Summary: What does it mean to be a doer of the Word?
The preacher George Whitfield traveled America and started a revival in America called the Great Awakening. He once asked a coal miner what he believed. “Oh,” the miner answered, “that’s easy, I believe what my church believes.” George Whitefield asked, “And what does your church believe?” “Well, the church believes what I believe.” But, what do you believe?” The miner thought for a moment and said, “The church and me, we both believe the same thing.”
In our passage today James expands upon chapter 1:21-27. He explains what it really means to be doers of the Word. What it means to “be real” about our walk of faith. James told us that we are not to play favorites and points us to real Christianity 101. James shows us that faith and works are literally two sides of the same coin. 3 times in this passage, (v.17, 20, 26) he tells us that faith without works is dead. James is stating clearly that our faith in God and trust in Jesus must work in tandem with our actions.
Someone once said that we should consider faith as one oar and works as another oar. Just paddling with one or the other keeps us going in circles. But, when faith and works paddle together we can move mightily in the direction God has laid out for us.
James is the half-brother of Jesus. James was saved after the resurrection. Jesus appeared to James and this changed James life. He became the pastor of the church at Jerusalem. He saw religious works and legalism first-hand. James is not saying that works saves us. James is not fighting legalism here he is fighting laziness. He is saying to us “if you are really saved you will live out what you say you believe.”
Flying home from Memphis several years ago I had to stop and change planes in Atlanta. It was the Friday of the Florida/Georgia game. A lady mid-thirties came and sat down next to me and began to talk and talk and talk and talk… She asked me was I going to the game. No. she complained that her husband was already in Jacksonville, partying but she had to stay with the kids until they got out of school. She asked me if I was a preacher. How do they know that, do we smell differently than everyone else? Certain look…
I said yes, and then I said, “Are you saved?” She said yes her dad was a preacher. I said do you go to church? No. My husband is a Methodist. I began to tell her about churches in Atlanta, she had visited some and then a friend came over and off she went. God spoke this verse to my heart, Matthew 15:8, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (NIV)
This is America today. James doesn’t beat around the bush with this he lists 4 illustrations of real faith. Let’s examine them together.
I. The Approach of Faith (v.14) Here we see a proposal of what faith really is. This is what we are examining today. Can a man say I believe in Jesus Christ and live anyway he wants to live? Is it possible to be a Christian and never ever have a change in your life? The Bible says No!
Notice two questions asked in our text:
A.Can a man have faith and not do good works? (v.14a) A person who really believes something does something; he acts upon what he says he believes. This really is the curse of the SBC today. Millions have come forward professed Christ Jesus as their Savior and never once lived for Him.
Is it possible then to be saved, feel no conviction when they sin, live like the world all week and walk into church when they want to? Are they really saved?
The word profit also means what benefit or advantage is that kind of faith. How many say they believe in God or that they are saved and yet they are no benefit to the kingdom of God? How can anybody claim to have faith in Christ and yet never share the greatest benefit of their lives with another? Who does that kind of faith profit?
B. Can faith without works save a man? (v.14b) This question in the Greek is asked with an expected answer. No! This isn’t a question that we get to answer for ourselves. James asks it in the mood of absolutely not this kind of faith will not take a man to heaven.
Saying they have faith but never living it out is in violation of real faith. The Bible says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (NKJ) If salvation has come, really come in a life it will eventually come out and be real vital faith in our lives.