Summary: Faith is an unseen substance,however, true faith also produces evidence that can be noticed by others .
The Evidence of Faith
One of the greatest debates throughout all of Christendom is that of faith versus works as it relates to one’s eternal destiny. Reformation fires burned over this issue. This great debate rages on today. Probably the most controversial and hotly debated passages in the entire Bible is our passage this evening. It is because of these thirteen verses that Martin Luther rejected the canonicity of James.
In our passage this evening, as it is in every case, context is the key to correct interpretation. When comparing our passage to the works of the Apostle Paul, we must note some important differences. Romans 1-5 was written in order to explain the mechanics of salvation by grace through faith alone. The book of James, like Romans 6-16, deals with the practical implications of the Gospel.
Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Faith is an unseen substance, this is true. However, true faith also produces evidence that can be noticed by others - just as one cannot see the wind, but he can see its effects upon the environment. Tonight we will study the evidence of true faith.
I. Words without works do not demonstrate the existence of true faith.
A. The subject of discussion centers around one’s verbal profession of faith
James 2:14 - What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
B. The definite article in Greek before the word “pistis” or faith shows a certain kind of faith. – paraphrase “…can that kind of faith save him?”
C. James offers an illustration of empty words.
James 2:15-17 - If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
D. Faith can only be seen by other men by external evidence
James 2:18 - Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
1. The context is one man evaluating another man’s faith
2. This is not speaking of God evaluating a man’s faith
II. Intellectual assent without works does not demonstrate the existence of true faith
James 2:19-20 - Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
A. Knowledge is not necessarily trust
B. George Washington for example:
1. Do you believe he existed?
2. Is he doing anything for you today?
III. Testimony of conversion without the evidence of that conversion does not demonstrate the existence of true faith.
2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
1. Saved by faith
Genesis 15:6 - And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
James 2:23 - And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
2. The evidence of that faith seen later
James 2:21-22 - Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
a. Justified in this context = righteousness demonstrated to other men
b. Faith made perfect = shown to be complete
1. Believed in the God of Israel
2. Demonstrated that belief by her actions
James 2:25 - Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
C. Testimony without evidence says nothing
James 2:24,26 - 24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
- Remember, the context is demonstrating faith from man to man