Summary: Some people live under the separation of faith and deeds. But they were destined to be together. And what God has joined together, let man not separate.
THE MARRIAGE OF FAITH AND DEEDS
1) James 2:14-18.
• Faith, like love, is an action word (vs. 14-18). If a man who merely says I wish you well but does not act upon that wish by feeding his fellow man then it is not true faith. True faith expresses itself in love. Gal. 5:6b, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” As love is not merely spoken but shown if it is true so the same principle applies to faith. 1st John 3:16-18. If someone claims to have faith but there is no action to show it then he renders his faith inoperable and meaningless and therefore-dead. I can say, ’I love you’ all I want but if there is no outward expression or manifestation of that love then you will come to the conclusion that my words are simply that; and rightly so. The same holds true in regards to faith. As love is dead apart from works so is faith. Once a chaplain walked up to a wounded soldier who had been lying on the ground some time without anyone treating his wounds. The chaplain asked, "Would you like for me to read to you from the Bible?" "No!" came the angry reply. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" the chaplain asked. "I'm thirsty!" the soldier said. The chaplain gave him a drink from his own canteen. "Anything else?" he asked. "I'm cold!" came the reply. The chaplain took off his coat and spread it over the soldier. "Anything else?" he again asked. "My head is uncomfortable!" was his reply. The chaplain took off his cap and arranged it under the soldier's head. The chaplain asked again, "Anything else?" The soldier looked up at him and tears came to his eyes as he said, "I think now I'd like for you to read to me from the Bible." Genuine faith expresses itself in love. Saving faith is active.
• Believe is an action word (vs. 19). James goes into bringing clarification to the word ‘believe’. Because we see verses like Rom. 10:9 that says if we believe in our heart we are saved and Acts 16:30 when Paul was asked, what must I do to be saved?’ and he responds with, ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’. James wants us to understand that the belief that Paul was teaching was not a simple, intellectual belief but rather a belief that changed lives. There are plenty of people who will admit they believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins but yet that belief, or rather, that acknowledgment hasn’t carried them to a place where they’re ready to devote their lives to him. In other words, this belief hasn’t gone from the head to the heart. James says this type of belief, in line with the type of faith he just challenged, is not a saving belief. Simple, intellectual belief isn’t enough, for the demons have this kind of belief and they are not entering Heaven as a result of it. So too, unless your belief surpasses that of the demons you also will likewise perish. You say you believe? Good. What have you done as a result of that belief? You believe there is one God? Good. But that is not enough. True belief will express itself in action. You can’t just say, “I believe” you mush show that you believe. Story of man pushing wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls. Believe is an action word.
2) James 2:20-26.
• Faith and deeds go hand in hand. This is a passage of James that Martin Luther had once taken offense to. There is a seeming contradiction between what James teaches here and what Paul teaches. Rom. 3:28, 4:1-5. We see Paul teaching that Abraham was justified by faith while James implies that he was justified by works. So, how do we settle the supposed contradiction? We do this by understanding what the role works plays in each of these examples. Once we understand what James is saying here, we will see that Paul and James complement one another not contradict one another. In Romans, Paul was countering that one could be saved apart from faith by mere observance of the law. Paul is saying that it’s not the law that saves, but faith. James would agree and say that there is no salvation by works but by faith. However, James needed to clarify a misunderstanding that since we are saved through faith then deeds weren’t necessary. He needed to counter that thinking by pointing out the importance of works accompanying genuine faith and that genuine faith will have works with it. He needed to explain what genuine faith looked like. Therefore, what James is saying is that works is not the basis for salvation but it is the evidence of it. We do not perform works as a means to gain salvation; we perform works as a result of our salvation. Martin Luther himself is credited with putting it rather nicely, “We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.” Paul’s words are consistent with what James teaches here. Rom. 6:15-16. Paul understood the tendency to misunderstand grace. Just because we are saved by grace through faith doesn’t mean we get to sin as much as we want or just sit back and wait for heaven. We are now longer slaves to sin which leads to death, but we have now given ourselves over to obedience to be slaves of righteousness which is faith expressing itself in action. Quote, ‘It is not faith and works; it is not faith or works; it is faith that works’. Just as faith without works is dead so too is works without faith. They go hand in hand.