Summary: Fifth in a series on James. Seeks to answer the question, "What does real faith look like?"
A Study of the Book of James
Sermon # 5
“What Kind of Faith Do You Have?”
In 1991 James Patterson and Peter Kim took on the task of surveying America and tabulating the results. The results were given in their book entitled “The Day America Told the Truth.” In the chapter dealing with America’s religious beliefs they stated that 90% percent of the people questioned said that they truly believed in God. Yet they also discovered that of those who said they believed in God - 50% had not been to church in at least three months and one out of three had not been in a service in a year. Something is wrong when what people say they believe does not affect the way they live. [James Patterson and Peter Kim. The Day America Told The Truth. (New York: Prentice Hall, 1991) pp. 199-200.] Something is wrong with this kind of Faith!!!
George Barna claims that in his surveys - four out of five Americans claim to be Christians. Yet what they say they believe has very little to do with how they live their lives. As a nation we are drowning in drugs, wallowing in pornography, the faith that the majority of Americans have does not affect the way they live. Something is wrong with this kind of Faith!!!
This is the very condition to which James was speaking – living as though God’s Word was merely advice and it is up to us to make our own decisions about right and wrong.
Where is the faith that many American say they adhere to. “Someone has said that faith is like calories, you can’t see them, but you can see their results!” [Charles Swindoll. James: Practical and Authentic Living (Fullerton, Calif.; Insight for Living, 1991). p. 83.] Real faith should be able to seen at work.
In chapter two of his letter James deals with the nature of real faith, in so doing he gives us the foundations of real faith. I would like to share those with you this morning.
First, Real Faith Is More Than Just an Intellectual Acceptance of the Facts of the Gospel. (2:14-17)
Some depend on the fact that they have intellectually accepted the facts of the Gospel as assurance that they are saved.
Yet it is interesting to consider that the Bible never tries to prove the existence of God. It very plainly states that the man who denies the existence of God is not in his right mind. The Psalmist said, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps. 14:1)
Therefore the man who is content because he believes in the existence of God really has nothing to pride himself on. He has something commonly held by nearly all intelligent people.
In verse fourteen James says, “What
does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? Can faith save him?”
Some find the phrase, “Can Faith Save Him” confusing. But the literal translation would be, “Can that Faith Save Him.” The question that James wants to answer is not whether works without faith can save us, but whether a dead faith, one which produces no transformation, can save us.
What about the person who claims to believe the gospel but whose practice never matches his or her claims? How should we regard the spiritual state of some people who claim to be Christians but who never live like it? Are such people safe in their assurance of heaven, or are they simply the possessors of hellfire insurance sold by the Devil himself.
In verse fifteen and sixteen James draws a comparison, “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?
James illustrates his point with a simple story. A church member was starving from lack of food and cold because of inadequate clothing. Another member, well aware of the need, responded to the person with a heartfelt wish for his prosperity but without doing anything tangible. He wished God’s peace and wholeness upon his fellow believer with the expression for shalom in the first century church. What may have sounded spiritual was, in reality, pitiful. The whole world would agree that this man is a hypocrite and fraud, and we are ashamed and embarrassed that he professes to believe in Jesus – all of which is James’ intention.
Alexander MaClaren, the great expositional preacher of the past said, “The people who least live their creed are… the people who shout the loudest about them. The paralysis which affects the arm does not, in these cases, interfere with the tongue.” [Alexander Maclaren. Hebrews, Chaps. VII to End, Epistle of James in Espositions of Holy Scripture. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1944) p. 416]