But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!
This is undoubtedly a difficult passage as you read it. I really would expect this hypothetical person to say “I have faith and you have works.” The understanding still is that someone is making the claim that one person can have faith, another can have works, and God accepts both of them. Another way would be to remove the quotations as if he is talking to a specific person. Friend, someone would say that you have faith and I have works. Then he wants to put these statements to the test.
He challenges this person to show him his faith. And to do so without works. Can this be done? Can a person sit in a chair, say “I have faith” and show that faith? He continues the challenge by saying that he by his works can show his faith. Can this be done?
A simple illustration might serve to help. You and your dad are sitting in the living room watching the Super Bowl and you get a call from your brother who works at the Airport tower as an air traffic controller. On the speaker phone, he tells you both that a plane has lost control of steering and is on a beeline to your house. you have 10 minutes to get out. Who is the person with saving faith?
Both would believe the brother because he has credibility. Dad says “I believe my son, but the game isn’t over yet. What do you think?” he asks you. But you, with your actions are already driving away.
You might ask, why would someone say faith without works is ok? But then again, people do today. “I believe in God, I have faith”, but they are not willing to do even the simple things that God would ask them to do. Let’s keep this in the category of a person who is a Christian for the moment since that is James’ audience. (Dealing with this principle as it pertains to those coming to Christ for the first time will make a good follow-up post.)
James is trying to show that faith and works must go together so he goes one step further. You believe that God is one? Well, so do the demons. At least the demons do something in response to that faith–they shudder! But you are sitting there going, I am fine, God still loves me. I have faith. Yay me!
Since I am thinking that this audience is Christians to whom James is writing, it makes sense to ask: Can a living faith turn into a dead one? This is part of the reason why James is a hard book to work through. Perhaps the parable of the Sower (Matt 13 or Mark 4) will help. In that parable, the word of God was spread over 4 soils. All heard, 3 received the word with joy and only 1 produced fruit.
There is more that James has to say about this though. He is not yet done showing that faith without works is dead.
Posted on December 15, 2011, in Christianity, Comments on James, Faith and tagged christianity, commentary on James, demons shudder, faith, faith without works, faithful to death. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.