Summary: Faith in Christ the Lord is life-changing, and the changes are evident to all people.
REAL FAITH IS NEVER PASSIVE
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
On the basis of the text before us, the great reformer Martin Luther pronounced James a “right strawy epistle.” Without doubt, Luther was instrumental in advancing the Faith of Christ our Lord; for this, we can each give thanks. In the case of his assessment of the Epistle of James, however, Luther was wrong. James is anything but a right strawy epistle; James is an in-your-face letter insisting that faith must be real. If it is not, he is suggesting quite strongly that you need to reassess what you believe and the value of your faith.
This raises the question of how we can recognise genuine faith—real faith. James, ever practical in applying the Faith of Christ the Lord to daily life, says that faith is observable. Saving faith energises those holding that Faith. And faith in Christ the Lord is transformational. Explore the text with me to discover that real faith is never passive.
FAITH IN CHRIST THE LORD IS OBSERVABLE — Calvin, the Swiss Reformer, recaptured a great truth when he testified, “Faith alone justifies; but the faith that justifies is never alone.” This essential truth is frequently forgotten in this day late in the Dispensation of the Church. Today, it is distressingly easy to discover churchgoers who aver faith in faith and even urge faith in the Faith. However, it is faith in the Risen Son of God that saves.
Those who know me, who have listened to my preaching for some time, will know that I stress the importance of obedience to the command of God to identify with the Saviour for all who have believed. Those who believe are commanded, as was Paul, to “Rise and be baptised” [ACTS 22:16]. This is in keeping with the command of the Master as He prepared His disciples for service following His resurrection: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20].
It is doubtful that one who refuses to identify with the Risen Son of God in the way the Master commanded knows Him or knows what it is to call Him Master. Perhaps one can plead ignorance if he is untaught or if she has not read the Word of God, but innately, the newly born child of God desires to proclaim his newfound faith. The pattern for declaring faith in the Lord Jesus presented throughout the Word of God is open confession through baptism.
When Peter had concluded his Pentecostal message and the other disciples had pressed the truth concerning Jesus to the crowd that had gathered, the man of God called on all who heard him, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ” [ACTS 2:38]. The Word notes, “So those who received his word were baptised” [ACTS 2:41]. Later, Philip conducted a successful evangelistic meeting in Samaria. Doctor Luke observes that when the Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the Good News about the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, they were baptised, both men and women” [ACTS 8:12].
God interrupted Philip’s exciting work among the Samaritans because He had yet other work for the evangelist. In the desert, Philip encountered an official of the Ethiopian court, and became God’s instrument for turning that man to faith in the Living Christ. The man Philip met was, in fact, the Minister of the Exchequer for Ethiopia. He was returning from Jerusalem where he had gone to worship at the Temple. As he rode in his chariot, he was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. Prompted by the Spirit of God, Philip revealed Jesus in the Scriptures the man had been reading. He understood the Scriptures, believed and sought to identify with the Risen Saviour. Coming upon a wadi in the desert, he asked, “What prevents me from being baptised” [ACTS 8:36]. Philip answered, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” The testimony of the Ethiopian official was, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” [ACTS 8:37, see margin note]. So, Philip baptised this man on his profession of faith in the Son of God [see ACTS 8:39].
Saul of Tarsus, notorious baiter of the early Christians, having met the Risen Son of God, believed and was baptised [ACTS 9:18; 22:16]. Cornelius and those gathered with him to hear the divine emissary who would bring the message of life received the message of life in the Saviour, and immediately these Gentiles, having believed, were baptised [ACTS 10:47, 48]. Doctor Luke continues his account of the advance of the Faith by relating how Lydia, the first convert in Europe, believed and was baptised [ACTS 16:14, 15].