Preparing To Go Work”

James 2:14-26

What a person has faith in is revealed through their lifestyle.

Faith Addresses the Physical

Faith & Works are Partners

Faith Turns Things Around

Faith Addresses the Physical

James 2:14-17, NKJV

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

James is an extremely practical book of the Bible. God makes it clear through James that a person’s actions must affirm what they say, or what is said is nothing more than a lie. Chapter one deals with what is the proper response to trials and difficulties in word, thought, and deed in order to demonstrate Christ’s character in life (James 1:2-4, 9-10, 13-15, 19-22, 26-27). Chapter two of James focuses on the treatment of others as a way that faith in Christ is revealed (James 2:1-4, 14-17, 26).

God inspired James to write to those of the nation of Israel who had come to accept that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God. These Messianic Jews would be viewing the world through an understanding of Jesus as the fulfillment of the law, but struggling with how to practice faith in absence of the legalism of the law which they lived under for most of their lives. James asked the question about what good is it to claim faith and cease doing things even though freedom from law has been obtained. The things of the law regulated how people responded to God and to others in times of need, times of conflict, attaining restoration, and growing closer to one another and to God.

James is asking all his readers to consider whether faith in the truth is enough to provide salvation and to be justified before God. Can faith alone save a person? On the surface this sounds like it contradicts Apostle Paul’s proclamation of salvation by grace through faith alone and not of works (Ephesians 2:8-9). Viewing James and Paul being at odds with one another about faith and works is to have the wrong understanding of both faith and works.

Paul and James both use Abraham as their example of faith and works. Paul explains in his letter to the Romans that Abraham was justified by faith rather than works since his belief was accounted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:1-22). James also uses the Genesis 15:6 passage which states, “And he [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (NKJV). How could both these men be talking about two unrelated things by using the exact same passage as evidence to support their positions? This is only possible to reconcile when it is considered that faith and works are interrelated with one another and cannot be separated.

The answer to James’ questions about faith saving a person is, “Yes”. This is true and in no way contradicts James proclamation that faith without works is dead since genuine faith brings about the work of God in the life of His people. This means that faith which is not genuine brings about no change of lifestyle or behavior in a person’s life. James uses the example of someone in need who asks for help to explain the connection works has with faith.

If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food...” is the situation the one who claims faith is being confronted with in his hypothetical example. A brother or sister is referring to someone who is either physically or spiritually related to the person of faith. Sending this person in desperate need away when they should be shown compassion reveals the sinfulness of mankind rather than the provision of Christ for those whom He has created and died for so that He could redeem them.

The solution given by the one who claims to have faith that Christ will supply is to send them away and let God provide what is needed. Faith that God will provide is certainly something that can be counted upon, but how God supplies is through ministering through His people to others. Jesus was helping the disciples understand this when He told them to give the great crowds something to eat (Matthew 14:13-16). Yes, it was impossible for them to accomplish this task in their own strength and resources. That is until they surrendered their resources to the Lord setting aside concern for themselves to do as God had called them to do (Luke 14:33).

There are many who will proclaim there is only so much that can be done as an individual. This is certainly true, but has all that is possessed been surrendered to the service of Christ? Most will limit this to material possessions and finances, but also includes the time God gives us each day. There are twenty-four hours, or one thousand four hundred forty minutes, or eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds each person has to do with them as they wish. How much of this time is given to prayer to God, worship of Him, and doing what it is that He has called and equipped His people to do?

Time is one of the greatest things that is needed in the service of Christ which is stolen for self. Please understand that giving God time is something that is much different than secluding oneself off in a quiet place away from all people to devote every waking moment at the throne of God. The children of God are always before the face of the Father regardless of where they are or what they are doing. The question is, are the people of God living their lives in a way that reflects the character of God through their lives because they realize they are always in the presence of the Father?

Full-time dedication was given to God the Father by Jesus throughout His earthly ministry. As a young child Jesus knew He had to be about the business of His Father (Luke 2:46-49). Jesus taught that the care and focus of the necessities of this life are in the hands of the Father and would be provided for when people gave their full attention and efforts to doing the Father’s will (Luke 12:22-31). After modeling ministry to them He sent them out in pairs to preach repentance without taking provisions for themselves, but trusting God to supply as He did Himself (Mark 6:7-13).

Jesus recognized He was in the presence of the Father at all times regardless of what He was doing. The priority was always given to the work of the Father as He ate, talked with people, taught the disciples, and traveled from place to place. Jesus was fulfilling the Deuteronomy passage that says to talk about the Lord while in the home, walking along the road, when getting up, and when lying down (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Surrendering all to God means that full attention is given to seeing His name lifted up through all that is done and with every possession that is acquired. All that does not accomplish this either has to be brought under submission to Christ or removed from the life of God’s child. This may sound harsh, but time is far too great a gift to squander away and the souls of people are too precious to allow them simply to drift into hell never willingly accepting the salvation Jesus made possible through His death and resurrection. Many times the only way to help someone to hear the truth is to physically present the Gospel to them through the works of our hands before speaking the words of truth with our mouth.

Faith & Works are Partners

James 2:18-22, NKJV

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

There is a phrase that is repeated by many who hear the Gospel of Christ, “I believe that there is a God”. Many sit in the pews of Christian sanctuaries week after week who believe God exists and proclaim themselves to be followers and disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus makes it clear that knowledge of Him cannot save a person from the wrath of God or forgive their sins, but only those who do the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21-23; John 17:3-5).

Those who justified their faith by claiming that God would take away the needs of others in some miraculous way rather than through believers reaching out in compassion with their time, possessions, and finances were not engaging in the work God prepared for them in the advance to bring glory to His name (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). There is work that God’s people are to be doing each day.

The work of God encompasses all of life and is not limited to rituals or confined to doing only things among the family of God. Those works done by God’s people will have something distinctive about them which is different than when a person without Christ performs the exact same deed. This difference has nothing to do with the mechanics of how the task is accomplished but in the attitude and peace of the one who is doing it. Attitude and disposition of a person can make the kindest act be unkind in its practice. Underlying motivations are discovered when things are not done simply for the joy of serving the Lord.

The idea of the demons and even Satan believing in God should not be surprising since these fallen angels were created by God and served Him until their rebellion against God. They are fully aware of His power and presence since they are intelligent beings. The thought has been entertained that if Satan is so intelligent and knows the power of God it makes no sense as to why He would even attempt to overthrow Him. This is easily understood in the intense blindness that sin overcomes people and even angels when they entertain it. Sin has the ability to cause people to be so bound up and imprisoned that their eyes and ears simply cannot see the truth even though it is clearly presented to them. This is why flirting with sin is so dangerous. What seems innocent and harmless is deadly because it steals time away from doing the work God has ordained and called people to do, and it allows the enemy forces to have a foothold in the life of those who participate in willful sins that have not been confessed.

The things a person does reveals their faith in Christ or their lack of faith in Christ. Everything a person does expresses motives, character, and beliefs they hold. This is true in every area of life without exemption. Choice of career, spouse, speech, food, clothes, entertainment, etc. are all things that are going to either reflect Christ or deny Him. Those who belong to God are going to be separated out from this world because their priorities, behavior, attitude, words, and focus in life is going to be upon what the Lord desires for them and directs them to do and be through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is all done through choosing to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has died for their sins and gives them His Spirit to live in them so they can live for Him rather than themselves.

Abraham is the perfect example of faith and works being inseparable from one another. The example James is inspired to use is of Abraham’s calling to sacrifice his only son to God recorded in Genesis 22:1-19. Isaac was the son of promise that God promised would be born of Abraham and Sarah which took over two decades to be born from the time a child was first promised to them. Now, God is calling Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him. Abraham believed God gave Him this child to be his heir and carry on what God had started. He obediently took the boy to the place of sacrifice God specified for him, but had faith that God would be able to bring back from death his son.

Abraham carried out the instructions of God without fully understanding why God would ask this or how the Lord was going to work this all out. His faith was being revealed by His actions rather than revealing his doubts and fears. Abraham told the men who escorted them part way to, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5, NKJV). He planned on returning with the boy alive and well even though he was carrying out the execution order of God. When Isaac asked about what they would be sacrificing to the Lord Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8, NKJV). It was only when Abraham without hesitation bound and raised the knife to slay the son he loved that God intervened and proclaimed, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (Genesis 22:12, NKJV).

Abraham claimed to have faith and moving to the place where God would show Him was difficult but not a great sacrifice. The true test of faith is when a person has to make a choice between something that is close to them and obedience to God. This is why Abraham’s faith in God was proven to be genuine because there was nothing he would not sacrifice for His Lord. Can this same thing be said about those who claim to be disciples of Christ? When does God cross the line in life and ask for too much?

Abraham’s faith was made perfect through his works. He chose to believe what God said was true when he heard it. Abraham discovered the reality of his faith in God as he acted in obedience to the Word of God. Obedience to God’s Word confirmed his faith in God which allowed him to trust God more which finally led to such faith that nothing at all would be held back from the Lord. Faith that is confirmed through works done in obedience to God reveals the greatest love in a person’s life to be God as Jesus proclaimed was a sign of His disciples (Matthew 10:32-39; Luke 14:25-27).

Faith will always remain an abstract thing until it is practically applied in a person’s life. Therefore, what is believed about God has to drastically have an effect on a person’s lifestyle. Priorities, character, behavior, and speech all must work together to proclaim Christ as Savior and Lord. This is demonstrated by how a person views their circumstances with hope instead of despair (2 Corinthians 5:17); their conflicts as opportunities to strengthen all involved by turning to the Lord’s wisdom (Romans 5:3-4); and their ability to forgive others as they have been forgiven by Christ (Ephesians 4:32). Faith and works cannot be separated since works confirm faith which spurs a person on to greater faith and works.

Faith Turns Things Around

James 2:23-26, NKJV

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

Faith in Christ without a life change cannot be genuine faith. Faith that is untested or has no impact on the one who believes is blind and meaningless. The kind of faith Abraham had was accounted to him for righteousness because he was obedient to what God instructed him to do. Abraham had such a close relationship to God that the Lord identified him as “...My friend” (Isaiah 41:8). Abraham trusted the Lord and was willing to do anything without questioning the Lord’s motives because his faith was confirmed through obedience to the Lord.

James makes the statement, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only”. Faith is not excluded by James, but his works and faith are shown as two necessities to be justified before the Lord. This does not contradict Apostle Paul’s inspired writing of, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:9-11, NKJV). The idea of being put to shame is someone who is actively doing something in response to what is believed in the heart that will also be confessed with their mouth.

James is saying that faith which saves is faith that is lived out. Simply believing in God and knowing of Him is something even the demons know which does not justify them before the Father. Jesus said that only those who do the will of the Father are going to be accepted into His kingdom (Matthew 7:21, 12:48-50; Luke 6:46-49; Acts 19:15). There are many people who claim to know Christ but deny what is said by their works. If Christ is believed to be the Son of the living God who died for sins and salvation from the wrath of God is only through faith in Him, then this is a message which cannot be treated with contempt by allowing people to believe the lies so prevalent in the world today. The message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ must impact every area of life if it is truly to be accounted as righteousness to the one claiming to have faith in Jesus.

The other example James is inspired to turn to is Rahab the harlot. Her faith was demonstrated by accepting the spies of Israel who infiltrated Jericho and safely sent them away (Joshua 2:1-24). She had faith that the Lord had turned her country and city over to His people. Rahab was a known prostitute who proclaimed her faith in God by accepting His will over her country and her people when she said, “...our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11, NKJV).

She acknowledged God as the Lord over all the gods she and her people had worshiped. Her allegiance was now proclaimed and her work was allowing the spies of Israel to escape to return with information that would be the down fall of her people and country. Rahab’s faith was proven by her work and her work increased her faith. This cycle happens continually for those who choose to trust the Lord and put their faith into action. Once again as James has stated, faith is dead without works. Works provide the evidence of justification because it proves the genuineness of what is believed.

The final statement of James in this matter before moving onto dealing with taming the tongue shows how integral this relationship is between faith and works. The spirit of a person is something that is unseen with the human eye in the same way that faith is something that cannot be seen physically. Works can be physically viewed giving evidence to the presence of faith in the same way that the activity of the body is evidence that the person is alive. This simple analogy is something that everyone can appreciate and follow even if the accounts of Abraham and Rahab are unknown to people. Each of these people would have never done the things they did unless they were truly convinced that what they understood was factual and truthful.

Faith really does turn things around and often upside down for those who accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. Nothing can even be the same for the person that comes to place their faith in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Rahab turned from her life of sin and God used her to usher in the Messiah (Matthew 1:1-5). Abraham left his family behind and traveled to the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-4). The disciples who followed Jesus left everything to give all to Him (Mark 10:28-31). Yet, Judas Iscariot never truly placed his faith in Christ (Matthew 26:14-16; 27:3-5).

Peter denied Christ with his words. Judas denied Christ with his actions. Both were guilty of treason for their sin, but only Peter had faith that Jesus could forgive him. Judas’ did not put his faith in Christ and His message of repentance and lost all hope and killed himself (Mark 1:14-15). Those who have genuine faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins must allow their faith to impact every single area of their life. The truth of the Gospel changes everything. Faith is applied through the work a person does in their life privately and publicly. If the commands and requirements of mankind go against the commandments and teachings of God’s Word, those who have genuine faith will choose obedience to God rather than obedience to mankind regardless of the personal cost (Acts 4:18-20).

Whatever it is in our life that we cannot sacrifice to God, that thing or person is an idol that must either be removed from our life or brought under submission to Christ. This needs to be true of all God’s people because faith that does not surrender all things to God through the actions of life is faith that is unable to save, no matter how strongly someone believes it to be true. If we believe Jesus is the Son of God and the only Savior who can provide salvation to all people, we should be the most vocal people on earth since millions are dying daily without knowing the truth that can set them free.