By Rev. Juliet Schimpf
- Dead Faith
- Demonic Faith
- Dynamic Faith
- three times in this passage, James emphasizes that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26)
- dead faith = counterfeit faith
- People with dead faith substitute words for deeds. They know the correct vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and even quote the right verses from the Bible, but their walk does not measure up to their talk.
- Isaiah 29:13; Matt. 15:8 “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
- James gave a simple illustration: A poor believer came into a fellowship, without proper clothing and in need of food. The person with dead faith noticed the visitor and saw his needs, but he did not do anything to meet the needs. All he did was say a few pious words: “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed” (James 2:16). But the visitor went away just as hungry and naked as he came in!
- As believers, we have an obligation to help meet the needs of people, no matter who they may be.
- The apostle John emphasized this aspect of good works. “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).
- The priest and Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan each had religious training, but neither of them paused to assist the dying man at the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37). Each of them would defend his faith, yet neither demonstrated that faith in loving works.
- The person with dead faith has only an intellectual experience. In his mind, he knows the doctrine of salvation, but he has never submitted himself to God and trusted Christ for salvation.
- Does James contradict Paul, who says in Ephesians that it is by grace that we are saved (not works), lest no man should boast?
- When we understand the definitions of faith and works as they are used by Paul and James in the context of their writings, we can see that Paul and James are in perfect agreement, that they are discussing the same subject from different viewpoints.
- As someone has said, “Paul and James do not stand face to face, fighting against each other, but they stand back to back, fighting opposite foes.”
- C. S. Lewis, "Regarding the debate about faith and works: It’s like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most important."
Paul says that “saving faith”—a faith which is genuine and real—will transform a person’s life.
Paul says that a man is not saved by the works or the deeds of the Law. In Romans 3:28 he writes, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” In Galatians, Paul says that a man is justified not by works but by faith in Christ Jesus. How then are we going to reconcile Paul and James?
In that day, there were those who were saying that you had to perform the works of the Law (the Mosaic Law), that you had to come by the Law, in order to be saved. Paul answered that by saying that the works of the Law will not save you and that only faith in Christ can save you.
James is not talking about the works of the Law. He simply says that the faith which saves you will produce works, works of faith. The faith that James is talking about here is “professing faith”, that which is phony and counterfeit.
The story is told that the Devil had a meeting with his demons to decide how to persuade men that God was nonexistent. Since they themselves believed in His existence, they wondered just how to do it:
* One demon suggested that they tell people Jesus Christ never really existed and that men should not believe such fiction.
* Another demon suggested that they persuade men that death ends all and there is no need to worry about life after death.
* Finally, the most intelligent demon suggested that they tell everyone that there is a God, that there is Jesus Christ, and that believing in Him saves, but all you have to do is profess faith in Christ and then go on living in sin as you used to. They decided to use this tactic, and it is the tactic the Devil uses even today.
When Paul speaks of works, it is “works of the Law”. He says in Romans 3:20, “Therefore no one shall be declared righteous in his sight by observing the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”
He is saying in effect, “Yes, the Law is a mirror—it reveals you are a sinner—but it cannot save you; the works of the Law cannot save you at all.”
In Galatians 2:16, Paul made it clear that men are not saved by the Law, but later in that epistle he wrote, “And let us not be weary in well-doing…” (Gal. 6:9). There is a lot of doing that goes with believing. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:6-7).
James also says that you have to have something more than just the works of the Law. He wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (v. 10).
In this section of his epistle, when James speaks of works, he is speaking of “the works of faith”.
James 2:17 “Faith alone, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
The word “alone” in James 2:17 simply means “by itself”. True saving faith can never be by itself: It always brings life, and life produces good works.
As John Calvin put it, “Faith alone saves, but the faith that saves is not alone.”
James is talking about the fruit of faith. Paul is talking about the root of faith.
“Faith, if it hath not works, is dead.” The faith is dead? Why? Because living faith, saving faith, produces works. The Lord Jesus said, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit…” (John 15:5)
A living faith produces something—you can identify it.
- BOTTOM-LINE: Both Paul and James, then, are defending the citadel of faith.
- Works constitute evidence of salvation, not a ground of salvation.
- And so we may say that we are “not saved by works, but saved for works”.
- James wanted to shock his complacent readers, so he used demons as his illustration.
- “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19) [“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). This was the daily affirmation of faith of the godly Jew.]
- It comes as a shock to people that demons have faith! What do they believe?
- For one thing, they believe in the existence of God; they are neither atheists nor agnostics.
- They also believe in the deity of Christ. Whenever they met Christ while He was on earth, they bore witness to His Sonship (Mark 3:11-12).
- They believe in the existence of a place of punishment (Luke 8:31), and they also recognize Jesus Christ as the Judge (Mark 5:1-13). They submit to the power of His Word.
- The person with dead faith was touched only in his intellect, but the demons are touched also in their emotions. They believe and tremble.
- But it is not a saving experience to believe and tremble. A person can be enlightened in his mind and even stirred in his heart and be lost forever. True saving faith involves something more, something that can be seen and recognized: a changed life—A CHANGED WILL!
- James 2:18: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.”
- 1. DYNAMIC SAVING FAITH IS BASED ON THE WORD OF GOD
- We receive our spiritual rebirth through God’s Word. James 1:18 states, “He [God] gave us birth by the word of truth”. We receive the Word and this saves us. James 1:21 states, “welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.” Paul Romans 10:17 declares, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
- Faith is only as good as its object. The man in the jungle bows before an idol of stone and trusts it to help him, but he receives no help. No matter how much faith a person may generate, if it is not directed at the right object, it will accomplish nothing. “I believe” may be the testimony of many sincere people, but the big question is, “In whom do you believe? What do you believe?” We are not saved by faith in faith; we are saved by faith in Christ as revealed in His Word.
- 2. DYNAMIC FAITH INVOLVES THE WHOLE PERSON
- Dead faith touches only the intellect; demonic faith involves both the mind and the emotions; but dynamic faith involves the will. The whole person plays a part in true saving faith. The mind understands the truth; the heart desires the truth; and the will acts upon the truth.
- 3. TRUE SAVING FAITH LEADS TO ACTION
- Dynamic faith is not intellectual contemplation or emotional consternation; it leads to obedience on the part of the will. And this obedience is not an isolated event: It continues throughout the whole life. It leads to works.
- John Gladstone: Yorkminster: “To believe is to serve. The Christian must express his inward conviction through outward action. The old slogan of a former generation, ‘Saved to Serve,’ is still valid. “We are not saved by service, but for service.”
- James illustrates his doctrine in the lives of two well-known Bible persons: ABRAHAM AND RAHAB
- You could not find two more different persons!
- Abraham was a Jew; Rahab was a Gentile.
- Abraham was a godly man, but Rahab was a sinful woman, a harlot.
- Abraham was the friend of God, while Rahab belonged to the enemies of God.
- What did they have in common? Both exercised saving faith in God.
- How was Rahab justified by works? She received the Israelite spies, concealed them from her own people, then told them how to escape without being detected (see Joshua 2). That woman living there in the city of Jericho jeopardized her life by turning her back on her own life and on her own people. What was gain to her became loss.
- She did not say to the Israelite spies, “I’ll just stand on the sidelines when you enter the city and sing, ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow’.” She did not say, “Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!” She said to them, “I’m going to do something. I will hide you because I believe God is going to give the people of Israel this land. We have been hearing about you for forty years, and I believe God.” She believe God, and she became involved.
- She was justified before God by her faith: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” (Heb. 11:31). However, before her own people and before the Israelites, she was justified by works.
- Stepping out in Faith With Action Is All About Taking a Risk
- AUTHOR: “Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, but obeying in spite of consequence.”