Faith That Works

Have you ever heard the phrase, “put your money where your mouth is” or “Put up or shut up”? What’s that mean? Did you know that applies to our faith?

James 2:14 ERV

My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing. Faith like that cannot save anyone.

That’s harsh. What does James mean by that?

Faith without deeds is merely lip service. It’s shallow and doesn’t affect our whole lives as our faith should. It’s useless. In Matthew 7:26 Jesus said,“Whoever hears these teachings of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

James 2:15-17

Suppose a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat. And you say to them, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,” but you don’t give them the things they need. If you don’t help them, your words are worthless. It is the same with faith. If it is just faith and nothing more—if it doesn’t do anything—it is dead.

What is James trying to tell us in his example?
Did the words help the cold and hungry?

No. It’s useless, like faith without action. You can tell a lot by someone in how they treat the less fortunate that can do nothing for them. John wrote in 1 John 3:17-18:

Suppose a believer who is rich enough to have all the necessities of life sees a fellow believer who is poor and does not have even basic needs. What if the rich believer does not help the poor one? Then it is clear that God’s love is not in that person’s heart. 18 My children, our love should not be only words and talk. No, our love must be real. We must show our love by the things we do.

Jesus is a doer, he teaches us to put our faith to work.

James 2:18

But someone might argue, “Some people have faith, and others have good works.” My answer would be that you can’t show me your faith if you don’t do anything. But I will show you my faith by the good I do.

Verse 18 is like James drawing a line in the sand and saying “prove you have faith without backing it up without works.”

Is this talking about working for salvation? If not, what’s it talking about? 

What kind of change should people see in us after we’re saved? Has this ever confused you?

It confuses people all the time. Look at Ephesians 2:9-10, and remember 1 John 3:18 above us,

You are not saved by the things you have done, so there is nothing to boast about. God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us new people so that we would spend our lives doing the good things he had already planned for us to do.

Not saved by works, but for works. God has a plan for us, and it’s to show His love to others.

James 2:19

You believe there is one God. That’s good, but even the demons believe that! And they shake with fear.

Now, remember, this is written to the Jews, who every day recited something called the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. You’ll recognize the words, I’m sure.

Listen, people of Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is the only God. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Can you believe in God, without trusting in Him?

Yes, even demons did, and they’re terrified yet they rebel against God. What’s James wanting us to do?

James 2:20-24

You fool! Faith that does nothing is worth nothing. Do you want me to prove this to you? Our father Abraham was made right with God by what he did. He offered his son Isaac to God on the altar. So you see that Abraham’s faith and what he did worked together. His faith was made perfect by what he did. This shows the full meaning of the Scriptures that say, “Abraham believed God, and because of this faith he was accepted as one who is right with God.” Abraham was called “God’s friend.” So you see that people are made right with God by what they do. They cannot be made right by faith alone.

Verse 22, ‘his faith was made perfect by what he did’, what does that mean?

Faith is trust. We have to trust enough to do it, and then we do it. This is an example of Christian maturity.

Verse 24, ‘They cannot be made right by faith alone, but what they do.’ Is this confusing? Abraham was backing up his words with his actions. Jesus is our Savior, he is also our Lord, and we have to obey him. He helps us to do it though.

James 2:25

Another example is Rahab. She was a prostitute, but she was made right with God by something she did. She helped those who were spying for God’s people. She welcomed them into her home and helped them escape by a different road.

Both Rahab and Abraham are mentioned in Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame (Hebrews 11:17;31). Notice the two examples James used: Abraham and Rahab. Who are they? Isn’t it interesting that a Jewish hero and prostitute are both given the same amount of credit? This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 1:27-30,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. And God chose what the world thinks is not important—what the world hates and thinks is nothing. He chose these to destroy what the world thinks is important. God did this so that no one can stand before him and boast about anything. It is God who has made you part of Christ Jesus. And Christ has become for us wisdom from God. He is the reason we are right with God and pure enough to be in his presence. Christ is the one who set us free from sin.

None can brag, he’ll use anyone, which is good news for us. I certainly didn’t deserve it.

James 2:26

A person’s body that does not have a spirit is dead. It is the same with faith—faith that does nothing is dead!

A dead faith is like a dead body—motionless, useless. A genuine saving faith includes trusting Christ as Savior and following him as Lord. What does having a real faith do?

It produces a transformed life with works of obedience. The Christian foundation is our faith in Christ, and as we mature, our actions are the practical outpouring of it.

The theological term for it is sanctification. Like a growing child whose parents are teaching her or him right and wrong, the Holy Spirit teaches us and cleans us up inside. God meets us where we are, but He doesn’t leave us there.

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