these people to "show me your faith without your works..."
a. The response to the challenge is simple: you can’t show faith without works.
b. Faith cannot be demonstrated apart from action. Faith is an attitude of the inner man, and it can only be seen as it influences the actions of the one who possesses it. - Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM:
c. Gal. 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
4. He then anwers their question by saying "I will show you my faith by my works."
a. Unlike his challenger, James does not separate faith from works.
b. We are not saved by works, but our works are produced by our faith.
5. Illustration: Dr. J.B. Gambrel tells an amusing story from General Stonewall Jackson’s famous valley campaign. Jackson’s army found itself on one side of a river when it needed to be on the other side. After telling his engineers to plan and build a bridge so the army could cross, he called his wagon master in to tell him that it was urgent the wagon train cross the river as soon as possible. The wagon master started gathering all the logs, rocks and fence rails he could find and built a bridge. Long before day light General Jackson was told by his wagon master all the wagons and artillery had crossed the river. General Jackson asked where are the engineers and what are they doing? The wagon master’s only reply was that they were in their tent drawing up plans for a bridge. Pulpit Helps, May, 1991.
6. Faith without works won’t get the wagons across the bridge, but faith with works will win the war.
B. Even the Demons Believe
1. James again challenges these people by saying "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!"
2. All faithful Jews believed the creed known as the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." - Expositor’s Bible Commentary, The, Pradis CD-ROM
3. He was saying, to “believe” in one God may be good so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough.
4. The demons believe too, but they do not have saving faith.
5. Recent polls indicate that 85% of all Americans refer to themselves as born-again Christians, but how many are living it?
6. If you were arrested today for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Transition: Don’t tell me about your faith; show it to me!
III. Do You Have a Following Faith? (21-26)
A. The Faith of Abraham
1. The third and final question that James asks has to do with following the example of the great people of faith.
2. The first example that James uses is Abraham. He says "Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?"
a. The word "justified" means "to be declared righteous."
b. He was declared right by what he did.
3. Does that mean we can be declared right by doing good things? No! In the next verse he says that his faith was working together with his works, and that his works made his faith perfect or complete.
a. It was not faith by itself or works by themselves.
b. It was the both of them working together.
4. Heb. 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
5. However, without works you don’t have real faith.
B. The Faith of Rahab
1. The next example is Rahab.
a. She was the prostitute who hid the Israelite spys, and then sent them out safely.
b. How can a prostitute be a hero of faith?
2. She is a hero of faith because she put her faith into practice. She took great risks in order to do what she did.
a. If her people had found out, they would have killed her.
b. She also took the risk that the Israelites would not keep their word.
3. People of faith are risk takers. By faith she believed God and took the risk.
4. There are only two women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, and one of them is the prostitute Rahab.
5. If we are going to be people of faith, we need to put our faith into action the way that Abraham and Rahab did. If we don’t our faith is useless.
Transition: Don’t tell me about your faith; show it to me!
1. What kind of faith do you have?
a. Is it a living faith?
b. Is it a showing faith?
c. Is it a following faith?
2. Do you put your faith into practice, or are you seperating faith and practice?
3. James would say "Don’t tell me about your faith; show it to me!