When confronted with a tempestuous sea, the disciples, fearing for their life awoke Jesus with the question: “Do you not care that we perish?” He awoke and rebuked the winds and asked a question of them. “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-41) It seems that Jesus was as astonished at their lack of faith as they were at his power to calm the winds and the sea.
The sermon around this question can be heard at this link. However, the main points of yesterday’s lesson start off with the recognition that His disciples had experienced some amazing things with Jesus before getting into the boat in Mark 4. Jesus had healed a lame man and Peter’s mother-in-law, cleansed a leper, and restored the withered hand of a man to normal. He had confronted the Pharisees, taught the people, explained parables to the disciples and basically, just from Mark’s account alone, provided ample reason why the disciples in the midst of that storm should not have been lacking faith.
What is Faith?
In today’s common use of the word, it is little more than “hopium”. Hopium is a made up word that means you want something to be the case without having any evidence for it to be the way you want it. Sometimes you want something IN SPITE of the evidence that it can’t or won’t be that way.
I have heard people tell someone “you just have to have faith” in situations where you realize that businesses will need to close, people are going to die, or tragedy is not going to be averted. This is a legitimate use of the word in today’s usage but it often gets confused with “God will make it work out”
This is NOT the way the Bible uses the word faith and, in fact, from Hebrews 11:1 comes a near definition of faith: It “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It is the “assurance” that is lacking in hopium.
Faith is a belief that leads to an action based on that belief.
Jesus had faith
Why was Jesus not concerned about the storm as He slept on the cushion in the boat? Because of the Word of God.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. (Psa 91:11-12)
His mission was needful for the salvation of mankind and He would not perish in a freak accident. His destiny was to die on Calvary’s cross. If you know that you will not perish, then the fear goes away.
The disciples did not seem to have such confidence. Even in awakening Jesus, there does not seem to be any pleading on their part to save them. No, it seems they are only astonished that He can sleep through such a storm. When Jesus asks them “if they still have no faith” perhaps he was wanting them to have faith as shown by the centurion in Luke 7. (Luke 7 actually happens before the events in Mark 4 so the disciples would have known of this case too!)
Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant….And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. (Luk 7:2-10 edit and emphasis mine)
This Centurion has simply heard about Jesus and, based on these reports, sent to ask for his servant to be healed. Such faith Jesus marveled at.
This is the type of faith that Jesus was looking for in His disciples. Had they come to Him saying “Lord, we have seen you heal the sick and lame and cast out demons, we believe that you can save us from this certain death”….the Question would never have been asked!
There are two things that we can take away from this passage.
One, the disciples who actually spent 3 1/2 years with Jesus had some real difficulties developing faith in Jesus so perhaps we have a little hope, those of us, who were not so blessed to spend time with Him, as we struggle to develop our faith. Still, we don’t want to be found without faith so that brings us to point two.
Two, we need to let our faith grow. Faith starts with hearing God’s word. Romans 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” and from there we begin to let our faith grow.
Passages like the following show a process of growth. The word is our milk but it is also our meat and we can grow to understand it better and as we do, our faith, exercised allows us to see and act properly towards what is good and evil.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1Pe 2:2-3)
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:12-14)
Faith requires action.
It cannot exist without it. Well, not the way the Bible uses it, at least. Faith without works is dead! (James 2:17) It is, put another way, Trusting Obedience. You trust and you obey. You believe and you act.
Do you still have no faith?
When you face questions like: Should I read my Bible?; Should I be honest with other people?; Should I tell a little white lie?; Should I complain and gossip? The Word of God will give you the answer but only your actions will show if you have faith. If you act appropriately, then you have faith. If you do not, then you do not have faith. Pretty simple.
Jesus wanted to know where their faith was? That is a good question for us to ask ourselves today. Do you still lack faith?
The idea of belief and faith is one that I think Hollywood and others have misappropriated for their own purposes. It seems to be true that when a person is up against the wall that they are told that is the time that they have to have the most faith. The problem is that such faith is generally not based in any real evidence. Consider two passages, one from Romans and one from Hebrews.
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God,
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.
The Faith of Abraham is an heralded example for us to follow, as well it should be. However, Abraham did not believe based on nothing. God had already been working with Abraham. For Abraham, the situation was not as we sometimes think, that he just ignored all the facts based on nothing (and the way people sometimes use faith today, it is truly nothing). No, his faith was in the God who had called him to leave his homeland and had blessed him through the years. So what if 90 year olds don’t have babies and women who are both in their 80’s and barren on top of that don’t suddenly conceive. Those facts he could ignore, the fact he put his faith in was the promise of the Almighty. So what if a childless son who dies can not have children, Abraham could ignore the fact that dead children do not produce heirs, and put his faith in a promise that God had made that through that son, whom he was about to kill, God would make Abraham a great nation. How Abraham jumped to the conclusion that God could raise him from the dead is amazing in its simplistic faith. It may be simple but it was not based on “nothing”.
How do you define belief? In the last post we revisited the idea of “fact acceptance” vs “actions in alignment with that fact that you accept”. To accept the fact and not live the fact, is of no value. Can that faith save? (James 2:14) However, there is also the idea that I can do whatever I want, as long as I accept that fact. That it can mean to me whatever it needs to mean to make me happy and satisfied. This is also an unfortuanate view.
When God struck down Nadab and Abihu, Moses told Aaron that God is to be sanctified by those who come near to him and glorified among the people. (Lev 10) So many want to do what they think is best and ignore clear Biblical teaching. When we repent, which I would argue is also something we need to do when we believe, we are not simply repenting of our sins, as in being sorry for them, but rather, changing our mind and mindset, doing a 180 degree turn from Satan who we were serving toward God whom we now choose to serve.
If you want to have a faith like Abraham’s, a saving faith, you need to believe and do as Abraham did. He followed God. No, not perfectly (which is a good thing since we would soon be discouraged by our imperfection) but faithfully.
Here is a question to consider: If you had been a Gentile in the day of Moses and came to the temple and wanted to follow God, what would they tell you to do? Why would they tell you to do that? If you are a spiritual Gentile today and want to come to Christ, what are you told to do? why do they tell you to do that?
Lord, willing I will answer those in later days.
Well, the last few posts have been a lot of fun but as my wife said, “it isn’t a light topic.” So inspired by the last few posts and in particular yesterday’s I decided to preach on this topic today. If anyone listens to the sermons and wishes to comment, you are welcome to do so.
Today’s lessons started with last weeks sermon on the unrighteous servant who showed no mercy to the fellow servant who begged for more time to pay. This, after having been forgiven such a huge amount himself. Transitioning we moved to James 2:1-13 where the audience James is writing to were urged to not show partiality based on something so superficial as money. Paying special attention to the admonition to be merciful if you want to receive mercy we moved into the last 1/2 of the chapter.
It is important I think to understand that the audience that James writes to have some serious issues. Issues that need to be corrected and I think that they were susceptible to the idea that believing that Jesus was the Christ was sufficient but that those other things like, doing the word (not just hearing), visiting widows and orphans, loving your brother, etc was too much and got in the way of their ambitions.
With this in mind, James informs them in very certain terms that Faith without works is not going to work. (no pun intended) Of course, we should be able to see that James is using the word faith in a way that is not a full faith but only a partial faith. One in which the fact is agreed to but there is not any response to that fact. Like a car that doesn’t have an engine, it is still a car in one sense but of what value is it for getting you to work?
Of course, does the principle of faith and works apply to the our initial salvation? I think it must. So we take a look at it that question in the PM and try to show how faith, works, and salvation fit together. The conclusion is that if a person preaches the Gospel that Jesus sent the disciples out to preach that the only response of the person with a saving faith will be to do the things that the preacher (who should only be preaching what Christ told HIM to) tells them to do.
Faith only can either be right or wrong depending on how you define faith. If you define it like James was, it will not work. If you define it the way the Hebrews writer was using it, it works fine.
From this point forward, we will move on to Chapter 3 of James.
Because of comments made by some readers who understandably thought of our initial salvation, I thought I would explain how I think James’ principle of ‘faith must have works’ would fit. Remember though, James didn’t write this to speak of our initial salvation but I think we can make application.
After reading James 2:14-26, one is led to the conclusion that “faith only” does not save. In other words, “faith” by itself, is as dead as a body without the spirit. The conclusion then would seem to be that works are necessary for our salvation. Yet a good study of Paul, in Romans, would reveal that works do not save either. (Though it might be better to say ‘works do not earn salvation.”)
So how can I stand up and say I believe in faith only? The key to this statement is in the definition of faith. This is the crux of the problem and causes many many problems in the mind of believers. If used the way those mentioned in Hebrews 11 used it, I don’t think I would have a problem saying I am saved by my faith alone.
However, if faith is used the way so many use it today, then I would line up with James and say ‘Faith only’ will not save. This is because many use it in just the way James says we should not use it. This is not as surprising as it is distressing. Language changes and I think it is one of the reasons why God, in His wisdom, gave us the New Testament in a dead language.
Most know that, while the Greek language is still alive today, the Greek of the New Testament hasn’t been spoken or used in 2000 years (give or take) so “faith”, as used then, should be the way we use faith today OR the concept should be found in a modern word.
“Quicken” is a word used in the Old King James Bible. Today, if someone talks about Quicken we think of Tax software but since English has changed, today, “make alive” is a better translation than “quicken” would be. Faith is like that. However, when the word itself is still used and the meaning has changed, it creates problems, confusion and misunderstanding.
I remember the first time I was asked if I was “gay”. (Yes, I know, I am dating myself.) This was in the 70’s and I was in Jr. High. To me, at that time, ‘gay’ meant happy. (“Gay”wasn’t a word used a lot to begin with but I knew what it meant, just not how they were using it.) Teasing of Jr. High boys aside, the word was just beginning to change and no one uses the word to mean “happy” today.
James is the only writer that took time to pull “faith” apart into separate components and separate the belief in something from the actions that result from that belief. While he condemns this thought process, this is exactly how it is used today. This is why if I say that I believe in ‘faith only’ an impression is left that I don’t mean.
So in relation to Salvation, does faith only save?
If I were to suggest (and I do) that a person be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved, I will quickly be accused of believing in water salvation or baptismal regeneration. Yet, If I suggest (and I do) that person needs to repent or confess Christ, people nod in agreement. What is the difference?
All three are actions. All three are works. And even more to the point, NONE of the three earn your salvation. They do, however, like Abraham, complete our faith. (2:22) Take any or all three of them and separate them from faith, will the actions save? No. Take Faith and separate them from the actions, will the faith save? Only “yes” or “no” will answer the question. Which is it?
Because so many are against a works based salvation, anything that sounds like earning your salvation is considered anathema and I agree, earning your salvation cannot be done. Even faith does not earn it but who would suggest that without faith you can be saved? (Heb 11:6 ‘without faith it is impossible to please Him…) But is it works based salvation to preach what Jesus told the apostles to preach? Is it works based to say “repent” or “confess” or “be baptized”?
Teaching must be done on this subject. Let me speak to those who are teachers for a moment. Which may be appropriate since James is going to talk about teachers in chapter 3. If faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), what word of God are you teaching to those you preach to? If you tell a person about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, do you do it the way it is practiced today or the way the Apostles practiced it in Acts?
Somewhere, it has become popular to add the “sinner’s prayer”. When I read the original commission by Jesus to the disciples, I don’t see it. When I read the book of Acts and listen to the sermons of the Apostles, I don’t see it. When I read the epistles and see Paul talk about when your sins were forgiven, I don’t see it referenced.
Would someone who reads this blog, please point me to the sinner’s prayer in the Bible?
I would suggest that anyone who preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ will do it the way Peter did it. (cf Acts 2) Because that is what Jesus told them to do. In this way, those that respond in faith to the Gospel will respond the way people did in the book of Acts.
If it is going to be salvation by faith, I would rather it be faith in the words of Christ, than faith in the modern practices of today.
No Christian should say that “I am justified by works alone.” This is well-known. What may not be as well-known is that neither should you say “I am justified by faith alone.”
Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:20-26)
The discussion that James started in verse 14 continues with another question. As I understand the question, a person who believes that faith separated from works is just fine, is a foolish individual. It is a rhetorical question but James answers it anyway.
Anytime a person is going to be termed as a fool or foolish, we should sit up and take notice. Jesus both cautioned in using the term (Mt 5:22 “Raca” in NKJV) and yet used it himself in appropriate ways (Mt 23:17). A good working definition of a fool, is “one lacking sense” perhaps even wisdom. So if I were one of these James is writing to who believed in faith only, I would certainly hope I would pay more attention.
As noted before, the problem of this passage should be dealt with first as Christians. Then we can deal with it as it relates to our initial salvation since I do think that the principle applies there as well.
As Christians, is it logical to believe that faith apart from works is perfectly ok? Apparently not, and James is going to use Abraham and Rahab to prove his point.
Abraham, whose faith was counted at righteousness, shows us that faith needs to go together with works. What God said to Abraham in Gen 22 was “Now I know you fear God…” It was this event in Abraham’s life that James says fulfilled the event that happened in Gen 15. (Where Abraham believed God and it was counted as righteousness) The order is the same, Faith does proceed works. One could even point out that Abraham did not have perfect works since in between Gen 15 and Gen 22, Ishmael was born and Abraham lied for a 2nd time about his wife Sarah. Still, James affirms that this the event of Abraham (nearly) sacrificing his son shows how we know Abraham had faith.
Rahab also was ‘justified by works’ in her actions. If you read her story, you know that she has heard all about Israel and she believed. So did other people but she was willing to help, others just sought the spies to kill them.
One could turn the question around and ask: What if, in their belief, they had not acted? Would they mean that they didn’t believe? No, but it would mean that they were not faithful, trusting, willing to obey, etc. The demons believe and shudder but that is all they do. We at least, in our faith, set out to obey.
James nowhere in this discussion says that a person does NOT have faith. He simply asks and answers the question about whether faith without action is sufficient to save. We should be able to see that James is using ‘faith’ in a way that is not used elsewhere. He is pulling it apart into separate components.
Look at all the men and women of faith in Hebrews 11. “By faith” they did this or that. There was a trust in God and His promise and it resulted in obedience to his will. Perfect obedience? No. Perfect trust? again, no. Yet there was both trust and obedience nonetheless in these men and women, not just belief or, as James says, ‘faith only’ (NKJV) or ‘Faith alone’ (ESV). Such a faith is dead. As dead as a body without the spirit.
The problem I think is that in today’s century the word faith IS used so often in the way James is saying we shouldn’t use it. It carries with it a mysterious surreal concept but the Bible teaches that it is an anchor of our salvation. For the Christian who believes (and has believed) the teaching of Christ, Hebrews 2:1 would seem to apply: Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.
After writing this, I recalled James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” I have to ask if in that short verse, he has not summed up everything he said in Chapter 2:20-26
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.
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jas 2:15-17)
To answer the question that James put forth in verse 14, he postulates this hypothetical situation.
Let’s not argue whether ‘naked’ means ‘nude’ or ‘just not enough’, the situation that James is painting is of a brother or sister who has a need, not a want!
Then this wonderful brother with faith, seeing the need, is naturally concerned with the plight of the needy brother. He says “I hope that you get things worked out, I hope that you are warmed and filled.” Did you catch it? The emphasis? ‘says’, not “does.”
While talk, as in counseling and encouragement can help, in this case, talk is cheap. Well wishes do not help! Does such speech clothe the brother? Does it feed the sister? The answer is an obvious “NO!” Confident that his readers will understand his point, he concludes “so also…” (in the same way) a faith that exists by itself, separate from works, is dead.
Think about that. What is a dead faith? One that doesn’t act? In James’ words, “one that does not have works.” Worse, it is one that cannot save!
I am always amazed at the way the Bible ties things together. James has just talked about love which he ties to the treatment of widows, orphans, and the poor brother. And now he talks about the faith of an individual in showing that love. It has to act. Then he goes on to talk about needs.
Notice that James did not say if you see a brother or sister who can’t pay their cable bill, their leased car payment, doesn’t have a new iPhone or PlayStation. No, he talks about food and clothing. Paul said in I Tim 6:8 “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. Jesus mentioned Food and Clothing in Matthew 6:25-34.
It is a world of difference between providing needs and wants. I would say that needs are an obligation of the Christian whereas wants are in the category of grace. If you can, and if you want to, you may provide the wants of another Christian or someone else for that matter. But if you can and if you see the need, you are obligated to provide the needs. (Perhaps you don’t by yourself but you still take care of it)
If you do that, you show faith. And your faith lives:
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (1Jn 3:17)
As I discussed in our last post, so many think that not earning your salvation is the same thing as not needing to do anything once you have it. Oh, they may not ‘say’ that but their actions betray it. They are very different concepts. God choose to offer his grace, we obey the Gospel and now we are obligated to live a certain way. Even so, he gives more grace (later on in James) to the humble.
What conclusions do you draw from this so far? Can faith that saves exist apart from works? Do you have works that show your faith. If you are still not convinced, James will continue to talk about this….
Side note: As with all my posts, I present them in what I believe to be a contextually correct and Biblically sound manner. Some may disagree with me on this post. If it is a matter of semantics, please suggest a better way to say it. Do you have a better illustration? Offer it. My goal is to explain the Bible the way God would and to be an encouragement to all seeking to do God’s will.
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? (Jas 2:14)
Perhaps you have heard the old expression “Now you’ve stopped preaching and started meddling.” One cannot study the book of James without giving serious thought to this next section. I know that it is difficult to work through (pardon the pun), but unless you wish to throw James out of the Bible, you are going to have to come to an understanding of both his question and his answer. Some will think I am meddling, others will agree with me. I am not dealing with simple verses here (e.g. Do not steal), even Martin Luther had problems with this book. You have to wrestle with it, ask questions in light of other passages even, perhaps, in light of your own particular belief system.
Most of us would grasp the rhetorical nature of the question. The answers James is looking for are “No good” and “No, of course not!” What?! What about “free gift” and “can’t earn your salvation” and all of that? These ideas come from Romans and it is no wonder that Martin Luther did not think very highly of James which seems to stand, not just in contrast to the message of Romans, but in contradiction to Romans.
Of course, James has already introduced the seeds of works along with faith from the very beginning of the book. Enduring trials, putting away filthiness, being a doer (and not just a hearer), visiting the orphans and widow, treating your poor brother with respect are all works that go along with the Christian faith.
I feel like Jesus when answering the question “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” He understood the problems with answering “yes” or “no”. Fortunately, James is the one asking and answering the question. Unfortunately, many of us do not understand his answer. Let’s agree that James is being rhetorical and the answer really is “no, that kind of faith cannot save.” If you disagree that this is what James is saying, show me why; I would like to know.
Next let’s agree with what most good Bible students will agree: “We cannot earn our salvation.” Let me say it again, “Nothing we do will earn us a place in Heaven.” Unlike with my jobs, I cannot go to God and say “I did this and that so you owe me.” When Paul wrote in Romans “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.” (Rom 4:4), he was talking about a works based system. So if James is now going to propose that we earn our Salvation, then truly he and Paul are at odds. I don’t think that is the case.
I think it might help to realize that our salvation is a salvation by redemption. When we sinned, we transgressed the law of God. It didn’t matter which law either, God’s laws are based on Love, God is Love and His character always acts out of Love.
Had we lived a life of perfection and not transgressed the law of God, we would not need to be redeemed. Our place in Heaven would be ours by right. However, our sin required a death and, unless we wanted to pay for it ourselves (eternal death), we needed a Savior. Jesus paid the price. However, not just the price to cleanse us once and then, let us try all over again to be perfect, but rather pay the price for all future sins and assure us that sin would no longer keep us out of Heaven. Christ’s blood was able to cover that. Wow!
So now we are saved. We can go to Heaven. Yay us! But hold on. We no longer belong to ourselves. We are the object redeemed, our souls belong to another. (Fortunately to Christ and not to Sin) We can take hold of Heaven but not by our own merit and nothing that we do will ever allow us, by our own merit, to do so.
However, since we are now servants, redeemed by the blood of Christ, there is a certain way that we are to live. The book of Hosea shares a story of redemption and expectations of the redeemed. James also shares expectations of his audience: we now “speak and act as those who will be judged by a law of liberty” (2:12), we look into the will of God and become “doers not forgetful hearers” (1:22) and we practice a ‘pure religion in the sight of God (by) visiting the orphans and widows” and remaining unspotted by the world. (1:26-27)
All of this is because we have faith in the message of the Gospel. Faith that saves, of course, cannot only be simply an acknowledgement that something is true. I have faith that George Washington was the first President but that faith does little to affect my life. I have Faith that Jesus died, was buried and raised again on the third day according the Scriptures and THAT has a major impact on my life. That impact will be seen in my works.
I now work for God. I do what James said I should do because of my faith. Faith that has works can save me. Notice!!! Faith can save me. What kind of Faith? Faith that has works. Do the works save me? No. Are they perfect sinless works? I wish! But Faith that has works can save.
What about Faith that does not have works? Remember when I said “if you don’t agree that James is being rhetorical, to say something”? This is why! The only answer that James is looking for is ” No”. If faith without works will not save, then the only conclusion is that faith with works will. If there is another answer to James’ question, let me know.
But if you have Faith in God and Christ who died to redeem you and you choose to sit there and do nothing ….Well, James is going to explain that further in the next several verses.