James 2:14-26 A Faith that Works
He was known as the great Blondin, Charles Blondin the American tight rope walker
A) Walked 1,100 feet across the Niagara falls – on a tight rope
B) Once even carrying a man on his Back as he did it
C) The Story is told of the time that Blondin asked the enthusiastic Crowd –
1) Who here believes that I could push a wheel barrel across Niagara falls on a tight rope - Cheers
2) Who believes I could do it blind folded – more cheers
D) Who believes I could do it blindfolded with a man in the wheel barrel – more cheers
1)Who wants to volunteer to be the man in the wheel barrel – Deathly silent
James would have liked that story!
A) He might use it to ask the Question: are you in God’s wheel barrel?
B) The question that James wants to answer here in this section is the question
1) How alive is your faith ?
C) Someone said Faith is like calories, you can’t see them, but you can always see their results!
D) James’ point with this part of his letter
1) Pp living in sin & yet saying I believe – James says I have a problem with that mentality. Read v.14
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
A) Or What good is it ?
B) We can similarly ask, “What good is it to have a drivers license if you don’t drive?” Answer? None!
C) The Point that James is really getting at is –is that Kind of faith real!
D) James wants to show us what real faith looks like. 1) Saving faith is a Demonstrative faith! Authentic Faith is Active!
The first illustration involves a striking scene
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, Naked – The term doesn’t necessarily mean absolute nakedness; it was used of a person wearing an under tunic or someone poorly clad
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? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
The picture is found within the church family of someone who lacks the outer garments that provide warmth and protection from the elements who can’t even afford a single meal during the day.
They have gathered with the other believers, perhaps worshiping and praying, and then when time comes for the assembly to scatter, the professing Christian says,
"See you later! Good luck! Hope you find some clothes and food! Best wishes to you!"
But he does nothing to alleviate the need. Even though he recognizes the dire need of his "fellow Christian," he has no sense of compassion or mercy in trying to do something to help out.
You have to wonder is that person really saved
A) Do they really have the mind and heart of Christ flowing thru them?
B) This is not a new thought: John the Baptist taught that men should prove the reality of their repentance by the excellence of their deeds (Matthews 3:8)
Jesus taught that men should so live that the world might see their good works and give the glory to God (Matthew 5:16).
Paul said: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
John wrote: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth” (1 John 3:17–18, niv).
So this is not a new thought that James is bringing up here: Faith is going to be seen in actions
A) Seen in how we care for others – how we serve
How we give.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works
B) James is seeking to teach us that we are not saved by our works – but our faith is a faith that works
1) True faith is evidenced by our works
C) A Shocking thought: V.19-20
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James wanted to shock his complacent readers, so he used demons as his illustration.
A) It comes as a shock to people that demons have faith!
What do they believe?
1. They believe in the existence of God; they are neither atheists nor agnostics.
2. They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ when He was on earth, they bore witness to His sonship (Mark 3:11–12).
3. They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Luke 8:31)
4.They recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge
(Mark 5:1–13). They submit to the power of His Word.
So here is James point: You believe there is 1 God - You are Monotheistic...that’s great…but even the demons are Monotheistic!
It is not enough to simply say that I believe – even the demons do that!
A) Can’t say, well I go to Church – any more than being in a garage makes you a Car
B) My Parents are Christians – Doesn’t matter can’t will their faith to you.
1) Don’t join the Church – born into it – family of God faith in Christ -
C) If you believe it is going to be evidenced by your actions – seen in the way you live
1) That is James’ point – Not religion/ relationship
James turns to the father of Faith to illustrate what real faith looked like?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Now James’ words have confused some pp because they seem to contradict what Paul taught.
A) Paul taught us that a man is saved by faith alone and that works do not come into the process at all.
“For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Romans 3:28).
“A man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ … because by works of the law shall no one be justified” (Galatians 2:16)
What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
But wait, James is saying here that Abraham was justified by his works – what is up
A) Here is what we need to understand:
B) Paul’s teaching about faith and works focuses on the time before conversion.
1) James’ focus is after conversion
C) Paul had in mind exercising faith in order to be saved, how a person is saved
D) James viewed this from the other end for those who claimed to have already exercised faith.
1) Evidence that they are saved.
Paul is referring to an event in the life of Abe that took place in Genesis 15 – Beginning of his encounter with God.
God made a promise to Abraham – From him would come a Messiah Savior
A) He was going to make Abraham a great nation – from his lineage all the nations of the world blessed
B) Abe was 75 yrs old – no children – but he believed God –
C) God accounted it to him for righteousness –
1) That is the event that Paul is referring to when he says that Abe was Justified by faith
But James is referring to an event that took place 30 yrs after the event in Gen 15 that Paul refers to in reference to Salvation
A) James is referring to an event that takes pl 30 yrs later after Abe has been given the promised child Issac
B) God says take the child to Mt Moriah and sacrifice him to me.
C) Abraham showed his faith in his obedience
1) Even saying to the Servants – the lad and I are going to worship and we shall return
D) Writer of Hebrews tells us that Abe believed that if God had him follow thru – raise Issac
E) All traced back to God’s promise – Abe knew God had plans for Issac –
1) God wouldn’t go back on His promise.
Paul uses the idea of Justification that Abraham was Justified = declared righteous before God by his faith
A) James uses the idea of Justification Abe being declared righteous by men – evidence of his faith
B) The story of his willingness to Sacrifice Issac is the evidence to us that he really believed – real faith
Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works, faith was made perfect?
C) Idea is his faith was shown to be complete in that act!
So Paul was saying your works could never get you to God.
A) James was saying your faith is deficient unless accompanied by works.
B) Paul used the word "justification" to explain the start of salvation;
1) James utilized it to show salvation's culmination.
C)It had to do with the evidence of that faith -
1) Seen in his actions and his belief in the promise and character of God after 30 yrs
D) Acting according to the word and Promise of God.
Napoleon reading papers – bridle slipped – horse reared - A young corporal leaped forward –
caught the bridle, bringing the horse under control.
Napoleon saluted the corporal and said, “Thank you, Captain.”
Corporal quickly responded “Of what company, Sir?”
Napoleon replied “Of my guards,”. The young corporal picked up his musket, hurled it aside, and walked across the field toward the Emperor’s staff, tearing off his corporal’s stripes as he went.
When he took his place among the officers, they asked him what he was doing. He replied that he was a captain of the guards. “By whose order?” one of them asked .
“ By The Emperor’s order,” he replied.
Here is the Pt. A man of less faith might have picked up his musket, stepped back into the ranks, and boasted for the rest of his life that Napoleon had called him captain.
But instead he acted upon the words of the emperor and his life was forever Changed
A)That is the kind of faith that James is calling for – that Abe exercised as the evidence of his faith in God
B) Now some listening to James might have been prone to argue – wait, Abe is a bad example
1) He is such a towering figure A GIANT IN FAITH!
So James goes to the opposite end of the spectrum in using Rahab
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
Abraham was a patriarch, Rahab a prostitute.
A) He was moral, she was immoral. He was the original Jew, she a Gentile woman.
B) He was upwardly mobile, she lived in the gutter. – But she believed
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God – Rahab had heard like the rest of the pp in Jericho of the exploits of God
A) His pp who were coming their way: Victory over Egypt – Crossing of Red sea
victory over the Amalekites- Crossing of the Jordan –
B) She believed in this great God –who was helping this pp and her faith was evidenced by the fact that she
1) Hid the spies, assisted in their escape,
2) She advised their path on the hill country.
3) She put her life in great danger.
C) Her faith produced astounding action!
1) She was rewarded by becoming a direct descendent of Jesus – She is listed in Matthew’s Geneology –
D) She is the great grand mother of King David
1) And one of the examples of Faith in Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith
The examples of Abraham and Rahab are sufficient for his argument, so James rests his point with a an interesting concluding thought:
V.26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. NKJV (v. 26).
It is the Spirit that gives life to the body – from God’s perspective.
A) Man’s perspective – heart stops beating you are dead
B) God’s perspective – it is when the spirit leaves the body.
C) It is the Spirit that gives life to the body
1) And it is faith that gives life to the Spirit that makes a person a alive spiritually
The Spirit is the real you – Spend eternity in one of two places – With God – or apart – hell – a place the demons begged not to be sent to.
Person who exercises faith in Christ – His work on the Cross – Saved – eternity with God
A) Person who rejects Christ – their Choice –
B) The point that James is making here – Real faith is going to be seen in our actions
C) Thru our works
Where are you at today: Profession or real living
End: The whole matter of faith & works is summed up by Paul in Eph.2:8-10…let’s turn there.
(1) Salvation - the work God does for us - 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
(2) Sanctification - the work God does in us - “For we are His workmanship”
- the work God does through us -
“created...for good works.”