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Is It Enough



The central theme of the letter of James is really Practical Christianity. That is the thread that is woven throughout the pages of his letter. However, central to his teaching is that which is in the passage we are looking at today reveals the relationship between faith and works. In the first chapter, James sets forth the proposition that we must not only Hear the Word, but we must become Doers of the Word as well.

When we are only hearers of the Word, we deceive ourselves into believing we are something we are not. And so, in that condition, we are attempting to live a life of faith alone. There is no demonstration of that faith in resulting in appropriate works. James tells it plainly that faith without works is worthless.

So, let’s look at James 2:14-17 as James teaches us about faith and works.

Faith (pistils in the Greek language) is defined as firm persuasion, conviction, or trust. Also, to believe, to have confidence, to persuade, or to obey. The quality of our faith is central to daily Christian living. In Hebrews, the writer says that “It is impossible to please God without faith” And, in several passages of the Scriptures we are told that “the just shall live by faith.”

James defines faith in several ways. Let’s look at some of them:

1. Saving faith must include deeds or works. Any faith without works is useless.

2. As we read earlier from the New American Standard version – faith without works is dead, being by itself.

3. Faith cannot be a mere mental agreement or intellectual belief.

4. Biblical faith is best defined as an active obedience, rather than one that fulfills our Christian life by itself. We can see this active obedience portrayed in the lives of Abraham and Rahab among others.

The one common denominator of every person in Scripture who honored God by their faith is that they actively obeyed God. Their faith caused them to do something – active.

So, we see faith defined by James and the importance of faith in Christian living. Faith is an outgrowth of Hearing.

Now, let’s look at the other requirement that James teaches us that is vital to our daily Christian living. Works.

Works can be defined in two categories: Works done in the flesh. Works done with the assistance of the Spirit which brings glory to God.

Works of the flesh are mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21. Let’s take a moment to read that passage.

James says those who practice those things (works will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Then he goes on to list what he describes as the Fruits of the Spirit. These are works also. But the difference in these works is that they do not originate from us. These good works originate and flow from the Holy Spirit.

We were created to live by such good works as James lists for us here.

The Apostle Paul teaches us that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

These are works of the Spirit – or the fruits of the Spirits, as we more commonly refer to them.

It is this fruit of the Spirit that James refers to when showing us the relationship that faith has to works. He is telling us to walk in the Spirit by faith, and as we do, our lives will show the works of the Spirit. Without these deeds of the Spirit, faith is dead.

Now that we have defined both faith and works, let’s look at what James is teaching regarding the relationship of the two – faith and works.

James proposes three major statements concerning faith and works and shares at least a practical illustration to support each of his propositions.

1. Our faith must include appropriate works. He uses the illustration of a destitute brother or sister. Faith is translated into appropriate action – reaching out – responding to needs. Genuine faith must include a response of action to an obvious need.

2. Our faith must be accompanied by action. Verse 19 says, “You believe in God; you do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. So, we can understand that with faith, if it does not lead to action, it is in itself, a lifeless thing. James illustrates this truth is: The demons also believe. So, merely believing in the existence of God or even in His mighty power is not adequate for a saving faith. Demons have that kind of incomplete faith. The faith God requires of His people must be accompanied by appropriate action. To believe in God and not obey Him is at the very heart of sin. Our faith must show itself in our actions.

3. Faith without works is dead. This is what we might refer to as “the bottom line.” After all, has been said, James is warning us of what is to come of a faith that is not fully effective without action. He illustrates his point with these examples:

Abraham demonstrated his faith in placing his only son on the altar as a sacrifice. And why, he had faith in God’s purpose. His faith was active. Living faith.

Rahab received and saved the lives of the spies God sent out to survey the Promised Land after the Jews had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. She showed a live faith, not a dead faith. Faith was demonstrated by good deeds – active obedience.

4, The body is dead without the spirit. So, faith is dead without works. The body is a temporary dwelling place of the real person. When the Spirit is absent, Life departs and an empty lifeless dead body is all that is left. Faith that is totally cerebral or intellectual is not enough. Our works must also be in the heart, or they are dead. Also, works that are done in the flesh are simply inadequate and superficial.

The Spirit brings life. Works done in the power of the Holy Spirit bring dead faith to life. The saints in Hebrews chapter 11 did not only talk about faith – they acted in faith. They believed what He said and what He promised them. They responded to Him in active obedience. They practiced “live faith.”

Unfortunately, the stench of death hovers over many of our churches and over many lives of professing Christians today. Often, we have mouthed the correct confessions and mastered the basics of our beliefs, but our faith may have been lacking, if not actually dead.

Jesus said, in quoting Isaiah in Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

As always, when God makes known His will for His people and His provisions for us, He has provided a solution to bring us into a knowledge and practice of active faith. We must move from deadness to life. We must forsake the life of the flesh in order to walk in the Spirit. We must not only believe in God. We must begin to respond to Him by moving our faith to action. We must follow Him with active obedience. That is what it means to live by faith.

It is only when we have this “live” faith that we can fulfill the Word of our Lord when He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.

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