IS YOUR FAITH LIVING OR DEAD?
When Jesus came and saved our wretched souls something drastically happened to you and me! What is it you might ask? The believer has this new love or longing to express his or hers faith through some act of love. The apostle Paul spoke of “faith working through love”. What do I mean by this? We demonstrate what we believe, not only by what we say but also by what we do. The genuineness of our faith, therefore, is proven by our works. Here is an example of that in action! An associate of Wesley, Samuel Bradburn, was highly respected by his friends and used by God as an effective preacher. On one occasion he was in rather desperate financial need. When Wesley learned of his circumstances, he sent him a five-pound note (then worth about $10) with the following letter: “Dear Sammy: ‘Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.’ Yours affectionately, John Wesley.” To which Bradburn’s reply was prompt. “Rev. and Dear Sir: I have often been struck with the beauty of the passage of Scripture quoted in your letter, but I must confess that I never saw such a useful expository note on it before.”
It’s one thing to know the truth and the principles found in scripture, but it’s another thing to do it out of love and adoration towards God to fellow man. In this passage James converses with an imaginary person….. A person who claims to have faith but has no deeds. A person who claims that you can separate faith from works. This is a portion of scripture that has been distorted, taken out of context and has become as I like to say “A Hermeneutical train wreck.” So we need to walk through these verses carefully and see what James is telling us this morning. So in order to do that! I have 2 questions for us as a church family this morning as we dive into this portion of James letter.
Is your faith an active commitment filled with love and obedience to a holy an awesome God? A faith that desires to please, not to win favor, but a life of active obedience to a Holy and Righteous God through His saving grace founded in the gospel.
Is your Faith only a mere Intellectual exercise of self-righteous? Which is a Faith that is just professing without action? The kind of Faith that James is speaking about in this passage. This is mere empty profession, not a true genuine saving faith found in the mirror of scripture!
Because Jesus said this “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matt 7:16-20 What does Faith really mean? “Faith” appears 16 times in James letter, it’s a conviction based upon hearing, is used in the NT always of "faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual." Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phi_1:27; 2Th_2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests. What does Works mean? “Works” by implication an act: - deed, doing, labour, work, an act, deed, thing done: the idea of working is emphasised in opposite to that which is less than work.
James is not talking about “works righteousness” or “contradicting” Paul’s writings to the church. Actually James is reaffirming or complimenting what’s already been said by Paul and the Apostles. We need to understand before we continue, it’s by His sovereign grace and work that we are saved, not our works or our own righteousness. As Eph 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Faith is a gift and we were created for good works according to Jesus! "CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS UNTO GOOD WORKS" Eph. 2:10. So the question that we need to ask ourselves this morning! Is my faith genuine or is my faith fake?
For example: You take a car that is empty. It has no gas whatsoever, and then you take a gas can that is filled with gas. Neither one can work without the other……. the car cannot run without gas……the gas is useless until it gets poured into the gas tank. Our Christian walk is very similar …........faith in Jesus Christ is an action reality in the life of the believer. That’s the fruits of Christ righteousness being displayed in the believer……..which is one of the evidence or mark of the believer. Fruit in our lives is evidence of faith at work in our hearts. A working faith is required attribute in the believer by a holy God……..you read throughout scripture the ones who walked by this premise of faith in Heb 11, the faith chapter. The very same faith that James is speaking of in this passage is an action that works to display the fruit of your faith in God. Remember the car and the gas! You add the gas to the car and they will run and work in harmony together. Take one away you will not be able to go or do anything! You cannot have one without the other! Just like a car needs gas to go.
John Selden says "As in the candle I know there is both light and heat, but put out the candle, and they are both gone."
We are going to look at 3 requirements to a working faith in the life of the believer.
A WORKING FAITH IS COMPASSIONATE TO OTHERS. (V15- V17)
James clearly presents this truth by helping those in need do on to others help those in need this is a working faith! Helping others in Need. Luke 3:11 says “And He answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." This is the same remark that James is saying to us! Help the one in need by acting giving what is required or needed at that point in time. We are to show compassion and kindness to someone which is a working faith. Where a dead faith on the other hand says "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled” What this statement is saying "go warm and feed yourself and remember God bless” This statement is worthless and does not show genuine love for others. It’s a lack of compassion, which shows a lack of a working faith found in the life a believer! We see it all the time in people….self-absorbed and could care less about anyone. It’s a person who walks around with blinders or looking out for self-interests, as we have seen when it comes to showing partiality.
Think about this for a moment! Don't you find it amazing that so many people can become emotionally involved over a movie, song, a TV program, Weep profusely over tragedies and becoming enraged at wrongs and injustices and yet show no concern or compassion for your neighbor as they go about their day. James gives us this example! (v15) a person who is cold because they have no cloths and hungry because they have no food. This isn’t some mild need or concern…..This is a major problem and a need for many around the globe and even in our backyards. What James is saying is that “They literally are cold because they have no cloths to keep themselves war. They literally don’t have food for the day! They’re starving, because they are unable to sustain themselves. This is a desperate need and a person who claims Jesus as their Lord only says "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled”. This person is not looking for a Benediction…they need food and clothing. This is not a faith at work…this is not the fruits of Christ righteousness!
Understand this though! Acts of mercy are not means to salvation. BUT! Acts of mercy are necessary evidence to salvation though! Tim Keller said this “Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of the Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.” Mercy is not optional or an addition to being a Christian. Rather, a life poured out in deeds of mercy is a sign of genuine faith.” Listen to what John said in his epistle. “My little children, do not let our love be in word and in tongue, but let it be in act and in good faith. In this way we may be certain that we are true, and may give our heart comfort before Him,” 1 John 3:18-19. Making sure everyone in the house of God and those outside the house of God, have enough for the day, seeking the interest of others first. We must show compassion to others, because you never know who you are helping or showing a working faith, the fruits of Christ rigtheousness too! Why? The writer of Hebrews reminds us of this truth “Take care to keep open house: because in this way some have had angels as their guests, without being conscious of it.” Heb 13:2
A WORKING FAITH IS EVIDENCE OF OUR OWN CONVERSION. (V18- V19)
It’s a person who desires to build his or hers life on the foundation of Christ Jesus our Lord. Some people are merciful towards the poor; and others aren’t and people are different. But the point James is making here is that the “Imaginary person” is trying to separate faith from deeds. And what James is telling us is “That you can’t separate the two.” Works ,deeds and actions are not optional for the Christian faith; they are inevitable. Your faith is nonexistent if there are no deeds as we read in (v20) “faith apart from works is useless?”
How do we know that? Well Luke 6:44-45 says “for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
If we have not had any growth since the time of our conversion; if not, then we are no better off than the demon's that believed! A living and active faith in Christ Jesus, produces good fruit which is a working faith. It a trusting and obeying the Word, so that we can bring Him Glory and praises for His wonderful work of salvation and transformation in our lives. Because Heb 11:6 says this “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” It's a trusting and obeying Him to what He said He would do, that reward is eternity in Heaven with Him. Faith is not mere intellectual assent or an emotional response….it involves willful obedience. Because according to this portion of scripture….the demons believed!
It’s the incident with the demon possessed man. “When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’…”Luke 8:27-30. This is a person who knows the truth about God, Christ, and the Spirit but hates the truth and them!
A WORKING FAITH POINTS TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. (V21- V25)
The question we need to ask ourselves is “Have I tasted the redeeming grace of God in the gospel. James gives us two illustrations of two people who are completely opposite of each other culturally, but they both demonstrated a living faith! Abraham, God’s chosen race and Rehab a Canaanite, Gentile prostitute. Abraham was a moral, Rehab was an immoral woman….Both were saved by the grace of God, through faith and yet they showed it by their fruits of Christ’s righteousness.
Abraham was a great leader; and Rahab was a common woman.
Abraham was wealthy; Rahab was at the bottom of the economic scale of things.
Abraham was promised blessing after blessing through His linage.
Rehab would get the privilege to be the linage of Jesus, being the great-grandmother of David. (Matt 1:5)
Both are of these people are mentioned in the great gallery of faith!
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” Heb 8-10
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” Heb 11:17-19
“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Heb 11:31
These two people speak volumes to a people like us. God chose them despite their differences….but salvation is based on God’s plan of redemption. The evidence of that truth is demonstrated by our fruits of Christ righteousness. George Whitefield said “a true faith in Jesus Christ will not suffer us to be idle. No, it is an active, lively, restless principle; it fills the heart, so that it cannot be easy till it is doing something for Jesus Christ.” These two saints are great examples displayed a working faith, trusting and obeying the Lord of all creation! Because they demonstrate to us……a working faith and they confirm to us our positional righteousness in Christ through the imputing work of God in our lives. God cloths us with His righteousness “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor 5:21. But they also demonstrate for us practical righteousness, which refers to how we live before God. (v22) Active, living faith for the glory of God through the gospel that saves our souls. James concludes this section by boldly stating in (v26) “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”
To sum it up! Just as a body that does not have a spirit is a dead body. A faith that does not produce good works is a dead faith. Gil Rugh said "faith is a living restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works, but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. It is quite impossible to separate works from faith as to separate heat and light from fire.” Obedient to our calling as His children to follow by His example……with a working faith that gives to those who are truly born again. Not to attain glory, self-righteousness or salvation, but a working faith that is a desire not a burden to please a Holy and Sovereign LORD! Martin Luther said "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works." So! Is your faith real, is it genuine” (v18) “But a man may say, You have faith and I have works; let me see your faith without your works, and I will make my faith clear to you by my works.” Is your faith fake, dead, lifeless, none existent? (v26) “For as the body without the spirit is dead even so faith without works is dead.” My prayer for you is that it is real, working and active to do the will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the Author and Finisher of our faith.