Last Sunday we looked at James 2:14-26. James has some hard words for those who do not live out their “faith”. He calls it dead. He asks if such faith can save anyone. He declares that such faith is useless. These are hard words. It gets even harder when he says that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Is James disagreeing with Paul when he says these things? Paul says that we are not saved by works. He says that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. He declares that it is not of works otherwise men could boast. What is going on?
The words of James make sense if we think about a quotation from our declaration of Independence. They said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident…” What a concept: self evident. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are three rights that the founders of our country believed were self evident realities. James is saying the same type of thing. He is not addressing the question of how we get saved. He is addressing the question of what is saving faith. In other words, people are not saved by doing good works; however, it is self evident that real faith produces real works.
The examples he gives are so self evident that they are almost silly:
1. Are you helping anyone if they are hungry, thirsty, and naked if you just wish them well and do nothing about it? Of course, the answer is no. James says, so is faith without works.
2. Can you show me how good you are at faith without doing anything? Again, the answer is no. James says, that is about as good as the demons who also believe in God. However, James can easily show his faith by his works.
3. How do we know that Abraham had faith? What about Rahab, the harlot? James said that both of them are known not by talking about faith but by doing something. Therefore, Biblical faith must have works.
4. When is a body alive? James answer: the body is alive when there is evidence of the Spirit. What is that evidence: action! So also, he says, faith without works is just dead if it is by itself.
What’s the point? The point is two-fold: 1) It is self evident that real faith has real results in the life of the one who truly has it. Life just bubbles up. It can’t help itself. If it doesn’t bubble up, we easily know that it doesn’t really exist. Love, abilities, historical figures, and even the human body all show that mere talking about faith isn’t real faith. Faith bubbles out of us and touches others in real ways. 2) What’s the point in claiming a faith that doesn’t affect our lives? Is that a faith that will transform you? Is that a faith that will truly give comfort when you are hurting? Is that a faith that can sustain you when you are discouraged? Is that a faith that is worth having?
Real faith changes lives. Is that your faith?
Something to think about,