Faith & Works (James 2:14-26)

October 9 2022

Series: James

Book: James

Scripture: James 2:14-26

Praise God for our singers. They do a great job leading us and you have to remember to let them lead you or you might not know where you’re going, but they do a great job. Thank you so much. Great to see all of you here this morning. For those that don’t know me, because I do see a few faces that I don’t know as well, I’m Eddie Francis. I’m one of the elders in the church here and consider it an honor and a privilege to serve alongside the Overstreets and the Thornton’s and the Owens and alongside my dear wife. Thank you for allowing us to do that. And it’s great to have everybody who’s online. I mean, it’s great to see a full auditorium and Marcus has alluded to this. It’s kind of nice to be back at church. The zoom is good. Zoom is with us forever. You may as well get used to that. It’s never going away. It’s such a convenient way to just sort of connect if you really need to, but there’s nothing to replace actual fellowship when you can give somebody a hug or when I can threaten to take off Elora Maddox’s head just for fun. Just for fun. I did that between services. We were having a little fun. But there’s no replacing really being together. And so don’t confuse Zoom with that. But zoom is okay. Anyway, here’s the thing. We’ve been going through the letter that James wrote to the scattered disciples who were undergoing persecution, going through some hard times, and he had some very practical wisdom for them, some ancient wisdom, some very practical instruction, and we’re going to see that again tonight. One thing that’s been promoted for James’s letter is just do it. Just do it. I mean, just do the right thing. Sometimes when you don’t know what to do, just do the next right thing and you’ll be okay. James is like that. With what we’re going to look at today, I think you’ll see kind of that straightforward, hard hitting, here’s what you need to do and here’s how you need to live attitude that he has. So we’re going to go ahead and jump into it and we’re going to read, starting our text today. Title of the message is simply faith and works.

James, chapter two, verse 14. We’ll start there. He says, what good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds, can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sisters without clothes and daily food, if one of you says to them, go in peace, keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, you have faith, I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith. By my deeds. You believe that there is one God?q good. Even the demons believe that and shudder. You foolish person. Do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our Father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the Scripture was fulfilled that says Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. Again, our title is simply faith and works. And it’s important to look at this passage as a whole. That’s why I wanted to read it first before you look at it in parts, because oftentimes this passage is used to show that James and Paul contradicted each other. Over the years, there are people who feel like James and Paul don’t give the same message here. One says one thing, the other says just the opposite. It appears. And if you look at Romans and Ephesians and Galatians, the Apostle Paul stresses that we are saved by grace through faith and not with works. It’s very, very clear. And we’ll look at a couple of texts there. However, if you look at what we just read in James two, the latter half, what it seems to be saying is that we are saved by works, or at least by faith plus works, which again goes against the Apostle Paul’s focus. Now through the centuries, and you know how people sometimes say, how can you accept the Bible? The Bible is filled with contradiction. Well, this is one that they could point to and say, well, there’s a contradiction here.

These guys are saying totally diametrically opposed things to each other, and so we got to look at it. How do we reconcile it? How do we pull it together, Paul and James in the same Bible and make some sense of this? And that’s where we’re going with this today. Now, some of the key verses that Paul mentions here are a couple of them. Romans three, verse 28. Paul says, well, we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Notice by faith apart from works of the law. Galatians 2:16 know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law, no one will be justified.

So you can kind of see the dilemma, can’t you? You can sort of see where people will struggle because some say that Paul is flatly contradicting James. They’re just on two separate planets. And the great reformer Martin Luther felt like James didn’t really belong in the Bible. He didn’t want it in there because he didn’t like James’s message about faith plus works. He liked Paul’s message about faith alone and so he sort of didn’t want it in the Bible. I think eventually he came around and decided that it was okay to include it. But let’s talk about this. I want us to get into it and hopefully you’ll get it and leave with a better understanding. One commentator doesn’t believe there is a contradiction at all. He feels like James’ focus is the issue of faith practically, okay? Very practically what that looks like and that he’s given some things that need to be understood and embraced as much today as they needed to be embraced in James’ lifetime. Okay? That was his feeling. Another commentator says that he feels like Paul and James are dealing with totally different things, okay? Paul is facing this idea of works and he’s saying works, whether good or bad, fundamentally have no impact on your salvation. Now the backdrop for Paul that you have to keep in mind is Old Testament law. Who remembers how many laws there were that they had to try to keep? 613 laws. If you look back at the Old Testament, you go through some of that, it will blow your mind.

There is a law for everything. And so Paul comes on the scene, he says, no guys, it’s by grace through faith in Jesus and not by works. You’ve got to make that distinction if you’re going to truly be saved. Now let me bring it to home because I’m going to bring up some stuff that we know about. Somebody comes to you and says, okay, before you can be baptized, I want you to invite 50 people to church. You see, we can do it in a modern day sense. We can come up with our own set of laws if we’re not careful or and I’m going to mess with my brother Eric, who’s our chemical recovery ministry guy. And for those that need it, we have people who work with people with addiction issues in our church. But there have been times when people thought, okay, you’ve got to go to CR, and you got to graduate from CR before you can be baptized. Or you got to read your Bible every day for a week before I feel like you’re really ready.

So you can go down the list and you can see that there are things that we’ve talked about. But the thing I want to challenge you with is are those things wrong? And I just say, not necessarily. Okay, we got to deal with it. Now for salvation, yes, they’re wrong. I want to make that real clear. Yes, they’re wrong. Because it is by grace through faith in Jesus only. It’s not stuff. On the Day of Pentecost who went out and shared their faith with 100 people? Nobody. Who went through CR on the Day of Pentecost? Nobody. Acts, chapter eight with the Ethiopian, you just go down the list. People were baptized right away, but there was a kind of faith that we need to understand that those people had that God expects in you and me. So you guys with me? You’re still with me? All right, I want you to follow this. This is super important stuff, and we got to get it right. So Paul’s focus is that works in themselves fundamentally have nothing to do with your salvation. It is by faith and grace through Jesus Christ alone that we are saved. James has a totally different concern. He is dealing with people who have been around a while, and there are some people who simply wanted to have the affirmation that I believe Jesus. I believe in Jesus. Totally intellectual. That’s all it is. There are people in our world that really think that’s all it takes. And James is saying, if that’s the level of your faith that’s inadequate. That kind of faith, if it’s not accompanied by deeds, is useless, and we need to understand that. Now, one of the things I want you to understand about James that I think is really amazing, James isn’t giving a new teaching. This really is throughout the New Testament, this idea of faith and works working together. And let’s look at a couple of passages here.

Matthew three, verse eight. John preached that people should show fruits of repentance. Looking at Luke three, verse eight, it says, Produce fruit in keeping with repentance and do not begin to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father, for I tell you that out of these stones, God can raise up children for Abraham. John preached that the men should bring forth fruits of repentance, that they should prove their repentance by their deeds. Jesus also preached, and those are in additional references, but he preached we should live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse us of doing wrong, they’ll glorify God.

And you know how sometimes people will look at us and say they don’t want to criticize. How can you say you are Christian and you did this, or you said that? And they want to get in our face and say, and in one sense, guys, they’re right. If you name the name of Jesus Christ, if you say he is your Savior and Lord, they have a right to see something different in you because you have embraced the Son of God, your life should be different. I should not be doing the same things I used to do. I shouldn’t blend in with the world around me. They have a right to expect something different. And that’s what Jesus said. He said, you should live such good lives that people see Jesus in you. They should see what you’re all about. And in Matthew seven that passage there, he’s basically saying that you could talk about faith, but you’ve got to have actions that go along with that. You can read those later. Now, the apostle Paul got into the same kind of thing. And you notice with Paul he’d always have that doctrinal and the theological.

And after he’s gone through that for a while, then he’ll get to the therefore here is how you should live. So he goes from doctrinal and theological to practical and ethical, how you should live, what your life should be like. That’s what these references are about. Romans two talks about how God will rent it to every man according to his deeds, not according to his faith. You notice that it says according to his deeds how you live. Romans 14 talks about how every one of us will give account of himself to God. You can look at the other references.

I’m harping on this because there is that mistaken notion that if people believe certain things intellectually only, that’s enough, that you don’t have to live a certain way. There’s no expectation that your lifestyle will be different. In other words, these people think that it would be good if their lives were different, if they lived upright lives, but it’s not necessary. I flatly disagree with that. It does matter. But there are many in the religious community that believe this and teach this. I mean, I listen to religious radio all the time. I listen to tons of sources because I believe there’s a modicum of truth wherever you look and you can learn something.

And so I listen to a lot of different sources. But I’m amazed at how many people say, just accept Christ right now in your heart. Just accept Him intellectually and you’ll be saved and nothing else matters. And sometimes that’s because all that’s people have heard for a long time, or they have their own presumption going on in their head, or maybe it’s their upbringing. But James challenges this thinking by saying that we are saved by a living faith, not a dead faith, he says, not a merely intellectual assent to some fact. He said it’s got to be a faith that expresses itself in good works and righteous actions.

So the bottom line is this: works do matter. We can say, OK, no, it doesn’t matter. But yeah, works do matter. There is the expectation from God that will be a certain way as his followers. And so the difference between James and Paul, I think, is simply a matter of starting point. You got Paul on this end who says, we’re saved by grace through faith and nothing added to it. No amount of Old Testament works, no amount of New Testament works that we dream up will make a difference.

It’s by grace through faith in Jesus. Then you got James who comes along, he talks to a professing christian and he says, look guys, unless your faith is proven by your deeds, then you got a dead faith. Now there are people out there that say, once you’re saved, always you’re saved. I disagree with that one too. I don’t think that one’s biblical, but you can lose your salvation. But he says your faith has got to show itself in how you live.

So the way I look at James and Paul is that these guys really complement each other. They’re working together. You got Paul saying it’s by grace through faith and nothing else. You got James saying, okay, if you’re professing Christians, then you understand that your life will show your good works. Angie just stood before us and shared some great things going on that we can get involved with. Guys, those are great opportunities to have a faith that expresses itself in some action. Let me tell you a secret. The storm isn’t over for a lot of people. I know for us, my life seems so back to normal. I never got flooded. Our lights flickered a couple of times, but we never lost power.

I mean, it’s been fine. And in my mind it’s easy for me to just move on. But just this past Friday, I went to my one gas station because I won’t judge you, but I only go to one gas station for gas all the time. One grand period. Because that’s what my mechanic told me. He said, this is the best gas on the market. You don’t want to put that other stuff in your car, it’s going to tear up your engine over time. So I went to my one gas station. I bet all of the people that work there, they know what I’m all about. And the one lady kind of motioned to me to come closer and she quietly says, pray for me. We lost everything. And I thought, wow, here I am enjoying life at my house. No harm, no worries. We didn’t get into details. There were a lot of people behind me. But it just reminded me that it’s not too late to be a good neighbor. I mean, some of you just need to get out in your apartment and walk around or in your neighborhood and just see what you see.

God may reveal an opportunity for you to serve. So look for that opportunity, and that would be great. So again, Paul and Barnabas, Paul and James Barnabas is another good guy. You can study about him. That’s Reggie Price. Reggie Price and I do character studies, and it’s amazing when you’re looking to. Do an Old Testament study on Phineas too, that would change your life. All right, well, let’s look for a minute at the marks of a false faith. We’re going to go through these rather quickly. Four marks of a false faith. First of all, it’s only intellectual. And James says, what good is it? My brother said, if someone claims that faith but has no deeds? James can’t stand, I mean, I’ll tell you about how he’s heart headed, he can’t stand profession without practice. He can’t stand words without deeds. He’s just not about that. And so he gives this illustration. He says, what if you got somebody who’s struggling, has some needs? And I’ll bring it more to home. We just had a storm. What if you’re all set for a hurricane Ian, house is boarded up. You’ve gone out. You’ve got your batteries, you got your water, you got your first aid kit.

You’re boarded up. Everything is good. You’re ready to go. And you look across the street, and your poor neighbor is behind the eight ball. He is frantically trying to get ready, needs more stuff from the store, trying to board up the house. And you go out there with your big heart and you say, man, I hope you get everything done, man. You’re working hard, man. Let me encourage you with all this hard work you’re putting in, man. And I just hope it works out, man. And I’ll sincerely be praying for you. And then you walk away. Jesus saying that’s an example of a dead faith. He’s saying that I mean, if you don’t do anything, what good is that? And that’s what he’s trying to make, is his point here. He said, you got to have a faith that has a practice that goes with it. And in James 2:19, I love this, he says, you believe that there is one God. Good. Even the demons believe that and shudder. He said, if you’ve got this intellectual faith that there’s one God, guess what? Your faith is up to the level of the demons.

That is not what I will want to be said of me. So he says, can that kind of faith save anybody? And he kind of goes back to conversion with this question. That’s as far as faith goes for some people. It’s just this thing in their head. It never translates to their life. He said, can such a faith really help? And faith would be in quotes. The second thing here is useless. It is useless. And that’s the whole point. You see somebody with a need, you do nothing that’s useless. It even talks about Abraham and how Abraham was considered righteous. And I’ll read this part, it says, was not our Father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar. You see that his faith and his actions were working together. And his faith was made complete by what he did.

So you got a man who he shows that it’s not just about something in my head, it’s about my practice. He showed that he wasn’t justified by the words, but he showed God that I am willing to do whatever you call me to do. And his faith was real.

Third one there is that it’s an incomplete faith. And we just read that Abraham’s face was made complete by what he did. But the big one here is that it’s a dead faith. Faith without deeds is dead. A dead faith will save no one. And that’s important for us to understand. Once you become a Christian, you enter into a lifetime of service. There’s a certain attitude that shapes your life. You’re different from the folks around you. And I’m sure this is all so fresh in Daja’s mind with your conversion recently. And that’s one of the things I’ve always loved about this church. We believe in sitting down with people and teaching. Let’s talk, let’s look at the scriptures, let’s make sure there’s an understanding. Because at the end of the day, Jesus said in John, chapter twelve, you’ll be judged based on the Word. And so we want you to know the Word. But he says if your faith is dead, then this is not beneficial for anybody. And now let’s hit some of these. What are some marks of saving faith? Saving faith has content.

Now, this is where I wanted to take you back. I said at the beginning, just an intellectual, faith is nothing. We heard that right? If it’s just in your head, if it never goes from your head to your heart to your actions, it’s nothing. Okay? But there is a body of knowledge you must understand to become a Christian. I didn’t come to church believing that by avoiding driving on golden rod that’ll make me a Christian, or by wearing a fried egg on my head makes me a Christian. I’m using outlandish crazy stuff because I know y’all can understand that right away. There is a body of knowledge. I have to understand that Jesus is the Son of God. I have to believe that with all my heart that he came here, that he lived a sinless life, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he was raised from the dead. And that’s why when someone is baptized, we ask those questions. Because that body of knowledge must be something that’s the substance of what you believe. And likewise point two and it also has to be something that you believe. Hebrew Eleven says, now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

There is substance to our faith. And so I want to make sure that distinction is made that is clear. And then the third part there is that it involves trust and commitment. And my reference should be John 14:15, I think, where Jesus says, if you love me, you’ll do what? You will, obey my commands. In other words, you can say you love God, but if that faith never translates to obedience, then you’ve got a dead faith and you’re not right with God. So it involves trust and commitment. And then as we go on, he gives a couple of examples of what he’s talking about here. He uses Abraham and he talks about Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac. God had told Abraham is through this son that all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Now he comes to me and says, I want you to sacrifice him. Abraham, the Bible says, didn’t waver in his faith. He says, I am going to do whatever God calls me to do. And he said that’s why his faith was credited to him as righteousness. There can be no line that I draw in the sand and say, god, this is as far as I go in, no farther I am willing to do your will. Period. And then he goes right from there and he talks about Rahab. And Rahab was a prostitute. Let me read what it says about her. In the same way, it was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction. As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Rahab had very limited of the God, of his limited knowledge of the God of Israel. She didn’t know a whole lot. But when these spies came, she recognized them as messengers from God, and so she believed they’re God and she made a commitment of her life to them and thus to the spies. And so my point, hopefully it’s coming over, over and over in different ways, is that faith without works without deeds is dead. It’s not true faith. And because this is such a popular teaching out there, I feel compelled to keep saying it. You’ve got to get this because you can lose out. Now, one of the best passages that brings all of this together is in Ephesians two. And we’ll go through this before we take communion.

Ephesians two, verse 8-9. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast. He’s giving you the Paul side. He says by grace that you’ve been saved through faith. That’s not for himself. And let me just throw this in. Sometimes people say, well, baptism is a work and no, it’s not. Baptism is as much a step of faith as anything else we do in the journey. Colossians two says, and you were buried in him, in baptism, in your faith, through your faith. When I got baptized many years ago, I have faith that God was going to forgive me of my sins according to his scriptures. So you’re having as much faith as anything when you’re baptized. You’re having faith when you repent of your sins. Faith is definitely involved. And so Paul just reminds, he said, you’ve been saved by grace through faith. That’s how it happened. But look at the very next verse, verse ten. I love this. He says, for we are God’s handiwork creating in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So he says it’s by grace, you’ve been saved through faith, but guess what? You’ve been prepared to do good works. Your faith should show itself in good works. We are ordained by God to do good works. And if works are missing, then true faith is also missing. That’s James’s point. So we are saved by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone. A living true faith expresses itself by good works. That’s what our lives should be known for.

So a couple of practical considerations for you to think about this week and even today, and a very obvious one. What evidences of your faith are apparent to others? I mean, sometimes we say the right things. Our words are good. Like with our neighbor, hey, hope you get everything done. But then there should be evidence of your faith as well. And like we said, the Hurricane Ian isn’t passed. Look for an opportunity to serve someone. Look for, look in your neighborhood, look for an opportunity to serve those in need. And you’ll be like Jesus. And before we take Communion, I couldn’t help but think about how Jesus always sets us an example.

He always shows us what he is calling us to do. And, you know, and when Jesus decided to come to us, he could have taken a mindset that said, I’ll just let Him know how much I love them. I’ll just share that with my words. But he didn’t do that. And I thought about this little saying where it says, ask Jesus how much do you love me? And Jesus said this much. And then he stretched out his arms and died. And I think that’s the kind of reminder we need. Jesus died for us, guys. He didn’t just say words. He didn’t just have a great promise. He didn’t just have a good decision. He says, I’ll show you by my actions how I feel about you. So we’re going to go ahead and take Communion right now. And I pray that you’re, I pray that this helps you. I hope it helps you for the rest of your life and that James’ message is as real to you as Paul’s message. So let’s thank God for the opportunity to take Communion.

Father, we are so grateful that we can be together today. And thank you for the things that we could look at from Your Word. I thank you that Your Word is so powerful. I mean, and follow that we don’t have to shy away from difficult topics, that we can dive right in and see what you have to say to us in both, whether it’s something that’s difficult to embrace or something that’s easy to embrace. And I thank you today for the message from James that faith without these is useless. It’s incomplete, it’s dead. And I pray God that we will be the ones who show our faith about what we do. I thank you for everyone who’s here. I really believe that one of the reasons why we are here is because we do appreciate what You’ve done for us. And yet, Father, I really believe we all need reminders when we start to drift and get away from the path. And so thank you that every week when we take Communion, we can be brought back to the cross, that we can remember Jesus hanging there with the spikes in his wrists and in his feet, and he’s struggling for breath before he expired. I got to thank you that we can know Him and know that as our brother, he loved us that much that he was willing to give up his life for us.

Thank you for the opportunity to take Communion. Now we pray in Jesus name, amen.

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