Faith Works

Faith Works

Do you have faith? In what condition is your faith? Is your faith just head-knowledge? Is your faith tired from doing work in your own strength? Has your faith grown cold, causing you to quit doing good works? Has persecution caused you to keep your faith under cover and not share it any longer? Are you just going through the motions of faith? Is your faith dying? If your faith is suffering from any of these conditions, God has an app for that! But, first we must understand what faith is.

James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James asks some very good questions, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? In other words, what if a person claims to have faith, but he never goes to church, he refuses to be baptized, he can’t control his speech, or he cheats on his spouse. “I’m a Christian,” he claims, but he is not concerned about others, he spends no time in prayer or reading the Bible, nor is he involved in ministry. Is that person saved?

For centuries, there has been a theological debate about this question. For the answer, we must consider the behavior of the first Christians in the Book of Acts. They did not have the New Testament, but they had the Holy Spirit. What marked their salvation and faith was the evidence that they loved Jesus Christ so much they were willing to give up everything and die for Him. That is the standard. As soon as they put their faith in Jesus Christ, were baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit, they started serving and helping others. Their meetings were informal and exciting. Believers were praying, giving, worshipping, studying God’s Word, and acting like Jesus. They told others about Jesus and the Church grew rapidly.

After these faithful went on to Heaven and persecution of Christians ceased, the church gradually changed. It became a formal, ritualistic, organization where they baptized infants, controlled the belief and behavior of the people through fear, but there was no true repentance, no rebirth, no filling with the Holy Spirit. People started trusting in deeds, knowledge, and indulgences for their salvation.

 To combat these errors, church reformers emphasized the truth that “we are not saved by works; we are saved by grace through faith.” Some took this truth too far by emphasizing “faith alone” out of context. That is how heresies are produced. The problem is the only place in the entire Bible where you see, “faith alone,” is in James 2:24 where we just read. “You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

The balance between faith and works is found in Eph 2:8-10. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

In other words, salvation is a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is not something we earn by doing good or through knowledge about God. However, the combination of God’s grace, our faith, and the resulting presence of the Holy Spirit, will produce works and the fruit of the Spirit, which gives evidence of God’s saving grace through faith in Jesus. More simply stated, “Faith works.”

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new."

If there is no transformation of the heart, no transformation of our schedule, no transformation of our words, no transformation to our way of life, no deeds that express our faith, then we need to understand that kind of faith is dead. If there is no change in a person’s life, then there was no birth of the Spirit; otherwise, we would see the Life of Christ developing in the person claiming to have faith.

Some people are afraid to express their faith, for fear of persecution or being challenged with questions they cannot answer. They say their faith is personal and they don’t want to talk about it. Yes, faith is personal, but it is not private. Mark 8:38 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."

If we have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ—if He is our Lord and Savior—if He abides in us, our faith will not end up being a private matter. Regardless of what it costs us, we will end up letting the whole world know whom we love and follow. Faith is seen and heard.

James says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.”

God is love. Here is a brother who needs some help and if we don’t help him, what kind of faith is that? James says it is dead. He is saying that someone who has real faith; that is, God in them, will show that faith by what they do. Faith is active. Faith is involved. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is evident.

Galatians 5:22-25 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The proof, of whether we are a Christian, is not according to what we say. The proof is what we show with our life, what is visible, what is on display for the world to see. A deep faith and love for Jesus Christ will cause us to act like Him, deny ourselves, pick up a cross, and share Jesus with everyone by what we say and do. To the believer who loves Jesus and has faith in Him, it is a joy and privilege to suffer for His Namesake.

Furthermore, true faith is not something we turn on and off, depending on what we want to do. Faith is not a part-time, Sunday activity. It is a full-time lifestyle. 2 Cor 5:15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Faith is not intellectual knowledge of Jesus Christ. James says in verse 19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder.” That means they tremble at the Name of Jesus because they know who He is. So, just because we say we know Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that knowledge alone does not save us. To illustrate this point further, allow me to present a parable.

Imagine satan walking down the aisles of this church and saying he wants to join our congregation. We think we would not allow that, but satan takes many disguises and he has successfully joined a countless number of churches. Most likely, we would respond by asking our normal questions to ascertain his faith, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”

He would say, “Sure, He is my creator. I saw Him speak everything into existence.”

“Next question—do you believe that Jesus was born of a virgin?”

He would say, “Yes, I was there when the archangel made the announcement that the Savior of the world had been born. In fact, I even saw the star in the east that led the wise men.”

“Third question—do you believe that Jesus died on the cross?”

And satan would say, “Yes, I did everything I could to make that happen, but I offered Him a way to avoid that horrible death by worshipping me.”

“Next question—do you believe that He was resurrected?”

Satan would reply, “Yes, it was a miracle like no other. I saw it. It was my worst nightmare.”

“Well, you believe all these things, are you willing to be baptized?”

“Yes,” satan would say, “let’s do it today. You can baptize me a hundred times if you want. I will get baptized here or in the lake. I will go to Israel and you can baptize me in the River Jordon.”

“Well, will you commit to come to church every week?”

Satan agrees, “I won’t miss a service. I will be here every time the door is open.”

So far, satan’s answers have shown he believes all the right things for membership. So is he saved, do we let him join the church based on what he says about faith in Jesus, baptism, and church commitment? How many false conversions have we made by considering people Christians at this point?

Well, there is one last question we need to ask, “Are you ready to repent, to quit fighting God, and to start your life over by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ as your Lord in every area of your life?

Satan replies, “Oh, no! I don’t want to do that. I just want to join your church.”

The point of this parable is we can have all the head knowledge in the world about who Jesus Christ is and the plan of salvation, but that’s not going to save a person. James says even the demons believe that. However, their faith has never lead to repentance and submission to Jesus Christ as Lord. Head-knowledge faith is useless and ineffective. Saving faith causes believers to trust and obey Jesus in every area of their lives. We act on what we truly believe! Faith works!

Next, James gives us two illustrations of people of faith, Abraham and Rahab. Abraham is called the father of faith. Before any of the Bible was written, Abraham had a relationship with God, he talked to God, and he did whatever God told him to do. That is faith. Faith hears, believes, and obeys what God says.

Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute, who believed the God of Israel was the true God. She forsook her own people, saved the lives of Israelite spies, and sought refuge in their camp.

Why did James choose these two examples? I think he is driving home the point he made earlier that God doesn’t care who we are—whether we are a great patriarch or a prostitute. It doesn’t matter, as long as we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation and submit to Him as Lord of every area of our life.

Let’s look at the last verse of our text, verse 26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. If a believer has the Holy Spirit, he has God in him, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit will be evident in his life. If there is no fruit, there is no Spirit, no God, and his faith is worthless; it’s dead.

Genuine faith produces genuine fruit. Our works and knowledge do not save us. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The moment God gives us grace to believe and repent, our faith becomes active. The first work we will desire to do is be baptized, to die to our old life, and be born again. After baptism and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we desire to tell others what Jesus has done for us. Because we love Jesus, we will want to help others, be His servant, and be like Him.

Unfortunately, some Christians do get tired or burned-out. Their faith grows cold, causing them to quit doing good works. Persecution causes them to keep their faith under cover and not share it any longer. They are just going through the motions. Their faith is dying. Does that describe your faith? Well, I say it again, God has an app for that! Here it is:

Rev 2:4-5 "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Jesus is saying, “You took your eyes off of me and began to love other things. Repent, and do the things you did at first or you will lose my light entirely.”

Do you remember a time when you loved Jesus more, when you were full of peace and joy, when you prayed, read your Bible, avoided temptations, and obeyed Him in everything? Ask the Father to revive you with the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, take your eyes off yourself and keep them on Jesus, using whatever gifts and talents He gives to you to minister to others. People will not come to this church because we have a new sign or we remodel the building. They will come because they met us and saw Jesus in us. When they see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives, they will desire Jesus, too.

So I ask you, do you truly believe in Jesus Christ? Have you made Him Lord as well as Savior of your life? Is there any fruit or evidence that Christ lives in you by the power of the Holy Spirit? If you cannot answer “Yes” to all these questions, come forward during our hymn of invitation, confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, repent of your sin, and die to your old life in baptism. Jesus will forgive your sins. You will be born of the Holy Spirit, receive eternal life, and have grace and power to produce good works.