Notes from our most recent sermon are posted below each week.
Faith in Action:
Trust and Obey
August 9, 2020
Faith in Action: Trust and Obey
I. Faith in action is revealed by our actions; 2:14-17.
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James asked whether faith without deeds can be a saving faith. Is it good enough to have the right doctrinal belief? Must faith include practical action? James then offers an illustration from the life of the church. He envisions a situation in which church members fail to display even the most basic forms of love and kindness to each another – those who lack the necessities of daily life. James surprises his readers with a response that seems unbelievable. “Go, be well, get warm, be well fed”. These are empty words with a failure to meet the basic human needs of others, perhaps even to become jaded to such needs.
If you’re not living out your faith in what you do, especially toward others, such as meeting needs and sharing the gospel, then your faith is probably in yourself and is a false faith – one that does not bring salvation.
II. Faith in action is more than belief in God; 2:18-20.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?
Living faith cannot be separated from what we do and don’t do. The people of God cannot be divided into two camps of believers who are merely “hearers/supporters”, and those who “do the Word.” The claim of faith is empty where there is no action.
This opponent then refers to the Shema, the confession out of Deuteronomy, “Hear, O Israel, there is only one God, and no other.” To believe in the one God is an excellent starting point, but such an intellectual conclusion is not true faith, for even the demons know this much. The only effect on the demons is that they “shudder” at the thought of God’s existence and His power over them. The opponents’ sense of spiritual security is false, and their faith is no more saving than the knowledge that even the demons possess.
James even makes his point with a bit of humor in the form of a wordplay: Faith without works does not work. There is no such thing as inactive faith. That claim is dangerously self-deceptive.
III. Faith in action has always been God’s plan; 2:21-24.
21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 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. 24 You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.
The faith of Abraham was not just intellectual assent, rather, it was a faith that manifested itself in trusting actions that were great risks. Faith and deeds must work together for either to be worthwhile. We can never be “made complete” without both. Abraham’s righteousness was made manifest by the obedient offering of his son. Abraham, as a friend of God, became the true example of faith, for to be a believer one must relate with God in friendship found in obedience.
IV. Faith in action is active and alive; 2:25-26.
25 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? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James uses the example of Rahab to further support his claim concerning the unity of faith and deeds. Although a woman of questionable reputation, her actions were evidence of faith. She showed hospitality to the spies. Works do not justify the believer in God’s sight, but demonstrate the genuineness of faith toward others inside and outside the church.
Believers demonstrate their faith by doing what God requires, not to secure salvation but to avoid the dangers of distorting the Word of God or damaging the lives of other believers and needy persons to whom they have been called to minister, thus blocking the gospel moving forward.
When the Spirit and wisdom of God are ours, our hearts are changed, as are our desires and our actions. In this passage James calls us to integrity – to live out the gospel. This is seen in the persuasive power one’s life can have in terms of sharing about the salvation through Jesus, but also in the power of the gospel of Christ to confront evil.
Faith in Jesus Christ is a personal decision that you make. Therefore, it is easy to say the words and claim to have placed your faith in Jesus and be a believer. However, saying you have faith has very little meaning. True faith is revealed not in what you say, but in what you do.